Empress Sisi’s story often reads like a fairytale … usually because it’s fiction. The basics of her life do parallel those tales: a vivacious, beautiful young woman is chosen from all the lands as the love of the Austrian emperor. As a beloved Empress, she added a fresh energy to Viennese court while riding horses, maintaining her youthful glow, being a fashion icon, mingling with her people, and raising a family.
But the reality behind that lovely facade is s a little darker, a little sadder, and did not end in a “happily ever after.”
When we left Sisi in Part One, she had returned from a successful diplomatic mission to Italy with her husband, Emperor Franz Joseph, and found a rather disturbing, and anonymous (cough Aunt Sophie cough), message basically saying, “You’re replaceable until you produce a male heir.”
(Not really cool.)
Sisi did, eventually, deliver a male heir (and even helped name him, so that’s an improvement over baby Sophie and Gisela) but the joy was overshadowed by the loss of her firstborn, many years of living under Aunt Sophie’s thumb, a desire to be out of the public eye, and a growing nonchalance towards Franz Joseph. Sisi retreated into a restrictive and … um … unique personal care routine and as much extended travel as she could arrange. (Helllooooo, Corfu!) Even when she finally returned to court she realized that life as the freshly crowned Queen of Hungary was more to her liking than what being the Empress of Austria in Vienna offered her.
What Hungary also gave her was a place to give birth to and raise on her own, her fourth and final child, Valerie. But the thrill of her semi-independence and Friend-Zoned marriage was again overshadowed by tragedy when her son, Rudolf died by suicide when Sisi was 51 and Rudi was only 30.
For the remaining nine years of her life, Sisi traveled almost exclusively and retreated from public life as much as a recognizable empress with paparazzi stalking her could. Although her Aunt/Mother-in-law had passed away, the damage she had created to Sisi’s reputation in the Viennese court was long-lasting and Sisi’s See Ya Later lifestyle ignited an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality in Austria. FJ had his hands full losing territory and power, but when Sisi was assassinated by an anarchist simply for being the wrong royal at the wrong place at the wrong time, on September 10, 1889, he mourned her deeply and said, “You do not know how much I loved that woman.” Sisi was 60 years old.
Although Sisi was physically no longer alive, her image took on a life of its own. She was beautiful and kind (also very eccentric and vain) but in the collective memory of her, she became the most beautiful, generous, kind, glamorous woman the world had ever known … and when the Sisi movies came out in the 1950’s that’s the image that had a serious power boost.
Sisi is buried in the Imperial Crypt in Vienna.
Time Travel with The History Chicks
Sisi Museum in Vienna has a fantastic online collection of artifacts and articles, going would be great…but this is a good one for us keyboard travelers, we do love a good virtual tour: Sisi Museum
You can also visit the Imperial Crypt in Vienna
The comparisons to Princess Diana is pretty obvious to us, but if you would like to see all the points here is an article in Vanity Fair comparing the two, and here is an article in Town and Country of Princess Diana’s life in pictures.
We love the Court Jeweller, she really does a great job of documenting the history of royal jewels including Sisi’s famous edelweiss stars that she wore in her hair and ignited (another) fashion trend.
If you or anyone you know are having thoughts of suicide, please reach out for help. In the US, call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or visit THIS LINK for free, confidential support. In the UK you can call Samaritan’s Purse at 116 123 or text SHOUT to 85258 .
This is the site/app that we use through our libraries for movies and documentaries, KANOPY, and for ebooks and audiobooks we like Libby (Not sponsored, none of our recommendations ever are and we do not accept books in exchange for reviews.)
Here’s a little taste of the Sisi of the movies with Romy Schneider Beer, beer, beer…:
And the more contemporary (and doppelganger) Italian Sisi of 2009:
Princess Sissi was an animated series for a couple of seasons in Canada, three cheers if you can find it online, but here is the wikifandom page for it!
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Break Music: Hungarian Holiday, by Fernwood; Hypnotized, by Proper Authorities
End Song: She is looking for something, by LYNX and Janover
Music used with permission from ILicense Music