The Waste Land

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The Triumph of Death

Marie, Countess Larisch

The "Marie" of T.S. Eliot's poem The Waste Land.

Table of contents to this page

Main content Appendices


Personalizing Marie Marie and The Waste Land Passages from her books
    Selected primarily for readers of The Waste Land.


Additional information on Countess Larisch Marie's royal family Links to information on Marie's relatives Miscellaneous





As currently written, this page serves multiple purposes.

  1. My original purpose for this page was to provide some help to readers of The Waste Land who wanted to satisfy curiosities about the character "Marie."
  2. I expanded the page to include useful tips to help others interested in searching for information about the Countess after I became aware of many difficulties in doing so.
  3. I have elaborated on the lines in the poem about the archduke because my research shows that the Mayerling incident that involved Countess Larisch and her cousin Archduke Rudolph has some bearing on how to read The Waste Land.
  4. I provide some information on the Mayerling incident since it still plays a part in today's popular culture.
  5. I include some information on some of the Countess's family members since both Countess Larisch's aunt, the Empress Elisabeth of Austria the Countess's second cousin, King Ludwig II of Bavaria, have been connected to The Waste Land also.
  6. To aid those using search engines to research the Countess or her relatives I've included sections that will make it likely that the search engines will lead them here.


All links are to points within this page unless otherwise specified in context or (usually the full URL will be printed as a clue.)

I intend to eventually move this page to my Exploring The Waste Land website that serves as a learning resource for T.S. Eliot's poem The Waste Land. I must do a restructuring of that site first.

In my research I found that William Empson discusses Countess Larisch and her book My Past in the Autumn 1975 issue of the T.S. Eliot Review. Perhaps there is some mention of the Mayerling affair in his essay (I have not yet read it.)

I have written this page in a web page style that allows for hyperlinking instead of in the style of the typical essay that might be seen in scholarly journals.

This page contains much information incidental to the main topic and is rather long. I hope to divide the page up into a few pieces some time but I am keeping it as a single unit until I can figure out a way that users of search engines can find all the pieces of data that they may be interested in (e.g., the Countess, Bavarian and Austrian royalty, Mayerling, books on these and, of course, The Waste Land.)

I would also like to organize the sections dealing with the Countess's biography, Mayerling and The Waste Land so I don't put the cart in front of the horse so often.

Personalizing Marie

Photographs - Giving Marie a face
A photograph of the young Countess and links to photographs of her in her later years.
Her books
The Countess wrote two books. Some information on them.
What happened at Mayerling?
An introduction to the Mayerling affair.

Who was Marie?

Marie Louise Elizabeth Mendel was born February 24, 1858 at Augsburg, Bavaria. The illegitimate first daughter of actress Henriette Mendel, a commoner, and Ludwig Wilhelm, Duke in Bavaria, who was properly addressed as His Royal Highness being the grandson of a king. On March 9, 1859, Ludwig renounced his rights as first-born son, lowering his standing in society and reducing his stipend. On May 9, 1859, the couple had a son, Karl Emanuel Mendel. Henriette was created the Baroness of Wallersee on May 19, 1859 and on 28 May 1859 the Duke and Baroness were married. On that day, Marie and Karl were given the titles Baroness of Wallersee and Baron of Wallersee. Karl died a few months later.

As a child Marie had long blonde hair but was something of a tomboy. She was trained in fencing and horseback riding. She wrote of a time when she was 14 and, wearing a black silk dress and hob-nailed mountain boots, formally met her aunt, the Empress. At about age 16 Marie went to live with her aunt. The Empress, the younger sister of Ludwig, had married the Emperor of Austria in 1854. Empress Elisabeth had taken a liking to her commoner sister-in-law and her daughter. Marie was close to her aunt and become her confidante. Marie was the same age as her cousin, Archduke Rudolph, the Crown Prince of Austria.

Marie received several proposals from age 16, including one from Count Otto Bismark's son. In 1877, at the age of 19, Marie married Georg, Count Larisch von Moennich (and lesser titles). They were later to divorce in 1896. The Countess married again in the following year. This was to Otto Brucks a Royal Bavarian Court singer. Brucks died in 1914. In 1924 the Countess was married a third time. This was in Elizabeth, New Jersey to William Meyers. She wrote that this was a marriage of convenience to a business partner allowing her to extend her visa to stay longer in the United States. In her book Secrets of a Royal House, Countess Larisch does not mention Meyers by name, using instead the alias Mr. Fleming (who does not even appear in the book's index). The Meyers were divorced in 1928.

Marie was the mother of 6 children born between her 20th and 42nd birthdays. The first 5 were fathered by Count Larisch (she survived all these). The last was from her marriage to Otto Brucks.

  1. Franz-Joseph Ludwig Georg Maria (1878-1937)
  2. Marie Valerie Franziska Georgine (1879-1907)
  3. Marie (Mary) Henriette Alexandra (1884-1907)
  4. Heinrich Georg Maria (1886-1909)
  5. Friedrich Karl Ludwig Maria (1894-1929)
  6. Otto Brucks, Jr. (1899-1977)
Franz-Joseph was an oceanographer, Otto Jr. was a musician, Valerie was for a time a medical missionary in Africa. Distraught about his mother's part in the long past Mayerling affair Heinrich committed suicide. Karl was in poor health and died of tuberculous. The Countess wrote little about her children and her second and third husbands in her books. What she wrote about her first husband was not flattering.

Marie's life took a turn for the worst in January 1889 when Archduke Rudolph, who was married to Princess Stephanie (the daughter of Leopold II of Belgium) was found dead at Mayerling, a hunting lodge not far from Vienna. The body of the archduke, the heir to the Austrian Empire, was found with the body of Marie (Mary) Vetsera, a baroness who was his mistress (see Mayerling below.) Even by her own accounts the Countess had been serving as a go-between for Rudolph and Mary, although, in her books, she wrote that she was at times duped and at other times her good-nature was taken advantage of. Despite this, when the affair came to its bloody end she suffered the wrath of the imperial family and became the disgrace of Europe.

During World War I the Countess underwent six months training and served as a Red Cross supervisor in charge of hospital trains. Her son Otto was called to service in the last year of the war until he was gassed and wounded.

