Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Sissi: Myth and History

Elisabeth of Bavaria, Empress of Austria, has become of one the most iconic figures of the nineteenth century. In spite of her numerous eccentricities, many of which she shared with her favorite cousin King Ludwig IIof Bavaria, Elisabeth was and is a greatly beloved figure both in her native land and in her adopted country. She was and is especially beloved to the Hungarians, on whose behalf she interceded. Like Marie-Antoinette, Elisabeth detested court protocol, having been raised in a free and easy environment. In Sissi's case, it was the court of Austria she found stiff and suffocating, which is surprising since the Habsburgs were not such sticklers for etiquette like the Bourbons. Unlike Marie-Antoinette, who only went a few yards away to Petit Trianon for refuge, Elisabeth wandered the world, going to places like Ireland and Corfu, leaving her husband and children behind. She insisted upon going about as a private citizen, with only one lady-in-waiting in attendance, which is how she eventually came to be assassinated. Nevertheless, her beauty, her inner suffering, the loss of her son to suicide, and her violent death make hers a tragic and mysterious life to contemplate. To quote a poem she wrote in her diary:

An endless lake
Is my soul:
I see no end to it.
Here are scenes from the trilogy of films based upon the life of Elisabeth, Empress of Austria. The films are now available in English. More HERE. Share


Unknown said...

Sissi was the greatest beauty of her time. I think her portraits, although magnificent, do not entirely manage to capture her beauty. She is, in my opinion, the only royal who looks more beautiful in photos than in portraits. The portraits show a magnificent bur cold and remote empress, while in the photos her sweetness and kindness are visible. She did have major psychological problems, like almost all the Wittelsbach family. She was depressive, anorexic and very self-centred. By all accounts, she was not a very good mother to her eldest children and she was an absent and indifferent wife. The Emperor, however, was a very good husband, who put up with all her "eccentricities" and loved her passionately all his life.

P. M. Doolan said...

Hi Elena,
I just noticed your posting on Sissi. I don't know if you have seen my posting last week on my blog about Sissi's travels in Switzerland.
She certainly liked to travel, which is not surprising considering the stifiling atmosphere at the court in Vienna -I think the movie does a good job portraying this.

elena maria vidal said...

Thank you for the excellent summary, Alix. I agree that the photos capture her sweetness of soul.

Thank you, P.M. I added a link to your post in my post above, and here it is here as well:

Unknown said...

Elena, thank you for your appreciation of my comment. Sissi is one of my favorite royals. For those who can speak French, I would reccomend the excellent biography "Sissi, impératrice d'Autriche" by Jean des Cars. He had the privilege of knowing Zita, the last Empress of Austria, who shared many memories of Franz Josef's abiding love for his wife.
Elena, perhaps one day you could post about Sissi's sisters, all of whom led very interesting lives.

elena maria vidal said...

That book sounds fascinating, Alix! I would love to do Sissi's sisters!

lara77 said...

Sissi, Empress Elizabeth of Austria was a very tragic individual; her love of freedom and disdaining protocol definitely caused her tragic death. What always fascinates me in the case of people marrying into royalty are the many individuals like Sissi(The late Diana, Princess of Wales seems the most recent)who try to run away from protocol and duty. Was nothing explained to these people over the centuries that their lives are secondary to the institution of monarchy and the stability of the state? I do not mean to sound cold or indifferent but there is a price to be paid when one marries into a royal reigning family. Duty, responsibility and the needs of the nation are paramount. Many of these people never had what it took; they should have said no when asked for their hands in marriage.

God Alone Suffices said...

Thank you so much for posting this, Elena! :) I enjoyed it very much!

elena maria vidal said...

In Sissi's case, she was only 14 when she married and my impression is that she was too young to grasp her duties as a wife much less her duties as an Empress. Even if it had been explained to her beforehand, she was too immature to understand and I think it all hurt her emotionally, especially being a wife so young and having babies right away. And then her first child died, which was traumatic.

elena maria vidal said...

You are welcome, Jamie! She was an enchanting albeit totally enigmatic women.