Empress Elisabeth Sisi showing famed long hair

Her Royal Highness Duchess Elisabeth Amalie Eugenie

Effectionately known as SISI


Born December 24th 1837

Died September 10th 1898

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Elisabeth spent her summers together with her brothers and sisters at the comparatively modest Possenhofen Castle, located in the beautiful countryside near Lake Starnberg.

Her Mother was Princess Ludovika, daughter of King Maximilian I of Bavaria from his second marriage to Karolina von Baden, with whom he had 8 children plus a stillborn son.

Princess Ludovika was the 7th born.

Princess Sophie (Sophie Friederike Dorothee), who would play such a pivotal role in the life of Ludovika's daughter Sisi, was 5th born, with an identical twin Princess Marie Anne Leopoldine, and Ludocika's elder sister by 3 years.


With his first wife Auguste of Hesse-Darmstadt he had 5 children and 8 with Karoline of Baden.

We have created a chart showing the line through to thee children of Elisabeth (Sisi).

Elisabeth Amalie Eugenie aged 17

Elisabeth Amalie Eugenie aged 17

The castle Possenhofen Castle had originally been built by Jakob Rosenbusch in 1536, although it was destroyed when the 30 Years War was raging through Europe between 1618 and 1648.

MUNICH

Possenhofen Castle is just south of Munich

In any view, Princess Ludovika married below her in social standing, indeed 3 of her sisters married into Royalty. The marriage on September 9th  1828 was immediately followed by problems.


Duke Maximilian was said to be a typical Wittelsbach, unreliable, time-waster and thoroughly disconnected, albeit charming. He would create any excuse to escape the responsibilities of official duties. His single achievement beyond having children, was his involvement with music.


He became a 'keen' follower and promoter of Folk Music, which developed into the Duke becoming one of the most valued and respected promoters of Bavarian folk music of the 19th century.


It was under his patronage that the Zither became popular and ended up becoming the 'national’ musical instrument of the kingdom of Bavaria. Indeed, it became commonly played even in the royal court, more associated with the classical instruments of the harpsichord, piano, violin, viola and cello.

Duke Maximilian was also a cousin to Ludwig II of Bavaria, who become King Ludwig II in 1864 at the age of 18.

It was said (although there are several versions available as with most 'word of mouth' stories perporting to be fact) that when Ludwig was visiting Maximilian at his home, he found some sheet music by Richard Wagner, of whom he had been a fan since seeing Wagner's opera Lohengrin when just 15 years old.


Following his visit he also ascended the throne to become King Ludwig II that same year, aged just 18, and became a life-long patron and financial support for Wagner from that moment.

It is believed that Maximilian had a more liberal view on his cousin King Ludwig’s homosexuality than others.


In correspondences, Ludwig would express a passionate adoration for Wagner, his operas fuelling Ludwig’s fantasy packed imaginations. However, Wagner wrote of his first meeting with King Ludwig;


  'Alas, he is so handsome and wise, soulful and lovely, that I fear that his life must melt away in this vulgar world like a fleeting dream of the gods'


It has been often stated, that without the support and patronage of King Ludwig II, it is unlikely that  the later Operas of Wagner would ever have been composed, let alone performed at the Munich Royal Court Theatre. He had written operas by that time for over 20 years without any serious recognition, and was forced to flee to London in 1839 in an attempt to escape his debts and creditors in Europe.


Wagner was 51 years of age when he met the soon to be King Ludwig, and Wagner was, if anything, a survivor. He knew that the King was his last chance in reality to build a reputation in music, rather than his debt ridden scandals and failures, and so he had no problems let alone moral concerns about building upon the Kings emotional state or fantasies, to secure his standing.

Ludovika, in total contrast, devoted herself to teach her children the demands and disciplines of aristocratic life and the expectations that went with that.


The big chance for the ambitious mother came when Elisabeth’s elder sister, Helene, was taken into consideration as wife to the Emperor of Austria. While Max did not care for such pandering, Ludovika was ultimately trying to get nearer the Austrian crown.

The maternal side has commonly been far more important in European Royalty and indeed Nobility, than the paternal. Whilst, with Maria Theresa being an exception, it is the male offspring which carries forward the name and title, it is, and can only be, the female of the family who has to produce the heir.


Indeed, the male, be he a king or not, will often produce offspring from dalliances outside of marriage, but none of them will have any rights to the family name or title.

It was into this state of history, families, expectations and drive to become or to produce the next King or Emperor, that Elisabeth, affectionately known as SISI, was born.

