Empress Elisabeth (Sisi) of Austria 1837–1898

Empress Elisabeth (Sisi) of Austria 1837–1898

Elisabeth was born into the royal Bavarian house of Wittelsbach. Nicknamed “Sisi”, she enjoyed an informal upbringing before marrying Emperor Franz Joseph I at the age of sixteen. The marriage thrust her into the much more formal Habsburg court life, for which she was unprepared and which she found uncongenial. Early in the marriage she was at odds with her mother-in-law, Archduchess Sophie, who took over the rearing of Elisabeth’s daughters, one of whom, Sophie, died in infancy. The birth of a male heir, Rudolf, improved her standing at court, but her health suffered under the strain, and she would often visit Hungary for its more relaxed environment. She came to develop a deep kinship with Hungary, and helped to bring about the dual monarchy of Austria–Hungary in 1867

Elisabeth


.Her Royal Highness Duchess in Bavaria

.Her Imperial and Royal Apostolic Majesty


.The Empress of Austria


.Queen of Hungary


24 December 1837 – 10 September 1898

Born
24 December 1837
Munich, Kingdom of Bavaria

Died
10 September 1898 (aged 60)
Geneva, Switzerland

Burial
17 September 1898
Imperial Crypt, Vienna

Spouse
Franz Joseph I of Austria

1st Child
.1 Archduchess Sophie of Austria
.5 March 1855 – 29 May 1857

2nd Child

Archduchess Gisela of Austria

.12 July 1856 – 27 July 1932
.Spouse Prince Leopold of Bavaria
.4 Children
1 Elisabeth Marie, 2 Princess Auguste,
3 Prince Georg, 4 Prince Konrad

3rd Child

Rudolf, Crown Prince of Austria

.21 August 1858 – 30 January 1889
.Spouse Princess Stéphanie of Belgium
.1 Child
Archduchess Elisabeth Marie

4th Child

Archduchess Marie Valerie of Austria

.22 April 1868 – 6 September 1924
.Spouse Archduke Franz Salvator of Austria-Tuscany
.10 Children
1 Elisabeth Franziska, 2 Franz Karl,
3 Hubert Salvator, 4 Hedwig,
5 Theodor Salvator, 6 Gertrud,
7 Maria Elisabeth, 8 Clemens Salvator,
9 Mathilde, 10 Agnes

Father
.Duke Maximilian Joseph in Bavaria
.4 December 1808 – 15 November 1888

Mother
.Princess Ludovika of Bavaria
.30 August 1808 – 25 January 1892

House
of
Wittelsbach

Born Elisabeth Amalie Eugenie on 24 December 1837 in Munich, Bavaria, she was the fourth child of Duke Maximilian Joseph in Bavaria and Princess Ludovika of Bavaria,

Her father Maximilian was
considered to be rather peculiar
he had a childish love of
circuses and traveled the
Bavarian countryside to
escape his duties.

The family’s homes were the Herzog-Max-Palais in Munich during winter and Possenhofen Castle in the summer months, far from the protocols of court. “Sisi” and her siblings grew up in a very unrestrained and unstructured environment; she often skipped her lessons to go riding about the countryside.

In 1853, Princess Sophie of Bavaria, the domineering mother of 23-year-old Emperor Franz Joseph, preferring to have a niece as a daughter-in-law rather than a stranger, arranged a marriage between her son and her sister Ludovika’s eldest daughter, Helene (“Néné”).

Helene and her mother were invited to Upper Austria to receive his formal proposal of marriage. Fifteen year old Sisi accompanied them. They arrived late and the coach with their gala dresses never arrived. The family was in mourning over the death of an aunt so they were dressed in black and unable to change into more suitable clothing.

While black did not suit eighteen-year-
old Helene’s dark coloring, it made her
younger sister’s blonder looks more
striking by contrast

Helene was a pious, quiet young woman, and she and Franz Joseph felt ill at ease in each other’s company, but he was instantly infatuated with her younger sister. He did not propose to Helene, but defied his mother and informed her that if he could not have Elisabeth, he would not marry at all. Five days later their betrothal was officially announced.

Sisi’s Farewell Dress,
The dress worn by Elisabeth
at the ball given on the eve
of her departure for
her wedding.

