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Julia 03-03-2003 07:12 PM

Emperor Franz Joseph I (1830-1916) and Empress Elisabeth (Sissi) (1837-1898)
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Empress of Austria & Queen of Hungary

In 1998 the world will remember one of history's most fascinating women. One hundred years ago, on September 10, 1898, Austria's Empress Elisabeth died from wounds inflicted during an assassination attempt. Exhibitions throughout Austria will commemorate the country's beloved Empress. They will document the intriguing life story of a woman who was an "empress against her will", who was at once fairy-tale princess and liberated woman, a dieting fanatic and expert equestrian, a poet and inveterate traveler.

The empress, affectionately known to millions as "Sisi", was as intelligent as she was extravagant, and was decades ahead of her time. Although the imperial surroundings of Schönbrunn Palace and the glittering Vienna Hofburg were her home, the consort of the Austrian emperor established a special relationship with all classes of her subjects. Little wonder then that following her tragic death Princess Diana was often likened in obituaries to Sisi: Both were women of extraordinary beauty and represented their countries with dignity and elegance. Both succeeded in winning a special place in people's hearts even amidst the ceremony and protocol of ancient dynasties. Both were dedicated to social causes. And both died tragically before their time.

Elisabeth was born on Christmas 1837 in Munich, Bavaria, as the daughter of Duke Maximilian and Maria Ludowika, daughter of the Bavarian king. She grew up in Possenhofen castle (foto right) far from the ceremony of court, and developed like her brothers and sisters into an unconventional, freedom loving, and extremely sensitive person. The romatic legend of how Sisi and Franz Joseph met has been immortalized in the wonderfully romatic and melodramatic Austrian "Sissi" Films starring Romy Schneider as young Sisi. The musical "Elisabeth", which has attracted tourists from all over the world to Vienna for more than five years, is much more realistic.
In the summer of 1853 at the scenic Salzkammergut town Bad Ischl she met Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria, who was actually supposed to marry her sister, Helene.

Imperial Villa in Bad Ischl, build as "E" for Elisabeth.

However, the Emperor defied his mother's marriage plans and fell in love with Helen's sister Elisabeth, then only 15 years old, who had accompanied the party rather accidentally. Already one day after their first encounter Francis Joseph and Elisabeth celebrated their engagement.
The engagement to Sisi was a sensation. Everyone wanted to know who she was. She quickly became a rising star. The Papparazzi of the day, the court painters and engravers were quickly producing pictures of this beautiful young duchess "Sisi". They married on 24th April 1854 in the Vienna Augustine Church. The festivites lasted for over a week.

In 1855, Sisi gave birth to a daughter, Sophie, and in the following year to another girl, Gisela. Finally, in 1858 the long-awaited crown prince, Rudolph, arrived.
With her charm and natural grace Elisabeth soon became a fairy-tale princess in the eyes of the public. In her private life, however, insoluble problems began to make their appearance. From the first day she arrived in Vienna the young empress felt constrained and unhappy by the strict life at court, personified by her mother-in-law, Sophie. During the early years of her marriage, Elisabeth took refuge in isolation and illness. Sisi could not adapt to the strict court etiquette, and soon immersed herself in rigourous exercise and horse riding. Later she spent a lot of time in Madeira and Corfu trying to escape. The official public explanation was "severe illness". Her children were forced from her and had to remain in the hands of her mother-in-law and the court. (right: Postcard "Departure of the Empress")

After the birth of the crown prince, however, with whose education she was not entrusted, she broke into open rebellion. In 1859, Elisabeth left her husband and small children to live in seclusion on Madeira, Corfu, and in Venice. The Empress had exchanged a carefree country life with the strict etiquette of the Imperial Court and could hardly adapt to it. Francis Joseph loved his wife dearly, but he ruled over an empire of 50 million people and had little time to be with "Sisi" who felt lonely. "I wish he were no emperor", she confided her former governess.

After a lengthy interval due to marital problems, a fourth child, Marie Valerie, was born to the imperial couple. Marie Valerie was dubbed the "Hungarian child" because she was brought up and educated in the Hungarian language. The youngest offspring was a symbolic gift from the Queen-Empress to the Hungarian people who she loved so much. The new baby arrived exactly ten months after the coronation of her husband as King of Hungary, which Elisabeth had been so energetic in promoting.

