Birthday: December 24, 1837
Died At Age: 60
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Also Known As: Elisabeth Amalie Eugenie
Born Country: Germany
Born in: Munich, Germany
Famous as: Empress of Austria
Empresses & Queens
Spouse/Ex-: Franz Joseph I of Austria (m. 1854)
father: Duke Maximilian Joseph in Bavaria
mother: Princess Ludovika of Bavaria
siblings: Duchess Helene in Bavaria, Duchess Mathilde Ludovika in Bavaria, Duchess Sophie Charlotte in Bavaria, Duke in Bavaria, Duke Ludwig Wilhelm in Bavaria, Duke Maximilian Emanuel in Bavaria, Karl Theodor; Duke in Bavaria, Maria Sophie of Bavaria, Maximilian, Wilhelm Karl; Duke in Bavaria
children: Archduchess Gisela of Austria, Archduchess Marie Valerie of Austria, Archduchess Sophie of Austria, Rudolf;Crown Prince of Austria
Died on: September 10, 1898
place of death: Geneva, Switzerland
Cause of Death: Assassination
Who was Empress Elisabeth of Austria?
Empress Elisabeth was the Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary from 1854 to 1898, for nearly 44 years. She has the distinction of being the longest-serving Empress of Austria. Born in a family of nobles in Germany, she was known for being extremely beautiful in her youth. After her marriage to Emperor Franz Joseph I, she gained the reputation of being a brilliant diplomat who was instrumental in unifying Austria and Hungary. She was different from other royals owing to her interest in spending time with common folks over aristocrats. She was extremely popular in Hungary and was adored by the masses. She was fond of traveling and spent a lot of time in travels rather than in the royal court. She was assassinated by an Italian during one such journey to Geneva, Switzerland. Her private life was not as great as her public life mainly owing to her troubled relationships with her husband and mother-in-law. The deaths of two of her children at a very young age added to her woes. All these factors took a toll on her health. A woman of strong character, she faced her challenges bravely and played a significant role in shaping the history of Austria and Hungary.
Childhood & Early Life
Elisabeth was born on 24 December 1837, in Munich, Bavaria, to Duke Maximilian Joseph and Princess Ludovika. She was their fourth child and also the half-sister of King Ludwig I of Bavaria.
Her father had a very eccentric character. He very progressive for his times, which impacted her childhood tremendously. Unlike other aristocrats, Elisabeth spent much of her time riding in the countryside and wasn’t subjected to much formal education.
She was very close to her elder sister Helene throughout her childhood. In 1853, she traveled with her sister and mother to Austria to find a match for Helene. Incidentally, at the same time, Elisabeth’s aunt and Ludovika’s sister Sophie was looking for a match for her son Franz Joseph.
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In a turn of events, Franz Joseph ended up liking Elisabeth and wished to marry her instead of Helene. Though his mother was displeased about his decision, she relented to his stubbornness.
Franz Joseph and Elisabeth got married on April 24, 1854. While Franz was cheerful and elated, Elisabeth was quiet and nervous, mainly because of her new mother-in-law’s attitude towards her.
Her relationship with her mother-in-law soured even further when she gave birth to her first child Archduchess Sophie in 1855. Her mother-in-law refused to let Elisabeth care for her child and always thought of her as “a silly girl incapable of handling a child or an empire.” The behavior of her mother-in-law did not improve even after she gave birth to her second child Archduchess Gisela in 1856.
Elisabeth was soon being pressurized to produce a male child. Her mother-in-law would often taunt her, both publicly and in private, to show her displeasure in Elisabeth’s inability to bear a son.
In 1857, she suffered a major tragedy when her daughter Archduchess Sophie died when she was just two years old. This incident happened in Hungary where she and her daughter had accompanied the emperor for the first time.
Role As Empress
Post her first daughter’s death, Elisabeth slowly retreated from her second daughter as well and instead started concentrating on maintaining her own physical appearance. She started engaging in rigorous exercises, fasting, and taking care of her ankle-length hair. Parallelly, she also used this period to learn multiple languages.
In 1858, she gave birth to her first son Crown Prince Rudolf. His birth encouraged her to become active in political affairs once again, and she started speaking on behalf of her countrymen from Hungary.
During this period, she became close to a Hungarian diplomat Count Gyula Andrassy. Though their association started as a friendship, it was rumored that they had a secret love affair and that Elisabeth’s fourth child, born in 1868, was a result of this affair.
In the 1860s, she was forced to stay away from politics as she had multiple health issues that took a toll on her routine life. Rumors were also surfacing about her husband’s alleged affair with an actress that again brought additional stress for her.
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She voluntarily distanced herself from the political affairs and started standing her ground against her husband and mother-in-law, especially when they wanted her to get pregnant again which she refused. Her marriage hit the rock-bottom during this phase.
In 1867, she voluntarily went back to her marriage, mainly to influence her husband and mother-in-law to push for the Austro-Hungarian compromise. This meant there would be a dual monarchy in which Hungary and Austria would become equal partners.
The compromise also made Franz the King of Hungary, and Elisabeth the queen. Andrassy was made the prime minister.
In 1868, she gave birth to another daughter, Valerie, to whom she was extremely attached.
Queen of Hungary
Upon taking the new title as the Queen of Hungary, she got more opportunities to spend time with her own countrymen. Her mother-in-law died in 1872, but this didn’t affect her in anyway as she continued to stay away from court and instead started traveling and raised her last daughter in Hungary.
Elisabeth had to face multiple tragedies starting from 1888 when her father died. The most tragic was when her dear son Rudolf died in a suicide pact with his mistress Mary Vetsera in 1889. This left her shattered.
Her sister Helene died in 1890. This was followed by the death of her friend Andrassy who passed away in the same year. Lastly, in 1892, her mother died. However, during this period, her fame continuously rose and she even repaired her relationship with her husband and they ended up being good friends.
Elisabeth was assassinated on September 10, 1898, in Geneva, Switzerland. Even though she was traveling without anybody knowing, somehow the news got leaked. While walking towards a steamer to board it, an Italian named Luigi Lucheni assassinated her by stabbing on her chest with a thin blade.
She succumbed to her injuries immediately and her body was returned to Austria for a state funeral. She was buried in the Capuchin Church. Her killer was convicted, and he later committed suicide in 1910 while imprisoned.
Elisabeth’s nickname was “Sisi.”