Sisi and Franz Joseph were married at 4PM on April 24, 1854 at the Augustinerkirche, the parish church of the Imperial Court of the Habsburgs, a short walk from Hofburg Palace in Vienna, Austria. It had taken an hour for the wedding procession to walk through the palace corridors and courtyards and down the street to the church. There were 1,000 guests in attendance including 70 bishops.

The emperor, in the most cases, behaved generously and tactfully with his wife. However, Franz Joseph was introduced to intimacy by experienced countesses, and it can be questioned whether he was tender and patient enough with the young and inexperienced Sisi. Probably not, because Elisabeth was not fond of intimacy at the early stage of their marriage or later.

The morning after she had to attend the family breakfast, which was very hard for the shy empress as everyone knew what had happened in the wedding bed. Later in her memoirs she often returned to this morning, and remembered with horror that day. Several years later, she said, “The emperor was so accustomed to obedience. For me it was terrible but I went to breakfast for his sake.”

Elisabeth was strongly attached to her parents, especially to her mother, and was still a child in search of an identity of her own when an adult role with unusual obligations and restrictions was imposed upon her.

Elisabeth, who was shy and introverted by nature, and more so among the stifling formality of Habsburg court life, had difficulty adapting to the Hofburg and its rigid protocols and strict etiquette.

Within a few weeks, Elisabeth started to display health problems, she had fits of coughing and became anxious and frightened whenever she had to descend a narrow steep staircase. Within two months of her marriage she was surprised to find she was pregnant.

On 5 March 1855, the seventeen year old Empress of Austria delivered a daughter who was christened the same day Sophie Friederike Dorothea Maria Josepha, after Franz Joseph’s mother. The infant was christened without Elisabeth even knowing.

The elder Archduchess Sophie, who often referred to Elisabeth as a “silly young mother”, not only named the child (after herself) without consulting the mother, but took complete charge of the baby, refusing to allow Elisabeth to breastfeed or otherwise care for her own child.

A second daughter, Archduchess Gisela, was born a year later. Even though they were both girls and did not need to be educated for duties a monarch would be obliged to fulfil, Sophie and Gisela right after being baptised were taken away from Elisabeth by Princess Sophie of Bavaria (who was both Elisabeth’s aunt and mother-in-law) on account of the Empress being too young to raise two children.

Elisabeth later commented…

No matter how long Elisabeth begged Franz Joseph to discuss the matter with his mother, her cries went unheard. Eventually, Franz Joseph did discuss the problem with his mother and Elisabeth eventually began to openly express her wishes to her mother in law and even took the little girls with her as she travelled

One day she found a pamphlet on herdesk with the following words underlined…

In 1857 Elisabeth visited Hungary for the first time with her husband and two daughters, and it left a deep and lasting impression upon her, probably because in Hungary she found a welcome respite from the constraints of Austrian court life.

Unlike the archduchess, who despised the Hungarians, Elisabeth felt such an affinity for them that she began to learn Hungarian; the country reciprocated in its adoration of her.

While in Budapest, both Sophie and her sister Archduchess Gisela fell ill with diarrhea and had a very high fever. Ten-month-old Gisela recovered quickly. However, two-year-old Sophie’s body could not take it. At 21:15 in the evening, after eleven hours of struggling to survive, Sophie died in her mother’s arms.

The death of her oldest child would haunt Empress Elisabeth for her entire life. Elisabeth was held indirectly responsible for Sophie’s death by Princess Sophie of Bavaria. She suffered a breakdown and would lock herself in her apartments for days at a time or go riding until she reached a state of exhaustion, just to avoid having to think.

In December 1857 Elisabeth became pregnant for the third time in as many years, and her mother, who had been concerned about her daughter’s physical and mental health, hoped that this new pregnancy would help her recover.

On 21 August 1858, Elisabeth finally gave birth to an heir, Rudolf. The 101 gun salute announcing the welcome news to Vienna also signaled an increase in her influence at court.

This, combined with her sympathy toward Hungary, made Elisabeth an ideal mediator between the Magyars and the emperor. Her interest in politics had developed as she matured; she was liberal-minded, and placed herself decisively on the Hungarian side in the increasing conflict of nationalities within the empire.

Elisabeth was a personal advocate for Hungarian Count Gyula Andrássy, who also was rumored to be her lover. Whenever difficult negotiations broke off between the Hungarians and the court, they were resumed with her help. During these protracted dealings, Elisabeth suggested to the emperor that Andrássy be made the Premier of Hungary as part of a compromise, and in a forceful attempt to bring the two men together, strongly admonished her husband.