“ Maria Theresa was born to be ruler, her father and grandfather made sure of that. She also possessed the spirit to know what was expected of her as well as the personal drive to accomplish it. She was in effect the spear-head, ensuring that she held the strength to enable the power needed to drive forward. Sisi however was never in that position and never held any such expectations. This was a time when marriage was for position, if not for politics, having married a man who had a Mother that would stop at nothing to ensure her son would become ruler, and through this, Sisi had no chance whatsoever, of a happy family life. Before 'mother-in-law' stereotypes are made, her mother-in-law was also her Aunt, her very own mother’s sister, what chance did she stand? “

Whilst the Revolution 1848 was still raging, or more accurately, Revolutions, as numerous uprisings were causing problems for the empire of Austria and the Habsburgs, with Hungary being a major linchpin which if lost, would inspire others to continue. Sophie worked hard to persuade her husband to relinquish his rights to the throne, being next in line to his brother Emperor Ferdinand I, who had no children.


Her plans were to have their son, Franz Joseph, ascend the throne, which also played into the hands of Prince Felix of Schwarzenberg in his own attempts to end the revolution.


He would become the Austrian minister-president and foreign minister from 21 November 1848, which he held until his death on April 5th 1852, aged 51.

Sophie did leave an incredibly detailed view into Austrian court life of the mid nineteenth century by keeping a detailed diary which she begun in her youth.


Of her other 3 children, her son Maximilian, who was born at the Schonbrunn Imperial Palace, became Maximilian I of Mexico, beyond the reach of his mother.


Her world was destroyed however, when in 1867, her son Maximilian, Emperor of Mexico, was executed in Mexico. She was utterly devastated by the news and withdrew totally from public life.


5 years later she would die from a brain tumour in 1871.

..The natural destiny of a Queen is to give an heir to the throne. If the Queen is so fortunate as to provide the State with a Crown-Prince this should be the end of her ambition – she should by no means meddle with the government of an Empire, the care of which is not a task for women... If the Queen bears no sons, she is merely a foreigner in the State, and a very dangerous foreigner, too. For as she can never hope to be looked on kindly here, and must always expect to be sent back whence she came, so will she always seek to win the King by other than natural means; she will struggle for position and power by intrigue and the sowing of discord, to the mischief of the King, the nation, and the Empire.

The pamphlet draws on the implied political interference from Sisi on matters regarding Hungary and Italy, which were considered matters only for her husbands concerns.


Her trip to Hungary for the first time in 1857, accompanied by her husband and 2 daughters had left a life-long impression on her.


She said that it was the first that she had met with men of character in Emperor Franz Joseph's realm, becoming acquainted with an aristocratic independence which ‘scorned to hide sentiments’ behind courtly speeches.


Considering her mother-in-law Sophie spent so much enrergy ensuring her standing, even to the point that after the birth of her first daughter Sophie, in 1855, so was named after her mother-in-law by her mother-inlaw Sophie, and without consulting Elisabeth. Then taking the baby from her mother because she could not allow her to breastfeed her own child, which became witholding the child from its mother, and the scene of control is easy to read.


It’s no wonder that after visiting Hungary she said that she

'felt her innermost soul reach out in sympathy to the proud, steadfast people of this land'

There was a 101 gun-salute to announce the birth in Vienna, and with a son who was the only heir, Sisi began to have an influence in court, which together with her love and sympathy towards Hungary, became a valued and important element as a mediator between Hungary and Austria.


Despite her new found strength and influence in court, Sophie kept both Gisela and Rudolf away from their mother, raising them bith herself and preventing their mother from seeing either of them.


It is very easy to disgard such control and state that Sisi as their mother could have seen them. However, firstly, Sophie was a major power and mother of the emperor. Secondly, it is simply in the 21st century to have a mother not see her child even in the same multi-storey building by statements of ‘oh you just missed them’, they walked up the stairs when you must have been in the elevator’, ‘they just went to ****’ etc etc.  All very innocent and plausable.


Now transfer that situation to the 18th century when transport was not a matter of minutes or a couple of hours. When you are not in a singe multi-storey building but a palace with several hundred room, and royal residences in numerous locations hundreds of miles apart. Then add to that a sinle person such as Sophie, and her staff and supporters, that will delibertely make sure tat even an arranged meeting will ‘accidentally’ be missed. Not seeing your child for a year or more would not be difficult at all.

It was then that Sisi began too develop a rash visible on her face, swollen ankles and symptoms rumoured to a gift from her husband, venereal disease!  That would not have been a surprise as it been rumoured that an acress known as Frau Roll was just one of Emperor Franz Joseph's lovers, Katharina Schratt being another.



