The assassination of Sisi

(public domain)

Empress Elisabeth of Austria was an icon during her lifetime, and her tragic death only enhanced the magic. In the summer of 1898, Elisabeth met with her husband in Bad Ischl, where they were joined by their daughter Archduchess Valerie. Elisabeth was “in low spirits, as always.”1 Elisabeth then departed for Bad Nauheim while Valerie and the Emperor remained in Bad Ischl for a few more weeks.

The cure in Bad Nauheim did nothing for the Empress, and she wrote to her daughter in July, “I am in bad humour and sad, and the family can be glad that they are away from me. I have a sense that I will not rally again.”2 From Bad Nauheim, she travelled on to Switzerland. She simply loved Lake Geneva. “It is my favourite place to stay because there I am quite lost among the cosmopolites: it confers an illusion of the true human condition.”3

Elisabeth in Territet (public domain)

Elisabeth was staying in the Territet, just outside Montreux, where she had stayed several times before. She intended to take a cure for four weeks. From here, Elisabeth and Countess Sztaray set on 9 September for an excursion to Pregny. In Pregny, they had lunch with Baroness Julie Rothschild, walked around the park and visited an orchid nursery. Elisabeth was travelling under the pseudonym Countess von Hohenembs. After a three-hour visit, Elisabeth and the Countess continued to Geneva, where they would spend the night before returning to Montreux the next day. In Geneva, Elisabeth visited a pastry shop and bought toys for her grandchildren, before retiring early. The hotel manager was all too aware of his important guest, and the following day the newspaper ran the story that the Empress was staying at the Hotel Beau Rivage. It sealed Elisabeth’s faith.

Italian anarchist Luigi Lucheni had been preparing himself. He had bought a murder weapon, a file that he had ground to a triangular shape and given a knife edge. However, he intended to kill Prince Philippe, Duke of Orléans, the pretender to the French throne, who had not, as planned, come to Geneva. He also could not afford to travel to Italy for his preferred victim, King Umberto of Italy. He had found his new victim in the newspaper. On 10 September, Luigi began observing the comings and going at the hotel. Elisabeth intended to return to Montreux with the 1.40 pm lake steamer, and a servant had already gone ahead with the luggage. Elisabeth emerged from the hotel, accompanied by the Countess, dressed in black. In one hand she carried a parasol and in the other an umbrella. They walked to the landing stage, just a few hundred meters from the hotel. In those few hundred meters, Luigi was lying in wait.

He threw himself on the ladies, glanced under the parasol to make certain and stabbed Elisabeth in the heart. Elisabeth fell onto her back. Luigi fled but was captured by a passerby and taken to the police station. Elisabeth got to her feet and dusted off her clothes. She seemed fine. The two ladies continued walking towards the landing stage as Elisabeth asked the Countess what the man had wanted. “Perhaps he wanted to take my watch?”, she asked the Countess.4  They had only just boarded the steamer when Elisabeth collapsed. It was only when her bodice was unbuttoned that the hole in her batiste camisole was spotted and a tiny brown spot. The captain was informed, and the boat began to speed back to Geneva. A litter was made from oars, and velvet chairs and the Empress was placed on it. She was returned to the hotel where the doctor could do nothing but pronounce her dead. Blood had trickled so slowly into the pericardium that the heart had stopped gradually.

L-R Elisabeth, Franz-Joseph and Rudolf

On 15 September, Elisabeth’s body arrived at the Hofburg in Vienna. Elisabeth had wished to be buried by the ocean, but there was no question about it. She would be buried in the Imperial Crypt. Each of her daughters received two-fifths of Elisabeth’s estate, while the rest went to her granddaughter Elisabeth.

  1. Brigitte Hamann: The Reluctant Empress: A Biography of Empress Elisabeth of Austria p. 366
  2. Brigitte Hamann: The Reluctant Empress: A Biography of Empress Elisabeth of Austria p. 366
  3. Brigitte Hamann: The Reluctant Empress: A Biography of Empress Elisabeth of Austria p. 366
  4. Brigitte Hamann: The Reluctant Empress: A Biography of Empress Elisabeth of Austria p. 368

About Moniek Bloks 2743 Articles
My name is Moniek and I am from the Netherlands. I began this website in 2013 because I wanted to share these women's amazing stories.

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