When Elisabeth was still blocked from controlling her son’s upbringing and education, she openly rebelled. Due to her nervous attacks, fasting cures, severe exercise regime, and frequent fits of coughing, the state of her health had become so alarming that in October 1860 she was reported to suffer not only from “green sickness” (anemia), but also from physical exhaustion.

A serious lung complaint of tuberculosis was feared by Dr. Skoda, a lung specialist, who advised a stay on Madeira. During this time the court was rife with malicious rumors that Franz Joseph was having a liaison with an actress named Frau Roll, leading to speculation today that Elisabeth’s symptoms could have been psychosomatic or a result of venereal disease.

Elisabeth seized on the excuse and left her husband and children, to spend the winter in seclusion. Six months later, a mere four days after her return to Vienna, she again experienced coughing fits and fever. She ate hardly anything and slept badly

A fresh rest cure was advised, this time on Corfu, where she improved almost immediately. If her illnesses were psychosomatic, abating when she was removed from her husband and her duties, her eating habits were causing physical problems as well. In 1862 she had not seen Vienna for a year when her family physician, examined her and observed serious anemia and signs of “dropsy”

Her feet were sometimes so swollen that she could walk only laboriously, and with the support of others. On medical advice, she went to Bad Kissingen for a cure. Elisabeth recovered quickly at the spa, but instead of returning home to assuage the gossip about her absence she spent more time with her own family in Bavaria.

In August 1862, after a two-year absence, she returned shortly before her husband’s birthday, but immediately suffered from a violent “migraine” and vomited four times en route, which supports the theory that her primary complaints were stress-related and psychosomatic.

Rudolf was now four years old, and Franz Joseph hoped for another son to safeguard the succession. Dr. Fischer claimed that the health of the empress would not permit another pregnancy. Elisabeth fell into her old pattern of escaping boredom and dull court protocol through frequent walking and riding, using her health as an excuse to avoid both official obligations and sexual intimacy.

Preserving her youthful appearance was an important influence in her avoidance of pregnancies.

She was now more assertive in her defiance of her husband and mother in law than before, openly opposing them on the subject of the military education of Rudolf, who, like his mother, was extremely sensitive and not suited to the life at court

At 5 feet 8 inches (172 cm), Elisabeth was unusually tall for that time. Even after her pregnancies she maintained her weight at approximately 7st 12lbs (110 pounds, 50 kg) for the rest of her life. She achieved this through fasting and exercise, such as up to 11 hrs a day of gymnastics and riding. She had a condition known today as anorexia nervosa.

The only quality for which she felt herself appreciated, and over which she had control, was her physical appearance, so she started cultivating this as the primary source of her self-esteem. Her emotional well-being was dependent on her own beauty and image.

Elisabeth emphasised her extreme slenderness through the practice of “tight-lacing” she reduced her waist to 16 inches in circumference.

Corsets of the time were split-busk types, fastening up the front with hooks and eyes, but Elisabeth had more rigid, solid-front ones made in Paris out of leather, “like those of Parisian courtesans”, probably to hold up under the stress of such strenuous lacing, “a proceeding which took an hour”. The fact that “she only wore them for a few weeks” may indicate that even leather proved inadequate for her needs.

She never wore petticoats or any other “underlinen”, as they added bulk, and was often literally sewn into her clothes, to bypass waistbands, creases, and wrinkles and to further emphasize the “wasp waist” that became her hallmark

She would weigh herself up to three times a day. She regularly took steam baths to prevent weight gain. Sometimes she would binge eat, On one occasion she astonished her travelling companions when she visited a restaurant, where she drank champagne, ate 2 broiled chickens and an Italian salad, and finished with a “considerable quantity of cake”. She had a spiral staircase built from her living room into the kitchen, so that she could reach it in private.

In addition to her rigorous exercise regimen Elisabeth practiced demanding beauty routines. Daily care of her abundant and extremely long hair, which in time turned from the dark blonde of her youth to chestnut brunette, took at least three hours.

Her hair was so long and heavy that she often complained that the weight of the elaborate double braids and pins gave her headaches. Her hairdresser, Franziska Feifalik was forbidden to wear rings and required to wear white gloves, after hours of dressing, braiding, and pinning up the Empress’ tresses, the hairs that fell out had to be presented in a silver bowl to her reproachful empress for inspection.

