Elisabeth of Austria-Hungary

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Empress Elisabeth of Austria (portrait of Franz Xaver Winterhalter , oil on canvas, 1865; the artist also created a portrait of Emperor Franz Joseph I ). In this most famous portrait, the empress wears the so-called edelweiss stars in her hair.

Elisabeth of Austria , born as Elisabeth Amalie Eugenie von Wittelsbach, Duchess in Bavaria (born  December 24, 1837 in Munich , Kingdom of Bavaria , †  September 10, 1898 in Geneva , Switzerland ), was a princess from the ducal branch of the Pfalz-Zweibrücken-Birkenfeld line -Gelnhausen of the House of Wittelsbach , through her marriage to her cousin Franz Joseph I. Empress of Austria from 1854 and Apostolic Queen of Hungary from 1867. The siblings called her "Sisi"; since the Ernst Marischka films she has also been known as "Sissi".

The empress's coat of arms with a griffin as a shield holder


Childhood and adolescence

Siblings Sisis, from left: Sophie , Max Emanuel , Karl Theodor , Helene , Ludwig , Mathilde and Marie
Eleven year old Elisabeth with her brother Karl Theodor and her dog "Bummerl" in Possenhofen

Elisabeth comes from the line of the dukes in Bavaria . She was the second daughter of Duke Max Joseph in Bavaria (1808-1888) and Princess Ludovika Wilhelmine (1808-1892). Her maternal grandparents were the Bavarian King Maximilian and his second wife, Princess Karoline .

Elisabeth was born on Christmas Eve 1837 at a quarter to eleven o'clock in Munich in the Herzog-Max-Palais on Ludwigstrasse . The fact that she already had a visible milk tooth at birth was considered a happy omen. Two days later, on December 26, 1837, she was baptized in the chapel of the Herzog-Max-Palais. Her godmothers were her aunts, Crown Princess Elisabeth Ludovika of Prussia and Crown Princess Amalie of Saxony , both sisters of their mother, as well as her cousin Eugénie von Hohenzollern-Hechingen , who held the girl over the baptismal font. Elisabeth was only a few days old when her father set off on a journey of several months to the Orient .

Elisabeth grew up with her growing siblings in Munich and on Lake Starnberg , where the family and Possenhofen Castle had owned a country estate since 1834. Through the portrayal in the Sissi films, the narrative has established that the father, Duke Max, had a more intimate relationship with his children than the mother. In the biography of Duchess Ludovika, however, the historian Christian Sepp points out that the father rarely spent time with his family and showed little interest in his children. Even contemporaries noticed that "the Duchess [...] almost always looks after the children and the house by herself". As a child and adolescent, Elisabeth is said to have shown little interest in the subject matter. She is said to have been rather restless and could only sit still for a short time. Her preferences included horse riding, drawing, and writing verse.

Elisabeth was brought up together with her sister Helene , who was three and a half years her senior . Duchess Ludovika had appointed an Englishwoman named Mary Newbold as governess for the two girls, who looked after the girls for four years. How formative this time was can be seen from the fact that the sisters used English as a secret language until the end of their lives. When Mary Newbold retired from service in 1846 because of marriage, Duchess Ludovika decided to have her eldest daughters raised separately by two governesses, as she had observed that the elder Helene dominated the gentle and friendly Elisabeth. With this, Luise von Wulffen took over the upbringing, to which Elisabeth developed a close bond.

Elisabeth had a good relationship with her siblings, which, however, cooled in the course of life. She fell out with her younger sister Marie when she heard that she was spreading the rumor of a secret love affair between Sisis. At first she also had a very close relationship with her youngest sister Sophie , which, however, broke deep when Sophie wanted to get a divorce in order to marry a bourgeois doctor. When the Sophie family was admitted to a sanatorium for alleged mental illness, Elisabeth commented on this with two poems full of “wickedness and malicious glee”. She had a special relationship with her brother Karl Theodor , whom the family called Gackel .

Engagement in Ischl and marriage in Vienna

In 1853, Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria was 23 years old and unmarried. His mother, Archduchess Sophie , was looking for a suitable bride for her son. She had wanted to marry him first to Princess Maria Anna , the niece of the Prussian king, then to his cousin, Princess Sidonie of Saxony , but failed in the first case because of resistance from Berlin and in the second case because of Franz Joseph's negative attitude.

In historical literature it has repeatedly been claimed that Archduchess Sophie and her younger sister Ludovika forged a plan to marry Duchess Helene in Bavaria , Ludovika's eldest daughter, to the emperor. Source research has shown, however, that there is no contemporary evidence to support this claim. Gabriele Praschl-Bichler, who evaluated private letters from the Habsburgs at that time, comes to this conclusion, as does the historian Christian Sepp, who evaluated the existing correspondence from Duchess Ludovika.

In August 1853, Emperor Franz Joseph celebrated his birthday in Ischl in the Salzkammergut . Many relatives were invited to this event, including Duchess Ludovika in Bavaria with her two oldest daughters, Helene and Elisabeth, who arrived in Ischl on the evening of August 16. That evening, the Austrian Emperor fell in love with his 15-year-old cousin Elisabeth and two days later, on his birthday, asked Duchess Ludovika through his mother whether she wanted to marry him. The next day, the emperor received Elisabeth's approval and the engagement was announced publicly. On the day of the engagement, Ludovika expressed her concern about the young age of her daughter in a letter to a relative: "She is so young, so inexperienced, but I hope that this great youth will be tolerated!".

Duke Maximilian in Bavaria, the bride's father, gave his daughter a dowry of 50,000 guilders, as well as clothes and jewelry. On April 20, 1854, Elisabeth left Munich and traveled to Straubing an der Donau, where the bride and her mother boarded the Bavarian paddle steamer "Stadt Regensburg" for the journey to Linz in Upper Austria . After an overnight stay, the journey on the Danube to Vienna was continued on board the new Austrian express steamer "Franz Joseph". On April 24th, the couple were married by Archbishop Joseph Othmar von Rauscher in Vienna's Augustinian Church in front of 70 bishops and prelates .

Children and upbringing

Elisabeth as a young empress
The imperial family in Gödöllő , around 1870

Less than a year after the wedding, Elisabeth was now 17 years old, the young empress gave birth to a girl who was baptized after Franz Joseph's mother Sophie Friederike . The following year daughter Gisela was born. On a trip through Hungary, both daughters fell ill with diarrhea and fever, from which two-year-old Sophie died.

