Countess Helena Vetsera neé Baltazzi 1847 – 1925

Helena Vetsera was intimate with the circle around Sisi, until her daughter Mary died at Mayerling with Crown Prince Rudolf.   Her father Theodore Baltazzi made his fortune in Constantinople and she was one of two daughters of his first marriage.  Hector and Aristide Baltazzi were her half brothers.

Helena (or Helen as she preferred to be known) inherited a huge fortune, reputedly making her the wealthiest heiress in Constantinople.   After her parents died, her uncle Albin Vetsera, an Austrian diplomat became her guardian.  Although he was 22 years her senior, he wooed and married Helena.  The service was held at the British Embassy Chapel in Constantinople.   Albin continued in the diplomatic corps and before returning to Vienna they had four children.  He was made a baron for his service to Austro-Hungarian diplomacy.

Hector and Aristide, Helena’s half brothers, were educated in England and by the 1870s were successful and noted horse riders and owners.  Helena Vetsera joined them when Sisi stayed on the Isle of Wight in 1874.   It could just be that she was more concerned to join Prince Niki Esterhazy than her brothers.  Helena and Esterhazy stayed at the Marine Hotel.

Helena Vetsera also went hunting with Sisi in Hungary and she was part of the set that surrounded Empress Elisabeth.   In 1876 Sisi invited Helena to Godollo and instead of chasing foxes she chased and caught 18-year-old Crown Prince Rudolf.

By autumn 1879 Helen Vetsera was keeping open house for Rudolf and his friends at her Viennese home at 11 Salesianergasse, near the Belvedere.    Countess Festetics had never trusted or liked her and her brothers.  She refused to allow Rudolf and Helena to meet in her drawing room.    At first Emperor Franz Josef was amused by Helena and Rudolf.  However by December the Emperor confided to Festetics his disbelief about the way Vetsera behaved towards Rudolf, 11 years her junior.

In 1888 Helena’s daughter Mary caught the eye of Crown Prince Rudolf at the opening of the new Burgtheater.    With the assistance of Marie Larisch he began his fateful affair that ended with Mary’s murder and Crown Prince Rudolf’s suicide at Mayerling.

After the deaths at Mayerling, Helen Vetsera was desperate to find Mary, who had been missing for two days.  Unaware of what had happened, the distraught Helena forced her way in to Ida Ferenczy’s room and would not leave until she was allowed to see Sisi.  Sisi told her Mary was dead.   Helena was heartbroken.

Shortly afterwards the head of the government Count Eduard Taaffe visited Helena Vetsera and told her to leave the country for several weeks.   She went to Italy.   When Helena’s and Marie Larisch’s roles in assisting the affair became known, they and the Baltazzi brothers were no longer accepted in Viennese society.

Helena died in Vienna in 1925 and was buried at Sankt Jakob, 40 kilometres north of Graz.

Photo made between 1870-1890. Public domain due to its age.