Prologue Scenes 4-9


Same place.

SERVANT:   If you please, Privy Counsellor – there’s one of them here.

NEPALLEK:  One of what?

SERVANT (embarrassed):   From the Archduke’s – the other side.

NEPALLEK (imperiously):   Now, now, now, there is no other side! Those days are over! But didn’t I tell you that if any of them came here –

SERVANT:   I’m sorry – he says it’s only a question.

NEPALLEK:   I’d love to know what’s left to question, bring him in.

(Servant off.)


(An old valet of the deceased Archduke appears.)

NEPALLEK (hisses at him from behind):    What do you want?

VALET:    At your service, gracious Privy Counsellor, sir – what it is – I know that in this respect – under the circumstances – I mean unless –

NEPALLEK:    I want to know what you’re after!

VALET:    Regarding the misfortune, the great misfortune, gracious Privy Counsellor, sir – since I did serve once under his Imperial Highness – of such blesséd name – under Archduke Ludwig[1], God rest his soul –

NEPALLEK:    So, in a word, you’re an out-of-work valet – well, my friend, you can put any idea I’m giving away jobs right out of your head!

VALET (tearful):    No, Privy Counsellor – no, Privy Counsellor, sir –

NEPALLEK:    Come on, you’re trying to push your luck, aren’t you? 

VALET:    No, Privy Counsellor, sir – I wouldn’t dream – I wouldn’t –

NEPALLEK:    Then what else is it you want?

VALET:    It’s not that – it’s true he was a demanding master – very – and very strict – but – such a fine prince – and – you see –

NEPALLEK:     My dear fellow, don’t give me any more of your cock-and-bull stories – just tell me what you want!

VALET:    I want nothing, Privy Counsellor, nothing, nothing at all – only to speak – only to say – a few words – before his remains, one last time –

NEPALLEK (voice raised):    Absurd! Do you think I’m in the business of making appointments on behalf of a corpse? No, is that understood!

(Alerted by noise, Prince Montenuovo[2] rushes in, distorted with rage.)


MONTENUOVO:    What’s this? Ah, there’s one of them now!  Clear off! None of you will find a position here, so scram, now, and double quick!

VALET (with great astonishment):    I – have never been – my God – but I am at your service, of course, Your gracious Highness – (Off.)


MONTENUOVO:    Privy Counsellor, this isn’t some refuge for the homeless – I have seized the initiative now, and – I will have order!

NEPALLEK:    Your Highness can rely on it – it won’t happen again, the man only wanted –

MONTENUOVO:    It’s all the same to me.  Not a single one of those mugs from the Belvedere Palace[3] gets a job here – Right, how many invitations have been sent out now?

NEPALLEK:    Forty-eight.

MONTENUOVO:    What? What are you talking about?

NEPALLEK:    Oh, excuse me, a thousand pardons, I was thinking about tomorrow evening, the party afterwards. For the funeral, just twenty-six.

MONTENUOVO:    Well, you can strike out six more! (Off.)

NEPALLEK:    Yes, sir! (Sits at the desk again.)


Prince Weikersheim[4], close behind him the servant.

SERVANT:    Please your Highness, I have the strictest orders –

PRINCE WEIKERSHEIM:    You’ve got what? Orders? What do you mean? Does one have to make an appointment? (Servant off. Nepallek stays at his desk, without looking up. The prince, after a moment.) You! (After another pause, louder) You! What – is going on here? (Shouting) Stand up!

NEPALLEK (turns his head casually):     Good afternoon, good afternoon.

PRINCE WEIKERSHEIM (after a moment of speechless astonishment):    What – is this? So – prompt! (With emphasis) Do you know who I am?

NEPALLEK:    Well, what is it then, what is it then, and of course I know, you are the recently princified Baron Bronn von Weikersheim.

PRINCE WEIKERSHEIM:    And you are – your servant is your better!

(Off, slamming the door.)


NEPALLEK:    (Convulsive laughter. The telephone rings): Your most obedient servant, Excellency, immediately – (Montenuovo sticks his head in, instantly Nepallek swivels round) At your command, Your Highness –


[1] Karl Ludwig (1833-1896), younger brother of Franz Josef; after Archduke Rudolf’s death he became heir to the throne but renounced his claim in favour of his son, Franz Ferdinand.

[2] Prince Alfred Montenuovo, prince (1854-1927), Lord Steward of the Royal Household, a powerful influence on Franz Josef, a bitter and long-standing opponent of Franz Ferdinand.

[3] Palace built by Prince Eugen of Savoy in Vienna, early 18th century. It housed the extensive imperial art collection, and had also been Archduke’s Franz Ferdinand’s home in Vienna.

[4] Karl Ernst Bronn von Weikersheim, prince (1862-1925), soldier, statesman, ennobled by Franz Josef in 1911, close friend and supporter of Franz Ferdinand, at one time his adjutant, destined for high office in a new regime; the job he would probably have got is, of course, the one now occupied by Nepallek. Admiral Horthy (Regent of Hungary 1920-1944) describes him, when they were both aides-de-camp to Franz-Josef, as living ‘a singularly happy life’ (at least until 1914). Weikersheim had an English grandmother; his father had married a commoner (a butcher’s daughter apparently). Ernst von Bülow, one-time German imperial chancellor, says with an undisguised sneer: ‘His father married a woman whose cradle, as the Socialist ditty prettily puts it, “had stood in the poor man’s house”…’ He was decidedly anti-German; von Bülow also calls him ‘exaggeratedly yellow-black’ (i.e. pro-Austria-Hungary)’.