26 NOVEMBER 1937, Page 34

I WAS TO BE EMPRESS By Princess Stephanie of Belgium

On January 3oth, 1889, Prince Rudolf, only son of the Emperor Francis Joseph, was found dead beside' the corpse of his mistress at his hunting seat at Maya-ling. That he killed himself is confirmed by his widow, now Countess Lonyay, in her very frank account of the eight un- happy years of her union with Rudolf (Nicholson and Watson, i8s.). She prints his last letter to her, • beginning " You are freed henceforward from the torment of my presence," and ending, " Death alone can save my good name." Why Rudolf had come to this conclusion the Princess cannot tell. She knows nothing of the political schemes, perhaps of a liberal nature, with which he trifled. Indeed a young man whose life was devoted to hunting, women and drink could not be taken very seriously. Had his father been less of a wooden automa- ton he might perhaps have rescued Rudolf from -his evil courses, but the two men were hardly on speaking terms. Princess Stephanie's book strengthens the belief that the Habsburgs had out- lived their uiefulness king before the Great- War swept them away.