The Volksgarten

Sisi, the Secretive Empress and Rose of Austria

Poor Sisi was married at 16 to her first cousin (yup, gross!) Franz Joseph when he was 23. The marriage was engineered by her mother and her aunt Sophie, Franz Joseph’s mother. Sophie was the one who engineered for Franz Joseph to become emperor in the first place when Ferdinand I abdicated after the revolution of 1848, and she was adamant that Sisi would produce an heir.  

Sisi and Franz Joseph had 4 children. No sooner had Sisi birthed her first three children than they were kidnapped by Sophia. Sisi would outlive two of her children: little Sophie died when she was 2, and Rudolph, her only son, committed murder-suicide with his mistress. It’s likely that she never forgave Sophia for taking her children and for the harsh rules she imposed on the family.

Sisi hated the imperial life so much that she often ran away. She loved the natural wildness of Hungary and  the seaside of Corfu, Greece. She was extremely influential in securing the Kingdom of Hungary as part of the Austrian Empire without bloodshed and with lots of diplomacy. In fact, one of the leaders of the rebellion against the Austrian Empire, Count Andrassy became a statesman and confidant to Franz  Joseph and, it was rumored, lover to Sisi. Sisi also defied the standards of the time, and had no qualms about helping the poor and visiting the sick in hospitals. She was beloved by the commoners but reviled by the aristocracy for the same reason — she was beautiful, intelligent, and refused to follow rules. 

Sisi died in Geneva after being stabbed in the heart by the Italian anarchist Luigi Lucheni. Sisi was such a strong woman that she didn’t realize until after the boat left dock and she opened her corset that she had been stabbed. The pressure of the corset was probably what allowed to her walk away, and once loosened, she died. 

Because she hated the notoriety of her position, she’d be aghast at the people filing through her private bedchambers, looking at the tight tiny waists of her restrictive dresses, and peering at her royal potty. So it makes sense that she is here, alone and outside in the garden of the people. 

Prep It

Itty Bitty Tip

Sisi was most likely anorexic, which should come as no surprise when a 16 year old girl marries her cousin, has her children stolen from her by her aunt, and is constantly judged by her looks. While she did not eat much, and she enjoyed the pinch or two of cocaine, she also enjoyed sugared violets, which pack a real jolt of sweetness. You can buy some at Denmal’s just down the street from the Hofburg Palace. Just don’t expect to be able to get a table there. 

For Kids

The Rose of Austria

Sisi was known as the Rose of Austria. In the Volksgarten, which means garden of the people, are lots of roses. But she’s not where the roses are. She’s in a quiet corner of the garden, hidden by tall hedges because she was very private and shy. She loved to ride horses and be outside, but all that changed when she married the emperor when she was 16. Instead of being free to do what she wanted, she spent an entire year before her marriage learning the rules of how to be an Empress, like how to eat properly, how to act, and what to say. 

When she got married, she cried, not because she was happy, but because she hated how everyone looked at her and judged her. And she hated her clothes. The dresses had huge skirts and tiny tiny waists that forced her to wear tight corsets. And while she was known for her beauty, her beauty was also curse. She exercised for long hours (in her apartments there is a machine where she would work out) and she barely ate. She often skipped family dinners, probably because of the rules and because if her husband did not speak, no one else was allowed to. So dinners could be very very boring affairs. She did love a special treat of sugared violets. 

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