She had been previously living in Metz, in Alsace, and that city had been given to France. She lost all her belongings and she then returned to Munich. The city was in upheaval and under control of the Workers and Solders Council. It was a time as she described it "when the Red Terror grasped Bavaria in its bloody claw." and "Every 'bourgeois' was suspected; every member of the aristocracy considered a deadly enemy." Showing a bit of pluck, when she had to show her papers identifying her as a member of the royal Wittelsbach family to an official she was able to get a "Red passport" which didn't list her titles and described her as "Marie Wallersee, medical assistant and nurse." She was able to get a position for awhile as a physician's assistant but not all was well, she descibed shootings and beatings on the street and of a terrible struggle to survive.

The Countess latter left Munich for Berlin and became a servant, cooking and washing dishes, laundry and floors. She was paid much less than the legal minimum wage. Her son Otto was finally able to get some money together to bring his mother back to Munich.

Eventually, after a news story about her appeared in the American press, she got an invitation to manage a sanitarium in the United States being organized by a naturopath, William Meyers and a business partner. As noted earlier, she married Meyers. They lived in Florida for awhile but they moved back north. For awhile the Countess lived in "very modest lodgings on the top floor, rear of a third-rate sailors' boarding house" in Hoboken, New Jersey.

In her book Secrets of A Royal House published in 1936, The Countess wrote that she was "back in [her] native Bavaria again, dwelling in the shadow of the very convent where [she] was born ..." I am speculating that she moved back to Ausburg in 1928, the year that she divorced William Meyers and that Count Larisch, her first husband, died. His title was taken up by her first son Franz and he may have been able to inherit any estate left after the war. (The Countess had received an alimony from the Count but it had become next to worthless in the wild inflationary period in Germany following the war.

Countess Larisch died July 4, 1940 in Augsburg. Other than her moving back to Bavaria, I have no account of what she did between her American years in the late 1920s and her death.

There may possibly be a biography of Countess Larisch (in German.) See below.

References given below.

Photographs - Giving Marie a face

Marie I have been allowed to copy a few images of Marie. The small image is linked to a larger image. The picture appears to be of her between the ages of 16 and 20.

Some other pictures copied from a photo album of Queen Marie of Romania can be viewed at the Queen Marie Photoalbum website.

Website's home page
Page 95 of album
Page 96 of album

Pictures of some of Marie's relatives can be found at Brigitte Gastel Lloyd's website (where, with permission, I got the images I use here.)

Wittelsbach (A-L)
Wittelsbach (M-Z)

Marie's books

Countess Larisch wrote at least two books (some passages are below):

  1. My Past (1913). Subtitled: "Reminiscences of the Courts of Austria and Bavaria; Together with the True Story of the Events Leading Up to the Tragic Death of Rudolph, Crown Prince of Austria" (many photographs, 379 pages.)
  2. Secrets of A Royal House, 1936, 294 pages with 26 illustrations on 17 plates. This book might also be found under the title My Royal Relatives.

There were French editions of these books:

  1. Mon Passé: Le drame de Mayerling, Marie-Louise von Wallersee-Wittelsbach, Comtesse Larish, Paris, 1916, 290 pages
  2. Les secrets d'une Maison Royale, Comtesse Larisch von Wallersee-Wittelsbach, Payot. 1936.

I have come across three warnings about the Countess's believability and discovered a reason myself to doubt all she wrote:

1) Personal e-mail correspondence
In response to a query the owner of a Empress Elisabeth website cautioned me about what she considered Countess Larisch's libelous remarks about the Empress.
2) http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Crete/6598/ludwig.html
Ludwig, duc en Bavière A webpage (in French) saying, in effect, that the Countess used her book as vengeance for the rebuff she suffered due to the Mayerling scandal.
3) http://lcweb.loc.gov/rr/microform/guide/m.html
A webpage from the U.S. Library of Congress (A Guide to the Microform Collections: M) that mentions that a collection of newspaper articles refutes the claims she made of finding the lost illegitimate son of Crown Prince Rudolph and of finding Rudolph's co-conspirator Archduke John of Tuscany who was thought drowned at sea.
4) Rudolph's 10 year old love
In the last chapter of her book Secrets of a Royal House Countess Larisch recounts a story of told her by Count Wilczek of how Crown Prince Rudolph was actually in love with a Russian princess. My research discovered that this princess, who was supposedly pregnant with Rudolph's son at the time of his death, was actually about 10 years old at that time. And she did not die in exile in 1889 but lived to 1959.

What happened at Mayerling

Countess Larisch became an outcast after the Mayerling affair of 1889. This involved the deaths of her cousin Crown Prince Rudolf and his mistress, Baroness Mary Vetsera. Countess Larisch became persona non grata because she had introduced Mary and Rudolph and, even by her own accounts, she had been serving as a go-between for Rudolph and Mary and was passing money from the Prince to the Baroness.

Crown Prince Rudolf was the only son of Emperor Franz Joseph and Empress Elisabeth of Austria. He died on January 30, 1889, at the his hunting lodge "Mayerling" (sometime Meyerling.) Also dead was Baroness Mary Vetsera, his 17 year old mistress. To this day what happened is debated--was it a double suicide, a murder/suicide or was it even a double murder?

The Crown Prince, born 1858, was married to Princess Stephanie of Belgium in 1881. By some accounts it was a loveless, arranged marriage between royals, typical of the time. Rudolph and his princess had one daughter but Stephanie was unable to have any more children. Rudolf had many mistresses while married. His last was Mary Vetsera.

The Crown Prince went to stay for three days at the lodge he had bought. As an aside this lodge was quite plush, and not a shack, as I've seen it described elsewhere on the web. If it did not qualify as a palace it would qualify as a mansion. Emperor Franz-Joseph had the lodge turned into a convent after Rudolph's death. There is an Austrian coin with a picture of the Mayerling lodge on the reverse.

Some of the days spend there at Mayerling were with only Mary but they were later joined by a hunting party. Although Mary remained out of sight of these people they could tell by the Archduke's behavior that there was a woman accompanying him as this was not the first time this had happened. On the day before his death Rudolph did not go hunting with the others and excused himself early from dinner and had a private supper with Mary. His servant woke Rudolph at 7 in the morning and was told to come back in a half an hour. When he did there was no answer and the servant called in a count to help and the bodies were found.