Although Sisi usually stayed out of politics, she made a great exception as far as Hungary was concerned. Elisabeth's interest in politics developed as she grew matured. She was liberal and forward-minded. The empress placed herself decisively on the Hungarian side in the nationality conflict thereby making an important contribution to the historic compromise of 1867. Hungary's gaining an equal footing with Austria also strengthened the liberal element in the monarchy as a whole. Elisabeth attained an unparalleled position of respect and affection in Hungary, one which has lasted until the present day. It was due to her influnce that the reconciliation with the rebellious peoples of Hungary was established. Elisabeth learned to speak Hungarian fluently and spent more time in Budapest then in Vienna, much to the anger and displeasure of her mother in law and her cohorts in the Viennese Court.

In the 1860's Elisabeth was considered the world's most beautiful monarch. In the 1870's she became the most famous, and probably also the world's best, female equestrian. She trained as hard as a professional sportswoman for years to achieve this goal. After the Hungarian compromise had been reached, Elisabeth had little choice but to withdraw from politics. Later when gout made riding impossible she tried to make a name for herself as a poet in the mold of Heinrich Heine, who she revered.

All of these efforts were meant to prove herself as an individual and not as an empress. They were at the same time an expression of Elisabeth's contempt for the monarchy, which she considered a "ruin". Sisi remained consciously individualistic and dedicated herself exclusively to her self-expression and physical beauty. Elisabeth was also a highly educated woman, who not only learned Hungarian and modern Greek perfectly, but who even in later years immersed herself in the world of the ancient Greeks. It was for this reason that she built a palace on the Greek island of Corfu and named it "Achilleion" (foto) after her favorite hero of the ancient world, Achilles.

Personal blows left heavy marks on the life of Austria's empress. She lost her daughter, Sophie, in 1857, and her favorite cousin, King Ludwig II of Bavaria, in a tragic fashion. Her brother-in-law, Emperor Maximilian of Mexico was shot by revolutionaries. She never was able to get over her most terrible tragedy, the suicide of her son, Rudolph, in 1889. Her son dead, her favorite daughter happily married, her husband the Emperor was in a mutually satisfying relationship with a lady named Katharina Schratt, the Empress found herself alone and set out travelling in Italy and Greece.

Now invariably dressed in black, Sisi spent the last years of her life far from the pomp and ceremony of the Viennese court traveling widely, especially in Greece. Her decades-long hunger diets coupled with a need for movement and exercise which compelled her to undertake lengthy and strenuous hikes, caused malnutrition and depressions and led finally to suicidal fantasies. The sixty-year old empress was stabbed with a file by a twenty-four year old anarchist, Luigi Lucheni, shortly after noon on September 10, 1898 on the promenade of Lake Geneva as she boarded a steamship for Montreux. After the incident the Empress still walked for a few minutes. Because she was so strictly corsetted, she was unaware how seriously she had been wounded. Her last words were "What happened to me?"
For the assassin Elisabeth represented the monarchic order which he despised, but she was in fact simply a survivor, who tired of life looked forward to her own death.

Sisi (nickname for Elisabeth) was already a legend in her lifetime. And especially in Budapest (Hungary) many buildings or institutions are named after her, and Elisabeth is still the most often given girlname in Hungary. Even a century after her death, Sisi's hold on the popular imagination remains undiminished. This can be seen in the popularity of Sisi films and the musical "Elisabeth", which has run for years in Vienna. The sites where the empress lived continue to draw tourists from the world over. Among these are her apartments in Schönbrunn Palace, the Hofburg, and the Hermes Villa in Vienna, her tomb in the imperial burial vault of the capital's Capuchin Church, and the imperial villa in Bad Ischl, as well as many other places throughout Austria.

Julia 03-03-2003 07:14 PM

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thissal 03-04-2003 03:31 PM

Thanks, that's great information and just the kind I was hoping for. I wonder how daring the assassination was though if they didn't have any body guards? Maybe body guards for royalty came into being much later. I guess his mother didn't have any body guards either when she was assassinated.

