Among all the books that have been written about the famous Elisabeth of Austria, the diary of her youngest and favourite daughter is a special one. Martha and Horst Schad have edited the diary of Marie Valerie for a wider audience.
The diary was first published in 2005 by Piper in Germany and Austria and offers a unique view of the life of a young princess. Marie Valerie was born on the 22nd of April, 1868, in Budapest as the youngest daughter of Austrian Emperor and Hungarian King Franz Joseph I. and his wife, the famous Empress Elisabeth, also known as Sisi. Unlike her siblings Rudolf and Gisela, the ‘Hungarian child’ grew up very close to her mother. She experienced her mother’s deep love as well as her restless life.
The diary describes the life of the young Princess and Archduchess from her early childhood to her life as a young married woman. Marie Valerie does not try to make things seem pretty and perfect. She openly writes about her worries and feelings. Even as a young child she describes the difficulties she experiences with her mother. Elisabeth insists on speaking Hungarian with her and clings to her daughter. Marie Valerie also complains that she does not see her father that often.
Especially striking about her diary are her descriptions of her brother, Crown Prince Rudolf. The much older brother treats the younger sister badly, ignores her and refuses to pay attention to her. Today, experts agree that it was because of jealousy, as Empress Elisabeth did not care as much for her son as for Marie Valerie. Her entry after his suicide on the 30th of January 1889 describes the shock the imperial family experiences. It also includes her own struggle with the grief for the brother she hardly knew.
A witness of a time period
Marie Valerie never fails to portray the changes that occurred within society and politics during her time. Unlike anyone else, she describes the life of her social class. Her meetings with Europe’s future rulers and her descriptions of their views and actions almost seem like foreshadowing. Marie Valerie watches the events unfold which lead to World War I, the big catastrophe her brother had foreseen. The murder of her mother in 1898 hits the young woman hard. Her diary entry goes beyond the usual descriptions of grief and shows how deep Elisabeth’s influence was on Marie Valerie.
This unique document shows the relationships within the imperial family, unlike any other book. Marie Valerie experiences the coldness within the family like no one else. She cannot tell her father how much she loves him – simply because showing emotions is not a thing to do for the Habsburgers. In return, the diary becomes Marie Valerie’s friend: where she can openly state her thoughts and feelings, including the not so pleasant ones.