Murder most foul

On the 27th April 1916, Prince Leopold Clement Philipp August Maria of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha died. For six months the prince had suffered the after effects of being shot and attacked with acid. In constant pain, he had suffered third degree chemical burns across his face; most of the flesh of his face had been burnt off; he had lost an eye; three of his ribs were smashed and his spleen was shattered.

Leopold Clement was the elder child and only son of Princess Louse of Belgium and Prince Philipp of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Born in July 1878, Leopold was the heir apparent to the House of Koháry. Like most young men of his class Leopold joined the military and became a Hussar captain in the Austro-Hungarian Army.

In 1913, Leopold attended a charity bazaar where he met Camilla Rybicka, daughter of the Court Councillor Rybicka, an officer in the Vienna State Police. Instantly besotted, the two quickly became lovers and set up in an apartment together in vienna. While Leopold was happy with Camilla as his lover, she wanted to marry Leopold. Unfortunately, Camilla although a member of high society was a commoner and would never be accepted by Leopold’s family. By the summer of 1914 Leopold had “agreed” to marry Camilla and while on duty in paris on 1st July wrote to her promising to marry her within six months, to name her as his heir and stating that he would request his father to pay her two million Austro-Hungarian krones in the event of his death.

When war was declared at the end of the month, Camilla demanded that Leopold marry her before he left for the front. Leopold was well aware that such a marriage would never have been allowed by his father. He also knew that any secret marriage would merely deprive him of his fortune the minute it was discovered as his father would disinherit him and that he would be forced to resign his officer’s commission.

When Camilla realised that Leopold had no intention of marrying her she threatened to reveal all to his father. After several weeks of increasingly angry confrontations, she agreed to accept Leopold offer of four million Austro-Hungarian krones as compensation.

On the 17th October 1915, the couple met at the flat they had taken in Vienna when they had first met. The meeting was initially tense but the couple stated drinking and ended up in bed making love for the last time. Finally it was time to say goodbye and Leopold produced the cheque for four million Austro-Hungarian krones. As he started to walk towards a table to sign the cheque, Camilla pulled a silk robe around herself and produced a gun from a cabinet drawer. She shot Leopold five times at close range. He staggered back and she took a bottle of sulphuric acid from the pocket of the robe and threw it into his face. She then turned the gun round and shot herself through the heart.

The shots and Leopold’s screams had been heard in the adjoining apartments and the police had been called. When they finally broke down the door they found Camilla lying dead on the floor beside the bed. Leopold, lying by her side, was moaning in pain.

Camilla was cremated in Jena, Germany in December 1915. The service was private. Leopold’s remains were interred in the vault of St. Augustin in Coburg in April 1916.

 

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