She spent increasingly lengthy periods in Bavaria with her family. Queen Victoria had placed her private royal yacht 'Osborne', at her disposal and she spent the winter of 1859 in Madeira.


After a brief return to Vienna, her symptoms returned and so she travelled to the Mediteranean island of Corfu.


She had on one occasion been away from her husband for 2 years.

“If I arrived at a place and knew that I could never leave it again, the whole stay would become hell despite being paradise”

Sisi would spend the next 10 years virtually alone.


She had lost many of her family members in various incidents, including her much loved sister in 1897 in Paris in a fire.


She had become once again extremely low in spirit, depressed and without an understanding, sympathetic husband to lift some of her darkness.


The story and episode which became the conclusion to the Habsburg Royal Dynasty, had its final act when on September 10th 1898, and Italian anarchist, Luigi Lucheni, murdered Elisabeth, the much loved and almost heroic Sisi, by stabbing her with a sharpened file.


Hollywood created a version of Elisabeth not surprisingly alien from truth and history, giving an impression of a self obsessed and mentally sick woman. Not surprisingly, reality was further from that popular version than one could possibly get. One cannot take the resulting personality or a person, without attempting to find the person minus the effects which have caused the result!


How many strong individuals would be recognisable after years of isolation, intimidation and phsycological abuse? No one to ask for help, no one to give support?


Regardless of her weaknesses, Sisi achieved that which politicians and rulers were unable to, peace in Europe for over half a century.


Welcome to Elisabeth - Sisi

She had the freedom to enjoy childhood as neither parent held official positions which placed demands on them, and what official duties her father was expected to carry out, he avoided at all cost and would venture off on travels instead, so it was said.


Elisabeth was a very pretty girl from an early age and together with horse-riding and playing around in the vast gardens and lake shores of their Possenhofen Castle home, she held none of the formality and 'stiffness' which the Habsburgs’ would have been taught from an early age in preparation of court life.


She had been protected and coddled amongst her large group of siblings, and perhaps such protection kept the real world at more than arms length. Although her mother devoted herself lovingly and actively to all of her children, she did not start teaching them the demands and disciplines of their positions as royalty, until perhaps too late in childhood, especially as marriage would be entered into at the age of just 16.


Elisabeth_Sisi aged 16

Photograph of Sisi (Elisabeth) aged 16

Elisabeth was born on December 24th 1837, Christmas Eve, in Munich Bavaria (now Germany).

Although Bavarian Royalty, they were not of the stature of the Habsburg Royals. Yet the Habsburg rulers were needing to secure ties with Bavaria, and family ties through marriage have for thousands of years proven to be far more valuable and effective than any political treaty.

Blood ties not only solves immediate problems, but create lines for future marriages without diluting true power.

It would only be when Elisabeth's elder sister Helene was taken to Bad Ischl in late summer of 1853, the summer residence of Franz Joseph since 1849, be introduced to Franz Joseph as a potential wife, that Elisabeth (still only 15 at the time) who accompanied her with their mother, would catch the eye of Franz Joseph and end Helene's chances.


Of course this was a problem for his mother Sophie too, as Helene was educated to court expectations, quiet and totally ripe for her control.


Helene was a religious, kind and reserved, and aware of court behaviours, unlike Elisabeth. She also felt at ease with Franz Joseph and the feeling was apparently mutual. Love was never a requirement, compatibility was.


Had matters proceeded as Sophie had planned, many historians have suggested that Europe would have turned out VERY differently from the way it had.

Helene_in_Bavaria_sister_of_Sisi

Helene

Original Photograph

Instantly infatuated with Elisabeth, poor Helene must have felt embarrassed and humiliated.

The fact that her own sister had caused her to go from 'potential' wife to 'never', could not have helped with personal sibling relationships.

From the late summer meeting of 1853 to an engagement the same year once Elisabeth turned 16, to a full Royal Wedding less than a year later on April 24th 1854.

In 1854, his mother Sophie gave her son Franz Joseph the Imperial Villa at Bad-Ischl as a wedding gift, which then became the Summer Residence for the entire Imperial family

Kaiservilla_Summer_House_at Bad_Ischl

It was a very short process from meeting to marriage, and totally at the choosing of Franz Joseph himself, or rather his hormones.

However, one sight of Elisabeth, his cousin whom he had first met when she was 10 years old and he had just returned from an Italian military campaign aged 17, joining his family at Innsbruck, a meeting that he had completely forgotten, and he was lust-struck.

Clearly the almost 6 years had changed Elisabeth, if only in developing into a physically beautiful 15 year old, not yet 16 years of age.

