Archduchess Gisela of Austria 1856 – 1932

Archduchess Gisela of Austria 1856 – 1932

Archduchess Gisela Louise Marie of Austria. She was the second daughter and eldest surviving child of Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria and Elisabeth of Bavaria

Gisela Louise Marie
Archduchess of Austria

Husband
Leopold
Prince of Bavaria

1st child
Elisabeth Marie
Princess of Bavaria
8 January 1874 – 4 March 1957
She married Count Otto of Seefried and Buttenheim and had 5 children.

2nd child
Auguste
Princess of Bavaria
28 April 1875 – 25 June 1964
She married Archduke Joseph August of Austria and had 6 cildren.

3rd child
Georg
Prince of Bavaria
2 April 1880 – 31 May 1943
He married Archduchess Isabella of Austria. Annulled on 5 March 1913 on the grounds of non-consummation.
He had no known children.

4th child
Konrad
Prince of Bavaria
22 November 1883 – 6 September 1969
He married Princess Bona Margherita of Savoy-Genoa and had 2 children.

House
of
Habsburg-Lorraine

Father
Franz Joseph I
of Austria

Mother
Elisabeth of Bavaria (Sissi)

Sibling
1 Sophie, Archduchess of Austria
2 Rudolf, Crown Prince of Austria
3 Marie Valerie, Archduchess of Austria

10 September 1898 – 21 November 1916
Grand Mistress of the Order the Starry Cross

An imperial Austrian dynastic order for Catholic noble ladies, founded in 1668.

Awards received 1 Order of Theresa The order was founded December 12, 1827 by Queen Therese of Bavaria, wife of King Ludwig I of Bavaria. She established an endowment which paid an annual pension to twelve unmarried noble ladies. It continues to function today.

2 Order of Saint Elizabeth An all-female chivalric and charitable order in the Kingdom of Bavaria.

3 Order of Queen Maria Luisa An Order created by King Charles IV of Spain by royal decree in April 21, 1792, at the request of his wife, Queen Maria Luisa, to reward noble women who distinguished themselves for their services and talents.

Gisella Louise Marie was born Born 12 July 1856. Just like her older sister Archduchess Sophie and her brother Crown Prince Rudolf, she was raised by her paternal grandmother, Princess Sophie of Bavaria. A sober nature like her father, she kept a reserved attitude towards her mother. She had a very close relationship with her brother, whose later suicide hit her hard. Her father collected some of the family’s personal items, such as the first pair of shoes worn by each of his children. Among these keepsakes was a poem written for him by a young Gisela one Christmas – the poem was said to be the most treasured item among this collection. Her mother Elisabeth was only 18 years old when she gave birth to Gisela and only one year had passed since she had given birth to Gisela’s older sister Sophie Friederike. When the Emperor and Empress took their children with them on a trip to Hungary, both children became seriously ill; Sophie Friederike died from typhoid fever, while the ten-month-old Gisela survived.

The Empress blamed herself for the death of her child, as she had taken the children against the advice of her mother-in-law, Archduchess Sophie. After returning to Vienna, she left Gisela in the hands of the Archduchess. From that point on she paid little attention to her now oldest daughter and focused on her own beauty and health, as well as politics. Gisela grew up in her grandmother’s household together with her younger brother, Rudolf. The children were very close and when it was time for Rudolf to receive his own household and new teachers the children were heartbroken.

It is unknown what Gisela thought about the strict and harsh treatment Rudolf had to endure, but it is safe to say that she was relieved when her mother stepped between teacher and son, probably saving his life. This was, however, the only time Elisabeth fought for the rights of her older children. Archduchess Sophie took care of Gisela’s education. She was an excellent equestrienne and hunter and thereby followed the traditions and values of her family. Gisela learned the languages of the empire her father ruled and was instructed in the domestic duties to run a respectable household. For example, she had to organize, delegate and instruct her servants, which was not an easy task for the shy girl. She enjoyed sewing and painting throughout her life, in times of stress she would lock herself in her studio and paint for hours on end.