Julia 03-07-2003 04:17 AM

Hi thissal!

Yes, the question of bodyguards is a good one. I could be quite wrong, but I believe that only close attendands (ladies-in-waiting, aides, etc...) were the buffers between the royal members and would be assassins in private. In public, I would think that male members would have somekind of military aides that travelled along side them, and that they would also provide protection for the ruling female member as well. I could be quite, quite, off, but in my readings on Marie-Antoinette there were really just various members of royalty (Princes and Princesses of the Blood, etc...) who were there to comfort and aid their sovereigns. I know that the Swiss Guard was very loyal to M-A and that the king's guards were only there to keep out the "riff-raff". I wonder when bodyguards as we know them today came into being??
Having said that, I would think that the military did not approve of Crown Prince Rudolf's actions and probably looked the other way. I would think the same in regards to the assassination of Empress Elisabeth.

Bianca 08-22-2003 02:25 AM

Elissa Landi

Elissa Landi was an actress in 1923 - 1943 and a writer 1944 - 1948 writing 6 novels and books on poetry. She was born Elizabeth-Marie Kuhnelt in Venice, Italy December 6, 1904 and lived only 43 years until 1948 when she died of cancer in New York. She had one daughter, Carolyn Maude Thomas. Elissa Landi is believed by some people to have been the secret granddaughter of Sissi (Empress Elizabeth), the beautiful consort of Emperor Franz Josef of Austria. (Imdb)

gogm 02-09-2004 01:36 AM

There are a host of good sites about Elisabeth. Some are: ,

and , and

Claudia's (she also runs a site about marie Antoinette):

Google will turn up others.

Jackswife 02-13-2004 10:28 AM

A wonderful article about one of my personal favorite royals. A lot of parallels to the life of Princess Diana, too. Thanks very much.

Empress Aleksandra 02-20-2004 05:09 PM

What happened to that barbarian Luigi Lucheni? Was he punished?

Jackswife 02-20-2004 05:24 PM


Sean.~ 02-20-2004 05:36 PM


Originally posted by Empress Aleksandra@Feb 20th, 2004 - 5:09 pm
What happened to that barbarian Luigi Lucheni? Was he punished?
He had some mental isssues. It's too bad he lived in an age where he couldn't get some help.

Marengo 03-30-2008 12:02 PM

Emperor Franz Joseph I (1830-1916) and Empress Elisabeth (Sissi) (1837-1898)

Emperor Franz Josef I

  

Franz Joseph I Karl, Emperor of Austria, King of Hungary, Bohemia etc. (Schönbrunn 18 August 1830 - Schönbrunn 21 November 1916); married in Vienna on 24 April 1854 Duchess Elisabeth Amalie Eugenie in Bavaria (Munich 24 December 1837 - Geneva 10 September 1898)

Reign: 1848 - 1916

Dynasty: Habsburg-Lorraine

Predecessor: Emperor Ferdinand of Austria

Successor: Emperor Karl I of Austria

Children: Archduchess Sophie of Austria; Princess Gisele of Bavaria; Archduke Rudolf of Austria and Archduchess Marie Valerie of Austria (-Tuscany)

Parents Franz-Joseph: Archduke Franz Karl of Austria and Archduke and Princess Sophie of Bavaria

Parents Elisabeth: Duke Maximilian in Bavaria and Princess Ludovika of Bavaria

Siblings Franz-Joseph: Emperor Maximilian of Mexico; Archduke Karl-Ludwig, Archduke Ludwig-Viktor and Archduchess Maria Anna of Austria

Siblings Elisabeth: Duke Ludwig Wilhelm and Duke Wilhelm Karl in Bavaria; Hereditairy Princess Helene of Thurn and Taxis; Duke Karl-Theodor in Bavaria; Queen Marie of the Two Sicilies; Princess Mathilde of the Two Sicilies, Countess of Trani; Princess Sophie of France, Duchess of Alençon and Duke Maximilian in Bavaria

Marengo 03-30-2008 12:11 PM

Franz Joseph I (in Hungarian I. Ferenc József, in Czech František Josef I, in English Francis Joseph I) (August 18, 1830 – November 21, 1916) of the Habsburg Dynasty was Emperor of Austria, Apostolic King of Hungary, King of Bohemia from 1848 until 1916. His 68-year reign is the second-longest in the recorded history of Europe (after that of Johannes II, Prince of Liechtenstein; Louis XIV of France reigned effectively from 1661 to 1715).