Crown Prince Rudolf Franz Karl Joseph was born in 1858 . Elisabeth found it difficult to recover from the birth. Also, after the death of her first-born daughter, she showed little interest in Gisela and Rudolf. Her mother-in-law arranged for the Crown Prince to receive military training from an early age. The sensitive Rudolf suffered greatly as a result. Elisabeth advocated ending this type of training, but was initially unable to assert herself.

Their fourth and last child, a girl, was born in Buda , Hungary , in 1868 . The "Hungarian child" was named Marie Valerie Mathilde Amalie . In contrast to her two older children, Elisabeth took care of the little Archduchess more intensively. Marie Valerie was therefore also called "the only one" in the Vienna Hofburg . It was rumored that it was not Franz Joseph but the Hungarian Count Gyula Andrássy who was the father of the child. There are no doubts about the fatherhood of Franz Joseph, because Marie Valerie was very similar to the emperor in appearance and character. Elisabeth had an intimate relationship with her youngest daughter throughout her life. Marie Valerie accompanied her mother on many trips and was also free in her choice of the groom. It is believed that Elisabeth was trying to catch up on what she had obviously failed to do with the other children.

In 1889 Rudolf and his young lover Mary Vetsera committed suicide at Mayerling Castle . This stroke of fate hit Elisabeth hard, from then on she only wore black.

Travels of the Empress

In 1860 Elisabeth suffered from a severe cough. She used the official pretext for the empress's renewed trip, the diagnosis of a lung disease and the recommendation of a cure in Madeira , to break out of court life and for the first of her trips abroad, which she undertook alone. As soon as she got back to Vienna, she suffered a serious relapse. The doctors suspected " pulmonary consumption " (tuberculosis). This time the Empress went to Corfu in the Ionian Sea . She liked the island very much.

When Elisabeth returned to the Viennese court after almost two years of absence, she had gone from being a shy and pale young woman to a more self-confident monarch who also made demands. The portraits of Franz Xaver Winterhalter were created during this time . The best known is the painting from 1865, which shows Elisabeth in court gala with diamond stars in her hair (see picture above in the article). She never felt comfortable at court in Vienna and used every opportunity to evade etiquette. The contemporary Princess Nora Fugger described the Empress in her biography: “The duties of representation weighed heavily on the Empress, the diamond crown pressed her head. Every splendid event, every court festival was an abomination to her. There was always something forced in her being when she attended the court festivities. [...] The Empress withdrew more and more from society, including the eyes of the people. "

The Achilleion in Corfu 2005

Over the years, Elisabeth was increasingly absent. She made numerous other trips now. In addition to Europe, she traveled to Asia Minor and North Africa , from 1867 particularly often to Hungary, her favorite island of Corfu and Great Britain . In 1885 she also traveled to the Ottoman Empire to see the remains of ancient Troy discovered by Schliemann . At the beginning of the 1880s she began to occupy herself more with Greece. Reading Alexander von Warsberg's “Odyssey Landscapes” (Second Book, Chapter 1) probably inspired Empress Elisabeth to have the Achilleion built on Corfu . Between 1889 and 1891, their Greek castle in Pompeian style , the Achilleion , was built on Corfu . In addition, she completed numerous spa stays at well-known health resorts ( see below ).

Franz Joseph had long since got used to the absence of his wife. In order to alleviate his loneliness and to weaken the expectations placed on her, the Empress arranged her husband's acquaintance with the actress Katharina Schratt in 1885 . From then on, Schratt became the emperor's contact person and confidante. This friendship was protected from any scandal by the Empress and was expressly encouraged. Even after Elisabeth's death, the emperor's friendship with Katharina Schratt remained intact, but it was never as intense as in Elisabeth's lifetime.

Emperor Franz Joseph enjoyed every rare visit to Elisabeth's court and remained on friendly terms with her throughout his life. While she was traveling through Europe, extensive correspondence arose between the imperial couple, some of which has been preserved. On the part of the emperor, his concern for Elisabeth's health and safety is particularly evident. He, who did not like boat trips, never visited her in her palace, the Achilleion , but traveled mostly in civilian clothes to Cap Martin , one of Elisabeth's favorite places to stay on the French Riviera. Countess Irma Sztáray reports on the harmonious get-together of the majesties, on numerous excursions, breakfast meals in hotels and a visit by Emperor Franz Joseph to the casino in Monte-Carlo .

In the absence of the Emperor, Empress Elisabeth continued her accustomed life: long hikes in the most remote areas and day-long boat trips on her yacht across the Mediterranean. Above all, her court ladies and her Greek reader kept her company, entertaining them with works by ancient writers as well as French and English-language literature. Elisabeth took the study of ancient and modern Greek very seriously and, according to contemporaries, spoke better Greek than all the German queens of Greece. Among other things, she translated plays such as Shakespeare's into modern Greek. According to the statements of her reader Constantin Christomanos, Greece became the “home of her soul”. In 1888 she had an anchor tattooed on her shoulder .

Coronation as Queen of Hungary

Coronation of the imperial couple in the Matthias Church in the oven. Emperor Franz Joseph and Elisabeth were dressed in Hungarian magnate costume.
Gödöllő Castle

One of the few political activities of the Empress was her endeavor to find a compromise with Hungary , which she was able to vigorously enforce at the beginning of 1867 against the wishes of her mother-in-law and large parts of the court. Hungary got its 1848 constitution back. On June 8, 1867, Emperor Franz Joseph and Empress Elisabeth were crowned King and Queen of Hungary in the Matthias Church in Ofen (from 1873 Budapest ) . The coronation was carried out by the Archbishop of Gran and Prince Primate of Hungary , János Simor .

Gödöllő Palace , which was given to the royal couple on the occasion of the coronation by the "Hungarian people", became a popular refuge for the empress in the years that followed. Elisabeth learned Hungarian and preferred Hungarian ladies-in-waiting , including Marie Festetics  , who were rejected at the Viennese court because of their origins and who remained isolated. In 1864 the Hungarian Ida von Ferenczy became her reader, with whom she developed a friendly relationship and who became the empress's closest confidante. In 1868 Franz von Nopcsa , also a Hungarian, was appointed Obersthofmeister , who served Elisabeth in this service for 36 years.