Her mother Ludovika was unconcerned over Helene's rejection, she now had Elisabeth, her beautiful if unsophisticated Sisi, one step from becoming part of Austrian Royalty.


Her father Maximilian, cared little if anything about such matters as becoming Royalty, that went against everything that he valued, although he could afford to have such values as a minor aristocrat with family money.


It was clear that despite the pomp and elaborate celebrations, the attractive imagery of the newly weds and their titles, problems would lie at the heart of their relationship.


Elisabeth was a child, perhaps beautiful in appearance, but certainly alien to the demands of her position (a far too common fact when marrying into royalty) and responsibilities.

Sisi_sits_with_sister_Helene

Sisi with Helene sitting below her

This would be the first generation to be photographed

Sophie kept a detailed diary most of her life, which gives an insight into the otherwise private and secretive Austrian court life.

At this point in the Habsburg history, there is rather a lengthy and muddled succession protocol, resulting from Emperor Francis II of Austria, Holy Roman Emperor, having had 4 wives having produced 13 children of which 7 would reach adulthood, including the ruling Emperor Ferdinand I and Archduke Franz Karl.


Such situations have commonly raised the opportunity for determined family members to go to great lengths to achieve their rights, or those of their spouse.

Emperor_Francis_II_of_Austria

Emperor Francis II

Ferdinand I of Austria, was the elder brother of Franz Karl Joseph. His rule lasted from March 2nd 1835 until he abdicated in December 2nd 1848, following the 1848 revolution.

Emperor Ferdinand I of Austria

Ferdinand suffered from epilepsy, with as many as 20 seizures a day, stuttering, hydrocephalus and suspected neurological issues, and would often be referred to as having   ' Mental Problems '.

Although Ferdinand was next in line to rule, his father Francis II, Holy Roman Emperor, Francis II had the wisdom to formulate his will in such a way that his heir could not rule without the strict requirement to consult with Archduke Louis on every aspect of internal policy.  

Prince Klemens Wenzel von Metternich

Prince Klemens Wenzel von Metternich

Archduke_Louis

Archduke Louis

He also persuaded his son Ferdinand to take further advice on all matters from his foreign minister, Prince Klemens Wenzel von Metternich, and a council for set up to oversee his rule and take control where needed of political matters (Geheime Staatskonferenz ), of which Franz Karl was a member.

Despite all these measures in place, Ferdinands’ illness prevented him from ruling as required and the council would make all eventual decisions.

Once Ferdinand I abdicated, on December 2nd 1848, his nephew Archduke Franz Joseph immediately ascended the throne, Sophie finally getting exactly what she wanted, even if only through her son.


Her influence, control and manipulation would however not end.


Upon his becoming Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria,

Prince Felix of Schwarzenberg continued his plans to end the 1848 revolution in Hungary, by calling in the Imperial Russian Army to brutally suppress the Hungarian revolt, which had been winning and threatening the existence of Austrian rule in Europe. The military force of 280,000 Russsians soon put an end to Hungarian hopes of freedom.


However, although the revolution was cut down by ythe Russians in 1849, there existed  "passive resistance" from that moment on, throughout Hungary, into which Sisi would step almost as an ally.


Sophie had finally become the power behind the throne.


She will forever be remembered for her extremely controlling relationship with Elisabeth (SISI), her daughter-in-law and niece.

Prince Felix of Schwarzenberg

Prince Felix of Schwarzenberg

WELCOME, FINALLY, TO THE SISI YEARS

Sisi_or_Empress_Elisabeth_of_Austria_Queen_of_Hungary Sisi_or_Empress_Elisabeth_of_Austria_Queen_of_Hungary Sisi_or_Empress_Elisabeth_of_Austria_Queen_of_Hungary Sisi_or_Empress_Elisabeth_of_Austria_Queen_of_Hungary Sisi_or_Empress_Elisabeth_of_Austria_Queen_of_Hungary

To highlight this, the fact that she had given birth to 2 girls until the birth of her son in 1858, so no male heir in 4 years, threw gossip and rumour in her direction, on which court life existed before the advent of social media.

One such acts of 'nastiness' involved a pamphet being placed on her desk for her to find.

It was said to be the act of her mother-in-law Sophie.  It read;

The grandeur of the Royal wedding between Sisi and Franz Joseph on April 24th 1854, threw Sisi into the highest level of European Royalty, with a 600 year weight of tradition and expectation on the shoulders of her new husband, and thus upon hers as the producer of the future heir.

