Empress Sisi (1837-1898)
By the age of 16, Elisabeth of Wittelsbach, or ‘Sisi’, was already well-known for her beauty. Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph was due to marry her sister Helene, but fell in love with Sisi at first sight. They married in 1854 in a glamourous and magnificent wedding at Augustinian’s Church in Vienna.
Although not an intensely political person, Empress Sisi was nevertheless committed to an Austrian-Hungarian settlement, which led to reduced tension between Vienna and Budapest during the hardest times of the Habsburg Empire. Her liberal ideas and effort for the poor and needy also made her popular with the Austrian people, whilst the power of her beauty earned her world-wide admiration and adoration.
In 1865, a famous portrait of Empress Sisi was done by Franz Xaver Winterhalter. It shows Empress Sisi in a courtly gala dress with diamond stars in her hair. Some stars have been given away to court ladies and still reside in the ownership of their descendents. By all accounts, men and women alike were fascinated by Empress Sisi’s beauty, grace, charisma and the mysterious aura that surrounded her.