Elisabeth von Bayern, Kaiserin von Österreich

MONARCH (BAVARIA)
BORN 24 Dec 1837, München: Ludwigstrasse - DIED 10 Sep 1898, Genčve
REAL NAME Elisabeth Amalie Eugenie von Wittelsbach
GRAVE LOCATION Wien: Kapuzinergruft, Tegetthoffstraße 2

Elisabeth of Bavaria (called Sisi by her family) was the third of eight children of Duke Maximilian in Bayern, who had married his niece Ludovica, a daughter of king Maximilian I. She grew up in Munich and at Possenhofen, the family's country residence.

Ludovica's sister Sophia was the mother of the young Austrian emperor Francis Joseph and the sisters tried to arrange a marriage between the emperor and Ludovica's oldest daughter Hélčne (known as Néné). But when Francis Joseph met the sisters he immediately decided that he wanted to marry Elisabeth.

The wedding took place in 1854 and Sisi had a hard time getting used to the strict rules of the Viennese court. In 1855 she bore her husband a daughter, Sophia, and in 1856 another one, Gisela. Young Sophia died in 1857 in Budapest. In 1858 a son was born, crown prince Rudolph.

Around 1860 the marriage detoriated. There were rumours in Vienna of the emperor's love affairs and she had arguments with her mother in law. In 1859 she left for Possenhofen with her daughter Gisela and in 1860 she travelled to Madeira. She visited other cities in Spain and went to Mallorca, Malta and Corfu.

After she returned to Vienna in 1861 there were further problems over the education of the children. She left the court again. In 1862 she was visited in Venice by her mother in and the physician Dr. Fischer, whom she had known as a child. Fischer observed she was ill and adviced her to take a cure in Bad Kissingen.

She went to Bad Kissingen several times. In February 1863 she visited a ball in Vienna for the first time in three years. Around this time she started to study the Hungarian language. She kept on travelling and resided as little in Vienna as possible. It is thought that she had several lovers, but there is little information about her affairs.

In 1864 she visited her nephew Ludwig II of Bavaria. He was homosexual and didn't like women, but somehow he adored Elisabeth. In 1864 her beauty was legendary and she was painted twice by Xaver Winterhalter.

After the Austrian army was defeated by the Prussians in 1866 she went to Budapest to find support for the Habsburg monarchy. She spoke the language, loved the country and was very popular among both common people and noblemen. She played an important part in the negotiations that resulted in the creation of the Austrian-Hungarian double monarchy. On 2 Aug 1866 she visited Gödöllö castle (near Budapest) for the first time.

On 8 Jun 1867 Francis Joseph and Elisabeth were crowned king and queen of Hungary. Elisabeth was clearly grateful to her husband that he had permitted autonomy to Hungary in many areas (instead of sending his army) and a reconciliation of husband and wife followed. In 1868 at Gödöllö another daughter was born, Maria Valeria. After that it seems she left his bed for good and even took care of a mistress for him, Anna Nahowski. But this daughter she loved dearly and she was in the position now to raise her herself. Elisabeth would often stay at Gödöllö during the rest of her life.

Apart from the Hungarian case she had no active part in her husband's politics. She detested the authoritarian Austrian system. She read Heine, translated a book into Greek and wrote poetry. She was famous for her beauty, but scared to death of gaining weight. Fasting, hours of marching and gymnastics were among the means she employed to stay thin. Nowadays her condition would be called anorexia nervosa.

In 1874 she met Friedrich List Pacher von Theinburg at a masked ball and she exchanged secret letters with him. Ten years later she referred to him in a poem. In 1875 she fell from her horse in Normandy and severely injured herself. In March 1876 she visited England and was received by Queen Victoria. Elisabeth was still restless and year by year she kept on travelling all over Europe.

In 1889 disaster struck. Crown prince Rudolph died under mysterious circumstances at Mayerling, near Vienna. His mother went down alone into the Kapuzinergruft to visit his tomb and her cry "Rufolf! Rudolf!" could be heard. She was calm when she came outside and she never visited the Kapuzinergruft again until her own remains were taken there.

In 1898 she travelled incognito to Geneva. Incognito meant that she used another name, but wherever they went, she and her ladies in waiting were recognized by everybody. In Geneva she was stabbed to death by the anarchist Lucheni on 10 September. He wanted to kill a member of the Orleans family, but when he couldn't find one he decided to kill the empress instead.

It was a heavy blow for the emperor, who despite all their problems had always loved his wife. Her body was returned to Vienna and her coffin was placed near that of her son. Francis Joseph would live for another 18 years until he died during the First World War in 1918.

Family
• Daughter: Gisela, archduchess of Austria, princess of Bavaria
• Husband: Franz Joseph von Habsburg, Kaiser von Österreich

Related persons
• was written about by Corti, Egon Caesar, Conte
• was photographed by Hanfstaengl, Franz Seraph von
• admired Heine, Heinrich
• translated work by Heyse, Paul
• is uncle/aunt of Larisch, Marie, baronin von Wallersee
• was painted by Romako, Anton
• was painted by Winterhalter, Franz Xaver

Sources
• Corti, Egon Cesare, Conte [Dr.], Elisabeth von Österreich, Tragik einer Unpolitischer, Heyne Verlag, München, 1993
• Hamann, Brigitte & Elisabeth Hassmann, Elisabeth, Stationen ihres Lebens, Verlag Christian Brandstätter, Wien, 1998
• Haslip, Joan, The Lonely empress, A Biography of Elizabeth of Austria, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, 1965
• Cars, Jean des, Elisabeth d'Autriche Ou La Fatalité, Perrin, Paris, 1983

Images

Possenhofen (near Munich at the Starnbergersee) was the country residence of Maximilian in Bayern. His daughter Elisabeth spent a good deal of her youth here. Nowadays there are appartments in the building.
Picture by Androom (21 Aug 1994)

 

The tomb of the empress Elisabeth in the Kapuzinergruft, Vienna.
Picture by Androom (13-08-1995)

 

The statue of the empress Elisabeth near the Hofburg in Vienna.
Picture by Androom (Aug 1995)

 

The villa Hermes in Vienna was a gift of emperor Francis Joseph to the empress Elisabeth.
Picture by Androom (24 Jan 1999)

 

The statue of queen Elisabeth of Hungary near the Danube in Budapest.
Picture by Janpier (21 Aug 2002)

 

"Kaiserin Elisabeth in Hofgala mit Diamantsternen" by Xaver von Winterhalter.
(1865)

 

"Kaiserin Elisabeth" by Xaver von Winterhalter.
 

Plaque marking the location where the empress Elisabeth was stabbed by Luigi Lucheni.
Picture by Androom (04 Dec 2007)

 

Statue of the empress Elisabeth in front of the hotel Beau Rivage, Genčve.
Picture by Androom (08 Dec 2007)

 

Statue of the Empress Elisabeth near the station of Salzburg.
Picture by Androom (29 Aug 2009)

 


Elisabeth, Erzherzogin von Österreich

Published: 25 Dec 2006
Last update: 9 Apr 2012