Her hairdresser hid adhesive tape under her apron to hide the fallen strands. Sisi forbade anyone but Franziska from touching her hair. She looked on her daily sessions of hairdressing as a “sacred ritual.” She used the morning hours of combing and styling for reading, writing letters, and studying Greek and Hungarian with her tutors.

When her hair was washed with a combination of eggs and cognac once every two weeks, all activities and obligations were cancelled for that day. She tasked Feifalik with tweezing gray hairs away.

Her Greek tutor, Constantin Christomanos, described the ritual…

Unlike other women of her time, Elisabeth used cosmetics and perfume sparingly, as she wished to showcase her natural beauty, but she tested countless beauty products prepared in the court pharmacy, or prepared by a lady-in-waiting in her own apartments, to preserve it.

Sisi took a warm olive oil bath every evening to keep her skin soft and smooth. She relied heavily on rose or lavender face mists to protect her skin against inflammation. She enjoyed full body wraps made out of hay. Her favorite face mask was made with rose water, milk, grape juice, frankincense essential oil and 2 whipped egg whites. To keep her complexion soft, Sisi would slather her cheeks with pure honey and crushed strawberries.

She applied slices of raw veal and slug slime to her face during the night, binding it with a leather mask that kept the meat in constant contact with her skin while sleeping.

Elisabeth slept without a pillow on a metal bedstead, all the better to retain her upright posture. She was heavily massaged and often slept with cloths soaked in either violet- or cider vinegar above her hips to preserve her slim waist, and her neck was wrapped with cloths soaked in Kummerfeld-toned washing water. To further preserve her skin tone, she took both a cold shower every morning.

She developed a horror of fat women and transmitted this attitude to her youngest daughter, who was terrified and fainted when, as a little girl, she first met Queen Victoria.

Franz Joseph was passionately in love with his wife, but she did not reciprocate his feelings fully and felt increasingly stifled by the rigidness of court life. He was an unimaginative and sober man, a political reactionary who was still guided by his mother and her adherence to the strict Spanish Court Ceremonial regarding both his public and domestic life.

Elisabeth inhabited a different world altogether. Restless to the point of hyperactivity, naturally introverted, and emotionally distant from her husband, she fled him as well as her duties of life at court, avoiding them both as much as she could. He indulged her wanderings, but constantly and unsuccessfully tried to tempt her into a more domestic life with him.

Elisabeth slept very little and spent hours reading and writing at night, and even took up smoking, a shocking habit for women which made her the further subject of already avid gossip. She had a special interest in history, philosophy, and literature, and developed a profound reverence for the German lyric poet and radical political thinker, Heinrich Heine, whose letters she collected

Elisabeth was an emotionally complex woman, and perhaps due to the melancholy. she was interested in the treatment of the mentally ill. In 1871, when the Emperor asked her what she would like as a gift for her Saint’s Day, she listed a young tiger and a medallion, but: “…a fully equipped lunatic asylum would please me most”

After having used every excuse to avoid pregnancy, Elisabeth later decided that she wanted a fourth child. Her decision was at once a deliberate personal choice and a political negotiation: by returning to the marriage, she ensured that Hungary with which she felt an intense emotional alliance would gain an equal footing with Austria

The Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867 created the dual monarchy of Austria–Hungary. Andrassy was made the first Hungarian prime minister and in return, he saw that Franz Joseph and Elisabeth were officially crowned King and Queen of Hungary in June.

The Emperor and Empress rode in a magnificent state carriage drawn by eight white horses. At the moment that the procession began to move a salute of one hundred and one minute-guns was fired from the citadel. The procession was headed by mounted police, followed by the carriage of the governor of the city and by that of the chief of police.

The procession was followed by six carriages containing court officials, and by several hundreds of the carriages belonging to members of the episcopacy and the aristocracy. Most of the coaches and harnesses were covered with gems and gold. Maidens dressed in white showered flowers on the road followed by the procession, invoking blessings on the heads of their handsome sovereign and his lovely consort.

Her coronation gown

As a coronation gift, Hungary presented the royal couple with a country residence in Godollo, twenty miles east of Buda Pest. In the next year, Elisabeth lived primarily in Godollo and Buda Pest, leaving her neglected and resentful Austrian subjects to trade rumors that if the infant she was expecting were a son, she would name him Stephen, after the patron saint and first king of Hungary.

