29 July 2008

Famous People: Lucheni and the Empress

By Jennifer Linforth

I swore to myself to kill some high-placed person or another, prince, king or president of a republic--it's all the same. They are all made of the same stuff.

Those were the words of Luigi Lucheni, a twenty five year old Parisian-born Italian, as he sat in a police station in Geneva. Shortly after he finished that statement, the phone rang announcing the woman he stabbed died of her wounds.

All hail to anarchism! Lucheni replied.

Luigi Lucheni would make his mark in history as the murderer of Empress Elisabeth of Austria. His original intent was to kill the King of Italy, but lacking the cash to travel the distance to Rome, he set his sites on Elisabeth instead.

How does a young man who was a respected and decent soldier in the Italian army, a musician and a hired valet for the Prince of Aragona, end up one of the most famous anarchists of all time? No one really knows. But what is known is that Lucheni was very proud of his act and made no small affair of it while in prison. He wrote several letters while awaiting trial to many prominent newspapers calling the ruling classes 'bloodsuckers of humanity,' insisting that just retribution would repeat with frequency against kings, president and ministers or anyone who suppresses humanity for their own benefit.

Oddly enough, Lucheni received more letters than he wrote--most in favor of his deed. Still, those who opposed him opposed him with vehemence:

Murderer, beast, monster, rabid animal! The women and girls of Vienna long to revenge the horrible crime which you committed against our beloved Empress. Rabid animal, do you know what you deserve? Listen you monster: we want to stretch you out on a table and we, who are so soft-hearted, want to look on while both your arms and feet are hacked off.

The investigation into Lucheni's crime was a public one and the search for accomplices long. When asked if he had any he replied, "I have none. My accomplice is here," pointing to himself. The courts wanted to show that this act was a conspiracy, yet they could not. Luigi Lucheni was a model for anarchist assassins even up to today. He alone wished to carry the deed to martyrdom.

Naturally Lucheni was convicted of this crime, being that he flat out and proudly admitted to the deed. His sentence was lifelong imprisonment to which he shouted, "Long live anarchy! Death to aristocracy!"

Six months later Lucheni admitted to being a part of a bigger conspiracy of two other Italians--one armed that day with a revolver the other a dagger. Lucheni killed Empress Elisabeth with a slender file sharpened to a deadly point. Running up to her he blocked her afternoon stroll with her lady-in-waiting. Stumbling in front of her and peering beneath her parasol to make certain he would kill the correct woman, he punctured her heart. So small was the wound that she lived for sixty minutes afterward and initially did not even know she was injured.

On October 19, 1910, eleven years after his crime Lucheni, hanged himself by his belt. A famous anarchist--suddenly forgotten.

Letters and quotes researched from The Eagles Die by George R. Marek, Harper and Row Publishers, New York.

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