Being part of court life at the top end, Sisi, as she was always affectionately known since childhood (such nicknames being common amongst her siblings too) and which she preferred to Elisabeth, had been placed under the microscopic scrutiny of not only her mother-in-law Sophie, but those that resented her presence in such an established royal family as the Habsburgs.


It did not help her situation either, that she was pretty as a young girl and beautiful as a woman. An immediate target of jealousy!

Produced specifically to highlight the family ties arriving at the birth of children to Franz Joseph I of Austria and Empress Elisabeth (SISI), drawing to an end the dynasty of European rulers which Maria Theresa expanded throughout her empire.

Of course offspring continued throughout the 20th century and into the 21st, of most branches, however, they no longer hold any power or standing.

It is odd when offspring of very distant rulers of even minor estates seem to hold onto titles other than those attached to lands or regions still in existence.  When offspring of no longer existing royal lands, such as Greece, Italy and Russia, continue to call themselves prince, princess, king and queen,  which are no more than fanciful and even fictitious, considering their lands, states and empires are no longer in existence in most cases, surely that ridicules the office of the title when they had existed and held position and power.

::Copyright©2016 MariaTheresa.com. Part of SilentWatersllc. This page cannot be copied or reproduced without express written permission.::

This page on Sisi, Elisabeth, is written in order to be understood as simply as possible without the all too common approach of her being mentally unstable and being condemned in the process.

There are sections that are ‘out of sequence’ in timeline, this is deliberately written in order that her life and actions be understood with more clarity, she had her enemies and manipulators that used their poison over decades.

As well as writing her history and life story in brief, we have tried to be fair to her as a woman struggling against the odds.

The council however was ruled over by those that saw themselves as the powebrokers. The decisions were actually being taken by the now powerful Minister of State Prince Klemens Wenzel von Metternich together with his arch rival Count Franz Anton von Kolowrat-Liebsteinsky.


Kolowrat-Liebsteinsk was a Czech noble who had been placed onto the Austrian State Council (Interior and Financial affairs) in 1826 and was a respected moderniser and cultural supporter, whilst Metternich wanted a larger army.

This would become the playing-field on which the one opportunity for Sophie, and all the prestige that went with being an Empress, would be played out.

Although Franz Karl Joseph lacked any drive or ambition, that would end up being no barrier for Sophie and her ambitions.

Count Franz Anton von Kolowrat-Liebsteinsky

Count_Franz_Anton_von_Kolowrat_Liebsteinsky

Perhaps after having achieved her goals of having her son ascend the Austrian throne, she was unwilling to allow her adult son the freedom of even a private family life beyond her influence.

Elisabeth was born on December 24th 1837.

Elisabeth married Emperor Franz Joseph om April 24th 1954 becoming Empress that day.

Elisabeth was crowned Queen of Hungary on June 8th 1867.

I have just had an interview with Andrássy. He set forth his views clearly and plainly. I quite understood them and arrived at the conclusion that if you would trust him – and trust him entirely – we might still be saved, not only Hungary, but the monarchy, too.... I can assure you that you are not dealing with a man desirous of playing a part at any price or striving for a position; on the contrary, he is risking his present position, which is a fine one. But approaching shipwreck, he, too, is prepared to do all in his power to save it; what he possesses – his understanding and influence in the country – he will lay at your feet. For the last time I beg you in Rudolf's name not to lose this. If you say 'No,' if at the last moment you are no longer willing to listen to disinterested counsels. then... you will be relieved forever from my future... and nothing will remain to me but the consciousness that whatever may happen, I shall be able to say honestly to Rudolf one day; "I did everything in my power. Your misfortunes are not on my conscience."

(he became prime minister from 1867 until 1871)

Franz Joseph made an excuse of a state visit to follow her to Corfu and plead for her return. He had finally accepted that he was in the wrong, both their public and private situation would change from that moment on.


After the 2 year absence, she returned to Vienna where her son Rudolf was now 4 years of age.


Rudolf was said to be very much like his mother in his dislike of court life, despite Sophie's influence. She would openly oppose both her husband and mother-in-law who wanted to send Rudolf to military school, but now it was her views that would be listened to.


Regardless of how Elisabeth would be personally attacked, she did hold onto a great deal of wisdom and awareness of politics. She used her husbands need to have her back home and the desire for another child, to negotiate the guarantee that Hungary would be equal to Austria, in the process saving Austria from threats on all sides.

The Austro-Hungarian Compromise Act of 1867 created the double monarchy of Austria and Hungary, something for which Elisabeth....Sisi, was responsible and without whom there never would have been the Austro-Hungarian Empire and without which there is no way of knowing how many wars would have enveloped Europe as Austria imploded.


