The world loves a good Romeo and Juliet story because the average person tends to forget that Romeo was in love with Rosalind and Juliet was all of 13. Odds are, if they had married, Romeo would have had a mistress and Juliet would have died in childbirth.
Shakespeare has much blame to bear considering our fascination with star crossed lovers.
This fasciation extends to the Incident at Mayerling, though the name might not be familiar to you. If you have flipped through a catalog from PBS, Acorn or BBC America, you might have seen the ad for a mini-series about Sissi, Empress Elizabeth, or the movie about her son and his lover. That’s the incident at Mayerling. The crown prince of the Habsburg empire killed himself and his lover.
Unless you want to believe those conspiracy rumors and what not.
The real story isn’t quite film mini-series, and Greg King certainly does not describe Rudolf the Crown Prince, and Mary Vetsera, his lover, as star crossed lovers. She was 16, and King described as a bit spoiled. Rudolf was 30, married with a daughter, and he had transmitted an STD to his wife, Stephane, making her sterile.
You feel really sorry for Stephane.
You really don’t feel all that sorry for the Hapsburg, and you feel sorry for Mary in a “she was spoiled but young” type of way.
King shreds the romance from the story and quite righty, places it historical context. He also examines the conflicting stories and rumors as well as describing Vienna as the suicide capital of Europe. Apparently, romanticizing suicide goes way back. King treats all his subjects as fairly as possible.