Just in case you were wondering, my husband, Franzl, was quite a fetching young man. What is the parlance of the day? Hot, is it? Yes, well, not only was Franz Josef hot, he was the target of assassination–which, one must agree, made him even hotter.
Ironic that it would actually be yours truly who got the fateful knife to the heart, but we shan’t go there on this particular occasion. No, today we will talk about why the revolutionaries wished to do in the Emperor the year we were married.
It was 1853, the very year Franzl and I would fall in love in Bad Ischl, and all of Russia and Eastern Europe was in uproar. A Hungarian nationalist, one, János Libényi (who was, quite frankly, a bit hot himself), came at my future husband with a dagger. But here is where good old-fashioned Viennese overkill thwarted the assassins efforts. My Franzl wore a sturdy military collar–a sort of Kevlar of the day–and the knife only grazed him, giving him bragging rights. “Now I am wounded along with my soldiers,” he mused. “I like that.”
Rebellions abounded in mid-19th-century. The Milanese were skewering Austrian soldiers to Italian doorways, Hungarian revolutionaries were burning likenesses of Habsburgs in effigy. It was the season of Carnival, and amid the whooping it up, there was the occasional decapitation by sword.
Austria was big in 1853. Bigger than any country save Russia. The population of 40 million was made up of Germans, Slavs, Italians, Magyars, Romanians, Jews, gypsies. There were Hungarians, Czechoslovakians, Yugoslavians, Poles. And there were lots of people starving. While Vienna sat seemingly untouched by all the poverty around–with its balls, its operas, its Court life–millions of people in the surrounding countryside were jobless and homeless due to “sink or swim” policies that they had no voice in establishing.
Europe was a mess.
Of course, at the time I was a giddy teenager, and I found the whole assassination attempt thing terribly romantic. As in concert to my 22-year-old future mate’s “That was awesome” sort of response to nearly being stabbed to death, I took similar delight in the tale of how an Irish count stepped up and intervened on Franzl’s behalf, and then that would-be assassin was ceremoniously hauled off and hung.
As for memorializing the spot where my monarch’s near death occurred, my people did what they typically did when narrowly averting disaster. They erected a church!