Hungarian, Count Gyula Andrassy, was made the first Hungarian prime minister and in return ensured that Franz Joseph and Elisabeth would be crowned King and Queen of Hungary.


It was however Sisi who the people wanted as Queen, they saw her support since marrying into the Habsburg Royalty in 1854, as someone worthy of becoming their queen.

It was indeed Sisi who suggested that Count Andrassy be appointed Premier of Hungary, and wrote to her husband;

When Sisi became a personal advocate for the Hungarian Count Gyula Andrassy, rumours began that he was also her lover.


Although when difficult negotiations failed between the Hungary and Austria, she would be called upon to help restart the talks.

Coronation_of_Sisi_and_Franz_Joseph_as_King_and_Queen_of_Hungary Count_ Gyula_Andassy

Count Gyula Andassy

As part of the ‘deal’ for the joint monarchy of Austro-Hungarian Empire, Sisi and Franz Joseph were crowned King and Queen of Hungary on June 8th 1867.

Hungarian Coronation of Elisabeth (Sisi) and Franz Joseph as King and Queen of Hungary

June 8th 1867

Whilst on a visit to Hungary at their official residence in Gödöllő, which had become a favourite residence for Sisi, she became pregnant and ensured that she would be in Hungary when her child was born.


Strongy believing her child would be a boy, she wanted to name him Stephen, after the patron saint of Hungary. Saint Stephen was also known as King Saint Stephen


In the end another daughter, Marie Valerie, was born in 1868, becoming known as the "Hungarian child".  She was born in Budapest just 10 months after their coronation and would go on to be baptised there also.


Sisi was determined to raise her daughter herself, almost smothering her with love and attention in an attempt to make up for all the lost times with her other children. She also made sure that her daughter would be raised with Hungarian as her main language which Sisi loved so much.

With the 4th child, the influence of Sophie over both the court and her grandchildren faded, which really started a year earlier following the execution of her son Emperor Maximilian of Mexico, draining all interest in her remaining years.

A gift from Hungary to the newly crown couple was an expansive residence at Gödöllő, becoming their official Royal Residence. Gödöllő was 20 miles east of Budapest, complete with a ‘guest waiting hall’ which is closer to the town than the residence.

Godollo_Roya_ Residence Godollo_kiralyi_varoterem_Royal_Waiting_Hall_1905 Godollo_kiralyi_varoterem_Royal_Waiting_Hall_2016

Gödöllő waiting hall from a 1905 postcard and photograph of 2016

Gödöllő Royal Residence

It is said that Sisi was not a politician, true, but she had insight into problems without the confines of political allegiance, precisely what enabled her to become so effective within politics.


It would however be her physical beauty that ruled her life, and would be her downfall in the writing of her history, overshadowing her achievements under the immense control and abuse by her mother-in-law Sophie.


Measuring 172 cm tall and weighing just 50kg, unusally tall, she once referred to herself as a 'slave to my hair', which was a popular element of many portraits.


She exercised strenuously daily and held the regime rigorously to maintain the image she portrayed in the known world. This became increasingly difficult with age, although horse riding would give her the reputation of being the best rider in Europe,  rumoured to be second only to Empress Eugenie of France.


“I wander lonely in this world,

Delight and life long time averted,

No confidant to share my inner self,

A matching soul never revealed.”

(Sisi, The Poetic Diary)

Sisi was now free.

Sisi went on to ‘dabble’ in poetry, the following extract seems to sum her emotions and sense of loss, quite aptly;

Sisi was only 11 years of age when the revolutions across the Autrian Habsburg Empire became a serious matter. Yet it would follow her for 19 years, not on the Habsburg side, but on that of the people, and the people of Hungary to be specific.


Sisi in fact felt such an affinity and love for Hungary that she also began to learn the complex language. That selfless act only drew love and adoration from Hungarians from all walks of life.


On that trip, both her daughters fell ill, Gisela recovered but Sophie became weaker and died aged 2, with a wide range of suggestions as to what their illness was. The tragedy threw Sisi into bouts of deep depression from which she could never escape. As a result her attention withdrew from Gisela and their relationship would never recover.


Mother-in-Law Sophie would however be there to ‘help’ !


The situation gave rise to the opportunity for Sophie to make herself felt again, installing herself into their lives by taking control of the education and upbringing of her granddaughter to such an extent that she was refused access to her own remaining daughter Gisela, born July 1856.


Her husband was by all accounts passionately in love with Sisi, something which sadly was not reciprocated. It became clear to Sisi that her husband was without any empathy of her situation, continuing to live all aspects of his life, public and private, guided by court etiquette which Sisi found increasingly stifling.