Gyula Andrássy

The Hungarian Count Gyula Andrássy was exiled because of his participation in the Hungarian Revolution in 1848 . After an amnesty , he met the Empress in an audience in 1866. As a result, Andrássy played an important role in Sisi's life and became her closest friend and personal advisor. Both were alleged to have had an affair - to this day unproven - and also that Sisi's youngest daughter was Marie Valerie Andrássy's daughter.

Trip to Geneva

Hotel Beau-Rivage in Geneva, in front of it the Elisabeth monument on the quay

Elisabeth stayed in Bad Nauheim from July 16, 1898 to cure a heart condition with a spa treatment. The Empress was said to have been anorexic for a long time and was very weak physically. However, on August 29, she fled the city without luggage and without a retinue. After a brief visit to Homburg vor der Höhe , she traveled incognito to Lake Geneva .

On September 9, 1898, she reached Geneva, where she accepted an invitation from the Rothschild family . Accompanied by her lady-in-waiting Irma Sztáray , the Empress visited the Baroness Julie Rothschild in her villa in Bellevue on Lake Geneva. The meeting was pleasant, the ladies talked animatedly in French , and at dinner Elisabeth had an astonishingly good appetite, given her eating disorder. When they finally visited the baroness's world-famous orchid farm, according to Irma Sztáray, Elisabeth is said to have said: “  Je voudrais que mon âme s'envolât vers le ciel par une toute petite ouverture de mon cœur  ” (German: “I wish my soul could get through a very small opening in my heart to slip away into heaven ”) - a poetically intended utterance, which Countess Sztáray subsequently reinterpreted as a premonition.



On September 10, 1898, the Empress left the Hotel Beau-Rivage in Geneva at around 1.30 p.m. to go to the paddle steamer Genève , with which she wanted to travel on to Caux . As she walked along the lakeside promenade Quai Mont Blanc accompanied by her lady-in-waiting Irma Sztáray , the Italian anarchist Luigi Lucheni pounced on her and stuck a sharp file into her heart. The puncture of the stiletto-shaped blade was so small that the Empress did not notice it and thought that the attacker had just punched her. She got up again, thanked all passers-by who had rushed to help, and talked to Irma Sztáray about the incident. Elisabeth walked on for ten minutes. Shortly after casting off the steamer, she finally collapsed. Her last words were supposedly: “But what happened to me?” The ship returned to the dock and the Empress was taken to her hotel on a makeshift stretcher . All attempts at resuscitation were in vain. A priest gave the sacraments of death in their hotel. The death certificate noted that Elisabeth had died at 2:40 p.m. She was 60 years old.

According to his own statement, Lucheni originally wanted to murder Prince Philippe d'Orléans during interrogation . Since he had changed his travel plans at short notice and did not arrive in Geneva, Lucheni chose Elisabeth as his victim after he had learned of her presence in Geneva. Lucheni was sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder. On October 19, 1910, he was found hanged on a belt in a dark cell .


The last two pages of Empress Elisabeth's autopsy report (French)
Last resting place of Elisabeth in Bavaria, Emperor Franz Josef I and Crown Prince Rudolf in the Franz-Josephs-Gruft, Kaisergruft, Kapuzinerkirche in Vienna

The inquest of the Empress was scheduled for September 11 1898th The representatives of the monarchy in Geneva had made their approval dependent from the outset on the consent of the court, which only arrived by telegram at noon for a partial autopsy, although the court would have gladly avoided such a thing. The autopsy was carried out by Hippolyte Jean Goss, Professor of Forensic Medicine at the University of Geneva , Auguste Réverdin, Professor at the Medical Faculty of Geneva, and Louis Mègerand, Associate Professor at the Medical Faculty of Geneva. They had been commissioned by M. Lèchet, investigating magistrate of the Republic and the Canton of Geneva. Present were Countess Sztáray, Lady-in-waiting to Her Majesty, Count von Kuefstein, Permanent Representative of Austria in Bern, General Berzeviczy, Chamberlain to Her Majesty, Navazza, Attorney General of the Republic and the Canton of Geneva, Mayor, Professor at the Medical Faculty in Geneva, and the doctor Etienne Golay. The latter two had been found dead the day before.

The autopsy report shows that the murder tool penetrated the chest to a depth of 8.5 centimeters. There was a small, triangular wound on the upper part of the left breast, which barely allowed three to four drops of blood to flow. The instrument had broken the fourth rib and penetrated the chest through the fourth space between the ribs . It pierced the lower edge of the upper lung (which covers the heart) and hit the anterior surface of the left ventricle an inch from the descending branch of the coronary artery. The left ventricle was drilled completely, the posterior septum of this left ventricle showed a triangular opening about four millimeters in diameter. In the pericardium , a large effusion was clotted blood . Because the partial autopsy was only permitted, the heart itself was not opened. A pericardial tamponade was determined to be the cause of death .

The general remarks describe the corpse, according to which the face was calm and without muscle tension. “The skin was still lukewarm, the rigor mortis had not yet set in. Pale yellow complexion. The hair is auburn. Gray-blue eyes . Good bit . The subcutaneous fatty tissue is poorly developed with a thickness of 1.72 centimeters. On the abdomen are old, pearly stretch marks . In the center of the wound, at the deepest point of the wound, there are indications of the incipient rigor mortis. ”The coroners found no discharge from the nose or mouth , but hunger edema and - to the later horror of the court - a tattoo , an anchor on her shoulder, hers Should express affection for the sea.


Her wish to find her final resting place "by the sea, preferably in Corfu " was not granted. When the body was transferred to Vienna in an ice-filled coffin in their saloon car , all officials of the empire along the route were obliged to pay their respects to the dead on the train. The burial took place in Vienna's Capuchin Crypt on September 17th . Elisabeth's embalmed body rests completely in the Capuchin crypt. This is an exception, because most of the Habsburg rulers had their corpses cut up: the body was buried in the Capuchin Crypt, the heart in the Augustinian Church and the entrails in St. Stephen's Cathedral . Elisabeth's sarcophagus now stands next to those of Franz Joseph I and Crown Prince Rudolf.

