Luigi Lucheni

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Luigi Lucheni
Luigi Lucheni 02.jpg
Swiss police mugshot of Luigi Lucheni (1898)
Born(1873-04-22)April 22, 1873
DiedOctober 19, 1910(1910-10-19) (aged 37)
Geneva, Switzerland
Cause of deathSuicide
Resting placeZentralfriedhof
Vienna, Austria
48°08′58″N 16°26′28″E / 48.14944°N 16.44111°E / 48.14944; 16.44111 (Burial site of Luigi Lucheni's head)
Criminal charge(s)Murder of Empress Elisabeth of Austria
Criminal penaltyLife imprisonment
Military career
AllegianceKingdom of Italy
Service/branchRoyal Italian Army
Years of service1893–1896
Battles/warsFirst Italo-Ethiopian War

Luigi Lucheni (1873–1910) was an Italian anarchist and the assassin of Empress Elisabeth of Austria.

Early life[edit]

Luigi Lucheni was born Louis Luccheni in Paris on April 22, 1873. His father, unknown, and his mother, Luigia Laccheni, left the baby to a foundling hospital. The child was moved to Italy in August 1874 and transferred between orphanages and foster families. Lucheni worked odd jobs in Italy, Switzerland, and Austria-Hungary. He served in the military for three years and moved to Switzerland, where he befriended anarchists in Lausanne.[1]


On September 10, 1898, Lucheni used a tapered file to fatally stab Empress Elisabeth of Austria during her visit to Geneva. Elisabeth and her lady-in-waiting Countess Sztáray had departed their hotel on Lake Geneva to ride a paddle steamer to Montreux. They walked without their attendants, as Elisabeth disdained royal processions. On the docks in the early afternoon, Lucheni approached and stabbed Elisabeth below her left breast with a wooden-handled, four-inch file,[2] the kind used to file the eyes of industrial needles.[3] Badly wounded, she nevertheless continued walking, with the support of two other people, 100 yards to board the departing steamer.[2] The steamer returned to shore after Countess Sztáray first noticed Elisabeth's bleeding, whereupon the Empress was carried back to the hotel on a makeshift stretcher.[4] Two doctors pronounced her dead within an hour of the attack.[5] Documentation of the autopsy was destroyed.[3]

Lucheni was apprehended upon fleeing the scene and his file was found the next day. He told the authorities that he was an anarchist who came to Geneva with the intention of killing any sovereign as an example for others. Lucheni used the file because he didn't have enough money for a stiletto.[3]

His trial began the next month, in October. He was furious to find that capital punishment had been abolished in Geneva, and wrote a letter demanding that he be tried in another canton, such that he could be martyred. He received the sentence of life imprisonment instead.[3]

Death and legacy[edit]

Lucheni in custody

Lucheni wrote his childhood memoirs while in Geneva's Évêché prison. He was harassed in prison and his notebooks were stolen. He was found hanged in his cell on October 19, 1910. His head was preserved in formaldehyde[1] and transferred to Vienna in 1986.[6]

The assassination begot an international conference at which delegates from 21 nations defined anarchism as terrorism and resolved to begin agencies to surveil suspected anarchists and permit capital punishment for assassination of sovereigns.[3] Elisabeth's life and subsequent murder is depicted across many stage productions, films and novels.[7] Lucheni's childhood memoirs were published in 1998.[1]


  1. ^ a b c Enckell 2015.
  2. ^ a b Newton 2014, p. 132.
  3. ^ a b c d e Newton 2014, p. 134.
  4. ^ Newton 2014, pp. 132–133.
  5. ^ Newton 2014, p. 133.
  6. ^ "Relic of an 1898 Crime Goes Home to Vienna". The New York Times. August 31, 1986. ISSN 0362-4331.
  7. ^ Newton 2014, p. 134–135.


  • Enckell, Marianne (March 26, 2015). "LUCCHENI Luigi (Louis, dit)". Dictionnaire des anarchistes (in French). Paris: Maitron/Editions de l'Atelier.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)
  • Newton, Michael (2014). "Elisabeth of Austria (1837–1898)". Famous Assassinations in World History: An Encyclopedia. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO. pp. 132–135. ISBN 978-1-61069-285-4.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)

External links[edit]

Media related to Luigi Lucheni at Wikimedia Commons