On August 21st 1858, she gave birth to her son Rudolf who would be her only son.

Empress_Sisi_showing_long_hair Empress_Elisabeth_and_Husband_Emperor_Franz_Joseph

Empress Elisabeth and Husband Emperor Franz Joseph

Empress_Elisabeth_in_1860 Empress_Elisabeth_in_Munich_in_1860

Empress Elisabeth in 1860

Empress Elisabeth in 1860

Franz Joseph was often away on campaigns, visiting the far reaches of his empire.

Sisi sitting in the middle with mandolin, surrounded by Countess Lilly Hunyady, Countess Windischgrätz and sitting in front Princess Helene

Sisi sitting in the middle with mandolin, surrounded by Countess Lilly Hunyady, Countess Windischgrätz and sitting in front Princess Helene

Franz_Joseph_with_Rudolf_and_Gisella

Emperor Franz Joseph with Rudolf and Gisella

There are no photographs as yet found, showing Elisabeth with her young children.


Possibly the signs of reality as to just how they were kept from her.

Sisi had little left in her life for pleasure or real companionship. Her husband went off on campaigns against the French in Italy and refused to take her with him despite her pleading.


In his absense, Sisi found a friend in Henry Holmes, an Englishman in charge of the Imperial Riding Horses in Vienna.


Sophie disapproved of course and began to write her version of the friendship to her son who was still on the military campaign in Italy.


In 1859 he returned home to Vienna, filled with the nasty speculations of his mother Sophie.

The pressures of being kept from her children, together with the knowledge of her husbands’ infidelity, continued to caused her health to deteriorate.

Katharina Schratt

One of the mistresses

However, regardless of the source of her problems, the people of Austria began to believe that Sisi was a victim and not the irresponsible feeble woman who did not even care about her own children. Something which the Hungarians had long believed.


From that moment she began to receive a great deal of sympathy and empathy from throughout the empire, with many people convinced that her bad health was a direct result of her treatment by the court and especially her husband and mother-in-law.

Sisi_Elisabeth_Queen_of_Hungary

Elisabeth Queen of Hungary

Coronation_photo_of_Elisabeth_Queen_Of_Hungary_1867

Elisabeth Queen of Hungary, was finally at peace as a chosen Queen and people’s Queen.


Her beauty had created a barrier between her being allowed to do anything constructive. Yet is was her, and her alone, who battled and talked over Hungary becoming a joint and equal monarchy, realised in 1867 when the Austro-Hungarian monarchy and empire came into existence.

Sister Gisela and Marie Valeri.

Archduchess_Gisela_of_Austria

Archduchess Gisela of Austria

Crown_Prince_Rudolf_of_Austria Crown_Prince_Rudolf_of_Austria Crown_Prince_Rudolf_of_Austria Crown_Prince_Rudolf_of_Austria

Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria

Baroness_Mary_Vetsera_mistress_of_Rudolf

 Baroness Mary Vetsera

Mistress of Rudolf

Crown_Prince_Rudolf marries_Princess_Stephanie_of_Belgium

Crown Prince Rudolf marries Princess Stephanie of Belgium on May 10th 1881

Rudolf, Sisi’s only son, married Princess Stephanie of Belgium on May 10th 1881.


On September 2nd 1883 they had a daughter born, Archduchess Elisabeth, but by then their marriage had reached an end, both drifting apart.


Rudolf found a replacement in drink and women, but he was still married and divorce as a Catholic was out of the question. Rudolf wanted to write to Pope Leo XIII, seeking the possibility of having their marriage annulled. However, his father, Emperor Franz Joseph, forbade him to write.


Baroness Mary Vetsera became one of his mistresses. His last mistress and mysterious cause of his death.

An almost final nail in the life of Elisabeth, Sisi, came when in 1889 her son Rudolf became embroiled in a murder suicide.


It is said that he shot himself after killing his lover, Baroness Mary Vetsera at the Imperial Hunting Lodge in Mayerling.