Immediately there was a cover-up. The count dispersed the hunting party saying that the Archduke was ill. The body of Mary Vetsera was moved to another room, the imperial family notified and a coroner called.

Mary Vetsera's uncles were summoned to Mayerling to clean and remove her body, dressing her and propping up her body with a broomstick to smuggle her body out of the estate. She was buried immediately and with little more ceremony than would be given during the disposal of a dead dog. Mary could not even rest in peace in death. Her grave was opened by thieves in the 1950's and again in the 1990's by someone who wanted an autopsy done for his own use. But a consequence of these desecrations is the fact that Mary most likely died from a blow to the head instead of a gunshot. This leads many to believe that Rudolph was assassinated, possibly on orders from his father, the Emperor.

Some claim that Rudolph committed suicide because he was going insane, that he inherited, through his mother, the same Wittlesbach disposition that had affected his mother's mad cousin, King Ludwig II of Bavaria. He was prone to depression.

Others suspect he was assassinated by the Austrian secret police because Rudolph, like his mother, was more liberal in politics than the Emperor was. There was suspicion that he was planning a coup to take over the throne of Hungary. He also disagreed with his father on Austria's relationship with Germay.

Yet another story was that Rudolph was attempting to get his marriage anulled so he could marry again and perhaps have a son to become heir to the thrones of Austria and Hungary. And the story was that this was being thwarted by his family. It is by no means certain that he would have married Mary Vetsera if he was successful in getting an anullment.

Marie and The Waste Land

The opening of The Waste Land
The first 18 lines of The Waste Land, including the lines about Marie.
The meaning of the lines
My attempt at explaining the first part of The Waste Land to those unfamiliar with the poem.
Is Mayerling in The Waste Land?
How to interpret The Waste Land keeping the Mayerling affair in mind.
Lines from book or her?
This section discusses whether the "Marie" lines in The Waste Land were a literary invention of Eliot's, or from his reading of Countess Larisch's book My Past, or from an actual conversation he had with the Countess.

The opening of The Waste Land

Here are the first 18 lines of The Waste Land (I have added some blank lines to separate the lines into the fragments that I discuss below.)

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.

Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee
With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,
And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten,
And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.

Bin gar keine Russin, stamm' aus Litauen, echt deutsch.

And when we were children, staying at the archduke's,
My cousin's, he took me out on a sled,
And I was frightened. He said, Marie,
Marie, hold on tight. And down we went.
In the mountains, there you feel free.
I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter.

A nicely formatted HTML version the poem can be seen in full at the Project Bartleby website. At my Exploring The Waste Land website I have an annotated version of the poem (a framed page.)

The meaning of the lines

One of the difficulties with reading The Waste Land is that it is a collection of fragmentary writings and, at times, determining where the fragments start and end can be quite a task. Even more difficulty comes when one attempts to assemble the fragments and their meanings into a way that makes sense for the entire poem. That is byond the scope of this web page. However, I have divided the 18 lines above into 4 fragments to be considered separately.

In my choice for the first fragment, consisting of the first 7 lines, there is an expression of a "memory and desire," a theme for the whole poem according to many. This impression is strenthened when one reads the draft of The Waste Land where the poem started out with a lengthy section of 54 lines dealing with college boys on a somewhat rowdy night out in Boston and where on the last line of the section the narrator leaves a cab and his friends see the sunrise and to walk home. Certainly for the narrator the deleted lines are of a memory of a time gone by and that can only be thought of with the pain of longing and not with pleasure. And perhaps for Eliot himself the lines are a presentation of a memory close to his own experiences when he attended Harvard University.

In what I choose as the second fragment (lines 8-11) the narrator describes another memory, this one is clearer to us. It appears to be a pleasant memory of a summer that preceded the time when a winter of forgetfulness was needed to keep the narrator content. Eliot himself spent some time in Munich in the summer of 1911. The Starnbergersee is a lake not far from Munich.

Note: by breaking the lines in the way that I have, the us of Winter kept us warm of the first fragment may not be the same us of Summer surprised us in the second fragment (which might include Marie.)

My next fragment is line 12 "Bin gar keine Russin, stamm' aus Litauen, echt deutsch." Due to the fragmentary nature of The Waste Land, this may or may not be connected to the preceding or the following lines. That the line is in German sets it apart from the rest. Its use might be to separate the sections before and after it or it might serve as a parenthetical phrase, a way of interjecting a contrasting thought.


  1. The line can be translated as: "I am no Russian, I come from Lithuania, true German."

  2. Eliot claimed to have met Marie, Countess Larisch (see below). As this historical Marie was born into the Wittelsbach royal house of Bavaria, far from Lithuania, it doesn't appear to me that this line is an actual quote from any conversation with Eliot and may have come from somewhere else. B.C. Southam suggests that this quote may have been derived from the novel Tarr by Wyndham Lewis, a friend of Eliot's. In the novel Fralien Vasek states that she is "a Russian, I'm thoroughly Russian."

  3. How this line relates to lines immediately before and after it still eludes me and I rather view it as having a global meaning to the poem as a whole instead a meaning local to this section.

The lines 13-18 in my last fragment are extracts from a conversation, possibly near quotes from an actual conversation Countess Larisch may have had with Eliot. Here we see a time of innocence and vitality, a time when fear was a sled ride (and not a handful of dust.) But this innocence is lost. We can see this with Eliot's mention of the archduke and knowing of the calamities surrounding him. It can also be seen in the line "I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter." where we note that the youthful vitality has disappeared.

Modern readers of The Waste Land are likely to associate Marie's archduke cousin with Archduke Franz-Ferdinand. Of course, when The Waste Land was published in 1922 even the readers then would have thought of Franz-Ferdinand, whose assassination eight years earlier triggered World War I. But there would have been more readers at that time than in our time who may have thought of the scandalous death of Austria's Crown Prince Rudolph almost 34 years previously. Rudolph, also an archduke, was a first cousin of Marie's. And the older Marie, as Countess Larisch, was a part of that scandal.

Archduke Rudolph's controversial death at the hunting lodge of Mayerling, as I note below, is still part of our culture today. It was a significant event that may also have made its appearance in The Waste Land as an allusion brought up with the mention of the archduke.