Franz Joseph was born in the Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, the oldest son of Archduke Franz Karl (the younger son of Emperor Franz), and his wife Princess Sophie of Bavaria. Because his uncle, from 1835 the Emperor Ferdinand, was weak-minded, and his father unambitious and retiring, the young Archduke "Franzl" was brought up by his mother as a future Emperor with emphasis on devotion, responsibility and diligence. Franzl came to idolize his grandfather, der Gute Kaiser Franz, who had died shortly before his fifth birthday, as the ideal monarch. At the age of 13 young Archduke Franz started a career as a colonel in the Austrian army. From that point onward, his fashion was dictated by army style and for the rest of his life he normally wore the uniform of a junior officer.

Franz Joseph was soon joined by three younger brothers - Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian (born 1832, the future Emperor Maximilian of Mexico); Archduke Karl Ludwig (born 1833), and Archduke Ludwig Viktor (born 1842), but a sister, Maria Anna (born 1835), died young, at the age of four.
Following the resignation of the Chancellor Prince Metternich during the Revolutions of 1848, the young Archduke, who it was widely expected would soon succeed his uncle on the throne, was appointed Governor of Bohemia on 6 April, but never took up the post. Instead, Franz was sent to the front in Italy, joining Field Marshal Radetzky on campaign on 29 April, receiving his baptism of fire on 5 May at Santa Lucia. By all accounts he handled his first military experience calmly and with dignity. Around the same time, the Imperial Family was fleeing revolutionary Vienna for the calmer setting of Innsbruck, in the Tyrol. Soon, the Archduke was called back from Italy, joining the rest of his family at Innsbruck by mid-June. It was at Innsbruck at this time that Franz Joseph first met his cousin Elisabeth, Duchess in Bavaria, his future bride, then a girl of ten, but apparently the meeting made little impact.

Following victory over the Italians at Custoza in late July, the court felt safe to return to Vienna, and Franz Joseph travelled with them. But within a few months Vienna again appeared unsafe, and in September the court left again, this time for Olmütz in Moravia. By now, Prince Windischgrätz, the influential military commander in Bohemia, was determined to see the young Archduke soon put onto the throne. It was thought that a new ruler would not be bound by the oaths to respect constitutional government to which Ferdinand had been forced to agree, and that it was necessary to find a young, energetic emperor to replace the kindly, but mentally unfit Emperor.

Read the entire wikipedia article here.

Marengo 03-30-2008 12:16 PM

Elisabeth Amalie Eugenie, Duchess in Bavaria, Princess of Bavaria (December 24, 1837 – September 10, 1898) of the House of Wittelsbach, was the Empress consort of Austria and Queen consort of Hungary due to her marriage to Emperor Franz Joseph. Her father was Maximilian Joseph, Duke in Bavaria and her mother was Ludovika, Royal Princess of Bavaria; her family home was Possenhofen Castle. From an early age, she was called "Sisi" ("Sissi" in films and novels) by family and friends.