Rudolf_in_Open_Coffin Iimperial_Hunting_Lodge_at_Mayerling

Mayerling Imperial Hunting Lodge

\Archduchess_Marie_Valerie_of_Austria_1870 Archduchess_Marie_Valerie_of_Austria Archduchess_Marie_Valerie_of_Austria

Archduchess Marie Valerie of Austria

4th child of Sisi and Franz Joseph. 1868 - 1925

Archduchess_Marie_Valerie_of_Austria Giselle_daughter_of_Sisi Gisela_daughter_of_Sisi Gisela_daughter_of_Sisi Archduchess_Marie_Valerie_of_Austria

Archduchess Marie Valerie

Archduchess Gisela of Austria

2nd born child of Sisi and Franz Joseph 1856 - 1857

Crown_Prince_Rudolf_statue_Budapest

Crown Prince Rudolf statue Budapest

Queen_Elisabeth_of_Hungary_Statue_Budapest

Queen Elisabeth of Hungary Statue Budapest

Queen_of_Hungary_Empress_of_Austria_Elisabeth_taken_for_the_final_resting_place_17_September_ 1898

Queen of Hungary Empress of Austria Elisabeth taken for her final resting place 17 September 1898

Princess Ludovika

Princess Ludovika of Bavaria

Duchesses in Bavaria by marriage

Duke Maximilian Joseph of Bavaria

We have added a brief outline of the House of Wittelsbach to show just how one family a thousand years ago,980 AD, would branch into a number of major shoots and continue to produce Royal rulers until the start of the 20th century.

Her Mothers’ side of the family was clearly the powerhouse, being a fully fledged Princess, her Grandfather (her Mother's Father) was

Maximilian Joseph who became

King Maximilian I of Bavaria  I from 1799 – 1805.  They belonged to the Palatinate-Zweibrücken-Birkenfeld  branch of the House of Wittelsbach


Her Father's side was a non-royal contrast, although he became a Duke, the Duke Maximilian Joseph in Bavaria , following his marriage to Ludovika, he was from a junior branch of the House of Wittelsbach

(Birkenfeld-Gelnhausen).

 The title of 'HERZOG in BAYERNS', Duke in Bavaria was however no consolation to character!


Sophie’s control over her son and his wife, which became such a battle of wits, can be traced back to some 30 years earlier, when on November 4th  1824, Sophie married Archduke Franz Karl of Austria, which the Wittelsbach's clearly condoned if only because it would present Sophie the real opportunity of becoming Empress in an indirect manner.


Between 1830 and 1842 she gave birth 6 times, with 4 growing to adults.


Franz Karls’ elder brother Ferdinand, had  suffered from epilepsy, hydrocephalus, neurological problems, and an acute stutter which wrecked any speach attempted.


Having as many as twenty seizures a day, severely restricted his ability to rule with any effectiveness, forcing the council taking ruling decisions. This was the angle which gave hope to Franz Karl and Sophie to having the clear chance to ascend the throne.

Princess Sophie of Bavaria

Archduke Franz Karl was a weak and to many an 'insignificant' man. Sophie faced the fact that he would never fight for his ‘rights’ as next in line after Ferdinand, and thus placed her ambitions onto her eldest son,Franz Joseph,to ascend the Austrian throne, a fact that circulated constantly amongst the politicians of Austria to the level that she was referred to as;

 'The only man at court'


Sophie was single minded by any measure, and whilst the 1848 Revolution was in progress, she persuaed her husband to surrender his rights to the throne once his brother Ferdinand abdicated, in favour of their son, Franz Joseph.


Once Franz Joseph ascended, Sophie became the power behind the throne.


Historically, Sophie is remembered for her extremely controlling relationship with Franz Joseph's famed wife Sisi, who was also her niece.

Franz_Carl_1839

Archduke Franz Karl in 1839

Imperial_residence_at Godollo_Hungary Royal reesidence of Godollo in Hungary

The Imperial Residence at Gödöllő Hungary

Gödöllő waiting hall

Gödöllő Royal Residence

Sisters_Gisela_and_Marie_Valerie

This was in total contrast to her mother-in-law Sophie, who was pleased when the Russian troops were sent into Hungary to brutally surpress the uprising in 1848 -49

Marrying within ones' class was the only option for members of European Royalty and Nobility, if their status was to be both maintained and respected. Of course the 'superstar' status of rulers such as Napolean would allow exceptions, as did the hugely wealthy Americans who would marry into English families of note, although, they would always remain outsiders!


The family of Elisabeth as well as her own marriage, was quite a remarkable example of just how powers amongst the 'Royal Classes' functioned. Indeed, her mother-in-law Sophie, mother of her husband Archduke Franz Joseph, was also her aunt, being the sister of her Mother Princess Ludovika. We therefore cannot simply write about the life of Sisi without firstly outlining the her family and the impact they would innevitably have upon her life.


Born in Munich, Bavaria, which is now in Germany, Elisabeth, or 'SISI' as she became affectionately known since childhood, was born into the well established Bavarian Royalty, with the title of Her Royal Highness Duchess Elisabeth Amalie Eugenie, a Bavarian Duchess.

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