Is Mayerling in The Waste Land?

Elsewhere on this page we learn about the Mayerling affair. With this information let's make some connections between The Waste Land and the Mayerling affair.

The Mayerling incident involved the imperial house and The Waste Land is filled with allusions to kings and queens. And the scandal involved sexual passion, another item of importance to the The Waste Land. Rudolph squandered his inheritance. He was heir to the remnant of the one thousand year old Holy Roman Empire but may have been brought down by sex.

One's place in society also comes into play. Marie was born into a royal family, had connections to a more powerful still imperial family yet became an outcast.

The Mayerling scandal may have dealt with the succession to the throne of Hungary. The Waste Land has allusions to the Fisher King in the myths of the Holy Grail and contains the lines

Musing upon the king my brother's wreck
And the king my father's death before him.
Of course, one can also read these line with the Freudian slant of the Oedipial complex where the son must overthrow the father to gain his own power. It is interesting that the ancient Greek seer Tiresias is included in The Waste Land, he of the story of Oedipus. In one of Eliot's notes to The Waste Land he wrote "Tiresias, although a mere spectator and not indeed a 'character,' is yet the most important personage in the poem, uniting all the rest." In Eliot's personal life he was concerned about how his successful father viewed him and the path he took in life.

Admittedly straining even more for comparisons here, the hunting lodge of Mayerling later became a convent and one could say that this signifies the succession of the spiritual life from the temporal life.

Lines from book or her?

This section discusses whether the "Marie" lines in The Waste Land were a literary invention of Eliot's, or from his reading of Countess Larisch's book My Past, or from an actual conversation he had with the Countess.

At this time I thought I would pass on this paragraph about Marie Larisch from James E. Miller Jr's book T.S. Eliot's Personal Waste Land: Exorcism of the Demons. Citations to and by Miller are below.

After these eleven opening lines comes a voice not the poet's, a line of German that translates: "I am no Russian, I come from Lithuania, true German." This is not, I think, one of a medley of mingled voices as sometimes interpreted, but rather a voice that the poet's memory has conjured from the past, that summer in Germany and Munich--in the Hofgarten, maybe, where he ... met a lady who speaks this line and the others that follow, identifying herself as Marie, as a cousin of the Archduke's: "I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter." One diligent scholar, G.K.L. Morris, has discovered what seems to be the source of the Marie passage in "My Past" (1913) by Countess Marie Larisch, but in her footnote to the passage, Valarie Eliot tells us: "The assumption was that Eliot must have read the book, but in fact he had met the author (when and where is not known), and his description of the sledding ["he took me on a sled,/ And I was frightened"], for example, was taken verbatim from a conversation he had with this niece and confidante of the Austrian Empress Elizabeth." Eliot's widow is the only source for this information, but there seems no reason to doubt it; if the language of the telling is close to the language of the book, it would not be the first time that an author remembered his written words while telling his oral tales. Indeed, if Eliot did pull these words from his own experience, this fact would tend to confirm the intensively personal interpretation we have made of these lines that opened the published "Waste Land." It is only natural that the fateful summer of 1911, in his travels in Germany, the young Eliot would have been attracted to such an elegant, romantic personage, and would have even copied her tale into a notebook to lend atmosphere--give insight into the nature of social Europe--in some work to which he might give birth in the future.

It does seem most likely that Eliot met the Countess when in Munich in the summer of 1911 (when he was 22 and Countess Larisch 53). It is also possible, but not as likely, that he met her when he was in Germany in the summer of 1914 when the war broke out. It seems extremely unlikely that he met her after the war when the Countess was struggling to survive the terrible upheaval and inflation of the post-war period.

Note: While the inclusion of Marie into The Waste Land adds a personal note to the poem it is not the only real-life conversation Eliot used in The Waste Land. He took the second part of Part II of The Waste Land ("A Game of Chess") from a conversation with his housekeeper.

Passages from her books

Included here are some passages taken from the books written by the Countess. The ones I have chosen are those that primarily will hold the interest of readers of The Waste Land.

Her reasons for writing

In the last chapters of (My Past (9-16) Countess Larisch describes the Mayerling scandal. Here she gives her reasons for doing so (My Past, p. 211):

In September, 1988, I came to Vienna, happily ignorant that destiny would soon compel me to play an unwilling part in a tragedy which is always considered to be one of the greatest mysteries of our time.

There have been many accounts written of the drama of Meyerling. Various people have asserted that they alone know the truth. So-called eye-witnesses have given their versions of the affair, and a tissue of lies has been woven around me in connection with the deaths of my cousin, the Crown Prince Rudolph of Austria, and the Baroness Mary Vetsera. Hitherto I have not refuted the slanders circulated about me, as I deemed them unworthy of notice. But as one of my sons shot himself on account of what he read in one of the lying books, and my daughters' lives have been embittered by hearing so much that is untrue regarding the part I played in the drama, I have made up my mind to speak after a silence of twenty-four years and acquaint the world with the truth of what really happened before and after the tragedy of Meyerling.

Death of her second husband

Here is the Countess writing in 1936 on her (second) husband's death in 1914. Think of the two passages from Wagner's Tristan and Isolde in Part I of The Waste Land, "The Burial of the Dead" and remember that her husband was a musician. (Secrets of a Royal House, p. 229):

Upon my return from London I found my husband sick abed. After a brief illness an inscrutable Fate took him from me. His passing marked yet another chapter in my eventful life--a life that was to assume a sterner note now. Those years of contentment and affection I had found with Otto Brucks could not be likened, perhaps, to the delirious passion of Tristan and Isolde; rather, they had contained the deep understanding, the noble tranquillity of Beethoven's Pastorale. With my husband's death, a new chord was struck that had the sombre sound, the weird beat of a danse macabre.

Mary Vetsera

Countess Larisch describing her wishing a good night to Mary Vetsera prior to her running away to Mayerling. Note the similarities to the last lines of the deleted section of Part IV of The Waste Land

And if Another knows, I know I know not
Who only know that there is no more noise now.
and to these lines (121-123) of Part II
You know nothing? Do you see nothing? Do you remember

The second paragraph is a quote. I reminds me that the title of Part I of The Waste Land is "The Burial of the Dead." From My Past (p. 294):

I kissed her tenderly, and thought how lovely she looked as she lay back on her pillows. I often think of Mary as I saw her that night--the last she was destined to spend under her mother's roof. She was to know a bitter-sweet hour of love, to drink the wine of passion, and to pass tragically from those on earth. For Mary Vetsera and Another were soon to be numbered with those who "know not anything."

"Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion . . . in anything that is done under the sun."

Death by water

Here is Countess Larisch describing what happened to her and the Empress on the way back from a meeting with King Ludwig II. It alludes to Ludwig's death in the Starnbergersee. The Waste Land also has "Death by Water". (My Past, pp. 66-68):

Half-way to Feldafing we were overtaken by a storm, and in a few moments we were soaked to the skin by a downpour of tropical rain. We took shelter in a cottage which was used for storing hay, and was occupied by a woman who we heard afterwards was the widow of a fisherman. She did not recognize the Empress, who asked her if she lived there quite alone.

"Yes--quite alone," answered the woman, "but I am always waiting for my son to return."

"Where is your son?" inquired Elizabeth.

"He has been lying in the lake for seven years."

My aunt and I exchanged glances, and I shivered at this uncanny statement, which seemed horrible to hear as the lightening flashed and the thunder rolled around the cottage.

"He will return," continued the woman--and as she spoke the wind and rain beat mournfully against the window--"he will return."

"When will that be?" said the Empress.

"When God wills," sighed the mother. "But another will take his place, and he who will do so is not far from this cottage."

Elizabeth did not ask any further questions, but she always declared that the woman's utterances were prophetic of Ludwig's death, which, strangely enough, fulfilled part of the prediction. The Empress told me to give the old woman a thaler, but she did not appear to understand the value of money, so I slipped it into her pocket, and as the storm was nearly over we rode off. A beautiful rainbow spread its coloured arch over the lake. "Now we shall be lucky because we have seen the rainbow," observed my superstitious aunt.

Her hair style

In The Waste Land Eliot has some lines where a woman threatens a man that she will walk the streets with her hair down (like a prostitute.)

What shall I do now? What shall I do?'
'I shall rush out as I am, walk the street
'With my hair down, so.    ...
Here we she how Countess Larisch got a new hair style appropriate for her age and station (Secrets of a Royal House, p. 17):

The first time I remember riding horseback in company with the Empress was as a little girl. My blonde hair flew wildly as I cantered with my adored aunt through the Prater, Vienna's Central Park. People stopped, lifted their hats or bowed deeply. Their eyes followed me and my fluttering mane. When we returned to the Hofburg--the Imperial palace--that day, Aunt Sissy issued the order that I was to wear my hair à l'impératrice in future. I have never changed my style of hairdress to this very day.

Her royal relatives

Countess Larisch describes her upbringing and her family (Secrets of a Royal House, pp. 15-16):

A few additional notes are:

My parents brought me up with Spartan simplicity, but, at the same time, surrounded me with devoted love. While my father saw to it that I spent twice as much time with his horses than with my dolls, and finally succeeded in making a tolerable circus rider of me, performing bareback and other stunts, my mother insisted that I receive a good general education. I recall as vividly as if it happened only yesterday how my maternal grandmother, Duchess Ludovica, flew into a not-so-royal rage when she heard that I was receiving instructions in Latin, shorthand and music. None of her own children had had such a thorough education. As a matter of fact, none of them had learned more than seemed absolutely necessary for princes and princesses of Royal blood. My father's sisters used to walk through the streets of Munich without chaperons, and their general upbringing had not been exactly high toned. Plain meals were served with no great show of ceremony. As one especially characteristic touch of my father's inbred simplicity, I remember his predilection for "dunking" at the breakfast table. Not even in an Imperial castle would he forgo his beloved custom of dipping his morning roll in the coffee cup.

Of my father's many sisters and brothers, the two to whom I not only became most attached, but who also figured in my life conspicuously, were my two Majestäten Tanten--"Majesty Aunts"--Empress Elizabeth amd Queen Maria. Of course I had other aunts, but they were mere Royal Highnessess and were not addressed as Majesties. There was Aunt Helen, Princess of Thurn and Taxis; Aunt Sophie Charlotte, Duchess of Alençon; and Mathilda Ludovica, Countess Trani.

Her suicide attempts

Here Countess Larisch describes lightly many years later a heavy incident from her honeymoon with Count Larisch. One could think of the allusion to Ophelia's suicide at the end of Part II of The Waste Land but I include this mainly as an example of the Countess's writing style. (Secrets of a Royal House, p. 102):

I finally reasoned myself into a state of mind where I became convinced that life had nothing more to offer and that an early end would not only be welcome, but the only solution open to me. And so I made two childish attempts at suicide by swallowing an overdose of some sleeping potion and by trying to smoke myself to death. The only results, however, were that from the one I contracted a condition for which the German terminus technicus is generally known all over the world, as Katzenjammer; from the other, I acquired a lifelong addiction to Turkish cigarettes.


What happened at Mayerling?
A brief description of the events leading up to the deaths at Mayerling and some events afterwards.

Note: This link goes to a section located at a different place on this page.
Mayerling in the popular culture
Lists movies, plays, ballets, books, etc. about the affair.
Mayerling links
Some on-line resources describing the Mayerling affair.

Mayerling in popular culture

In addition to mentions of Mayerling in shows and books on the life of Empress Elisabeth, I have found that there are at least two movies, a musical, a ballet and a television production based on the Mayerling incident:

Mayerling - 1937 - 91 minutes - B&W - The tragic story of Hapsburg Crown Prince Rudolph and his mistress, Baroness Marie Vetsera. Rudolph [is] at odds with his despotic father, Emperor Franz Joseph. To keep him quiet and out of trouble, Rudolph is forced into an arranged marriage, and surrounded by Hapsburg informers and spies. Rudolph runs off to a fair, where he meets the 17-year-old Marie ... . They attempt to legitimize their love through marriage, but the Catholic hierarchy will not approve of Rudolph's divorcing his wife. The lovers flee to Rudolph's hunting lodge in Mayerling, where they spend a last night together, then are found lying side by side, united in death. Based a novel by Claude Anet.
Mayerling (1969) - This remake of the 1937 French favorite stars Omar Sharif as the Prince of Hapsburg, who defies his father by leaving his royal lifestyle and joining in student protests during the Hungarian Revolution. When he falls in love with the young and wealthy Catherine Deneuve, their plans of marriage are thwarted by the king, which leads to tragedy. With James Mason, Ava Gardner. 127 min. 12-2992
City of Dreams, by [David] Zellnick and his brother Joseph Zellnick, is an original musical based on the double suicide of Crown Prince Rudolf and his teenage mistress, Mary, in Vienna in 1889 (includes Countess Larisch).
On February 4, 1957 the cover photo of Life Magazine was of then husband and wife Mel Ferrer and Audrey Hepburn. They were in costume from a television production of Mayerling.
Merle Park appeared in the ballet Mayerling by Kenneth MacMillan. Countess Larisch appears as one of the characters.