Equestrian sport

Empress Elisabeth riding the hurdles

Elisabeth was an excellent and daring rider from a young age, mastering all disciplines in the side saddle . She rode all of her horses herself. In Vienna she regularly trained dressage at the Spanish Riding School , followed by extensive, fast cross-country rides in Hungary. In Gödöllő she often accompanied Count Nikolaus Esterházy on her rides. He was also her preferred companion ( Master ) on horseback hunting in Hungary . In 1874 she made her first fox hunt on English soil. Between 1876 and 1882 she traveled several times to England with a large retinue and a number of good hunting horses to take part in the English fox hunts in the company of the famous hunter Bay Middleton . In 1879 and 1880 she rode not only fox but also deer hunts in Ireland.

Elisabeth became one of the most famous hunting riders of her time. It is still known as such in England, Hungary and Ireland today. When Bay married Middleton and no longer accompanied her on the hunts, Sisi gave up parforce hunts , also due to back problems , as she was no longer having fun without Middleton. All the horses were sold and their stables abandoned in the various countries. Instead, she went on long hikes, stretched out for up to eight hours, to the chagrin of the ladies-in-waiting, who were now selected for service based on ability to walk. Also fencing was a hobby in the 44-year-old Empress, in addition to the morning gymnastics and hiking.

Elisabeth's poems

The dying Achilles in the park of the "Achilleion", which Ernst Herter created for Sisi

Even as a young girl, Elisabeth liked to write poetry. The oldest poem that has been passed down by her comes from the year 1852, when the Duchess was 15 years old. This poem appeared in an auction in Munich in May 2018 in the estate of a lady-in-waiting who was in the service of Queen Marie of Bavaria and deals with Elisabeth's love for her Bavarian homeland.

Poems played a central role in Elisabeth's life. As a grown woman, she wrote a poetic diary. In bad times, she used poetry to express her feelings. This was recommended to her by the Romanian Queen, Princess Elisabeth zu Wied and her favorite daughter Marie Valerie. The Empress maintained a friendly relationship with the Romanian Queen, who herself wrote under a pseudonym “Carmen Sylva”. She told Elisabeth that writing poetry was a good lightning rod.

Elisabeth adored the poet Heinrich Heine (1797–1856), who was no longer alive at this time, and oriented herself to his way of writing poetry. The admiration went far beyond the usual love of a literary friend. She knew long passages by Heine by heart and also dealt intensively with the life of the poet, whom she valued both literarily and as a critical mind. She felt like his disciple and believed that the master was dictating the verses into her pen. Once she even told her daughter Marie-Valerie that Heine had appeared to her in a dream. Heine's work influenced her thematically, for example, in the description of her own restlessness and in the social criticism that can be found in some of her poems. When, in a time of increasing anti-Semitic currents , she campaigned for the erection of a memorial for Heinrich Heine in his native Düsseldorf , she was heavily criticized (although without direct attribution, but unequivocally aimed at her person). Most notably in the press by Edouard Drumont and Georg von Schönerer that the nationalism and the Nationalists were connected. But they worshiped the Iliad of Homer , what their passion for ancient Greece and Achill explained. In 1891 she had a Heine monument erected by Louis Hasselriis in the park of her “Achilleion” castle on Corfu . Over time, poetry became therapy for Elisabeth.

Beauty cult of the empress

Empress Elisabeth, painting by Winterhalter . The existence of the two so-called “intimate” portraits was not publicly known until the end of the monarchy, as they were hung in the emperor's study and were only intended for his eyes.
This second portrait of the Empress von Winterhalter was the Emperor's favorite portrait and is opposite his work desk (1864)

Men and women of their time raved about Elisabeth's beauty, but were equally drawn to her grace, charisma and the mysterious aura that surrounded the empress. Elisabeth was considered one of the most beautiful women of her time and was well aware of this. Her beauty care took up a large part of her daily routine. Elisabeth was particularly proud of her thick hair. Ahead of her time, she followed a real cult of the body, did a lot of sports and paid great attention to her figure. Through strict diets and tight corsets , she brought her wasp waist (46 cm) into shape and became a fashion icon. In contrast to other women of her time, Elisabeth strictly rejected strong make-up or perfume. She attached great importance to naturalness. Only her head of hair was sprayed with scented essences.

Hair cult

The master who looked after the imperial hair was called Fanny (Franziska) Angerer (married Feifalik, later court councilor) and was a hairdresser at the Vienna Burgtheater . There the Empress had noticed the imaginative hairstyles of the actresses , and she had quickly poached the hairdresser . Fanny Angerer was also the creator of the imperial crown of hair, the so-called wanted letter hairstyle , which was copied by Elisabeth's sisters and at other European courts.

Washing the hair usually took a whole day and was done about every three weeks with new essences (preferably cognac and egg ). Elisabeth could get irascible when the hairdresser showed her a comb with "dead" (fallen) hair. That's why the hair artist had an adhesive tape attached to the inside of the apron to hide any hair that had fallen out. Due to the strong physical resemblance of the two women, the Empress occasionally used her hairdresser - especially abroad - as a double .

On the occasion of her wedding, Elisabeth received diamond stars as hair accessories, which she could wear individually or as a tiara . The stars had eight or ten points and were about 3.5 cm tall, domed, and lavishly set with large diamonds , some with pearls . They were made in various jewelry and jewelery studios, including by the court jeweler Alexander Emanuel Köchert . The set shown on the portrait of Winterhalter consisted of a total of 27 stars. A ten-pointed star with a Mabé pearl in the middle was stolen by Gerald Blanchard in 1998 and reappeared in 2007 after the master thief was arrested in Canada . In 2008 he came back to Vienna and has been a permanent exhibit in the Sisi Museum since 2010.

dental care

Elisabeth must have spent large sums of money on maintaining and caring for her teeth. The dentist Raimund Günther (1833–1913) was court dentist from 1867 and in 1890 was ennobled to Noble von Kronmyrth. He visited the Empress of Austria at regular intervals. Some of his invoices are preserved in the Austrian State Archives . He also treated Sisi's youngest daughter, Archduchess Marie Valerie . The Empress obtained various products for dental care and cleaning , such as toothbrushes and tooth powder , from Raimund Günther . She was also treated for four years by the US celebrity dentist Levi Spear Burridge (1829–1887), as well as by the court dentist Otto Zsigmondy (1829–1899). There was a rumor that the Empress was wearing a denture , but in her autopsy report of September 11, 1898, the entry Bonne dentition ( French : good dentition) can be found, which refutes this.


