Books: Franzi & Sisi

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While his restless wife was looking for the bluebird, Franz Joseph stayed at home, lived simply, worked hard. Without at all meaning to, he got involved in two disastrous wars, with France and Italy and with Prussia. He found out what it felt like to be a beaten general. When his only son Rudolf shot himself and his mistress rather than give her up, Franz Joseph knew what it felt like to be a failure as a father. But his love for his flighty wife never wavered. After she had left him for the last time he wrote her: "There is no end to my need of you. My thoughts are near you and with pain do I think of our everlasting separation; especially do your vacant, dismantled rooms sadden me. . . ." He was writing to her again ("Farewell with God, beloved angel, I embrace you with my whole heart. . . .") when she lay dying in Geneva, stabbed by a political assassin. The news, Franz Joseph thought, filled his cup. And he was right. In 1916, before he could see the ruin of his empire, Death brought him his long-overdue holiday.

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