Early in the morning on Jan. 30, 1889, two pistol shots pierced the tranquility of the Vienna Woods. Inside the hunting lodge where the rounds had been fired, an alarmed valet smashed his way through a locked bedroom door. There he discovered Crown Prince Rudolf, the 30-year-old heir to the Habsburg throne, slumped on his bed, the top of his skull blown off. Beside him, the naked, blood-spattered corpse of his 17-year-old mistress.
Within hours, Mayerling (as the property was known) was surrounded by Austria-Hungary's security services. Officials quickly emptied the prince's rooms of letters and other potentially incriminating evidence; and the body of Rudolf's paramour, the Baroness Mary Vetsera, was hustled away. The next day, the government declared that the crown prince had died of heart failure.