As the young Elisabeth travelled to Bad Ischl in 1853, where she would eventually leave as the Emperor’s fiancé, she was mourning the loss of her first love.
Elisabeth had fallen in love with a young man who was considered totally unsuitable for her. His name was Count Richard S, and he had been in the service of her father. When they were found out, Richard was promptly sent away. Although he eventually returned, he was ill and died not much later. Elisabeth was devastated by his death, and she wrote many poems in her grief. She spent many hours locked in her room, and her mother hoped the trip to Bad Ischl would pull her out of her misery.1
Just two weeks after becoming Empress of Austria, Elisabeth wrote the following poem:
Oh, had I but never left the path
That would have led me to freedom
Oh, that on the broad avenues
Of vanity I had never strayed!
I have awakened in a dungeon,
With chains on my hands.
And my longing ever stronger –
And freedom! You, turned from me!
I have awakened from a rapture,
Which held my spirit captive,
And vainly do I curse this exchange,
In which I gambled away you – freedom – away.2
Elisabeth was mourning not only the loss of her home and her freedom but also her first love. Tragically, we know next to nothing about Richard, but Elisabeth surely would have had an entirely different life as his wife had they been allowed to be together.