Sisi’s training to become an Empress

(public domain)

The newly engaged couple said their goodbyes on 31 August. For Elisabeth, the period between now and the wedding on 24 April would be one intense course of study on how to behave like an Empress.

Her education until now had been relatively informal, and she desperately needed to learn French and Italian as soon as possible. Elisabeth did not fare well under this extensive course of study, and her mother wrote, “Unfortunately, my children have no facility in learning foreign languages, and in social circles here, the speaking of French is noticeably decreasing.”1 In addition to languages, Elisabeth also needed to learn about the history of Austria. Historian Count Johann Mailáth came to Elisabeth three times a week to teach her from his own work: History of the Austrian Empire. Elisabeth liked him, and the lessons often lasted until late in the evening. As a Hungarian, he also told Austria’s history from a Hungarian point of view – which appealed to her. Dancing lessons were being given by an old ballet master called Friedrich Horschelt, on the evenings when she did not have history lessons.2

Meanwhile, Elisabeth’s trousseau was being worked on by dozens of seamstresses, embroiderers, milliners and shoemakers. Elisabeth was quite indifferent to the many new clothes, and she was annoyed by the many fittings. Her mother-in-law also sent her the helpful advice to take better care of her teeth. The trousseau eventually grew to 25 trunks of items, which were sent to Vienna ahead of the bride. Elisabeth slowly grew despondent and began writing sad poems about Possenhofen. Ludovika noticed the change in her daughter, and she wished to postpone the wedding. 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.”3

During this period, Franz Joseph visited his fiance three times in Possenhofen. At the time, there was no direct rail connection, and it took him longer than a day to get there. He continued to be charmed by her and wrote to his mother, “Never, my dear Mama, will I be able to thank you enough for having brought about such deep happiness for me. Every day I love Sisi more, and I am ever more convinced that no one else could suit me better than she.”4 He later wrote, “As you advised me, I begged my Mama-in-law not to let Sisi ride too much; but I believe it will be hard to enforce, since Sisi is unwilling to give it up. And by the way, it has a very good effect on her; for since Ischl, she has gained quite a bit of weight and never looks ill now. Thanks to her care, too, her teeth have become quite white so that she is truly lovely.”5

Public appearances remained difficult for her, and Franz Joseph wrote that a visit to the Munich theatre “embarrassed Sisi very much.”6 At a later court ball, “the entire diplomatic corps was introduced to poor Sisi, and she made conversation charmingly, speaking with everyone.”7

By early March, the wedding contract was signed, and the marriage portion was set at 50,000 guldens. Franz Joseph promised to supplement this with 100,000 guldens. He also promised a morning gift of 12,000 ducats after the marriage “had been consummated.”8 A month before the wedding, Franz Joseph delivered a diamond tiara inset with opals, with a matching choker and earrings. It was a gift from his mother, who had worn the tiara at her own wedding. Around this time, Elisabeth also solemnly renounced any rights she had to the succession in the Kingdom of Bavaria.

In just a few months, Elisabeth had learned protocol, languages, history, how to dress correctly, dancing, and she had thoroughly cleaned her teeth. As she said goodbye to the servants at Possenhofen in April, she shook their hands. As Empress of Austria, she would only be allowed to put out her hand to be kissed. Her old life was now officially over.

  1. The reluctant Empress by Brigitte Hamann p.24
  2. Ludovika by Christian Sepp p.248
  3. The reluctant Empress by Brigitte Hamann p.25
  4. The reluctant Empress by Brigitte Hamann p.27
  5. The reluctant Empress by Brigitte Hamann p.27
  6. The reluctant Empress by Brigitte Hamann p.27
  7. The reluctant Empress by Brigitte Hamann p.27
  8. The reluctant Empress by Brigitte Hamann p.29

About Moniek Bloks 2664 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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