Wednesday, 20 June 2012


Elisabeth, Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary Franz Xaver Winterhalter

While researching for my entry on The Sutherland Sisters last week I came across some pictures of Empress Elizabeth of Austria, and after looking around to find out who she was I decided that I needed to write an entry on her too. (slight warning of a possible trigger for talk of possible eating disorders in this entry)

On the day of her coronation via wikimedia

Elizabeth was the Empress of Austria from 1867 until her death in 1898, she was also the Queen of Hungary, Bohemia and Croatia.
Elizabeth was almost five foot tall, at it's longest her hair (of which she was very proud, referring to herself as "as slave to my hair") reached her ankles, she exercised to excess, ate little (although there were documented cases in which she binged and a rumour that she had a secret passage to the kitchens in one of her apartments leads me to suspect that she may have been bulimic), and was one of the few women of the time who ignored the advice of doctors and tight-laced her corsets giving her a 16 inch waist and 25 inch hips, and even after four pregnancies she weighed only 110 pounds.

Famed for her beauty, it took a minimum of three hours each day for the Empress to achieve her idea of presentably.
Two of the three hours were dedicated to her hair, her hairdresser was commanded to wear gloves at all times whilst touching the Queen's hair, she was also told not to wear rings as these could snag in Elizabeth's hair, causing it to break or other damage such as split ends (this is actually pretty good advice and I also tend not to wear rings or bracelets when I am sorting out my hair), any hairs that fell out, or came out on her brush had to be shown to her royal highness which was the subject of jokes from her niece.
Once a fortnight she would apply a hair mask that would take up an entire day!

Despite her beauty, and all the ways in which she tried to take control of herself, Elizabeth was not a happy woman, she despised court saying once,

“What do sceptres, crowns and purple ceremonial mantels matter?  They are only derisory, coloured rags, ridiculous rattles with which we vainly try to cover the nudity of our souls, when we should be thinking of safeguarding our life and our intimate feelings.”

She did not get on with her Mother in law, and hated the rules she tried to impose on her life and that she took Elizabeth's three oldest children away from her so that they could be brought up "as is fit" for royalty.
Though he claimed to love her, her husband Franz Joseph 1 was a terrible womaniser, and before the birth of their last child it's believed that he passed on an STD to her.
After the suicide of her son Rudolf, she never recovered from her grief and avoided public life as much as possible.

From 1850 onwards Elizabeth began to spend less and less time at court in Vienna, she began to travel in order to escape from the people causing her distress, she could never escape completely though and began to write poems about how she longed to die.
Her travels to Corfu, The Mediterranean, Morocco, Egypt, Turkey and many others would quell her grief for a time, but always she would have to return to Vienna, often with many new cows for the Royal Dairy with her as in the worst lows of her starvation she had taken to drinking only milk.

On September 10th 1898 the Empress got her wish, whilst walking with her Lady in Waiting in Geneva an Anarchist stabbed her with a needle file that pierced her heart.
In order to help her breathe her tightly laced corset that was all that was stopping her from bleeding out was cut loose, within minutes the Queen was dead.

List of sources and other people's blogs about Elizabeth:

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