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Empress Elizabeth of Austria Is Assassinated (1898) Options
Posted: Sunday, September 10, 2017 12:00:00 AM
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Empress Elizabeth of Austria Is Assassinated (1898)

Renowned for her beauty, Elizabeth of Bavaria married her cousin, Emperor Francis Joseph of Austria, but disliked the rigid etiquette of the Viennese court. She therefore spent much of her life wandering abroad. In 1898, an Italian anarchist stabbed the 60-year-old empress in the chest with a sharpened file while she was travelling in Geneva, killing her. Her domestic life is said to been an unhappy one, marred by family tragedies like the death of her only son in what sensational incident? More...
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Posted: Sunday, September 10, 2017 9:33:58 AM

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Elisabeth of Bavaria
Elisabeth of Bavaria
Elisabeth of Austria
Erzsebet kiralyne photo 1867.jpg
A photograph of Elisabeth on the day of her coronation as Queen of Hungary, 8 June 1867
Empress consort of Austria;
Apostolic queen consort of Hungary; Queen consort of Bohemia and Croatia
Tenure 24 April 1854 – 10 September 1898
Coronation 8 June 1867
Spouse Franz Joseph I of Austria
Archduchess Sophie
Archduchess Gisela
Rudolf, Crown Prince of Austria
Archduchess Marie-Valerie
Full name
Elisabeth Amalie Eugenie
House House of Habsburg-Lorraine
House of Wittelsbach
Father Duke Maximilian Joseph in Bavaria
Mother Princess Ludovika of Bavaria
Born 24 December 1837
Munich, Kingdom of Bavaria (now part of Germany)
Died 10 September 1898 (aged 60)
Geneva, Switzerland (assassinated)
Religion Roman Catholic

Elisabeth of Austria (24 December 1837 – 10 September 1898) was the wife of Franz Joseph I, and therefore both Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary. She also held the titles of Queen of Bohemia and Croatia, among others.[1] From an early age, she was called Sisi by family and friends.

Although Elisabeth had a limited (but significant) influence on Austro-Hungarian politics,[citation needed] she became an historical icon. The Empress is now thought to have been a non-conformist who abhorred conventional court protocol, and was a free spirit, who valued an individual sense of freedom above anything else. Following the suicide of her son Rudolf, she withdrew from public life. She was murdered by an anarchist in Geneva, Switzerland in 1898. Elisabeth is the longest serving consort of Austria.
Duchess in Bavaria
Elisabeth at 11 years, her brother Karl Theodor, Duke in Bavaria, and their dog "Bummerl" at Possenhofen Castle

Born Her Royal Highness Duchess Elisabeth Amalie Eugenie on 24 December 1837 in Munich, Bavaria, she was the fourth child of Duke Maximilian Joseph in Bavaria and Princess Ludovika of Bavaria. Maximilian was considered to be rather peculiar; he had a childish love of circuses and traveled the Bavarian countryside to escape his duties. The family home was at Possenhofen Castle, far from the protocols of court. "Sisi" and her brothers and sisters grew up in a very unrestrained and unstructured environment, she often skipped her lessons to go riding about the countryside.[2]

In 1853, Princess Sophie of Bavaria, the domineering mother of 23-year-old Emperor Francis Joseph, preferring to have a niece as a daughter-in-law rather than a stranger, arranged a marriage between her son and her sister Ludovika's eldest daughter, Helene. Although the couple had never met, Franz Joseph's obedience was taken for granted by the archduchess, who once was described as "the only man in the Hofburg"[3] for her authoritarian manner. The Duchess and Helene were invited to journey to resort of Bad Ischl, Upper Austria to receive his formal proposal of marriage. Fifteen-year-old Sisi accompanied her mother and sister and they traveled from Munich in several coaches. They arrived late as the Duchess, prone to migraine, had to interrupt the journey and the coach with their gala dresses never did arrive. The family was still in mourning over the death of an aunt so they were dressed in black and unable to change to more suitable clothing before meeting the young Emperor. While black did not suit eighteen-year-old Helene's dark coloring, it made her younger sister's blonder looks more striking by contrast.[4]

Helene was a pious, quiet young woman, and she and Franz Joseph felt ill at ease in each other's company, but Franz Joseph was instantly infatuated with Elisabeth. He did not propose to Helene, but defied his mother and informed her that if he could not have Elisabeth, he would not marry at all. Five days later their betrothal was officially announced. The couple were married eight months later in Vienna at the Augustinerkirche on 24 April 1854.
The young Elisabeth shortly after becoming Austrian Empress (by Amanda Bergstedt, 1855)

After enjoying an informal and unstructured childhood, Elisabeth, who was shy and introverted by nature, and more so among the stifling formality of Habsburg court life, had difficulty adapting to the Hofburg and its rigid protocols and strict etiquette. Within a few weeks, Elisabeth started to display health problems: she had fits of coughing and became anxious and frightened whenever she had to descend a narrow steep staircase.[5]

She was surprised to find she was pregnant and gave birth to her first child, a daughter, Archduchess Sophie of Austria (1855–1857), just ten months after her wedding. Princess Sophie, who often referred to Elisabeth as a "silly young mother",[6] not only named the child (after herself) without consulting the mother, but took complete charge of the baby, refusing to allow Elisabeth to breastfeed or otherwise care for her own child. When a second daughter, Archduchess Gisela of Austria (1856–1932), was born a year later, she took her away from Elisabeth as well.[7]

The fact that she had not produced a male heir made Elisabeth feel more unwanted than ever in the palace. One day she found a pamphlet on her desk with the following words underlined:

...The natural destiny of a Queen is to give an heir to the throne. If the Queen is so fortunate as to provide the State with a Crown-Prince this should be the end of her ambition – she should by no means meddle with the government of an Empire, the care of which is not a task for women... If the Queen bears no sons, she is merely a foreigner in the State, and a very dangerous foreigner, too. For as she can never hope to be looked on kindly here, and must always expect to be sent back whence she came, so will she always seek to win the King by other than natural means; she will struggle for position and power by intrigue and the sowing of discord, to the mischief of the King, the nation, and the Empire...[8]

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Her children

Sisi also soon learned how malicious and domineering her mother-in-law could be. Disapproving of Sisi, Sophie named Sisi’s first child (1855-57) after herself and insisted on taking control of the child. Sisi did not have a say in her child’s upbringing. In fact, her first three children would be reared by her mother-in-law. When her firstborn died of typhus at age two, Sisi was devastated, falling into a deep depression. Her second child was also a daughter, named Archduchess Gisela of Austria (1856-1932). To the Habsburg clan’s relief, Sisi finally gave birth to the heir to the throne, Archduke and Crown Prince Rudolf (1858-1889). Sisi made sure she would remain in control of her fourth child’s upbringing, though. Marie Valerie (1868-1924) was born in Budapest, where she was also baptized. She was educated in the Hungarian language.

The death of Crown Prince Rudolf

Rudolf’s life would end tragically as the 30-year old committed suicide with his young mistress Mary Vetsera during 1889 at his hunting lodge in Mayerling. Some sources claim that the two devised a suicide pact after Rudolf’s father insisted they end their relationship. The heir’s death would have a significant influence on Austrian politics. After his suicide, Sisi only wore black, carrying a white parasol and hiding her face behind a fan.

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