Elisabeth von Bayern, Kaiserin von Österreich

BORN 24 Dec 1837, München, Bayern: Ludwigstrasse - DIED 10 Sep 1898, Genčve
BIRTH NAME Elisabeth Amalie Eugenie von Wittelsbach
CAUSE OF DEATH murdered by stabbing near the heart with file
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.

• Son: Rudolf von Habsburg, Crown Prince of Austria and Hungary
• Daughter: Gisela, archduchess of Austria, princess of Bavaria
• Husband: Franz Joseph von Habsburg, Emperor of Austria (1854-1898, Wien: Augustinerkirche)

Related persons
• knew Baltazzi, Hector
• supported Chavanne, Irene von
• was written about by Corti, Egon Caesar, Conte
• employed Friedrich-Materna, Amalie
• was written about by Hamann, Brigitte
• was photographed by Hanfstaengl, Franz Seraph von
• admired Heine, Heinrich
• employed Herter, Ernst
• 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

0/0/1838Max in Bayern travels to the Orient. His daughter Elisabeth was only four weeks old but he couldn't resist his temptation to travel. He wanted to go to Greece where his nephew Otto was King. But in Greece he didn't visit Otto, because he wanted to observe the real life and not the court parties. He continuedhis travels to Cairo, where he bought four negro slaves that he took back to Bavaria. 
16/8/1853First meeting between emperor Franz Joseph and Elisabeth [Franz Joseph von Habsburg, Emperor of Austria][Sophie von Bayern]
19/8/1853Engagement of emperor Franz Joseph and Elisabeth in Bayern [Franz Joseph von Habsburg, Emperor of Austria]
27/3/1854Elisabeth in Bayern renounces her rights of inheritance. It was very unlikely that she would ever become queen of Bavaria, but she was forced to renouce her rights because of her marriage to emperor Franz Joseph of Austria. [Franz Joseph von Habsburg, Emperor of Austria]
20/4/1854Elisabeth in Bayern leaves Bavaria in a stagecoach for her marriage. The coach was strung with six horses. She travelled to Staubing and the next day she crossed the Austrian Border. In Linz she was welcomed by her future husband emperor Franz Joseph. [Franz Joseph von Habsburg, Emperor of Austria]
22/4/1854The future empress Elisabeth arrives in Austria. She arrived with a ship in Nussdorf for her marriage to emperor Franz Joseph. The emperor welcomed her and cardinal Rauscher held a speech. She spent the night at Schönbrunn. She continued her journey to the Theresianum and the Hofburg. On 23 April she entered Vienna in a glass carriage. The streets were covered with flowers, but Elisabeth was shy and afraid. At the Hofburg she was immediately attended by ladies who presented her with numerous rules and regulations. [Franz Joseph von Habsburg, Emperor of Austria]
24/4/1854Emperor Franz Joseph marries princess Elisabeth in Bayern. The marriage took place at the Augistine Church in Vienna at 7 pm. Cardinal Rauscher took care of the blessing. He was assisted by over seventy bishops and prelates. [Franz Joseph von Habsburg, Emperor of Austria]
26/11/1856Franz Joseph and Elisabeth visit Venice. Elisabeth had never visited to Venice before. They were welcomed by the old Count Radetzky. The austrians weren't popular in Vienna and the crowd didn't cheer the young couple. Franz Joseph wore a white uniform and Elisabeth wore a blue travelling dress. She had her young daughter with her. Everybody wanted to see the empress, but no one dared to cheer. [Franz Joseph von Habsburg, Emperor of Austria]
3/12/1856Emperor Franz Joseph pardons Venetians by decree. Seventy Venetians that were convicted for treason were pardoned and a number of political refugees was allowed to return home. Franz Joseph and empress Elisabeth were visiting Venice and they were finally cheered by the crowd when the pardon was made known. [Franz Joseph von Habsburg, Emperor of Austria]
15/1/1857Franz Joseph and Elisabeth arrive in Milan. Elisabeth's charms didn't work as well in Milan as in other places that were visited by the imperial couple. [Franz Joseph von Habsburg, Emperor of Austria]
4/5/1857Franz Joseph and Elisabeth arrive in Budapest. There was a rumour that Elisabeth had a positive attitude towards the 'Hungarian cause'. Elisabeth immediately liked Hungary and she quickly became popular. [Franz Joseph von Habsburg, Emperor of Austria]
26/12/1862The empress Elisabeth attends the first concert conducted by Richard Wagner in Vienna. It was the first time Wagner conducted a concert in Vienna. He didn't like conducting because it distracted him from composing, but he urgently needed the money. He also hoped to arrange a performance of "Tristan und Isolde" in Vienna. [Wagner, Richard]
11/1/1863The empress Elisbeth attends the third Wagner concert in Vienna. She had also attended the first concert Wagner conducted in Vienna. She missed the second concert on 1 Jan 1863. [Wagner, Richard]


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.


"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)


Statue of the empress Elisabeth at the former Cimetičre de Territet, Montreux.
Picture by Androom (22 Aug 2019)


The statue of empress Elisabeth by Franz Seifert in front of the central station in Trieste. It was unveiled in 1912 and removed five years later. In 1997 it was placed back.
Picture by Androom (24 Aug 2022)


The statue of empress Elisabeth by Franz Seifert in front of the central station in Trieste. It was unveiled in 1912 and removed five years later. In 1997 it was placed back.
Picture by Androom (24 Aug 2022)


• Cars, Jean des, Elisabeth d'Autriche Ou La Fatalité, Perrin, Paris, 1983
• Corti, Egon Cesare, Conte, 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
• Marek, George R., Cosima Wagner, Ein Leben für ein Genie, Knaur, München, 1993
• Orlandi, Enzo en Mario Rivoire (ed.), Onsterfelijke Vrouwen (deel 3), Spaarnestad, Haarlem, 1970
Point de Vue (Images du Monde), Point de Vue, Créteil

Elisabeth, Erzherzogin von Österreich

Published: 25 Dec 2006
Last update: 25 Sep 2022