Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria clashes with his father, Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria, over implementing progressive policies for their country. Rudolf soon feels he is a man born at the wrong time in a country that doesn't realize the need for social reform. The Prince of Wales, later to become Britain's King Edward VII, provides comic relief. Rudolf finds refuge from a loveless marriage with Princess Stéphanie by taking a mistress, Baroness Maria Vetsera. Their untimely demise at Mayerling, the imperial family's hunting lodge, is cloaked in mystery.