Assassination of Empress Elisabeth

Artist Unknown, “The Assassination of Empress Elisabeth of Austria in Geneva by Luigi Lacheni”, 1898, Le Petit Jounal, Issued September, 25, 1898

On September 10th of 1898, anarchist Luigi Lacheni used a tapered file to fatally stab Empress Elisabeth of Austria during her visit to Geneva. She and her lady-in-waiting countess Sztáray had departed their hotel on Lake Geneva to ride a paddle steamer to Montreux at the foot of the Alps. Since Elisabeth disdained royal processions, they walked without any attendants.

On the docks in the early afternoon, Lucheni approached and stabbed Empress Elisabeth below her left breast with a wooden-handled, four-inch file, a work tool used to file the eyes of industrial needles. Badly wounded, the Empress nevertheless continued walking, supported by two other people, a distance of one hundred yards to board the departing steamer. 

Aboard the steamer, Contess Sztáray noticed Elisabeth’s bleeding and notified the captain of the steamer, who ordered its return to shore. Upon landing, the Empress was carried back to the hotel on a makeshift stretcher. Two doctors pronounced Empress Elisabeth dead with an hour of the attack.

The assassin Luigi Lucheni was apprehended upon fleeing the scene; and his weapon was found the next day. Lucheni told the authorities that he was an anarchist who came to Geneva with the intention of killing any sovereign as an example for others. He was tried in October and received life imprisonment, the death penalty having been abolished in Switzweland.

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