Mitzi Kaspar – The true love of Rudolf, Crown Prince of Austria

Birgit Minichmayr as Mitzi in Kronprinz Rudolf (Screenshot/Fair Use)

Mitzi or Mizzi was born as Maria Kaspar on 28 September 1864 in Austria. We do not have any details on her parentage or the early years of her life, as it was only in adulthood that she came into the public eye. The first details that we have on her are that she was an actress and possibly a prostitute though this could have been just a rumour.

(public domain)

Mitzi is best remembered as the mistress of Rudolf, Crown Prince of Austria. Rudolf was a very important figure as he was the heir to the vast Austro-Hungarian Empire and was the son of Franz Joseph I of Austria and his wife, Elisabeth. As the third child and longed-for son and heir, Rudolf was raised and educated for his future role as Emperor from birth. His upbringing was extremely strict, and his education and frequent punishments were left in the hands of a high-ranking military officer. This sheer amount of pressure and rigorous drills pushed Rudolf to the edge of a breakdown. It was only when his mother, Empress Elisabeth, took over the boy’s education that he thrived under a court tutor. These early experiences and a strained relationship with his parents had done their damage. Rudolf struggled throughout his life with mental illness, addiction and also later from gonorrhoea which caused him great pain.

From the age of 15, Rudolf coped with his troubles by engaging in sexual relationships with countless women. Rudolf used his rank as Crown Prince to seduce women who often willingly entered into affairs as a sense of “patriotic duty.” For Rudolf, these women were conquests, not lovers. He wrote their names down in a diary and gave them gifts depending on their rank in society, and most of them he discarded soon after sleeping with them.

However, there are a few women that stand out; two of these are well-known, his wife Stéphanie and his well-known mistress Mary Vetsera. Though there is another woman who is overlooked, this is Mitzi Kaspar, the Austrian actress who is said to have been the one true love of the womanising prince. It is unclear when Rudolf and Mitzi first met, but it seems to be around the time that Rudolf and his wife Stéphanie were married, which was in 1881, as some sources say that Mitzi even accompanied Rudolf to Brussels when he went to meet his future bride. It was hoped that when Rudolf married at the age of 22, he would settle down and put an end to his many flings, but this wasn’t the case. The Crown Prince continued with many dalliances and also ended up in a long-term relationship with Mitzi Kaspar, which was unlike him. Stéphanie was often told not to leave the palace so that Rudolf could carry on as he liked when she was not around.

Crown Prince Rudolf (public domain)

In 1883, Stéphanie gave birth to the couple’s only child, and after this, they drifted further and further apart. In the following years, poor Stéphanie found out that she had become infertile and would never have a longed-for son. The infertility was caused by sexually transmitted diseases passed on by Rudolf, which caused her and, of course, him to suffer painful symptoms.

All of this time, Rudolf had been involved with Mitzi Kaspar and many other women, though while the other women were merely conquests jotted down in a register, Mitzi became much more than this. She accompanied the Crown Prince on military manoeuvres and trips to visit other heads of state, and it became a common sight to find her in his tents or rooms on these trips. The relationship between Rudolf and Mitzi was much more than a sexual one, and he is said to have called her the love of his life. We can see that he cared for her by the way that he showered her with gifts and even gave her a large sum of money to buy a house.

In 1888, Rudolf’s mental state deteriorated rapidly. He had always been known for his violent outbursts and depressive moods, but this was something else. The Crown Prince had been drinking heavily and relying on drugs to ease the pain of his venereal diseases, which worsened his mood. Rudolf became obsessed with death and kept talking about killing himself and even possibly shooting his wife, too, but it is clear nobody took him seriously.

One day, Rudolf approached Mitzi and asked her to take a trip with him where they could both end their lives in a suicide pact. A horrified Mitzi headed straight to Vienna’s chief of police and reported this. The police turned Mitzi away and said they would not approach the Emperor with news from a “woman of doubtful reputation.” Mitzi was ignored, and Rudolf continued to spiral into a deep depression.

Following this, on 30 January 1889, Rudolf and another mistress, Mary Vetsera, were found dead at the Mayerling hunting lodge. Mary had agreed to what Mitzi would not and had committed suicide with the Crown Prince. sera

It is not clear what Mitzi did for the remainder of her life, but she died in 1907 of syphilis, probably a result of her relationship with the Crown Prince. As Rudolf had been the only son of Emperor Franz Joseph, another heir was found to succeed him, and this was Archduke Franz Ferdinand. On 28 June 1914, the Archduke was assassinated, which in part led to the start of World War One. The Empire only lasted two years after this, crumbling in 1918. If Mitzi had been listened to and Rudolf had lived, it is possible that these events would have never taken place.1

  1. Sources
    * The Reluctant Empress by Birgitte Hamann
    * The Mistresses; domestic scandals of nineteenth-century monarchs by Betty Kelen
    * Life Magazine- 21/02/1979

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