I have also found these books on Mayerling:

Mayerling links

Crime At Mayerling (describes both the incident and the book with this title)
http://www.eurohistory.com/mayerling.html (dead)
The Ghosts of Mayerling: The death of Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria-Hungary (1858-1889)
István Lázár: HUNGARY - A Brief History (contains Mayerling and Rudolph)
Google search for "Mayerling"
Describes a collection of newspaper articles on microfilm dealing with the after effects of Mayerling - the claims of Countess Larisch about the possibility of survival of Archduke John of Tuscany and discovery of Crown Prince Rudolph's illegitimate son.

Additional information on Countess Larisch

A biography on Countess Larisch?
A web search has turned up what may be a biography on Countess Larisch?
Her homes
Describes a few places where she lived. There are a few links to pictures.
Location of Schloß Mittersill
As mentioned above the Countess may have lived at Schloß Mittersill. Its location is described here.

A biography on Countess Larisch?

It appears that there is a biography about Countess Larisch but other than the following information (extracted from an AltaVista search) I was not able to gather any information about the book (the link AltaVista printed is dead.)

Buchhandlung Hintermayer - Geschichte Österreich. zurück | weiter. Gräfin Larisch Brigitte Sokop/ Böhlau Verlag Die Biographie der faszinierenden, skandalumwitterten Marie Louise Gräfin...
    URL: hintermayer.at/home2/buecher/gebiete/oesterreich/oesterreich017.html
    Last modified on: 11-Mar-1999 - 3K bytes - in German

Unfortunately the cited page can no longer be accessed but it looks like it describes a biography written by Brigitte Sokop (written in German - Ms. Sokop has also written a book on European family trees). The description is: Countess Larisch - The biography of the fascinating, scandal-ridden Marie Louise Countess [Larisch]

Additional translations from the above:

Her homes

The Countess lived in a number of places and not all places where she did live were mentioned in her books. She had a number of residences in Vienna, many rented and she also stayed in hotels there. Upon her marriage to Count Larisch she lived in Silesia and later Pardubitz (Pardubice) in Bohemia. During this marriage she and the Count would often stay in Mentone in the French Rivieria during the winter.

During the years the Countess was married to Otto Brucks (1897-1914) they "resided in Munich, winters; Rottach, summers." The town of Rottach-Egern is 54 km south of Munich. In her book My Past there is a photograph of her home in Bavaria, Schloß Wotansquell on the Tegernsee. This perhaps was the Brucks' summer home.

Note: The German word for castle is schloß, sometimes rendered as schloss.

Note: Some of these links are to other web sites.

Although there is no mention of this place in her books, the website for the Mittersill Alpine Resort in New Hampshire, USA claims that the original owner of the Mittersill Resort, Baron Hubert Van Pantz, modeled it after the castle he had previously owned, Schloss Mittersill, in Pinzgau Valley Tirol Austria. It claims that a previous owner was the Countess Larisch. Currently, the Austrian castle is owned by Schloss Mittersill Christian Conference and Study Center. Also on their website is a short history of the castle.

Each website has a photo of their respective buildings. However, the photographs of Mittersill Resort and Schloss Mittersill do not resemble each other much.

Location of Schloß Mittersill

To help you find Schloß Mittersill (possibly one of the homes of the Countess):

The Mittersill Resort says Schloss Mittersill is in the Pinzgau Valley, Tirol, Austria.
Here is map supplied by the Schloss Mittersill Christian Conference and Study Center showing where Mittersill is located in Europe:
Here is a map supplied by the Schloss Mittersill Christian Conference and Study Center showing how to get to the village of Mittersill (about two hours from Salzburg, Innsbruck, and Munich)
This webpage claims Schloß Mittersill is located at 47°17´32 North latitude, 12°29´00 East longitude

Marie's royal family

Family tree
A drawing of part of Countess Marie Larisch's family tree. The names are linked to the descriptions of the members given below.
Description of relatives
A brief description of family members with full names, titles, etc.
Gives a named relationship between the family member and Countess Larisch for some of the family members.
Naming conventions used
Tells about some of the alternate names used.

Marie's family tree

About the tree: Many members of the tree are missing. If there are any conventions on the order of placing siblings I am not aware of them. So, if there are conventions, this chart may be confusing to those who are used to them. Here, horizontal lines at the same level as a name indicate a marriage while horizontal lines above names indicates a sibling relationship. Due to inter-marriage between the families there may be other relationships not shown here. I have included Sophia on the family tree as she was at one time engaged to be married to Ludwig II and I thought it would be interesting to show the inter-marriage in the families.

