On this day September 10, 1898

In an act of “propaganda of the deed”, Italian anarchist Luigi Lucheni fatally stabbed Elisabeth of Bavaria, Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary and Bohemia in Geneva, Switzerland.

Elisabeth of Bavaria 1860 Luigi Lucheni

In a concept that promotes physical violence against political enemies as a way of inspiring the masses and catalyzing revolution Lucheni sought to kill a member of what he felt was an elite and oppressive upper class,.

In his diary, Lucheni penned, “How I would like to kill someone – but it must be someone important so it gets in the papers.”

At first Lucheni decided that he would kill Philippe, Duke of Orleans, but due to the Duke’s change of itinerary and the discovery of another royal being in town, he later settled for taking the life of Elisabeth.

Due to her rebellious nature, Elisabeth often refused the aid of police and bodyguards and she was adored by the populace in general.

Bateau Genève

Bateau Genève

While the Empress and her Lady in Waiting were boarding a steamship to Montreux on September 10, 1898 in Geneva, Lucheni ran over to the former and slammed his body against hers, penetrating her chest with a sharp needle file (which is now part of the Vienna Sisi Museum’s exhibition).

Not realising she was hurt due to her extremely tight corset and wanting to board as quickly as possible, Elisabeth got to her feet straight way and walked onto the ship, where she later collapsed and died.

At his trial, Lucheni openly admitted to his crime, and at the age of 25, was sentenced to life in prison. After his memoirs were confiscated by prison guards, he was found hanged in his cell by his belt on October 19, 1910, apparently a suicide.

Lucheni’s assassination of Elisabeth gave rise to the International Conference of Rome for the Social Defense Against Anarchists held from November 24 to December 21, 1898. This conference agreed on a definition of anarchism as “any act that used violent means to destroy the organization of society”.


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