Elisabeth of Austria. Best known simply as Sissi, the last Austrian Empress. Her husband was Emperor Francis Joseph, who died in 1916. For many, the name Sissi might not sound familiar but for me, she has been like a friend. Who was she? Why we still talk about her after more than a century after her death? Let’s find out together. When I was a child, I had a truly romantic soul. I was fascinated by stories about princesses and queens. I was obsessed with the topic. But, since I was also (and still am) an avid reader, I was more interested in figuring out their real stories and how they lived their lives. So I started devouring all the history books about royals. That’s when I met Sissi. I was probably 10 when I found the book “Sissi” by Nicole Avril.
The picture on the cover completely caught me. I read the book in just a few days. Sissi was a young woman forced to marry her cousin. She entered the imperial Austrian family with her head full of dreams and hopes. But the reality she had to cope with was totally different. I am not going to relate her story (if you like the subject, I definitely recommend the reading of the book) but to cut it short she proved to be a genuine rebel, a courageous, energetic and fearless woman. Since she was unhappy with her life, she started traveling around Europe by herself, like a lost soul seeking refuge and comfort. I fell in love with her personality. You can imagine my feelings when I discovered that some of her residences are still open to the public.
There are, of course, several places where she stayed: different hotels and private houses, but in this post, you will read what are her most outstanding residences.
THE SCHÖNBRUNN PALACE
Location: Austria, Vienna.
This Baroque palace dates back to 1569 when it was only a mansion before the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian II purchased it and started its expansion works. It served as the imperial summer residence beside the Hofburg, the main one in the city.
This palace is, probably, the most stunning among all the other palaces where Sissi lived, due to its size, its perfectly symmetrical structure and its huge and blossoming gardens.
I visited the palace several times but I have never felt bored at it. It’s a combination of history and romanticism and I have always imagined Sissi walking the halls with her opulent dresses or riding her horse through the park. Her husband, the late Emperor Francis Joseph spent here his last years and died on 21 November 1916.
THE ACHILLEION PALACE
Location: Greece, Corfu
This palace was commissioned by Sissi and completed in 1891. She herself decorated part of the palace and named it “The Achilleion” after Achille, the main character of the mythological story, the Iliad and the Trojan War. She was in love with the greek culture and language, in fact, she studied both of them with Constantine Christomas his famous Greek teacher.
Sissi loved spending time in Corfu, escaping the rigid and strict life at the Viennese imperial court and enjoying the mild Mediterranean weather. When her son, the Crown Prince Rudolph died, she found refuge in Corfu, where she could grief her loss and recover alone, far from the gossip and the rumors that followed her during her entire life. The palace is not as majestic as the Schönbrunn one but it’s location, on top of a hill, is remarkable. It has two floors and a gorgeous terrace facing the sea.
THE GÖDÖLLŐ PALACE
Location: Hungary, Gödöllő (near Budapest).
The Baroque palace was a gift to Sissi and to her husband, Emperor Franz Joseph for their coronation in 1867 that took place in Budapest. Sissi loved Hungary. The country became very dear to her because she understood and shared the need of the people for freedom and independence, longing for her own. She learned to speak the language fluently and her last daughter Marie Valerie, grew up in this palace while Erzsébet (Sissi’s full name Elisabeth in Hungarian, as she wanted people to call her) befriended the revolutionary Count Gyula Andrássy. They had the common goal of making Hungary a liberated nation. Rumors said the Andrássy was Marie Valerie real father and that Sissi considered Marie Valerie birth as a personal gift to the country.
Location: Italy, Trieste.
This castle, facing the Mediterranean Sea, dates back to 1860 and its style is the perfect combination of Gothic, Medieval and Renaissance architecture. The owners were Ferdinand Maximilian of Hapsburg-Lorena, Archduke of Austria and Imperial Prince (simply put her brother-in-law) and his wife, the Belgium Princess Marie Charlotte of Sassonia-Coburgo-Gotha. Sissi used to spend long periods of time here because she was close to Maximilian. Thanks to his uncommon intelligence, he was interested in arts, science, and poetry. They shared the same desire of anti-conformism, adventure, and freedom. Sissi had a cold relationship with her ambitious sister-in-law. She considered Sissi a threat because of her eccentric personality and uncommon beauty.
Charlotte wasn’t happy with her life in Trieste. When the opportunity came, she convinced her husband to leave for Mexico where he was set to become Emperor, in 1864. When they reached Mexico, the situation was very different from what they had dreamed. Mexican people didn’t want an Emperor, they were longing for a Republic instead. The two found themselves in the midst of a civil war. The rebels executed them in 1867 by Republicans. No one took care of the castle for several years, before its restoration.
I sincerely hope you have enjoyed the reading. Have you ever read Sissi story before? Have you visited some of this residence?
Waiting for your feedback.