Empress Elisabeth with her wolfhound, photograph by Rabending around 1869

Empress Elisabeth ate relatively little. With an orange diet, egg diet, milk diet, salted raw egg whites instead of lunch and now and then a violet ice cream , she kept her body weight constant. She allowed broth to be cooked from squeezed veal juice. Her weight was checked three times a day and entered on a list. At a height of 172 cm, she had practically never exceeded 50 kg, so she was underweight throughout her adult life with a BMI below 17 . The circumference of the waist, thighs and calves was also accurately measured. During her hunting stay in England in 1878, the Empress let her best friend Ida Ferenczy know via her lady-in-waiting Marie Festetics in a letter dated January 30th that "she now has a huge appetite and eats so much that she lies on the sofa like a boa constrictor" . Hunger edema occurred as a result of the fasts . To keep her face youthful, she put pressed beef on her face overnight. That was not unusual at the time; many women then resorted to these measures.

Because of the diets and her passion for exercise, it is claimed that Elisabeth suffered from anorexia nervosa (anorexia). Reports that Elisabeth liked to eat, especially sweets that she bought at k. u. k. Purveyors to the court Demel or at Café Sacher , who preferred hearty dishes, can be considered credible, as Elisabeth is said to have seldom consumed these dishes and then hiked for hours and did gymnastics. At times when she refused to eat almost anything, she also showed signs of depression . This is particularly believed to be the case for the first few years of marriage and the years after their son's suicide.

do gymnastics

In order to maintain her figure and because of her inner restlessness, she sometimes went on long hikes every day at a fast pace, with which her court ladies could hardly keep up. In addition, in each of their domiciles there was a gym with various devices, with rings , bars and dumbbells . The gymnastics equipment can still be viewed in the premises of the Vienna Hofburg.

Spa stays

Elisabeth spent numerous spa stays in the most famous European spas . For example, the Empress stayed six times for a cure in Bad Gastein (from 1886 to 1893) and six times in the Bavarian State Baths in Bad Kissingen or in the State Baths in Bad Brückenau . She came to Bad Kissingen for the first time in 1862 at the age of 24 on June 2, 1862, then three more times in June 1863, in June 1864 (in the year of the so-called "Kaiserkur") and in July 1865. The last two spa stays were in May 1897 and finally shortly before her murder in April 1898. The last time she lived in the "Villa Monbijou" on Altenberg . She used the pseudonym "Countess von Hohenems" for all spa stays , although her true identity was well known in the spa. The pseudonym only served her to escape the official protocol and to appear as a private person.

On her arrival in 1862, the Empress was accompanied by Major General Alfred Graf von Königsegg-Aulendorf (1817–1898) and his wife Pauline, Chief Chamberlain to the Empress, Councilor and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Heinrich Fischer (1814–1874) and from her lady-in-waiting Caroline Countess von Hunyady (1836–1907), the daughter of the First Court Master Josef Graf von Hunyady , as well as from maids of honor, house officers and servants from Vienna (25 people). At that time she stayed in the hotel "Carl von Hess", today's " Kaiserhof Victoria ", on the spa promenade. During their stay at the spa in 1864, they accompanied the Emperor's adjutant general Franz Graf Folliot de Crenneville , major general Alfred Graf von Königsegg-Aulendorf and his wife Pauline, court master prince Constantin zu Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst , Sisi's sister princess Helene von Thurn und Taxis , Caroline countess von Hunyady, chambermaids , House officers and servants from Vienna (49 people). The imperial couple stayed at the Carl von Hess hotel again. Her spa doctor in Bad Kissingen was Alfred Sotier , whom she trusted so much that she had his prescriptions sent to other health resorts for pharmacists there .

Elisabeth's ladies-in-waiting

The following list contains women in the service of the Empress, each listed chronologically by year of birth. The list does not claim to be complete.

Court ladies

Was the reader of the Empress

Personal hairdresser and confidante



The first Sisi film was a silent film (Empress Elisabeth of Austria) . It was shot on original locations by director Rolf Raffé in 1920. The main actress was Carla Nelsen. Countess Marie Louise von Larisch-Wallersee , who was 62 years old at the time, but still played her own role, although the actress of her aunt Elisabeth in the film was only 23 years old according to historical facts, was also involved in the script and in obtaining the filming permits was. A photo from this film - Elisabeth on her deathbed - was reproduced and sold as a postcard by the Austrian State Printing House for decades and passed on as an original for biographies by the portrait archive of the National Library. It was not until 1979 that the author Brigitte Sokop ( Countess Larisch… confidante of the Empress - ostracized according to Mayerling. Böhlau 1985, 4th edition 2006) uncovered this error.

In 1931 the film Elisabeth von Österreich appeared with Lil Dagover in the title role. In other early films of the 1920s and 1930s, Elisabeth was mostly a secondary character, as the wife of Emperor Franz Joseph or as the mother of Crown Prince Rudolf.

The first cinematic adaptation of the Singspiel was done by Josef von Sternberg , who directed the 1936 film The King Steps Out . Popular opera singer Grace Moore played the lead role of Cissy . The film was fairly successful, but until the trilogy from the 1950s it remained rather the exception, as it portrayed the Empress as young and fun-loving.

Jean Cocteau took on the dark side of her character in his play L'Aigle aux deux Têtes (Eng. The double-headed eagle ). At the end of the 1940s, when plans for a film were made, Greta Garbo was slated for the lead role. Production was quite advanced when the money ran out in the end.

In German-speaking countries, the image of Empress Elisabeth is shaped by the films in the Sissi trilogy with Romy Schneider in the lead role in 1955, 1956 and 1957. A compilation of all three films was released in 1962 under the title Forever My Love The overall response was restrained.

As the only congenial friend of the fairy tale king Ludwig II , Elisabeth was portrayed in 1955 by the actress Ruth Leuwerik in Helmut Käutner's monumental film Ludwig II. - Shine and the End of a King . Also in 1955, a still unmarried Sisi could be seen in a supporting role in the film Königswalzer in the form of Linda Geiser .

In 1973 Romy Schneider appeared again as Empress Elisabeth in Ludwig II of Luchino Visconti . There she creates the more realistic image of a capricious, distant Elisabeth, who no longer had anything in common with “Sissi” from the 1950s.

