Juan Ignacio Blanco  


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Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Italian anarchist
Number of victims: 1
Date of murder: September 10, 1898
Date of birth: April 22, 1873
Victim profile: The Austrian Empress Elisabeth of Bavaria (commonly referred to as Sisi)
Method of murder: Stabbing with a needle file
Location: Geneva, Switzerland
Status: Sentenced to life in prison. Found hanged in his cell by his belt on October 19, 1910, apparently a suicide

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Luigi Lucheni (April 22, 1873 – October 19, 1910) was an Italian anarchist who assassinated the Austrian Empress Elisabeth of Bavaria (commonly referred to as Sisi) in 1898.

Lucheni believed in propaganda by the deed, a philosophy advocating spreading beliefs through direct action.

Born in Paris to an Italian mother and raised in an orphanage, he worked odd jobs before joining the Italian Army for three and a half years. After a successful stay in the military, he immigrated to Switzerland. During his life in Switzerland, he developed his anarchistic ideas. However, other anarchists considered Lucheni inept at understanding the philosophy of anarchy and often referred to him as "the stupid one".

Lucheni sought to kill a member of what he felt was an elite and oppressive upper class, and he did not care which member of it he killed. In his diary, Lucheni penned, "How I would like to kill someone — but it must be someone important so it gets in the papers."

At first Lucheni decided that he would kill Philippe, Duke of Orleans, but due to the Duke's change of itinerary and the discovery of another royal being in town, he later settled for taking the life of Elisabeth. Elisabeth traveled with few bodyguards, as she was adored by the populace in general.

It is generally held that while she was boarding a steamship to Montreux on September 10, 1898 in Geneva, Lucheni stabbed her with a needle file (which is now part of the Vienna Sisi Museum's exhibition). Not realising she was hurt and wanting to board as quickly as possible, Elisabeth got to her feet straight way and walked onto the ship, where she later collapsed and died.

At his trial, Lucheni openly admitted to his crimes, and at the age of 25, was sentenced to life in prison. After his memoirs were confiscated by prison guards, he was found hanged in his cell by his belt on October 19, 1910, apparently a suicide.

Lucheni's assassination of Elisabeth gave rise to the International Conference of Rome for the Social Defense Against Anarchists held from November 24 to December 21, 1898. This conference agreed on a definition of anarchism as "any act that used violent means to destroy the organization of society".


  • Brigitte Hamann: Elisabeth: Kaiserin wieder Willen, Aquila, 1998, ISBN 9789639073272


Luigi Lucheni - The empress’s assassin

On 10 September 1898 Empress Elisabeth was murdered by an anarchist assassin. His name was Luigi Lucheni, but who was the man behind the name?

He was born in Paris on 22 April 1873, the son of a simple working-class woman of Italian descent. He knew poverty from a very early age, as he grew up in an orphanage and had to work hard from the age of ten. At the age of twenty he was conscripted into the Italian army and fought in the Abyssinian campaign of 1896.

After this he was briefly employed by the Prince of Aragon, but mostly earned his living with occasional labour in Switzerland. Class distinctions and his own life, eking out his existence at the bare minimum, fed his hatred of the aristocracy and the wealthy. The event that triggered his assassination plans was the bloody suppression of a workers’ revolt in Milan in 1898.

His intended victim was the Prince of Orléans. From newspaper reports Lucheni learned that Empress Elisabeth was staying at Geneva. He lay in wait for the empress and stabbed her with a triangular file, dealing her a fatal blow near the heart. Lucheni was arrested near the scene of the crime and gave himself up proudly.

When he heard of the empress’s death he was exultant. Lucheni was sentenced to life imprisonment, the death penalty having been abolished in Switzerland. However he was determined to go down in history as a martyr of the anarchist movement. With a public execution the world’s attention would have been focused on him. He therefore demanded to be extradited to Italy, where his wish would have been granted. His application was however rejected. On 19 October 1910 he was found dead in his cell; he had hanged himself with his belt.

Parts of his body were preserved for scientific purposes. Lucheni’s head was preserved in a jar of Formalin and kept under lock and key at the Institute of Forensic Science of the University of Geneva. At Austria’s request it was transferred to the Federal Museum of Pathology and Anatomy in Vienna in 1985 on condition that the head would not be publicly displayed. In 2000 the murderer’s head was interred in Vienna’s Central Cemetery in the special graves reserved for human anatomical remains.



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