Apocalypse 10 lives - Learning resource files

Elisabeth Von Werdenberg

  • Nationality: Austrian
  • Birth date: September 22, 1860
  • Family/social situation:

    Member of the Austrian nobility, married to Rudolf, a diplomat on a posting to Geneva. Their son, Leothar, will die in combat in the Dolomites, Italy.

  • Occupation:

    She is a Marshallin at court, lady-in-waiting to Sophie Chotek.

Biographical elements of the character
Elements of the historical context
  • July 1, 1914

    Trieste, Italy.
    Elisabeth attends the funeral of the Archduke and his wife.


  • Sophie Chotek is the morganatic wife of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Habsburg throne.

  • July 14, 1914

    The Emperor’s summer villa at Bad Ischl, Austria.
    Worried discussions about measures to punish Serbia for the assassination of the heir to the imperial throne. Elisabeth is aware that an ultimatum to Serbia has already been prepared.

  • The Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Joseph Charles of Habsburg-Lorraine, is 84 years old when his heir, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, is assassinated in Sarajevo. Germany supports Austria-Hungary against Serbia.

  • October 8, 1915

    The Werdenberg Palace, Vienna, Austria.
    Elisabeth has invited members of the Viennese intelligentsia (Stefan Zweig, Rainer Maria Rilke, Robert Musil, Oskar Kokoschka, and Alma Mahler) to her home. Photos of Austrian atrocities against Serbs are shown. The guests’ pacifist stance is opposed by the nationalism of Elisabeth’s son, Leothar.

  • Stefan Zweig (1881-1942, writer), Oskar Kokoschka (1886-1980, Expressionist painter), Robert Musil (1880-1942, writer), Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926, writer), Alma Mahler (1879-1964, painter and musician, wife of composer Gustav Mahler and mistress of Kokoschka); the Vienna Secession art movement. The report of the scientific inquiry by Dr. Archibald Rudolph Reiss presents proof of the Austrian atrocities done to Serbian civilians.

  • December 20, 1915

    Elisabeth is writing in her diary.

  • The realities of war. Relations between Germany and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Italy’s entry into the war on the Allied side.
    Sigmund Freud (1856-1939): the father of psychoanalysis.

  • November 21, 1916

    Rudolph, Elisabeth’s husband, informs her of the death of Emperor Franz Joseph and the ascension of Charles I, a pacifist, to the throne.

  • Charles I, Franz Joseph’s successor to the Austro-Hungarian throne, is crowned in Budapest on December 31, 1916.

  • January 5, 1917

    Elisabeth has just learned of her son Leothar’s death in the Dolomites.

  • Mourning by wives and mothers.

  • March 28, 1917

    Werdenberg residence in Geneva, Switzerland.
    Elisabeth tries to drown her sorrow by writing in her diary and by taking laudanum. Rudolph tells her of the impending peace pact between Germany and Bolshevist Russia.


  • Peace initiatives of Emperor Charles I.
    Consequences of the Russian Revolution (February 1917) on the war; Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, a.k.a. Lenin (1870-1924).

  • June 28, 1919

    Versailles, France.
    The Peace Treaty has just been signed. The Austro-Hungarian Empire has been dismantled. Rudolf considers going into exile but Elisabeth wants to continue her psychoanalysis with Freud.

  • June 28, 1919: the signing of the Treaty of Versailles.