Elisabeth of Austria
Sisi is well known to us from the Sisi movies, where she is portrayed as an enchanting young girl. In reality she was a shy, selfish and unreal person.
In her old age she became a lonely woman fleeing from herself.
Especially in her later life she was constantly and restlessly on the move. She fled into romantic raptures - after all, she lived in the age of romance. She saw herself as Titania from Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream, dreamt of the ancient Greeks and worshipped the hero Achilles. She hid behind fans and parasols and just wanted to be left alone. She read with passion poems by Heinrich Heine and wrote poems like Heine herself.
I wanted people to leave me alone and unscathed, I am surely only a human being, like them. Bile almost escapes me when they fix me in such a way; I like to crawl into a snail shell and die of rage.
Franz Josef built her the Hermes Villa in the Lainzer Tiergarten in Vienna in order to keep her near him, but to give her the space she wanted away from the court ceremony and the seclusion from the public. The villa was furnished entirely according to her romantic thinking. The wall paintings in the bedroom are based on motifs from Shakespeare's "Midsummer Night's Dream", designed by Hans Makart. The performing artists included Georg and Gustav Klimt.
Even the Hermes Villa could not hold her and she restlessly traveled all over Europe. Two wagons were made available to her for this purpose. The saloon car no longer exists, but the sleeping car has been restored and is now in the Technical Museum in Vienna.
Sisi had to endure heavy blows of fate:
The tragedy of Mayerling. Crown Prince Rudolf shot himself and his lover Marie Vetschera in 1889, and since then Sisi has been wearing only black!
Brother-in-law Max was shot dead in Mexico.
The mother, the only person she could confide in, died.
Her sisters died.
Her favourite daughter Valerie married and left the family.
At the end of the 19th century the anarchists appeared. Their goal was to free the world from the crowned heads. One
of them was Luigi Luccheni, a young Italian postman from Lausanne.
Sisi came to Geneva after several stays at health resorts in Europe (Bad Kissingen, Bad Nauheim), where she sought relief from her sciatica.
Although she travelled as Countess of Hohenembs accompanied by a court lady, she was not unrecognised and on 9 September 1898 a newspaper note appeared stating that Elisabeth of Austria had stayed at the Hotel Beau Rivage.
Luigi Luccheni was in Geneva because he wanted to murder the Duke of Orleans. He read the note and changed his plans. He had acquired a small file with a sharp point.
Sisi had an invitation from Baron Rothschild to lunch in Pregny on Lake Geneva. On September 10 she left the hotel for the ship. There she met her murderer. He stabbed her. Sisi got up again and went on the ship. There she collapsed. An hour later she died in the hotel.
Luccheni was arrested, spent 12 years in prison and then committed suicide.
Franz Josef was badly hit. Even Katherina Schratt could not comfort him.
Sisi was buried in the Capuchin crypt in Vienna. Even today there are always fresh flowers on her coffin.
How I was once so young and rich in joie de vivre and hope. I thought nothing of strength was like me. The world was still open to me. I loved, I lived, I traversed the world; but never achieved what I aspired to. - I have cheated and was cheated!
Hearse of Empress Elisabeth at the Augustinian ramp on the way to the Capuchin crypt in Vienna
(digitally edited photo)