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The death of Sophie was clearly faked, but on the night of the "murder", Prince Leopold was clearly drunk, so although he didn't murder Sophie, he was actually internally convinced that he did.

Anyway, due to "the guilty feeling" and the charges by Ulm of putting down the emperor, Leopold actually committed suicide. So, one major cause of Leopold's suicide was the whole murder drama set up by Eisenheim.

So why did Eisenheim make Leopold feel that he murdered Sophie?

I do not think there was any rivalry between them.

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    "he was actually internally convinced that he did." Was he? I remember him strongly denying killing her – madmada Oct 13 '17 at 15:58
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Eisenheim fell in love with sophie when they were just kids, but since Sophie was royalty and Eisenheim was not, they were forbidden to see each other. Later in life, Eisenheim reappears in town and once he sees sophie again, plots to free her from her current situation so that the two of them can live together. He knows she still loves him because she is wearing the locket he made her.

The best way to do this without anyone getting suspicious is to make everyone think that sophie is dead. Making the emperor believe that he had killed her made it easy to execute the plan.

As far as a rivalry, the emperor is known to abuse women and once Eisenheim embarrasses the emperor during his private show, Eisenheim is banned from performing. The emperor is not a nice guy and it is portrayed that the country would be better off without him.

So, to answer your question, Eisenheim tricked everyone, including the emperor, into thinking that he had killed sophie to prevent him from trying to find her once she left (or trying to kill her when she tried to leave). But in order for the two of them to be left alone, the emperor needs to be either arrested, or dead. The emperor did not kill himself out of guilt, however, he killed himself so he would not be arrested after his plot of overthrow his father (The real emperor) was exposed.

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    If I remember correctly he wasn't the emperor or the ruler (his father was?) and he didn't think he killed her. – madmada Oct 13 '17 at 15:59
  • @madmada He was in charge while his father was away. He was plotting to over throw his father however. He did in fact believe he killed her initially, but then got suspicious shortly after. – DustinDavis Oct 13 '17 at 16:38
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    Having doubts earlier in the movie is a bit different than killing himself due to that guilt, which OP is saying. – madmada Oct 13 '17 at 17:48
  • No, he killed himself because the emperor was informed that he was going to betray him, as you mentioned in your answer. Has nothing to do with Sophie. – DustinDavis Oct 13 '17 at 19:36
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There was no guilt and he didn't think he killed her. He committed suicide because of the charges (of killing her & mainly the charges of trying to seize the throne).

Here are a few pleas he said, trying to convince Uhl he had nothing to do with killing her and all the evidence were faked.

You fool. He's tricking you.

He's manipulating you. He had the sword at a command performance.

He could have pried the stones loose then and planted them here.

He has planted everything.

It's all a trick.It's an illusion.

And just before he kills himself

You're all fools.

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Eisenheim wanted Sophie. They were in love, and she didn't want to marry Prince Leopold. Sophie had to be believed to be dead for her to be with Eisenheim. Framing the Prince was the perfect way to distract everyone from what was really going on.

As for why... The movie implied that the Prince had assaulted one of his mistresses and threw her off the balcony, killing her. Not a very kind dude by any stretch, which probably made the plan a lot easier to execute.

Interestingly enough, though Prince Leo was not a nice man, he was portrayed as being more liberal and progressive than his deeply conservative father, with potential plans to help the common folk. A nice shout-out to Prince Leo's real-life counterpart, Prince Rudolf, who also died by suicide in his hunting lodge.

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