From Publishers Weekly
Palmer (Crowned Cousins) notes in his introduction that there is more to Franz Josef (1830-1916) than his longevity. But considering how many of the emperor's immediate circle died young and/or violently, longevity in this set was a real virtue: Franz Josef's son Rudolf killed himself and his mistress at Mayerling in 1889; his wife, the Empress Elisabeth, was assassinated by an Italian anarchist in 1898; and, most famously, his nephew Franz Ferdinand and his wife were shot to death in 1914 by the Bosnian Serb Gavrilo Princip. The portrait that emerges from Palmer's descriptions is that of a sad figure left much alone by his unstable wife and of a man very concerned for his empire's survival and for personal honor (his best feature) but, like other wildly inbred Hapsburgs, probably not a very bright bulb. Palmer gives little sense of the culture of fin de siecle Vienna, focusing more on the machinations of states (the League of Three Emperors, the Triple Alliance, etc.) that led to WWI and foreshadowed WWII and the current Balkan crisis. These dry if informative passages sit uncomfortably with the gushy personal details ("he was fascinated by her sister's untarnished elfin qualities, by the long auburn hair and the challenge of those dancing eyes..."). Photos.
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