A little marginally, Elisabeth appeared in several films that focused on the fate of her son Crown Prince Rudolf. She was played by Gabrielle Dorziat in the 1936 film Mayerling , and by Ava Gardner in the 1968 film of the same name . In Crown Prince Rudolf's last love from 1956, Lil Dagover played the disgruntled empress again, Mijou Kovacs in the Austro-Hungarian two-part TV series Der Kronprinz (1989) , Sandra Ceccarelli in the TV production Kronprinz Rudolf (2006) .

A satirical confrontation with the cult figure Sissi includes the films Sissi - Bag Years of an Empress by Walter Bockmayer from 1989 and the film satire Sisi and the Emperor's Kiss from 1991, in which Vanessa Wagner took on the role of Empress. In 1998 the series Princess Sissi was broadcast on German television for the first time. It shows the story of the Sisi in a very different way, prepared for children and with a happy ending. In 2007, Lissi und der Wilde Kaiser by Michael "Bully" Herbig came to the cinemas, who according to its creator should be a homage to the Sissi films.

In 2009 the Austrian director Xaver Schwarzenberger shot a new film with the title Sisi with Cristiana Capotondi in the title role. In 2012 the movie Sisi came out ... and I'll tell you the truth in the cinemas.


The documentary Sisi - myth of a fairy tale princess was shot by Luise Wagner-Roos 2008 and the end of 2008 as part of the ZDF television series Terra X broadcast. Mia Florentine Weiss portrayed Sisi in scenes from the game.


On 23 December 1932 at the Theater an der Wien , the Singspiel-like operetta in Vienna Sissy by Fritz Kreisler with a libretto of the brothers Ernst and Hubert Marischka premiered.


Since 1992 the musical Elisabeth has been performed by Michael Kunze and Sylvester Levay under the direction of Harry Kupfer in Vienna (Theater an der Wien) and other European cities as well as in Japan and Korea. In 2012 the musical celebrates its 20th anniversary on stage. From September 5, 2012, the Vereinigte Bühnen Wien brought the original production to the stage in an anniversary version in the Raimund Theater in Vienna .

In 2008 Sissi became. The musical by George Amade (music) and Jean Müller (text) premiered in Nanjing . The European premiere followed in 2012 in the Kleiner Festspielhaus in Salzburg .

Technical Museum Vienna

In 1873 a court saloon car and a sleeping car were built especially for the empress by the renowned Prague company Ringhoffer. After the Empress' death, these wagons were no longer used for reasons of piety and were stored in the train depot at the Westbahnhof.

The sleeping car designated as HZ0011 was given to the k. k. Historical Museum of the Austrian Railways and has been preserved to this day. It can be seen in the original in the Technical Museum, complete with interior furnishings and fittings.

Sisi Museum in Vienna

Bust of Elisabeth, Viktor Tilgner

A Sisi Museum was set up in the Vienna Hofburg right next to the Kaiser apartments. The focus of the permanent exhibition is the private life of the Empress: Elisabeth as a mother, as a poet and as a traveler.

Until recently, the triangular file with which Elisabeth was murdered by the anarchist Luigi Lucheni in 1898 was also on display . This is now in the Josephinum, the Institute for the History of Medicine at the University of Vienna. In addition to many personal items such as her scales, one of the famous hair stars, pictures from her beauty album and her diet journal, a replica of her imperial saloon car can also be viewed.

Imperial villa in Bad Ischl

Originally, the imperial mother Sophie commissioned the building with two wings, so that the building still has a floor plan like an E. The imperial couple resided in Ischl in summer. Emperor Franz Joseph ruled Austria-Hungary from there and pursued his favorite occupation, hunting. The empress visited the city's brine baths . The imperial villa is still owned by the Salvator family of Habsburg-Lothringen and is now open to the public. A monument commemorates the empress. A guided tour through the working and living rooms of the imperial couple is possible.

Sisi exhibition in Unterwittelsbach

In the moated castle Unterwittelsbach ("Sisi-Schloss"), the former hunting lodge of Max in Bavaria , in Unterwittelsbach near Aichach in the Augsburg area, a Sisi exhibition with annually changing topics takes place between May and November.

Sisi Museum in Possenhofen

There is a small Sisi Museum in Possenhofen am Starnberger See , Bavaria , which is open in the summer months. Possenhofen Castle, where Sisi grew up, is privately owned and can only be viewed from the outside.

Sisi path of the Wagenburg in Vienna

The wagon castle located in the Schönbrunn Palace area shows numerous objects in the form of a permanent exhibition that document Elisabeth's life from her wedding to her death, such as her collection car as a bride, the cour train of her wedding dress, the golden imperial car that she used at her coronation in Budapest, her only surviving riding saddle, a black court dress from later years or the black hearse with which her corpse was taken to the Capuchin crypt.

Sisi will for refugees

The Empress “(left) a will [...] that favors the needy and persecuted to this day. […] According to Noel Calhoun (Deputy Head of UNHCR Ukraine) the money [check for 15,000 euros] will go to an existing UNHCR program in Ukraine that provides refugees with language courses and vocational training to help them make a living earn. ”The money“ came from the sale of a diary that Sisi wrote in the 1880s. She was critical of the not very progressive monarchy and had the diary not kept in the Austrian archives, but with the Swiss government with a publication embargo of 60 years. "

"In 1980, the Swiss Federal Council decided that UNHCR would be the best recipient of Sisi's legacy, and for this reason the UN High Commissioner for Refugees regularly receives royalties from Sisi's diary, which was published by the publishing house of the Austrian Academy of Sciences ."

“Sisi's will is addressed to 'a dear future soul' and asks that the proceeds from her diary will benefit 'the well-being of the politically condemned and their relatives in need'. She predicts that 'in 60 years, as little as today, happiness and peace, that is freedom, will rule on our little planet' ".



In the Munich district of Schwabing , close to their birthplace, are named after her Elizabeth Street and Elisabethmarkt on Elisabeth Square.


Photograph of Empress Sisi framed by a hand-painted cartouche on an invitation from 1863 to the general assembly of the German Railway Association in Salzburg and the portrait of Franz Joseph I.