She was born in Munich, Bavaria. Elisabeth accompanied her mother and her 18-year-old sister, Helene, on a trip to the resort of Bad Ischl, Upper Austria, where they hoped Helene would attract the attention of their cousin, 23-year-old Franz Joseph, then Emperor of Austria. Instead, Franz Joseph chose Elisabeth, and the couple were married in Vienna on April 24, 1854. Elisabeth later wrote that she regretted accepting his proposal for the rest of her life.
Elisabeth had difficulty adapting to the strict etiquette practiced at the Habsburg court. Nevertheless she bore the Emperor three children in quick succession: Archduchess Sophie of Austria (1855–1857), Archduchess Gisela of Austria (1856–1932), and the hoped-for crown prince, Rudolf (1858–1889). A decade later, Archduchess Marie Valerie of Austria (1868–1924) followed. Elisabeth was denied any major influence on her own children's upbringing, however — they were raised by her mother-in-law Sophie, and soon after Rudolf's birth the marriage started to deteriorate, undone by Elisabeth's increasingly erratic behaviour.
To ease her pain and illnesses, Elisabeth embarked on a life of travel, seeing very little of her offspring, visiting places such as Madeira, Hungary, England, and Corfu, where she commissioned the building of a castle which she called Achilleion — after her death the building was sold to the German Emperor Wilhelm II. She not only became known for her beauty, but also for her fashion sense, diet and exercise regimens, passion for riding sports, and a series of reputed lovers. She paid extreme attention to her appearance and would spend most of her time preserving her beauty. Her diet and exercise regimens were strictly enforced to maintain her 20-inch (50 cm) waistline and reduced her to near emaciation at times (symptoms of what is now recognized as anorexia). One of the few things she would eat was raw veal meat juice, squeezed from her juice press, then boiled and seasoned. Some of her reputed lovers included George "Bay" Middleton, a dashing Anglo–Scot who was probably the father of Clementine Ogilvy Hozier (Mrs. Winston Churchill). She also tolerated, to a certain degree, Franz Joseph's affair with actress Katharina Schratt.
National unrest within the Habsburg monarchy caused by the rebellious Hungarians led, in 1867, to the foundation of the Austro–Hungarian double monarchy, making Elisabeth Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary. Elisabeth had always sympathized with the Hungarian cause and, reconciled and reunited with her alienated husband, she joined Franz Joseph in Budapest, where their coronation took place. In due course, their fourth child, Archduchess Marie Valerie was born (1868–1924). Afterwards, however, she again took up her former life of restlessly traveling through Europe, decades of what basically became a walking trance.

Read the entire wikipedia article here.

magnik 03-30-2008 04:13 PM

Something about Sissi, Sisi:
Kaiserin Elisabeth 1837-1898

Vienna - Sisi - Empress Elisabeth - Sissi - Empress of Austria

Elizabeth, Empress of Austria - Queen of Hungary

Empress Elisabeth of Austria Centennial Commemorative Web Page

Welcome to Eljen

Greece Trip 2007: CORFU EMPRESS SISSI ACHILLEION pictures from greece photos on webshots

One of the greates sites:

Jo of Palatine 03-31-2008 03:48 AM

Official Kaiservilla Homepage - Welcome to the Kaiservilla

An interesting page about the holiday home of Franz Joseph and Elisabeth in Bad Ischl - when Franz Joseph died, he left the villa to his younger daughter Marie Valerie who had married her cousin, an Archduke of Habsburg-Lothringen-Tuscany. After the revolution the archduke and archduchess signed their resignation from the House of Habsburg, so could stay in Austria and keep their estates and possessions. Thus, the Kaiservilla is still owned by a descendant of Franz Joseph and Elisabeth, Archduke Markus, and is open to the public in summer.

carinthia 03-31-2008 04:22 AM

for me the best and most informative biography about elisabeth is written by the german-austrian historian brigitte hamann "elisabeth". I don't know if it is also edited in english. it could be recommended to everybody as a serious information due to describing the political circumstances in austria-hungary too.

Jo of Palatine 04-02-2008 03:36 AM

One wonders what would have happened to Austria and the Habsburgs if he had lived for 10 more years or died 10 years earlier. Would the monarchy in Austria have survived WWI in the first case? Or would WWI never have happened had Franz Ferdinand been the emperor and thus not in Sarajewo on that fateful day in 1914? So many what ifs...

Warren 04-02-2008 04:44 AM

The things one finds on YouTube... :biggrin:
Here is 'Franz Josef & the Emperor Waltz'
nb.. the pics are very slow to change, but there are some good ones.

YouTube - Franz Josef & The Emperor Waltz

Jo of Palatine 04-02-2008 05:09 AM


Originally Posted by Warren (Post 748980)
The things one finds on YouTube... :biggrin:
Here is 'Franz Josef & the Emperor Waltz'
nb.. the pics are very slow to change, but there are some good ones.

I simply love Viennese Waltzes... Thank you, Warren.:flowers:

PssMarie-Elisabeth 06-05-2008 10:08 PM

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Empress Elisabeth in Hungarian costume - Franz-Josef as emperor of Austria

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