The issue was avoided when she gave birth to a daughter, Marie Valerie. Dubbed the “Hungarian child”, she was born in Buda-Pest ten months after her parents’ coronation and baptised there in April.

Determined to bring this last child up by herself, Elisabeth finally had her way. She poured all her repressed maternal feelings on her youngest daughter to the point of nearly smothering her. Sophie’s influence over Elisabeth’s children and the court faded, and she died in 1872

After having achieved this victory, Elisabeth did not stay to enjoy it, but instead embarked on a life of travel, and saw little of her children.

On 20 April 1873, at the age of 16 her daughter Gisela was married to Prince Leopold of Bavaria in Vienna. Sisi 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.

A year after the wedding on 8 January
1874 her first grabdchild Elisabeth
Marie was born. Empress Elisabeth
was present during the baptism

On 10 May 1881, her son Rudolf married Princess Stéphanie of Belgium, a daughter of King Leopold II of the Belgians, at the Augustinian’s Church in Vienna. Although their marriage was initially a happy one, by the time their only child, the Archduchess Elisabeth, was born on 2 September 1883, the couple had drifted apart, and he found solace in drink and other female companionship.

She commissioned the building of a palace in Corfu which she named the Achilleion, after Homer’s hero Achilles in The Iliad. Later it was acquired by the nation of Greece and converted to a museum.

Her daughter Valerie and her second cousin Archduke Franz Salvator met in 1886 at a ball, but Valerie waited several years to be sure that her feelings toward Franz Salvator were strong enough to make a successful marriage. It was hoped by many at court that she would marry someone higher. Elisabeth declared that Valerie would be allowed to marry even a chimney sweep if she so desired (in contrast to her other children, who had both had to make dynastic marriages).

Newspapers published articles on her passion for riding sports, diet and exercise regimens, and fashion sense. She often shopped at the Budapest fashion house, Antar Alter which had become very popular with the fashion-crazed crowd. Newspapers also reported on a series of reputed lovers.

Although there is no verifiable evidence of her having an affair, one of her alleged lovers was George “Bay” Middleton a dashing Anglo-Scot. He had been named as the probable lover of Lady Henrietta Blanche Hozier and father of Winston Churchill’s wife Clementine Ogilvy Hozier. To prevent him from becoming lonely during her long absences, Elisabeth encouraged her husband Franz Joseph’s close relationship with actress Katharina Schratt.

In late 1888, Her son the 30-year- old crown prince met the 17-year-old Baroness Marie Vetsera, known by the more fashionable Anglophile name Mary, and began an affair with her.

In 1889 Elisabeth’s life was shattered by the death of her only son Rudolf, who was found dead together with his young lover, in what was suspected to be a murder suicide on Rudolf’s part. The scandal was known as the Mayerling Incident after the name of Rudolf’s hunting lodge where they were found.

As suicide would prevent him from being given a church burial, Rudolf was officially declared to have been in a state of “mental unbalance”, and he was buried in the Imperial Crypt (Kapuzinergruft) of the Capuchin Church in Vienna. Mary’s body was smuggled out of Mayerling in the middle of the night and secretly buried in the village cemetery at Heiligenkreuz.

The Emperor had Mayerling converted into a penitential convent of Carmelite nuns. Prayers are still said daily by the nuns for the repose of Rudolf’s soul.

Vetsera’s letter of farewell to her mother and Rudolf’s letter of farewell to his wife

Elisabeth never recovered from the tragedy, sinking further into melancholy. Within a few years, she had lost her father, Max Joseph (in 1888), her only son, Rudolf (1889), her sister, Helene (1890) and her mother, Ludovika (1892)

The Mayerling scandal increased public interest in Elisabeth, and she continued to be an icon and a sensation in her own right wherever she went.

Her daughter Valerie chose to marry for love Franz Salvator, a relatively minor prince who had no great wealth to offer, and Elisabeth, as promised supported her favorite daughter. This caused a deep rift between Valerie and her sister and brother for a time, but eventually Rudolf became reconciled to the marriage when Valerie and Franz became engaged on Christmas 1888. On 31 July 1890, her daughter Valerie married her second cousin Archduke Franz Salvator.

Elisabeth spent little time in Vienna with her husband. Their correspondence increased during their last years, however, and their relationship became a warm friendship.

