Empress Elisabeth Timeline
1837 (24th December)
Empress Elisabeth of Austria was born Elisabeth Amalie Eugenie to Duke Maximilian Joseph and Princess Ludovika of Bavaria. Elisabeth was called Sisi by her family.
Elisabeth and her siblings enjoyed a carefree childhood. The family spent summers at the Possenhofen Castle on the shores of Lake Starnberg and the winters at the Herzog-Max-Palais in Munich. Elisabeth much preferred riding her horses and being outdoors to studying in the classroom.
Princess Sophie of Bavaria, Elisabeth’s aunt, arranged with her sister Ludovika for her son Franz Joseph to marry Helene, Elisabeth’s elder sister.
Elisabeth accompanied her mother and sister when they journeyed to Bad Ischl so that Franz Joseph could officially propose to Helene. However, after meeting Helene and Elisabeth, Franz Joseph determined to marry Elisabeth, not Helene.
The betrothal of Franz Joseph of Austria to Elisabeth of Bavaria was announced.
1854 (24th April)
Elisabeth of Bavaria married Franz Joseph of Austria at the Augustinian Church on Josefplatz in Vienna, Austria. On her marriage she became Empress Elisabeth of Austria.
Elisabeth found it difficult adapting to the formal regime of the Habsburg court and the overbearing nature of her mother-in-law. The stress led to bouts of severe anxiety and poor health.
1855 (5th March)
A daughter, Sophie Friederike Dorothea Maria Josepha was born to Elisabeth and Franz Joseph in Vienna. Elisabeth’s mother-in-law took the child into her care and named her without asking either Franz or Elisabeth.
1855 (5th March)
Elisabeth pleaded with Franz to intercede with his mother to allow Elisabeth access to her daughter but little changed.
1856 (12th July)
A second daughter, Gisela, was born to Empress Elisabeth and Franz Joseph in Laxenburg, Austria. Once again, Elisabeth’s mother-in-law took the child into her care.
1856 (after July)
Franz Joseph’s mother began complaining that Elisabeth had failed in her duty to produce a male heir.
Elisabeth, Franz and their daughters visited Hungary. Elisabeth loved the more relaxed atmosphere of the country and after the visit began to learn the language. This made her very popular with the people of Hungary.
While in Hungary, Elisabeth’s two daughters became ill. Gisela soon recovered but Sophie’s condition worsened.
1857 (29th May)
Elisabeth’s two-year old daughter, Sophie, died. It is believed that she died from typhus.
Following the death of her daughter, Elisabeth became very depressed. She shut herself away from Gisela and refused to eat for days at a time.
Elisabeth announced her third pregnancy.
1858 (21st August)
A son, Rudolf, was born to Empress Elisabeth and Emperor Franz Joseph. As with her other children, Elisabeth was denied any say in the upbringing or education of her son.
Having endured three pregnancies in quick succession, Elisabeth began to refuse to have sex with her husband. She also determined to maintain her weight at 50kg and spent much time exercising and rode every day. She wore tight-laced corsets to emphasise her slim figure. This behaviour enfuriated her mother-in-law who saw Elisabeth’s only function was to produce children.
In addition to her fixation with weight, Elisabeth also maintained a stringent beauty routine. Daily care of her very long hair was said to take around three hours. She had a massage before bed and slept without a pillow.
Elisabeth began to take more interest in politics and frequently sided with Hungary in discussions with the Austrian Empire. She supported the appointment of Gyula Andrássy as Head of the Hungarian government.
It was rumoured that Franz Joseph was having an affair with actress Frau Roll.
Empress Elisabeth suffered another bout of ill-health. Doctors believed she was anaemic, physically exhausted and possibly suffering from tuberculosis. On the advice of her doctor, she left Austria and spent six months in Madeira. There her health improved considerably.
Empress Elisabeth returned to Vienna. Within days her health was deteriorating. Her doctor advised her to depart for Corfu where her health again improved.
Elisabeth remained away from court despite gossip about her prolonged absence, preferring to spend time with her own family in Bavaria rather than the endure the formality of the Austrian court.
Elisabeth returned to court but once again her health deteriorated. Franz Joseph wanted another son to secure the succession but Elisabeth’s doctor warned against this because it would be detrimental to her health and that of any child.
Empress Elisabeth began to be more assertive and opposed many of their decisions regarding the education of Rudolf who was a sensitive child.
1867 (8th June)
The Austro-Hungarian Compromise meant that Austria-Hungary was now a dual monarchy. Franz Joseph and Elisabeth were crowned King and Queen of Hungary.
Empress Elisabeth decided that she would like another child.
1868 (22nd April)
A daughter, Marie Valerie, was born to Empress Elisabeth and Franz Joseph. Elisabeth was determined to raise this child herself and finally had her own way.
Having reached the age of 32 years, Elisabeth refused to sit for portraits, preferring people to remember her in her youth.
Elisabeth began travelling often incognito and surrounded by intellectuals.
1872 (28th May)
Elisabeth’s mother-in-law Sophie, died from pneumonia in Vienna.
1880 (7th March)
Prince Rudolf, who was a known womaniser, became engaged to Princess Stéphanie of Belgium.
1881 (10th May)
Prince Rudolf became married Princess Stéphanie of Belgium at Saint Augustine’s Church, Vienna.
1888 (15th November)
Maximilian Joseph of Bavaria, Elisabeth’s father, died.
1889 (30th January)
Prince Rudolf and his lover Mary Vetsera, were found dead in hunting lodge in Mayerling, Austria. The exact circumstances of his death are not known but it is believed to have been a murder-suicide pact.
Following the death of her son, Elisabeth became very depressed.
1890 (18th February)
The death of Count Gyula Andrássy, Elisabeth’s long-time friend and possibly lover, worsened her depression.
1890 (16th May)
Elisabeth’s elder sister, Helene, died.
1892 (25th January)
Elisabeth’s mother, Princess Ludovika died in Munich, Bavaria.
Having kept up her exercise and fasting regime for all her life it was reported that she weighted 43.5 kg. Nevertheless she maintained her habit of travelling, spending little time at court.
1897 (4th May)
Elisabeth’s younger sister, Sophie, died.
Elisabeth travelled incognito to Geneva, Switzerland and booked into the Hotel Beau-Rivage as Countess of Hohenembs. News of her stay at the hotel was leaked by someone who recognised her.
1898 (10th September)
Elisabeth and her lady in waiting walked to the shore of Lake Geneva intending to catch a steamship to Montreux. Italian anarchist Luigi Lucheni came towards them and appeared to stumble. He stabbed Elisabeth with a four inch needle file and the Empress collapsed. After being helped up she walked to the boat, boarded and then collapsed again. Her lady-in-waiting cut the ties on her corset to help her breathe. She revived briefly but then became unconscious. The boat returned to the dock and Elisabeth was carried back to her room and a doctor summoned and pronounced her dead. A message was sent to Franz Joseph notifying him that his wife had been assassinated
1898 (after 10th September)
An autopsy revealed that the needle file had punctured her lung and heart but her tight corset had contained the bleeding. Once blood flowed into the pericardial sac it caused her heart to stop beating.