On 24 April 1854, Elisabeth married Franz Joseph, and the family was catapulted to fame. Elisabeth wore a gown of white and silver, strewn with myrtle blossom and an opal and diamond crown. She was led up the aisle by her mother and her soon-to-be mother-in-law. At the end of the gala banquet, the bride and groom were led to Elisabeth’s rooms. Archduchess Sophie wrote, “Ludovika and I led the young bride to her rooms. I left her with her mother and stayed in the small room next to the bedroom until she was in bed. Then I fetched my son and led him to his young wife, whom I saw once more, to wish her a good night. She hid her pretty face, surrounded by the masses of her beautiful hair, in her pillow, as a frightened bird hides in its nest.”1 Due to a lack of privacy, we know that the actual consummation did not take place until the third night.
Elisabeth became pregnant quickly, and her first child – a daughter named Sophie – was born on 5 March 1855. It was Ludovika’s first grandchild. A second grandchild – a daughter named Gisela – was born in 1856. Ludovika also acted as godmother for her second granddaughter. The relationship between Elisabeth and her mother-in-law Sophie was complicated, and Ludovika was often called in as a mediator. She did not dare to visit as she feared fanning Elisabeth’s homesickness. Instead, she continuously wrote letters with “caring advice and recommendations for precautions from a mother’s heart to her little daughter, who is already expecting.”2 On 29 May 1857, Ludovika’s first granddaughter died in childhood, and Ludovika received the news via a telegram. Ludovika gathered up Helene, Marie Sophie and Mathilde Ludovika and travelled to Vienna to support Elisabeth during this difficult time. She returned to support Elisabeth after the difficult birth of Crown Prince Rudolf.
As Elisabeth’s physical and mental health deteriorated at the Viennese court, Ludovika was almost apologetic to her sister Sophie. She wrote, “If only it were recognised that you do everything, how well disposed you are to others! God grant that things will be different again!”3 Elisabeth was sent to Madeira to recuperate, and Ludovika wrote, “Sisi’s trip worries me a great deal, and it was such a great shock, for when she was here, one would not have foreseen such a necessity, although she always coughed a little, especially when she first arrived. Sadly, she does not take enough care of herself and trusts too much in her strong constitution.”4 Elisabeth recovered, but it was only the start of a life of travel – anything to get away from Vienna.
In September 1878, Ludovika and Maximilian celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with a grand party at Schloss Tegernsee, where they had been married. She later wrote that he had been “good to her” on their anniversary. Ten years later, the family gathered again to celebrate Ludovika’s 80th birthday in style. By then, Ludovika had become quite lonely and melancholic. The death of Helene in 1890 hit her hard, as did her grandson Rudolf’s suicide in 1889 and her husband’s death in 1888. Her own health started to deteriorate quickly, and Ludovika focussed on her one remaining wish – to find her granddaughter Amelie (the daughter of Karl-Theodor and Princess Sophie of Saxony) a good husband. She found him – Wilhelm, Duke of Urach – but she did not live long enough to see her get married. In January 1892, Ludovika began to suffer from flu-like symptoms. From the end of January, she was unable to get out of bed. Soon, her family began to gather around her. Amelie was by her side and told her it was best to sleep – to which Ludovika groggily agreed. Elisabeth, who was with her heavily pregnant daughter Marie Valerie, could not come and also received the news of her mother’s decline too late.
In the early morning of 26 January 1892 – just before 4 A.M. – with only Sophie Charlotte and two doctors by her side, Ludovika passed away in her sleep. Luckily, she would not have to witness the fates that would befall Elisabeth and Sophie Charlotte.5