The Year of Empress Elisabeth – Sisi & her sister-in-law Margaretha of Saxony




(public domain)

Margaretha of Saxony was born on 24 May 1840 as the eighth child and fifth daughter of the future King John of Saxony and his wife, Princess Amalie Auguste of Bavaria. Amalie Auguste was the elder sister of both Sophie (Emperor Franz Joseph’s mother) and Ludovika (Empress Elisabeth’s mother) of Bavaria.

Not much is known of her youth, and it isn’t even clear how her betrothal to her first cousin Archduke Karl Ludwig of Austria, a younger brother of Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria, came about. We do know that Karl Ludwig left Innsbruck on 27 June 1856 to celebrate his engagement to the 16-year-old Margaretha in Pillnitz. Many were surprised when Karl Ludwig announced the engagement on 21 July to the people of Tyrol, where he had been appointed as governor by his brother. Nevertheless, it was received with much enthusiasm, and the engagement was celebrated all over. Karl Ludwig was grateful for the happy reception and wrote to the council of the governor’s office, “to hear how the news of this event, which made me so happy, was received with general joy in the whole state of Tyrol; This once again proclaims how the loyal crown land always takes the liveliest interest in everything that touches its ruling house. God preserve these noble sentiments of faithful subjects.”1

Maria Anna of Bavaria, the dowager Queen of Saxony and Sophie’s twin sister, wrote, “The engagement of my niece Margarethe to her good governor is a great comfort to me. How happy my dear king would have been to know his Margarethe in his dear Tyrol.”2 With the official betrothal ceremony taking place on 6 September, the wedding was now set to go ahead on 4 November, which was also the Karl Ludwig’s name day.

At noon on 4 November, the wedding procession set off from the royal palace in Dresden to the court chapel. Margaretha was accompanied by her mother, her sisters Sidonie and Anna, and her sister-in-law Carola. Sidonie had once been considered as a bride for Emperor Franz Joseph, but he had considered her too unattractive.3 The diplomatic corps was also present in full force, with representatives from at least 13 countries. After the blessing and the closing prayer, the procession returned to the royal palace. In the royal palace, the King and Queen and the newlyweds accepted the court’s congratulations. Later that evening, there was a ceremonial dinner and celebrations continued throughout the week with balls and galas. The city of Dresden even named a street after the Archduke. The town of Innsbruck received winter clothes for 100 poor children and celebrated the wedding with a festive service in the parish church.

After the glitz and glamour of their wedding celebrations, Karl Ludwig and Margaretha set out for Innsbruck via Prague and Vienna on 11 November. Margaretha’s father accompanied them to the Austrian border. They arrived in Innsbruck on 25 November with the greatest pomp. Margaret believed charity to be her life’s work, and Innsbruck would remember the kind Archduchess long after she was gone for her charitable works. Tragically, Margaret’s life would be cut short after just two years of marriage.

On 24 August 1858, Margaretha’s sister-in-law Elisabeth gave birth to Crown Prince Rudolf, and Margaretha and Karl Ludwig donated 1,000 florins to the poor of Innsbruck to celebrate. Soon after, they departed on a trip to Italy. Margaretha fell ill in the city of Monza, and on 14 September, a bulletin was issued that she had been diagnosed with typhoid fever. Her symptoms were considered to be moderate, and there was no real cause for concern. There was still hope of a favourable outcome. However, just a few hours later, Margaret received the Last Sacraments, and she died just before midnight on 15 September 1858. She was still only 18 years old. By her side had been her sister-in-law Charlotte. Karl Ludwig was devastated by her death, and he even considered becoming a clergyman. The people were devasted with him – national mourning was held voluntarily, and all festivities were stopped.

The following day, Emperor Franz Joseph wrote to his mother, “The blow came so unexpectedly and suddenly that it is impossible to believe that dear Margarethe is no more.[..]When I told Sisi about it, she burst into tears and cried for a long time.4 Ida, Countess von Hahn-Hahn wrote to Margaretha’s aunt Maria Anna of Bavaria, “It was just a year ago that I saw her in Salzburg. So childlike, so blossoming, both with an expression of piety and happiness, as is the happiness of a pure soul.”5 Maria Anna wrote back, “You have done me unspeakable good with your affectionate letter, your heartfelt sympathy for our deep sorrow and with the sweet words you so rightly and heartwarmingly describe the childlike innocence of our departed angel.”6

kaisergruft
Photo by Moniek Bloks

Margaretha’s body was taken for interment in the Imperial Crypt by train. The funeral train arrived at 8 in the evening on 22 September. The coffin was first brought to the Hofburg parish church, and the funeral service was held the following day. Her heart had remained behind in Tyrol at her husband’s request. He wrote that “it had been his intention before to let the heart of his unforgettable wife rest in faithful Tyrol, where she was loved so much, and her worth was understood.”7 Her heart was interred in the court chapel in Innsbruck.

Empress Elisabeth probably had very little contact with Margaretha, but her husband’s letter shows that she genuinely mourned her death. Karl Ludwig remained unmarried for four years before remarrying to Maria Annunciata of Bourbon-Two Sicilies.

  1. Erzherzog Carl Ludwig, 1833-1896. Ein Lebensbild by Alfred Lindheim p.92
  2. Erzherzog Carl Ludwig, 1833-1896. Ein Lebensbild by Alfred Lindheim p.92
  3. Franz Joseph by Jean-Paul Bled p.86
  4. Briefe Kaiser Franz Josephs I an seine Mutter p.258-259
  5. Ida Hahn-Hahn. Königliche Post. Briefwechsel mit Königin Marie von Sachsen, Königin Amalie von Sachsen und Erzherzogin Sophie von Österreich. p.129
  6. Ida Hahn-Hahn. Königliche Post. Briefwechsel mit Königin Marie von Sachsen, Königin Amalie von Sachsen und Erzherzogin Sophie von Österreich. p.133
  7. Erzherzog Carl Ludwig, 1833-1896. Ein Lebensbild by Alfred Lindheim p.97






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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