On her imperial steamer, Miramar, Empress Elisabeth travelled through the Mediterranean. Her favourite places were Cap Martin on the French Riviera, and also Sanremo on the Ligurian Riviera, where tourism had started only in the second half of the nineteenth century, Lake Geneva in Switzerland, Bad Ischl in Austria, where the imperial couple would spend the summer, and Corfu.

The Empress also visited countries not usually visited by European royals at the time: Morocco, Algeria, Malta, Turkey, and Egypt. The endless travels became a means of escape for the empress from her life and her misery.

In 1898, despite warnings of possible assassination attempts, Elisabeth traveled incognito to Geneva, Switzerland, although someone from the Hôtel Beau-Rivage revealed that the Empress of Austria was their guest

At 1:35 p.m. on Saturday 10 September 1898, Elisabeth and Countess Irma Sztáray de Sztára et Nagymihály, her lady-in- waiting, left the hotel on the shore of Lake Geneva on foot to catch the steamship Genève for Montreux. Since the empress despised processions, she insisted that they walk without the other members of her entourage.

They were walking along the promenade when the 25-year-old Italian anarchist Luigi Lucheni approached them attempting to peer underneath the empress’s parasol. According to Sztáray, as the ship’s bell announced the departure, Lucheni seemed to stumble and made a movement with his hand as if he wanted to maintain his balance.

In reality, in an act of “propaganda of the deed”, he had stabbed Elisabeth with a sharpened needle file that was 4 inches (100 mm) long (used to file the eyes of industrial needles) that he had inserted into a wooden handle.

Lucheni originally planned to kill the Duke of Orléans; but the Pretender to France’s throne had left Geneva earlier for the Valais. Failing to find him, the assassin selected Elisabeth when a Geneva newspaper revealed that the elegant woman traveling under the pseudonym of “Countess of Hohenembs” was the Empress Elisabeth of Austria.

After Lucheni struck her, the empress collapsed. A coach driver helped her to her feet and alerted the Austrian concierge of the Beau-Rivage, a man named Planner, who had been watching the empress’s progress toward the Genève. The two women walked roughly 100 yards to the gangway and boarded at which point Sztáray relaxed her hold on Elisabeth’s arm. The empress then lost consciousness and collapsed next to her.

Sztáray called for a doctor, but only a former nurse, a fellow passenger, was available. The boat’s captain, Captain Roux, was ignorant of Elisabeth’s identity and since it was very hot on deck, advised the countess to disembark and take her companion back to her hotel.

Meanwhile, the boat was already sailing out of the harbor. Three men carried Elisabeth to the top deck and laid her on a bench. Sztáray opened her gown, cut Elisabeth’s corset laces so she could breathe. Elisabeth revived somewhat and Sztáray asked her if she was in pain, and she replied, “No”. She then asked, “What has happened?” and lost consciousness again.

The boat turned back to Geneva. Elisabeth was carried back to the Hotel Beau-Rivage by six sailors on a stretcher improvised from a sail. A visiting nurse, and the countess undressed Elisabeth and removed her shoes, when Sztáray noticed a few small drops of blood and a small wound. When they then removed her from the stretcher to the bed she was clearly dead.

She was pronounced dead at 2:10 p.m. Everyone knelt down and prayed for the repose of her soul, and Countess Sztáray closed Elisabeth’s eyes and joined her hands.

When Franz Joseph received the telegram informing him of Elisabeth’s death, his first fear was that she had committed suicide. It was only when a later message arrived, detailing the assassination, that he was relieved of that notion.

The autopsy was performed the next day. The weapon, had penetrated 3.33 inches into Elisabeth’s thorax, fractured the fourth rib, pierced the lung and penetrated the heart from the top before coming out the base of the left ventricle. Due to pressure from her extremely tight corseting, the hemorrhage of blood into the sac around the heart was slowed to mere drops. Until this sac filled, her heart was not impeded which is why she was able to walk up the boat’s boarding ramp. Had the weapon not been removed, she would have lived, as it would have acted like a plug to stop the bleeding.