Archduchess Sophie raised Gisela to be the perfect wife and mother, which later showed in the happy marriage Gisela had with Leopold. Her Bavarian grandmother, Ludovika, enjoyed Gisela’s attention and care in later life. Gisela was said to be quiet, calm, and peaceful – very much like her father, whose company she enjoyed. She always obeyed her grandmother and worked hard for a harmonious family life. Although Empress Elisabeth had always regretted her early marriage she arranged a marriage for Gisela and on 20 April 1873, at the age of 16, Gisela was married to her second cousin Prince Leopold of Bavaria in Vienna. According to a letter to his mother written in 1872, Emperor Franz Josef wanted the match between his daughter and the prince, as there were so few Catholic princes available at that time. It seems he felt he had to secure the only viable candidate to whom he could give Gisela (whom he called “our darling girl” during the wedding rites) with confidence. Gisela’s mother remained absent during the wedding celebrations. The young couple was made welcome in Munich by her husband’s family, and went on to live in the Palais Leopold residence in Schwabing. The street opposite the Palais was renamed Giselastrasse in her honor.

Their marriage turned out to be a happy one as Leopold’s family welcomed Gisela warmly. With them, she experienced a fully functioning family life for the first time. Her father, Emperor Franz Joseph I, often came to visit. Her mother, however, did not actively stay in touch with Gisela. The couples first child Elisabeth Marie Auguste was born nine months after the wedding on 8 January 1874. Three more children soon followed. Auguste Maria Luise on 28 April 1875, Georg Franz Joseph Luitpold Maria on 2 April 1880, and Konrad Luitpold Franz Joseph Maria on 22 November 1883. Although Marie Valerie was born in 1868 and was therefore 12 years younger than Gisela, they were close in later life. Marie Valerie often visited her sister in Munich and stayed in touch with her.

Gisela was very close to her younger brother Rudolf, who she loved deeply. Even after her marriage and move to Bavaria, they stayed in touch, and she was well-informed of his life. She knew how unhappy he was in his marriage to Stephanie of Belgium and how he suffered from gonorrhea, which rendered his wife Stéphanie sterile. In 1886, Rudolf and his 17-year-old mistress Baroness Marie Vetsera were discovered dead in a joint suicide. Gisela never managed to get over his death and blamed his wife Stephanie for driving him into suicide. Together with her sister, she consoled her father, while her mother never came to terms with her son’s death. Empress Elisabeth never came to visit Gisela in her home in Munich and preferred to stay in a hotel. In her poems, she describes Gisela as a “thin swine” and her children as “piglets”. As Elisabeth found beautiful women and girls to be the more interesting conversational partners, she had little interest in building a close relationship to Gisela. Elisabeth gave all her maternal affection to her youngest child Marie Valerie who said she ‘often felt embarrassed and overwhelmed’ by Elisabeth’s concentration on her.

At 1:35 p.m. on Saturday 10 September 1898, her mother Elisabeth was walking along the promenade when the 25-year-old Italian anarchist Luigi Lucheni approached attempting to peer underneath the empress’s parasol. He seemed to stumble and made a movement with his hand as if he wanted to maintain his balance. In reality, he had stabbed Elisabeth with a sharpened needle file that was 4 inches (100 mm) long that he had inserted into a wooden handle. She was pronounced dead at 2:10 p.m.Gisela dedicated a huge part of her life to the church, to the disadvantaged and the poor. During World War I, she set up a military hospital in her home while her husband was a field marshal on the eastern front. Her father Franz Joseph died on the evening of 21 November 1916, at the age of 86. His death was a result of developing pneumonia of the right lung several days after catching a cold while walking in Schönbrunn Park with the King of Bavaria. After fleeing from Munich to Ischl in 1918 Leopold and Gisela struggled to settle in as normal citizens. The council of workers and soldiers, responsible for the distribution of food, called them ‘royal parasites’ and refused to include them. But the people remembered Gisela’s social commitment and what she had done for them and did their best to help them. Thanks to them Gisela and Leopold were able to live peacefully as regular citizens.

When the Revolution broke out in 1918, the rest of her family fled the city, but Gisela remained and took part in the 1919 elections for the Weimar National Assembly where women above the age of 20 were allowed to vote for the first time. Such was the esteem in which she was held that she was commonly known as the Good Angel from Vienna and became patron for a number of institutions, such as the Giselabahn (a train running from Salzburg), the still active paddle steamer Gisela and the Gisela Gymnasium in Munich. Her sister Valerie died on 6 September 1924 of lymphoma. Shortly before her death, Gisela wrote in a letter, “I must add that I have seen Valerie – fully conscious, completely aware of her condition, and so devoutly accepting, even joyfully anticipating her impending departure, that I believe an unexpected recovery would actually disappoint her.”

Gisela and her husband celebrated their golden wedding anniversary in 1923. Her husband Leopold died on 28 September 1930 in Munich. Gisela survived her husband by two years. She died aged 76 in Munich on 27 July 1932, and is buried next to her husband Prince Leopold in Munich.

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