On 23 April 1854, Elisabeth made her solemn entrance into Vienna ahead of her wedding.
This began at the Favorita Palace (known as the Theresianum nowadays), which was hardly ever used. The ritual dressing for the event took several hours, and family members gathered at the palace for the ceremonial entrance. It wasn’t until the late afternoon that it was finally time to begin. Elisabeth and her mother Ludovika got into a state carriage pulled by eight Lipizzaners. Elisabeth was wearing a pink gown threaded with silver, a train, garlands of roses and a diamond tiara. She was already exhausted and wept openly.
The horses’ manes were plaited with red and gold tassels, and on their heads were tufts of white plumes. Their harnesses were embroidered with gold. Two footmen in full regalia and white wigs walked alongside each carriage door and each horse. Elisabeth’s carriage was followed by the state coaches of the chief stewards, the chamberlains, the palace ladies and the privy councillors. Each of their carriages was drawn by six horses. Then came the court trumpeters on horses, court forerunners and pages, the mounted guards, the auxiliary bodyguard, grenadiers, cuirassiers and court gillies. The list goes on. The Swiss envoy wrote that “such extraordinary splendour was never yet seen.”1
As the magnificent procession entered the city, the artillery salvo died down, and all the bells in the city began to peal. Platforms had been erected for the crowds. As Elizabeth came over the bridge, girls dressed in white welcomed her with a shower of rose petals. The procession moved at a slow pace through the city and the crowds.
For the occasion, Franz Joseph had also decided to pardon 200 “prisoners condemned to confinement as a consequence of political crimes.”2 A further 100 prisoners saw their sentences halved. Also, a general amnesty was declared for “all crimes of lèse-majesté and offences against the public order” and the “treasonable activities” of 1848 in Galicia and the uprising in Lemberg in 1848.3 Franz Joseph also donated large sums of money to the poor.
The sobbing Elisabeth arrived at her new home at the Hofburg in Vienna, but as she exited the carriage, her tiara got caught in the doorframe in front of the entire imperial family. Nevertheless, her aunt and soon-to-be mother-in-law, Archduchess Sophie, thought Elisabeth looked enchanting.4 Franz Joseph took her hand and led her into the Hofburg Palace.
Now she would prepare for the wedding the following day.