The Year of Empress Elisabeth – Her coronation as Queen of Hungary

(public domain)

With the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867, the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary was created. Count Gyula Andrássy, who shared Empress Elisabeth’s devotion to Hungary, became its first  Prime Minister and a coronation for the King and Queen of Hungary was arranged for 8 June 1867.

During a prior visit to Hungary, Elisabeth had been a huge success. She had worn her own interpretation of the Hungarian costume with a white silk dress with a black bodice trimmed with lacings of diamonds and pearls. She also wore a white lace apron, a Hungarian bonnet and a diamond crown. She spoke in Hungarian to express her gratitude for Hungary’s good wishes. This was also the first time she had a conversation with Count Gyula Andrássy. Franz Joseph praised his wife in a letter to his mother in Vienna, “Sisi is of great help to me with her courtesy, her exquisite tact, and her good Hungarian, in which the people are less reluctant to hear some rebuke from lovely lips.”1

Her address to the Hungarian national diet was also an overwhelming success. She spoke the words, “May the almighty attend your activities with His richest blessing”, as her eyes filled with tears. A spectator later wrote that it was “so moving that the deputies could not utter the Elje, and tears streamed down the cheeks of the old and the young.2

Elisabeth returned to Hungary with the children shortly after the Battle of Königgrätz, much to her mother-in-law’s dismay as she believed the children were safer at home. But Elisabeth had the best relationship with Hungary of anyone in the family, and they were received enthusiastically.

Elisabeth now fell under the influence of Count Gyula Andrássy. She wrote long letters to her husband with his demands and ended with, “I have nothing to fall back on but to reassure myself with the knowledge that, whatever happens, I will one day be able honestly to tell Rudolf, ‘I did all in my power. Your misfortune does not weigh on my conscience.’”3 Franz Joseph eventually agreed to the demands, leading to the Austro-Hungarian Compromise.

Preparations began weeks before the coronation, and hundreds of boxes and chests were shipped from Vienna to Budapest via Danube steamers. The day itself started at 4 in the morning with a 21-gun salute from the Citadel of St. Gerhardsberg as people began lining the streets, hoping for a glimpse of the imperial couple. Then, at 7 in the morning, the procession set out from Budapest Castle. Count Gyula Andrássy was preceded by 11 standard-bearers, and he wore the large cross of the Order of St. Stephen while carrying the holy crown of Hungary. He was followed by gonfaloniers bearing the state insignia on red velvet pillows. Behind him came the King – Franz Joseph.

elisabeth queen hungary
(public domain)

However, Elisabeth was the star of the show, and her appearance has been described in great detail. “On her head the diamond crown, the glittering symbol of sovereignty, but the expression of humility in her bowed bearing and traces of the deepest emotion in her noble features – thus she walked – or rather floated – along, as if one of the paintings that adorn the sacred chambers had stepped out of its frame and come to life. The appearance of the Queen at the holy site produces a deep and lasting impression.”4

During the service, Franz Joseph was anointed King by the Primate of Hungary while Count Gyula Andrássy – representing the palatine – placed the crown on Franz Joseph’s head. Elisabeth was anointed too, but the crown was not placed on her head. Instead, per custom, it was held over her right shoulder by Count Gyula Andrássy.

The ceremonial procession at the end of the coronation ceremonies saw Franz Joseph ride a white steed. The procession stopped before a platform, where Franz Joseph spoke the oath. “We shall uphold intact the rights, the constitution, the lawful independence and territorial integrity of Hungary and her attendant lands.”5 He then rode Coronation Hill before closing the day with a lavish banquet. However, he and Elisabeth did not eat and only had a little wine.

As a coronation gift, Franz Joseph and Elisabeth were gifted the Royal Palace of Gödöllő to use as their private residence. Elisabeth had been eager for this gift as she had requested it from her husband earlier. However, he had then been short of money and could not get it for her. Subsequently, she would spend much time there in the years to come. In return, Elisabeth gave the Hungarian nation the gift of another child – Marie Valerie.

  1. The reluctant Empress by Brigitt Hamann p.152
  2. The reluctant Empress by Brigitt Hamann p.152
  3. The reluctant Empress by Brigitt Hamann p.159
  4. The reluctant Empress by Brigitt Hamann p.174-175
  5. The reluctant Empress by Brigitt Hamann p.176

About Moniek Bloks 2223 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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