                    The Royal House of    ||   The Imperial House of
                           Wittelsbach  <=||=> Habsburg-Lorrain
                                          ||   (Hapsburg-Lorraine)
                    Maximilian I                               Franz
                         |                                       |
     .----------------------------.                         .---------.
     |                   |        |                         |         |
     |                   |        |                       Franz   Ferdinand
  Ludwig I            Ludovica  Sophie ------------------- Karl
     |                   |                             |
     |            .----------------.               .----------.
     |            |      |         |               |          |
     |            |      |         |             Franz       Karl
Maximilian II  Sophia  Ludwig  Elisabeth ------- Joseph     Ludwig
     |                   |                    |               |
     |                   |                    |            .--------.
     |                   |                    |            |        |
     |                   |                    |           Franz     |
  Ludwig II            Marie               Rudolph      Ferdinand  Otto

Marie's relatives

Relative Name
in tree
Full name Title Lived Reigned Extra
To tree Elisabeth Elisabeth Amalie Eugenie Duchess in Bavaria,
later Empress of Austria
1837-1898 n/a m.1854 Emperor Franz Joseph, Assassinated
To tree Ferdinand Ferdinand Emperor of Austria 1793-1875 1835-1848 (abdicated) His nephew became Emperor
To tree Franz Franz Franz II Holy Roman Emperor

Franz I Emperor of Austria
1768-1835 Franz II

Franz I
Last Holy Roman Emperor
To tree Franz-Ferdinand Franz Ferdinand Archduke 1863-1914 n/a His assassin-
ation triggered WW I
To tree Franz Joseph Franz Joseph Karl Emperor of Austria
and, from 1867, King of Hungary
1830-1916 1848-1916 m.1854 Duchess Elisabeth in Bavaria
To tree Franz Karl Franz Karl Joseph Archduke 1802-1878 n/a m.1824 Princess Sophie of Bavaria
To tree Karl Karl Emperor of Austria 1887-1922 1916-1918 Last Emperor
To tree Karl Ludwig Karl Ludwig ??? 1833-1896 n/a;  
To tree Ludovica Ludovica Wilhelmine Princess of Bavaria 1808-1892 n/a  
To tree Ludwig Ludwig Wilhem Duke in Bavaria 1831-1920 n/a  
To tree Ludwig I Ludwig August King of Bavaria 1786-1868 1825-1854  
To tree Ludwig II Ludwig Otto Friedrich Wilhelm King of Bavaria 1845-1886 1864-1886 His brother Otto became King
To tree Marie Marie Louise Elizabeth Baroness von Wallersee
later Countess Larisch
1858-1940 n/a  
To tree Maximilian I Maximilian Joseph King of Bavaria 1756-1825 1805-1825  
To tree Maximilian II Maximilian Joseph King of Bavaria 1811-1864 1854-1864  
To tree Otto 1865-1906 Archduke ??? n/a  
To tree Rudolph Rudolph Crown Prince,
1858-1889 n/a m.1881 Princess Stephanie of Belgium
To tree Sophia ??? ??? ??? n/a Her engagement to Ludwig II broken
To tree Sophie Frederike Sophie Dorothea Wilhelmine Archduchess 1805-1872 n/a  


Marie's family relationships

Relative Title Relation Common
Elisabeth Empress Aunt Ludovica
Franz-Ferdinand Archduke Second cousin Maximilian I
Franz-Joseph Emperor Uncle
(by marriage)
Franz-Joseph Emperor First cousin,
once removed
Maximilian I
Karl Emperor Second cousin,
once removed
Maximilian I
Ludwig II King of Bavaria Second cousin Maximilian I
Rudolph Archduke,
Crown Prince
First cousin Elisabeth


Naming conventions used

The names here have variant spellings. Also sometimes the compound names are hyphenated and sometimes not. Also, sometimes you see the names in the German form and sometimes in a French form. I use the German form of the name except I use Rudolph and Joseph instead of Rudolf and Josef as these seem to be the more common variants of these name.

Links to information on Countess Larisch's relatives

If you are interested in Countess Larisch's place in history then, in addition to links on the Mayerling affair, you will probably want to know more about her influential family members. The links below will give you some help.

Duke Ludwig Wilhelm

Duke Ludwig was Countess Larisch's father.

This page (in French) entitled Ludwig, duc en Bavière has information on both Duke Ludwig and Countess Larisch.

King Ludwig II

Some have mentioned King Ludwig's "death by water" in the Starnbergersee to have a connection with T.S. Eliot's poem The Waste Land.

Empress Elisabeth considered Ludwig her spiritual brother. After his death Elisabeth claimed that Ludwig's ghost visited her and spoke to her about her own and her sister's Sophia's deaths. Even this has a connection with The Waste Land which has a number of places where fortune tellers, seers and oracle tellers are mentioned.

The first website mentioned below may be the only site needed to be visited by most.

King Ludwig of Bavaria - His Life and Art

Since I already collected the URL to this page before I found the previous one I'm including it too. This has links to other sites and photographs.

Biography and portraits of Bavarian King Ludwig II

Emperor Franz-Joseph

Here are some pages that will give you a brief introduction to Emperor Franz-Joseph:

Thumbnail Bio - Emperor Franz-Joseph
http://www.geocities.com/Vienna/8253/fj.html (dead)
Page on Emperor Franz-Joseph
The Emperor - Franz Josef (a brief sketch)

Empress Elisabeth

Like the Mayerling affair (in which her son died) the Empress Elisabeth still holds people's attention more than a century after her death. There are many sites on the web that introduce her to the world.

Her family used her nickname Sissi (sometimes also Sissy or Sisi.) You may see site titles or URLs using this name.

As with her cousin Ludwig, the Empress Elisabeth's death also involved a lake mentioned in The Waste Land. She was attacked by an assassin as she was boarding a steamer for a trip on Lake Gevena (also known as Lac Leman). She was stabbed in the heart with a thin file but did not bleed immediately and boarded anyway. Onboard the seriousness of the hitherto unknown wound became clear and the steamer returned to shore, where she died.

Here is a large web site about Empress Elisabeth:

Elisabeth of Wittelsbach, Sissi
About the Wittelsbach family
Eugenie Amalie Elisabeth of Wittelsbach - Sissi's younger years
Links to Wittelsbach family in French
Family tree of Franz-Joseph and Elisabeth
A list of movies with Empress Elisabeth as a character.
Sissi, Habsburg, Wiitelsbach, Royalty and History links
Books about Sissi, Habsburg, Wittelsbach, Royalty and History
http://www.geocities.com/Vienna/1042/sissi.html (dead)
Elisabeth, Empress of Austria

From part of the Austrian mint's series of coins Royal Tragedies in House Habsburg at http://www.austrian-mint.com/e/schicksal.html

The home page for the coin
A description of the coin
A time line of the Empress's life
A biography
A press release about the coin with a brief biography

Some other sites:

http://members.xoom.com/ahalal/elisabeth/sisibio.html (dead)
Empress Elisabeth: A Brief Biography
http://members.xoom.com/ahalal/elisabeth/eljen.html (dead)
Elisabeth: The Musical
http://members.xoom.com/ahalal/elisabeth/books.html (dead)
Some Books on Elisabeth and Related Topics

You can read a fictionalized diary of the Empress, Sissi - Tagebuch einer Kaiserin [Sissi - Dairy of an Empress] by Angeles Caso.

