Sissi - Empress of Austria

Elisabeth Amalie Eugenie in Bavaria, this is the full name of the empress and queen who became known in history as Sissi. Her family called her Sissi.


Portrait 1855


Sissi was born on December 24 1837 in Munich, the daughter of Maximilian Joseph of Bavaria and Princess Ludovika Wilhelmine, daughter of King Maximilian I Joseph of Bavaria. She was the Duchess of Bavaria and Princess of Bavaria. At her marriage to Emperor Franz Joseph I in 1867, she also became empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary.

In 1853 Elisabeth accompanied her mother and older sister Helene on a trip to the Austrian Ischl, where it was planned that Helene would get the attention of her 22 year old cousin, Emperor Francis Joseph. However, he instead, fell for Elisabeth. On April 24, 1854 the 16-year old Elisabeth, and the 23-year-old emperor where married in Vienna in the Augustinerkerk.

The naturally timid and introverted Sissi struggled to adjust to court life and the strict rules of etiquette. In fact she never learned to adapt. In 1855 she gave birth to a girl. Princess Sophie, the mother of the Emperor named the baby after herself without any consultation with Sissi. She also took over the upbringing of the child without Sissi. The same thing happened with her second daughter, Gisela, who was born a year later. Sissi had to ask permission even to see her children and Princess Sophie was invariably present. It was only after a joint trip with her husband that he eventually gave Sissi more influence over the education of her children. On a journey through Hungary both daughters fell ill with dysentery and fever. The two-year-old Sophie died in her arms. In 1858 Sissi brought a son into the world, Rudolf Franz Karl Joseph. From an early age this heir to the throne was given a military education. A fourth child, Marie Valerie Mathilde Amélie was born ten years later, in 1868.

In 1889, her son Rudolf and his young lover Marie Vetsera committed suicide together. This was very for hard Sissi, who from then on, only wore black.


Emperor Frans Jozef - 1865


In 1860 the Empress started to suffer from severe coughing. She used the official diagnosis of a lung disease and the recommendation for a course of treatment as a reason to escape from court life and to travel. Many trips would follow. Besides Europe, she visited Asia Minor and Africa. From 1867 she often visited Hungary, Great Britain, Turkey and Corfu. She evolved over time from a shy girl to a confident monarch with definite ideas on what she wanted. Her husband became used to her absences. He met Katharina Schratt who became his mistress. This was tolerated to a certain extent by Sissi. Sissi spent her time going on long walks in the most remote areas and taking day-long cruises on her yacht in the Mediterranean. Her ladies-in-waiting kept her company and also read Greek, French and English works to her. She studied ancient and modern Greek and translated plays, including those of Shakespeare into modern Greek.



Elizabeth at her coronation as Queen of Hungary - June 8, 1867


For the empress beauty was very important. She watched her appearance carefully and her hair was very long. It was so long and heavy that she often complained that the weight of the extended double braids and pins gave her headaches. The daily care of her hair took just under three hours. Once every two weeks her hair was treated with a special essence, a mixture of eggs and cognac. All other activities and obligations were cancelled for the whole day. The Empress watched her weight carefully. If her weight threatened to go over 50 kilograms, she did a fasting or starvation cure, which basically meant she stopped eating. She was known for her wasp-like waist. Newspaper articles of the time mentioned her passion for equestrian, diet, exercise and fashion sense.


Portrait Franz Xaver Winterhalter, 1864

In July 1898 the empress stayed in Bad Nauheim, to be treated for heart disease. The Empress was reportedly suffering from anorexia and was very weak. In late August she traveled incognito to Geneva. She visited Baroness Julie Rothschild in her villa on Lake Geneva. When the empress left the next day went to go to her ship for the return journey, the Italian anarchist Luigi Lucheni fell on her. He stabbed her in the heart with a small sharpened file. The movement was so small that they initially thought he had only used his fist. The Empress stood up, thanked all the passersby who had rushed to help her, and spoke to her lady Irma Sztáray about the incident. Aboard the ship the empress suddenly collapsed. Her last words were reportedly: "But what?'s wrong with me?" She died soon afterwards in the hotel where she had been taken to for treatment. This was on 10 September 1898. Lucheni had, in his own words, intended to murder Prince Henri Philippe d'Orléans . However, since these travel plans were changed, he chose Empress Elisabeth as his victim, whose presence he had learned of through the newspapers. Sissi had been 61 years old.


Photo around 1869


They made a very famous trilologie of her life with Romy Schneider in the title role: Sissi (1955) - Sissi - Die junge Kaiserin (1956) - Sissi - Schicksalsjahre einer Kaiserin (1957).



The divine name

Poetry played a very important role in the life of Elizabeth. She wrote a poetic diary, and in bad times she expressed her feelings in poems. She did this as a recommendation from the Romanian Queen Elizabeth. The Romanian Queen herself wrote under the pseudonym of "Carmen Sylva". Click on a book by Carmen Sylva HERE. Empress Sissi maintained a friendly relationship with her.

In connection with the divine name the following prayer is remarkable. In a biography of the Empress spoke the following prayer:


Es steigt meine Seele zum Boote heraus
Und kniet auf den schwellenden Wogen,
Die haben wie dröhnendes Orgelgebraus
Sie unwiderstehlich gezogen.

Jehova! der mächtig Du Meere erschufst
Und dieses Atom, meine Seele,
Von Bergen zu Meeren, bis du sie nicht rufst,
Irrt rastlos vom Fels sie zur Welle.

Jehova! Du schufst diese Erde zu schön!
Drum hat meine Seele kein Bleiben;
Sie dürstet noch schönere Welten zu seh'n,
Die ferne im Äthermeer treiben.

Jehova! o lass meine Seele bald knien
Auf goldenem, lichten Planeten;
Wenn unten die Meere vorüber dann zieh'n,
Wird jauchzend sie auf zu Dir beten.

(Gebet der kaiserin Elisabeth (Sissi) aus “Das Poetische Tagebuch” von Brigitte Hamann).







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