As training for his future role as Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary, Rudolf toured the British Isles and Holland. Just as young men had previously gone to Italy on the Grand Tour, so the Crown Prince was taken on a similar tour of Britain and Ireland – to the most-advanced industrial country of the time. His tutors were Professor Carl Menger from Vienna and the diplomat and explorer Count Karl Ritter von Scherzer.
Rudolf came with his mother to London arriving on New Year’s Eve 1876. Empress Elisabeth immediately set off for Cottesbrooke while Rudolf briefly stayed on in the capital. He started off like any modern-day tourist going to places such as Westminster Abbey, the Albert Memorial, South Kensington Museum and the zoo. He also saw London at work when he toured the newly-rebuilt Smithfield Market, Bank of England and the Corn Exchange.
Unlike Sisi, Rudolf enjoyed going to stay with Queen Victoria at Osborne on the Isle of Wight. She was charmed by him. Rudolf returned by way of the great naval dockyard at Portsmouth.
He then went up to Scotland to join Edward Prince of Wales to stay with the Duke and Duchess of Hamilton, at their great palace. After several days of shooting and feasting, Rudolf had to get back to work. He went to the law courts in Edinburgh, the museum and a rubber works. In Glasgow he visited an iron foundry, chemical works and a textile mill.
After a rough crossing of the Irish Sea the party had a rousing welcome from the workers in a Belfast flax mill and it was then down to Dublin. Unlike the north, Dublin lacked much industry but like tourists today he went to the Guinness factory and was entertained at Dublin Castle.
Back in England he saw Chester Cathedral before staying in Liverpool, where he visited the workhouse and the newly-opened Walker Art Gallery. In Manchester they saw the fine Town Hall, cotton mills and the engineering company Joseph Whitworth.
Across the Pennines Rudolf was taken to Sir Titus Salt’s Saltaire mill and Samuel Lister’s vast Manningham mill. In Sheffield he viewed steel plates being made for a new Austrian battleship and the skills of the cutlers. In Birmingham Rudolf was taken around the Jewellery Quarter and BSA’s gun factory.
The tour concluded, like many visitors today, in Shakespeare’s Stratford-Upon-Avon and Leamington Spa where he obviously met up with Mary Throckmorton, Marie Valerie’s former governess. Back in London Rudolf spent a month visiting the royal family and became the ‘must have’ guest at every ball and dinner party in the capital.
Rudolf returned in 1887 when he represented his father at Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee celebrations. The Queen invested him as a Knight of the Garter.