At this website you can read an on-line copy of some of the diary (in German.)
Chapter 6 - see the end of the chapter for a snippet about Marie's wedding to Count Larisch (the page is in German - search for Larisch.) Use the translation services noted below.

Crown Prince Rudolph

The Austrian mint has the best site I've found on Crown Prince Rudolph. From part of the Austrian mint's series of coins Royal Tragedies in House Habsburg at http://www.austrian-mint.com/e/schicksal.html

The home page for a coin featuring Rudolph
Historical background (with various pictures of Rudolph, Stephanie and Mayerling.)
A press release about the coin with a brief biography
A time line of Rudolph's life (with picture.)
A description of the coin (which features Rudolph and Mayerling.)

Here are a few other pages for Rudolph:

A picture of a young Rudolph when he was an age when he thought more of sledding than political and extra-marital intrigues.
A picture of a Mary Vetsera.
http://buergerliste.hinterbruehl.at/Mayerling.htm (dead)
A brief introduction to Mayerling. It is in German but it has pictures of Rudolph and Mary Vetsera.

Rudolph, it seems, does not have many other webpages devoted to him. Please check out my Mayerling links section to find out more about him.

I do have a link to a picture of Rudolph when he was an age when he thought more of sledding than political and extra-marital intrigues:

A picture of a young Rudolph

You can see some information on Rudolph at on this page at a site devoted to his mother:

http://members.xoom.com/ahalal/elisabeth/books.html (dead)
Some Books on Elisabeth and Related Topics

Archduke Franz-Ferdinand

Here are some pages that will give you a brief introduction to Archduke Franz-Ferdinand who was heir to the thrones of Austria-Hungary at the time of his assassination in 1914. This event is considered to have triggered the Great War.

From part of the Austrian mint's series of coins Royal Tragedies in House Habsburg at http://www.austrian-mint.com/e/schicksal.html

The home page for a coin featuring Franz Ferdinand
A description of the coin
A biography
A press release about the coin with a brief biography of Rudolph.

Some other sites

Thumbnail Bio - Archduke Franz Ferdinand
Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand
Memoirs of Admiral Miklós Horthy, the chapter on Archduke Francis Ferdinand


Where to find information refered to above. Books referred to and links to web pages about the books.
Biography references
On-line information about Countess Larisch.
Web Resources
Search engines, translators, genealogy help, on-line book stores.


Quoted above is a passage from James E. Miller Jr's T.S. Eliot's Personal Waste Land

T.S. Eliot's Personal Waste Land: Exorcism of the Demons, James E. Miller Jr. 1977, The Pennsylvania State University.

Miller quotes Valerie Eliot from:

T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land: A Facsimile and Transcript of the Original Drafts Including the Annotations of Ezra Pound, Edited and with an Introduction by Valerie Eliot, 1971, Harcourt Brace & Company, page 126

Both Miller and I have referred to the essay Marie, Marie, Hold on Tight by George L. K. Morris. This essay may be found in at least these places:

    1. Marie, Marie, Hold on Tight. From Partisan Review, XXI (March-April, 1954), 231-233. Copyright 1954 by Partisan Review.
    2. Marie, Marie, Hold on Tight, reprinted in T.S. Eliot: A collection of Critical Essays, ed. Hugh Kenner (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1962), pp. 86-88
    3. A copy of the essay was enclosed in a posting to the T.S. Eliot maillist. It may be found at: http://web.missouri.edu/~tselist/mharc/tse/1999-02/msg00251.html (dead)

Also cited was (see above):

A Guide to the Selected Poems of T.S. Eliot, B.C. Southam, pp. 142-143 Harcourt Brace and Company, sixth edition, 1996

I have much more information on the books mentioned above at my Exploring The Waste Land website. See pages:

T. S. Eliot - A collection of Critical Essays, Edited by Hugh Kenner
T.S. Eliot's Personal Waste Land: Exorcism of the Demons, James E. Miller Jr.
The Waste Land, T. S. Eliot, Edited by Valerie Eliot
A Guide to the Selected Poems of T.S. Eliot, B.C. Southam

Biography references

The main on-line sources for the "Who is Marie" section above:

Wittelsbach Family
Ludwig, duc en Bavière (in French)
Bavaria (Wittelsbach genealogy)
Descendants of Ludwig, Herzog in Bayern

The main sources used to produce the family tree were:


Web Resources

I was not able to find information on Countess Larisch using lists put into directory structures such as those used at Yahoo! or Excite. I had to resort to using search engines and following links. Here are my favorite search engines:

Search engines:

AltaVista search engine
AltaVista is where I go first when looking for something specific when I have a lot of keywords I can enter.
AltaVista - Advanced Text Search page
This is the AltaVista page I actually use. It allows the use of quoted text and logical expression using "and", "or", "not" and "near." It also allows searches for pages marked to be specific languages and the search can even be narrowed down to a specific domain. This page doesn't present you with distracting graphics either.
Another impressive search engine. It uses an algorithm based on cross links to find the pages most likely to be the best (the best usually have many links to them and they in turn link to other good sites.)
I'm not sure how this engine does what it does but it is very effective in finding information on what you are looking for and then it puts it into categories.

Translation services:

AltaVista Translations (Using Babelfish). This site translates phrases typed in (or cut and pasted) or it translates pages for entered URLs.
Transparent Language, Inc. provides the world FreeTranslations.com which also translates phrases typed in (or cut and pasted) or it translates pages for entered URLs.
travlang's Translating Dictionaries
travlang's German - English On-line Dictionary

Help on noble titles and genealogy:

Europäische Stammtafeln Legend and Advice (German genealogical help)
A Glossary of European Noble, Princely, Royal, and Imperial Titles.
The German Nobility
Index to royal Genealogical Data - ordered by last name

Since Countess Larisch's books are now out of print they must be sought out. These are on-line used book stores (actually, they are not stores themselves, but have the inventory databases of hundreds of used book stores which actually ship the books):


To home page of Exploring The Waste Land