Thursday, August 5, 2021

Archduchess Elisabeth sentenced to jail

 August 5, 1921

Archduchess Elisabeth of Austria, the granddaughter of the late Emperor Franz Josef, has been sentenced to ten days in jail, according to a special cable from the New York Times.  She has defied an order to surrender her four children to the police.   Her estranged husband, Prince Otto of Windisch-Graetz granted custody of the couple's four children pending a final ruling in their divorce proceedings.

She is the only daughter of the late Archduke Rudolf, who "perished in the mysterious tragedy of Mayerling."

Elisabeth was barely 19 when she gave her heart to Prince Otto.  This "fact was the beginning of her history of tears."   Her grandfather, the elderly Emperor, refused to consent to the marriage.  The young archduchess was "wise for her generation."  She managed to secure the support of her aunt, Archduchess Valerie, and Katharina Schratt, who was the Emperor's longtime companion.

Franz Josef had hoped his darling Erzsi would marry Prince Albert of Belgium or Crown Prince Wilhelm of Germany.  Elisabeth, however, was determined to marry Otto though he was of a lesser rank, a serene highness.  The three women "won the old man over," and he gave his consent to the marriage.   

Otto may not have been as enamored with Erzsi as she was with him and was said to be "dumbfounded" when he learned that he was engaged to Elisabeth.  He had been preparing to marry a Countess von Schönborn when he was told to end that engagement.

  Elisabeth, as required, renounced her right to the throne, before the wedding, which took place on January 23, 1902.   

The couple has four children, Franz Josef, 17,  Ernst, 16, Rudolf, 14, and 12-year-old Stephanie.

The romance faded quickly, which was compounded by the world war and the fall of the Austrian monarchy.  Fidelity was not a hallmark of this marriage as Elisabeth and Otto were unfaithful.  During the War, Elisabeth had an affair with Egon Lerch, an Austrian submarine captain.

When the police came to her home to issue the judge's order, Elisabeth "barricaded herself in her house with a bodyguard of big dogs.   When the officer demanded she surrender her children, Elisabeth told him:  "You are a pig and you have been sent here by a pig. If you try to get in I will give you to my dogs to eat."

She responded to the summons with a letter but did not report to the court.  The Magistrate found Elisabeth to be in contempt of court and sentenced her to ten days in jail.

The main topic of conversation in Vienna centers on whether or not Erzsi will be arrested and sent to jail.

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