Sisi & her mother Ludovika – “One does not send the Emperor of Austria packing” (Part two)

(public domain)

Read part one here.

By May 1834, Ludovika’s worried mother wrote to her daughter Amalie that Ludovika had become apathetic. One month earlier, she had given birth to her first daughter – named Helene. She had been one of a pair of twins, but Ludovika had miscarried the other twin earlier. Her husband had been busy building a palace in Munich – the Herzog-Max-Palais – and he also purchased Possenhofen Castle on Lake Starnberg. Ludovika fell in love with Possenhofen at first sight – it reminded her of her childhood home. However, their relationship began to deteriorate from that point. Maximilian began to have affairs, and Ludovika’s sister Sophie reported to their mother that Maximilian had shown “features of an incredible tyranny.”

Nevertheless, Ludovika continued to bear her husband children. On 24 December 1837, Ludovika gave birth to her second daughter – named Elisabeth but perhaps better known in history as Sisi. She was born with a tooth which was considered to be good luck. Her husband was deep in planning a trip to the middle east – a trip he would undertake without Ludovika. He came home just after their tenth wedding anniversary, and Ludovika soon found herself pregnant again. On 9 August 1839, Ludovika gave birth to a third – but second surviving – son at Possenhofen. He was named Karl Theodor. On 4 October 1841, she gave birth to another daughter – named Marie Sophie. Shortly after the birth, it became apparent that Ludovika’s mother, Caroline, was dying. Ludovika and her children travelled to Munich as soon as she was able and she was so shocked by her mother’s appearance that she herself fell ill. On 13 November 1841, Caroline died surrounded by her family. Once again, Ludovika’s husband was nowhere to be found when she needed him.

In 1843, Ludovika found herself pregnant once more. On 30 September 1843, Ludovika gave birth to a daughter named Mathilde Ludovika. Ludovika’s eighth pregnancy ended in the stillbirth of a son on 8 December 1845. On 22 February 1847, she gave birth to her ninth child – a daughter named Sophie Charlotte. Her tenth and final pregnancy ended on 7 December 1849 with the birth of a healthy son named Maximilian Emanuel. Ludovika was now 41 years old, and she had spent the better part of her married life in continuous pregnancies. It was a miracle that she had survived.

The children had grown up in nature, free from the restrictions of court life. Elisabeth loved horseriding, swimming, fishing and mounting climbing. Their playmates were children of the local peasants, and they spoke the Bavarian dialect. Nevertheless, they would have to marry within their social circles. Ludovika began making enquiries at the Saxon court for Elisabeth, but she wasn’t successful. Elisabeth stood in the shadow of her elder sister Helene, who was considered to be more beautiful and better educated. However, a letter from their aunt Sophie, the mother of Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria, would change everything. Her son was in need of a bride, and marriages between cousins were not uncommon. The letter invited Ludovika, Helene and her younger sister Elisabeth to Bad Ischl to celebrate the Emperor’s birthday. Although there does not appear to have been a plan to marry off Helene specifically, perhaps Helene expected otherwise – she was, after all, the elder sister.

On 16 August 1853, Ludovika and her daughters arrived in Bad Ischl, but the visit was off to a bad start with their luggage missing, and they were still dressed in black mourning clothes. Nevertheless, the women were invited to tea by Sophie, and it was at this tea that they would also meet the Emperor. It was love at first sight for the Emperor, but his chosen bride was Helene’s younger sister. The following evening at the ball, Helene was dressed in a white silk gown, which complemented her complexion a lot more than the black mourning clothes. The Emperor danced the cotillion with Elisabeth and presented her with his nosegay.

On the Emperor’s actual birthday the following day, he had asked his mother to enquire if Elisabeth “would have him.”1 Sophie then informed Ludovika, who “moved, pressed my hand, for in her great humility, she had always doubted whether the Emperor would truly consider one of her daughters.”2 Elisabeth reportedly burst into tears upon being told and vowed to do everything she could to make the Emperor happy. She said, “I love the Emperor so much! If only he were not the Emperor!”3 Ludovika later calmly commented, “One does not send the Emperor of Austria packing.”4

Ludovika reported Elisabeth’s acceptance to Sophie and later wrote, “It is such a prodigious joy, and yet such a weighty and important situation that I am very moved in every respect. She is so young, so inexperienced, but I hope that forbearance will be shown to such extreme youth!”5 Ludovika continued to be worried and said “with how much trepidation she looked on the hard task facing her daughter Elisabeth since she was ascending the throne literally straight from the nursery. She also harboured concern because of the severe judgments of the ladies of the Viennese aristocracy.”6

Elisabeth herself looked back at this time with the words, “Marriage is an absurd arrangement. One is sold as a fifteen-year-old child and makes a vow one does not understand and then regrets for thirty years or more, and which one can never undo again.”7 Nevertheless, the wedding preparations went on as planned. Elisabeth would receive a crash course in protocol, and the wedding was set for the following April. Ludovika’s worries remained, and she wanted to postpone the wedding until June. The Belgian envoy reported, “In order to spare her daughter the exertions arising from the festivities, the mother is said to want to postpone the wedding until June. If the ceremony were to take place at an advanced season and the major part of the nobility had already departed Vienna, it would be possible to win some dispensation from the events connected with the wedding.”8 Her wish was not granted.9

Read part three here.

  1. The reluctant Empress by Brigitte Hamann p.15
  2. The reluctant Empress by Brigitte Hamann p.15
  3. The reluctant Empress by Brigitte Hamann p.15
  4. The reluctant Empress by Brigitte Hamann p.16
  5. The reluctant Empress by Brigitte Hamann p.18
  6. The reluctant Empress by Brigitte Hamann p.18-19
  7. The reluctant Empress by Brigitte Hamann p.18
  8. The reluctant Empress by Brigitte Hamann p.25
  9. Read more: Ludovika by Christian Sepp (in German)

About Moniek Bloks 2765 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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