Today there is hardly a city in Austria that does not have a street or a square named after it. In Vienna there are or were Elisabethstrasse (1st district, named 1862), Elisabethgasse (16th district, named 1875, part of Brunnengasse since 1894 ), Elisabethstrasse (21st district, named 1896, from 1901 Kaiserin-Elisabeth-Gasse , since 1919 Mengergasse ), Elisabethpromenade (9, district, named in 1903, since 1919 Rossauer Lände ), Elisabethpromenade (23rd district, named in 1908, closed in 1952), Elisenstrasse (one of her nicknames was Elise) in the 23rd district, Elisabethallee ( 12th and 13th district, named in 1918) and Elisabethstrasse (13th district, date unknown, since 1955 Lainzerbachstrasse ).

In her memory, the Elisabeth Chapel of the Mexican Church was built in Vienna , financed by a fundraising collection of the Red Cross , of which she was the first protector.

In Vienna the Kaiserin-Elisabeth-Spital and the Kaiserin-Elisabeth-Wöchnerinnenheim were named after her.

The largest police prison in Vienna, the police building Rossauer Lände , was popularly called "Liesl" because it is located on the former Kaiserin-Elisabeth-Promenade , which is now called Rossauer Lände.

In 1901, the city ​​of Salzburg renamed the Froschheim district to Elisabeth-Vorstadt in honor of Empress Elisabeth .

Part of the Austrian Western Railway (Vienna – Linz – Salzburg – Zell am See – Wörgl –Innsbruck – Bregenz – Lindau), namely the route Wien Westbahnhof –Linz – Wels – Salzburg – Bischofshofen – Zell am See – Saalfelden– Wörgl Hauptbahnhof (together with the section from Wels to Passau), forms the Empress Elisabeth Railway operated by the Austrian Federal Railways . Again a section of the Kaiserin-Elisabeth-Bahn, namely the section Salzburg Hbf – Wörgl Hbf, is named after its second daughter Giselabahn or Salzburg-Tiroler-Bahn .

On the Hochschneeberg there is an Empress Elisabeth Memorial Church , which Emperor Franz Joseph had built.


In the Palmeral in Elche a special palm was dedicated to her, the Empress Palm.

Czech Republic

The Empress Elisabeth Bridge over the Elbe between Tetschen and Bodenbach was located in northern Bohemia in what is now the Czech Republic .


In the Hungarian capital Budapest , among other things, a Danube bridge ( Erzsébet híd ), a square ( Erzsébet tér ), a district ( Erzsébetváros ), an observation tower (Erzsébet-kilátó) and a section of the ring road (Erzsébet körút) on the Named Pest side.

The first Elizabeth monument was erected in Hungary in a small village, in Nyirád, where the village school still bears the name of the queen Erzsébet Királyné Általános Iskola .

Other naming

'Empress Elisabeth' (McGredy 1998) in the Rosarium in Baden near Vienna

The Danube excursion ship MS Kaiserin Elisabeth and the cruiser SMS Kaiserin Elisabeth were named after her.

In addition to the paddle steamers DS Habsburg and DS Kaiser Franz Joseph , the DS Kaiserin Elisabeth also operated on Lake Constance . All three steamers were renamed after the end of the monarchy and no longer exist today.

The asteroid (182) Elsa was named after Empress Elisabeth .

In 1998 McGredy christened a floribunda rose 'Empress Elisabeth'.

The controversial Sissi syndrome is named after Elisabeth .


Other countries


Wilhelm in Bavaria (1752-1837)
Pius August in Bavaria (1786-1837)
Maria Anna of Pfalz-Zweibrücken (1753-1824)
Max Joseph in Bavaria (1808–1888)
Ludwig Maria von Arenberg (1757–1795)
Amalie Luise von Arenberg (1789–1823)
Anne de Mailly-Nesle (1766–1789)
Elisabeth in Bavaria
Friedrich Michael of Pfalz-Birkenfeld-Bischweiler (1724–1767)
Maximilian I Joseph of Bavaria (1756-1825)
Maria Franziska Dorothea von Pfalz-Sulzbach (1724–1794)
Ludovika Wilhelmine of Bavaria (1808-1892)
Karl Ludwig von Baden (1755–1801)
Karoline von Baden (1776–1841)
Amalie of Hessen-Darmstadt (1754–1832)


Editions of Elisabeth's writings

  • Renate Daimler (Ed.): "Women should be free ...". Thoughts of the Empress Elisabeth of Austria . Brandstätter Verlag, Vienna 1998, ISBN 3-85447-812-7 .
  • Brigitte Hamann (Ed.): Empress Elisabeth - The poetic diary . Academy of Sciences, Vienna 1997, ISBN 3-7001-2681-6 .
  • Beatrix Meyer (Ed.): Empress Elisabeth in private: Letters to her most intimate confidante Ida Ferenczy, Munich 2020, ISBN 978-3962332174 .

Editions of other contemporary sources

  • Santo Cappon (Ed.): “I have no regrets!”. The notes of the Sisi murderer, Luigi Lucheni . Droemer Knaur, Munich 2000, ISBN 3-426-77484-4 .
  • Constantin Christomanos: Diary sheets [1899], Czernin, Vienna 2007, ISBN 3-7076-0178-1 .
  • Hans Flesch-Brunningen (Ed.): The last Habsburgs in eyewitness reports . Dtv, Munich 1982, ISBN 3-423-02716-9 (reprint Düsseldorf 1967).
  • Georg Nostitz-Rieneck: Letters from Emperor Franz Joseph to Empress Elisabeth. 1859-1889 . Herold-Verlag, Vienna 1966 (2 volumes)
  • Gabriele Praschl-Bichler: Our dear Sisi. The truth about Archduchess Sophie and Empress Elisabeth from previously unpublished letters . Amalthea-Verlag, Vienna 2008, ISBN 978-3-85002-637-6 .
  • Martha Schad and Horst Schad (eds.): Marie Valerie. The diary of Empress Elisabeth's favorite daughter. Piper, Munich 2006, ISBN 3-492-24364-9 .
  • Irma Countess Sztáray: From the last years of Empress Elisabeth . Amalthea-Verlag, Vienna 2004, ISBN 3-85002-518-7 .
  • Gudula Walterskirchen, Beatrix Meyer: The diary of Countess Marie Festetics - Empress Elisabeth's most intimate friend. Residence, St. Pölten 2014, ISBN 978-3-7017-3338-5 .



