My aunt Bébelle, the Countess of Paris Isabelle d’Orléans Bragance, told me that when she was young she often visited one of her maternal aunts who owned a very beautiful villa on the banks of Lake Geneva. The aunt was especially proud of her garden, and of her roses in particular.
One day, the aunt came to lunch quite flustered. Her children asked her what had happened: “Can you imagine that not long ago, I hired a young gardening assistant, an Italian. And just this morning I caught him – he didn’t see me – clipping the heads of the roses, just for the pleasure of destroying something beautiful. I was so horrified that I fired him on the spot. A man who can kill a rose for pleasure will amount to no good at all: he will be a murderer.”
Shortly thereafter, Luigi Luccheni, as the young gardener was called, met a tall and slender lady dressed in black at the docks in Geneva. She was going towards the boat departing for Lucerne, and another woman was following behind her. He approached the woman and appeared to punch her in the chest before running off.
The lady, seemingly nonplussed, kept walking for another ten metres or so towards the boat, walked up onto the gangplank and collapsed. The woman who had been following her opened the woman’s coat so that she could breathe and saw to her horror that there was a drop of blood over the woman’s heart. Luccheni had in fact pierced her with very slender knife. The woman died a few moments later. She was the Empress Elisabeth of Austria.