On Wednesday morning, Elisabeth’s body was carried back to Vienna aboard a funeral train. The inscription on her coffin read, “Elisabeth, Empress of Austria”. The Hungarians were outraged and the words, “and Queen of Hungary” were hastily added. The Austro-Hungarian Empire was in deep mourning, 82 sovereigns and high ranking nobles followed her funeral cortege on the morning of 17 September to the tomb in the Capuchin Church

Empress Elisabeth’s tomb next to that of her husband Franz Joseph in Vienna’s Imperial Crypt. On the other side of Franz Josef’s tomb is that of their son, Crown Prince Rudolf

Lucheni was brought before the Geneva Court in October. Furious that the death sentence had been abolished in Geneva, he demanded that he be tried according to the laws of the Canton of Lucerne, which still had the death penalty, signing the letter: “Luigi Lucheni, anarchist, and one of the most dangerous”

Upon her death, Franz Joseph founded the Order of Elizabeth in memory of her. The order, which only existed until the end of the monarchy in 1918, was divided into three classes: Grand Cross, first and second classes. There was also an Elizabeth Medal for civil merit.

On the promenade in Territet, there is a monument to Empress Elisabeth of Austria. This town is between Montreux and Chateau Chillon

A few days after the funeral, Robert of Parma wrote in a letter to his friend that “It was pitiful to look at the Emperor, he showed a great deal of energy in his immense pain, but at times one could see all the immensity of his grief.” Franz Joseph never fully recovered from the loss. he told his relatives: “You’ll never know how important she was to me” and “You will never know how much I loved this woman.”

Franz Joseph died in the Schönbrunn Palace on the evening of 21 November 1916, at the age of eighty-six. 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.

Elisabeth ordered a set of twenty-seven stars made of diamonds and pearls from the Vienna jewellers Köchert and Pioté. She gave some of the stars to her ladies-in- waiting, while the rest were left to members of her family.

Black court dress of Empress Elisabeth Vienna 1885. The company name of the Court seamstress Fanny Scheiner is woven in the belt strap of the dress. (Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien)

In 2012 a blue dress was auctioned in Vienna. After some study it proved to be part of the Corfu wardrobe of Sisi. The evidence was a label sown into the back of the neck of the dress. The label bears the typical embroidered crowned dolphin that was sown in all the Corfu dresses of Sisi.

Sisi’s cocaine syringe. It was part of her travel first aid kit. Cocaine was widely used in the 19th century as a sedative and anti-depressant.

Portrayal of Elisabeth in Film and TV..

The 1921 film Kaiserin Elisabeth von Österreich was one of the first films to focus entirely on Elisabeth. It was co written by Elisabeth’s niece Marie Larisch (who played her younger self), and starred Carla Nelsen as the title character. The film later achieved notoriety when a group of con-artists started selling stills from the murder scene as actual photographs of the crime.

.Lil Dagover in Elisabeth of Austria (1931)
.Grace Moore in The King Steps Out (1936)
. in The Eagle with Two Heads (1948)

Romy Schneider in
.Sissi (1955)


.Die junge Kaiserin (1956)

(Sissi — The Young Empress)
.Schicksalsjahre einer Kaiserin (1957)

(Sissi — Fateful Years of an Empress)
.Ludwig (1973)

.Ava Gardner in Mayerling (1968)

.Vanessa Wagner in Sisi and the emperor’s kiss (1991)

.Diane Keen in Fall of Eagles (1974)

In December 2014, to coincide with the presentation of the Pre-Fall 2015 ‘Metier d’arts’ collection by luxury fashion house Chanel, shown in the Schloss Leopoldskron palace, creative director Karl Lagerfeld directed a short film featuring Cara Delevingne as Empress Elisabeth accompanied by Pharrell Williams.

.Arielle Dombasle in Sissi, l’impératrice rebelle (2004)

.Sandra Ceccarelli in The Crown Prince (2006)

.Cristiana Capotondi in Sisi, a two-part mini-series (2009)

Elisabeth in Film Literature..

.Elisabeth, Empress of Austria by Alfred Buschek

.Flashman and the Tiger by George MacDonald Fraser

.Elisabeth of Austria A Life Misunderstood by Katerina Von Burg

.In a Gilded Cage by Susan Appleyard

.A Walk on Broken Glass by Gloria M. Allan

.Sissi The Last Empress by Danny Saunders

.Allison Pataki The Accidental Empress
by Allison Pataki

.The Reluctant Empress
by Brigitte Hamann

.Franz Joseph and Elisabeth
by Karen B. Owens

Empress Elisabeth of Austria
24 December 1837 – 10 September 1898

This Post Has One Comment

  1. She was a beauty!

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