  • Nicole Avril: Sissi, the legendary life of an empress. a novel ("L'impératrice"). Droemer Knaur, Munich 1998, ISBN 3-426-77369-4 .
  • Marie G. Cristen: Sisi - A dream of love. Novel . Knaur, Munich 2004, ISBN 3-426-62770-1 .
  • Gaby Schuster: Sissi. A princess for the emperor . Edition Omnibus, Munich 2002
  • Klara Tschudi: Empress Elisabeth of Austria and Queen of Hungary . Reclam, Leipzig 1927.

Web links

Commons : Elisabeth of Austria-Hungary  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Christian Sepp: Ludovika. Sisi's mother and her century . Munich 2019, pp. 183/184.
  2. ^ Christian Sepp: Ludovika. Sisi's mother and her century . Munich 2019, quote: p. 202.
  3. ^ Christian Sepp: Ludovika. Sisi's mother and her century. Munich 2019, p. 236f.
  4. ^ Christian Sepp: Sophie Charlotte. Sisi's passionate sister. August Dreesbach Verlag , Munich 2014, ISBN 978-3-944334-37-0 , p. 175.
  5. Gabriele Praschl-Bichler: Our dear Sisi. The truth about Archduchess Sophie and Empress Elisabeth. With previously unpublished letters. Vienna: Amalthea 2008.
  6. ^ Christian Sepp: Ludovika. Sisi's mother and her century. Munich: August Dreesbach Verlag 2019, p. 232.
  7. ^ Christian Sepp: Ludovika. Sisi's mother and her century , p. 228
  8. Princess Nora Fugger. In the splendor of the imperial era . S. 118. Amalthea Verlag, Vienna 1932.
  9. Constantin Christomanos , Robert Holzschuh : The last Greek woman: The journey of Empress Elisabeth to Corfu in the spring of 1892: told from the diary sheets of Constantin Christomanos. Eduard Krem-Bardischewski Verlag, Aschaffenburg am Main 1996
  10. Hellmuth Vensky: Sisi, die mobbte Kaiserin zeit.de, December 24, 2012
  11. ^ Michaela Vocelka, Karl Vocelka : Sisi. Life and legend of an empress (= Beck'sche series. Volume 2829). Beck, Munich 2014, ISBN 978-3-406-66089-4 , p. 96.
  12. Marc Tribelhorn: "I would commit the act again!" In: Neue Zürcher Zeitung from September 11, 2017.
  13. Sigrid-Maria Großering : Murder in the House of Habsburg.
  14. a b The head of the murderer (Narrenturm 22) - Springer Professional Media, medicine. August 27, 2016, accessed April 19, 2020 .
  15. ^ A b Emil Niederhauser, Assassination attempt on Elisabeth, Queen of Hungary , Corvina publishing house, Budapest (1990), translated by Maria Eisenreich, p. 19. ISBN 963-13-2867-8
  16. ^ Page 1 of Empress Elisabeth's autopsy report . Postimg. Retrieved April 11, 2017.
  17. Kay Lutze, autopsy report on the body of the Empress of Austria by the Swiss authorities from 1898, Zahnärztliche Mitteilungen, Issue 02 (2015) p. 56. Retrieved on April 10, 2017.
  18. Peter Meier-Bergfeld: People, gifted for the beautiful ?: ten years as a correspondent in Austria; Reports, essays, comments, interviews . BoD - Books on Demand, 2003, ISBN 978-3-8334-0502-0 , p. 267.
  19. Klemens Polatschek: Zita's last move. In: The time. April 7, 1989. Retrieved April 12, 2017.
  20. Brigitte Hamann: Elisabeth, pp. 119 and 344 f (see literature)
  21. ^ Martha Schad: Elisabeth of Austria. Munich 2010, p. 71.
  22. ^ Christian Sepp: Ludovika. Sisi's mother and her century. Munich 2019, pp. 368 and 444. The auction took place on May 9, 2019 at the Hermann Historica auction house. It was the estate of the lady-in-waiting Blanche von Kreusser (1839–1918).
  23. ^ The poetic diary of Elisabeth of Austria
  24. Star decorations of Empress Elisabeth ( memento from September 15, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) schoenbrunn.at.
  25. Sisi-Stern: The thief came with the parachute diepresse.com, March 27, 2010.
  26. Sisi star: Original diamond star of Empress Elisabeth since January 27, 2010 in the Sisi Museum hofburg-wien.at.
  27. The Oral Health of the Majesties , Zahnärztliche Mitteilungen Heft 09 (2009), p. 214. Retrieved on April 10, 2017.
  28. Sisi's beautiful teeth , Zahnärztliche Mitteilungen, Issue 02 (2015) pp. 52–56. Retrieved April 10, 2017.
  29. ^ L'impératrice Élisabeth d'Autriche et l'art dentaire , Société française d'histoire de l'art dentaire. 2014, 19. pp. 43–47 (French). Retrieved April 10, 2017.
  30. Brigitte Hamann on Sisi's diets including violet ice cream
  31. ^ Brigitte Hamann: Elisabeth. Reluctant Empress. 12th edition 2010, p. 182.
  32. ^ Official spa lists from Bad Kissingen from the years mentioned
  33. Sisi and the Emperor's Kiss. Retrieved April 19, 2020 .
  34. Comeback of a TV Empress spiegel.de, April 15, 2009.
  35. Terra X: Sisi - Myth of a Fairytale Princess Video on YouTube (43:07 min.)
  36. Review of the documentary Sisi - Mythos einer Märchenprinzessin Benjamin Müller on quotenmeter.de, December 23, 2008
  37. ^ Sisi Museum in the Vienna Hofburg
  38. Sisi Castle www.aichach.de
  39. ^ Sisi Museum in Possenhofen
  40. Sisi Path through the Imperial Carriage Museum Vienna ( Memento from January 15, 2013 in the Internet Archive )
  41. Brigitte Hamann (Ed. :): Kaiserin Elisabeth - Das poetische Tagebuch , Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Vienna 1984, ISBN 3-7001-2681-6 .
  42. Helen Womack: The legacy of the Empress of Austria to the refugees of today , UNHCR Austria, September 30, 2019. Publication of the UNHCR Austria .
predecessor Office Successor
Maria Anna of Savoy Empress of Austria
Zita from Bourbon-Parma