Death by Fame: A Life of Elisabeth, Empress of Austria


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Duke Maximilian was a bit eccentric and decidedly more progressive in his ideals than his fellow European aristocrats, which heavily influenced Elisabeth's beliefs and upbringing.

Sissi- The death of an Empress | History of Sorts

She and her siblings spent much of their time riding in the Bavarian countryside, rather than in formal lessons. Throughout her childhood, Elisabeth was particularly close to her older sister Helene.

Sisi - Empress Elisabeth of Austria - VIENNA/NOW

In , the sisters traveled with their mother to Austria in hopes of an extraordinary match for Helene. Ludovika's sister Sophie, mother of Emperor Franz Joseph, had tried and failed to secure a match for her son among major European royalty and instead turned to her own family. Serious and pious, Helene did not appeal to the year-old emperor, although his mother expected he would obey her wishes and propose to his cousin. Instead, Franz Joseph fell madly in love with Elisabeth.


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He insisted to his mother that he would not propose to Helene, only to Elisabeth; if he could not marry her, he swore he would never marry. Sophie was deeply displeased, but she eventually acquiesced. Franz Joseph and Elisabeth married on April 24, The period of their engagement had been a strange one: Franz Joseph was reported by all to be full of joy, but Elisabeth was quiet, nervous, and often found crying.


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  • Some of this could certainly be attributed to the overwhelming nature of the Austrian court, as well as the reportedly overbearing attitude of her aunt-turned-mother-in-law. The Austrian court was intensely strict, with rules and etiquette that frustrated the progressive-minded Sisi.

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    Even worse was her relationship with her mother-in-law, who refused to cede power to Elisabeth, who she viewed as a silly girl incapable of being an empress or mother. When Elisabeth and Franz Joseph had their first child in , the Archduchess Sophie, Sophie refused to allow Elisabeth to care for her own child or even name her.

    She did the same to the next daughter, Archduchess Gisela, born in A cruel pamphlet was anonymously left in her private chambers that suggested the role of a queen or empress was only to bear sons, not to have political opinions, and that a consort who did not bear a male heir would be a scheming danger to the country.

    It is widely believed that Sophie was the source. Elisabeth suffered another blow in , when she and the archduchesses accompanied the emperor to Hungary for the first time. Although Elisabeth discovered a deep kinship with the more informal and straightforward Hungarian people, it was also the site of great tragedy. Both her daughters fell ill, and the Archduchess Sophie died, only two years old.

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    She began the obsessive beauty and physical regimens that would grow into the stuff of legend: fasting, rigorous exercise, an elaborate routine for her ankle-length hair, and stiff, tightly-laced corsets. During the long hours required to maintain all of this, Elisabeth was not inactive: she used this time to learn several languages, study literature and poetry, and more. In , Elisabeth finally fulfilled her expected role by becoming the mother of an heir: the Crown Prince Rudolf. His birth helped her gain a larger foothold of power at court, which she used to speak on behalf of her beloved Hungarians.

    Their relationship was a close alliance and friendship and was also rumored to be a love affair — so much so that, when Elisabeth had a fourth child in , rumors swirled that Andrassy was the father.

    Death by Fame A Life of Elisabeth Empress of Austria

    She used this as an excuse to withdraw from court life for some time; her symptoms often returned when she returned to the Viennese court. It was around this time that she began standing her ground with her husband and mother-in-law, especially when they wanted another pregnancy — which Elisabeth did not want. Her marriage with Franz Joseph, already distant, became even more so. She relented, however, in , as a strategic move: by returning to her marriage, she increased her influence in time to push for the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of , which created a dual monarchy in which Hungary and Austria would be equal partners.

    With her new official role as queen, Elisabeth had more excuse than ever to spend time in Hungary, which she gladly took. Finding the atmosphere of the Austro-Hungarian court stifling, the increasingly erratic empress traveled incessantly. Abandoning her husband to the attentions of the Viennese comic actress Katharina Schratt, Elisabeth went on errands of mercy to the docks and slums of London and Liverpool, Barcelona and Naples, Smyrna and Marseilles.

    She was the despair of local police, who could not protect her, even though she wore disguises.

    The Life and Reign of Empress Elisabeth of Austria

    She supported independence movements in Ireland, where she hunted superbly alongside her close companion, the English cavalryman "Bay" Middleton; and also in Hungary, an integral part of her husband's deteriorating empire. When Lucheni assassinated the empress, he killed the most alluring royal figure of the Victorian age.

    But fame was her real executioner. Her celebrity had led to her death.

    Death by Fame: A Life of Elisabeth, Empress of Austria Death by Fame: A Life of Elisabeth, Empress of Austria
    Death by Fame: A Life of Elisabeth, Empress of Austria Death by Fame: A Life of Elisabeth, Empress of Austria
    Death by Fame: A Life of Elisabeth, Empress of Austria Death by Fame: A Life of Elisabeth, Empress of Austria
    Death by Fame: A Life of Elisabeth, Empress of Austria Death by Fame: A Life of Elisabeth, Empress of Austria
    Death by Fame: A Life of Elisabeth, Empress of Austria Death by Fame: A Life of Elisabeth, Empress of Austria
    Death by Fame: A Life of Elisabeth, Empress of Austria Death by Fame: A Life of Elisabeth, Empress of Austria
    Death by Fame: A Life of Elisabeth, Empress of Austria Death by Fame: A Life of Elisabeth, Empress of Austria

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