Sisi was born in Munich in 1837. At the age of 15 was married to her cousin the Hapsburg Emperor Franz Joseph. Although the Emperor was very much in love with Sisi, she was stifled by the protocol of the court and wrote in her diary, “I have awakened in a dungeon, with chains on my hands.” Later in life she added, “Marriage is an absurd arrangement. One is sold as a fifteen-year-old child and makes a vow one does not understand and then regrets for thirty years or more, and which one can never undo again.”
Sisi was an especially beautiful woman, but had health issues that were attributed to tuberculosis but may have been caused by syphilis, presumably contracted from her husband. She was obsessed with her image and exercise routine. At 5’ 8”, she fasted to maintain her 110 lbs and 16” waist, had a gym installed in the palace and was extreme with her beauty products and routines. Her hair cascaded to the floor and required several hours a day to style.
Sisi had four children, the first three raised by her dictatorial mother in law. The fourth, Marie Valerie, she retained in her control. She said, “My other children were taken away from me at once. I was permitted to see the children only when Archduchess Sophie gave permission. She was always present when I visited the children. Finally I gave up the struggle and went upstairs only rarely.”
Fluent in Hungarian, Greek, English and French, Sisi was an unhappy woman and a restless, obsessive traveler, visiting Madeira, Morocco, Algeria, Malta, Egypt and Turkey and establishing homes in Corfu, Madeira and Venice. In a poem she wrote:
“I wander lonely in this world,
Delight and life long time averted,
No confidant to share my inner self,
A matching soul never revealed.”
As she aged she said, “Ah, the horror of growing old, to feel the hand of Time laid upon one’s body, to watch the skin wrinkling, to awake and fear the morning light, and to know that one is no longer desirable! Life without beauty would be worthless to me.” She carried a hypodermic for cocaine in her travel medicine case.
During one of Sisi’s illnesses, her daughter, Valerie said, “Much worse than the ailment is Mama’s indescribable despair and hopelessness. She says that it is a torment to be alive, and she indicates that she wants to kill herself.”
In 1989, her son and heir to the throne, Rudolf shot his young mistress then several hours later put a bullet through his own brain at the family hunting lodge, Mayerling. After the suicide, Sisi only wore black and her spa-to-spa drifting intensified, as everyone around her fretted about her dark depressive spells.
At age 61, on a street in Geneva, Sisi was stabbed by an anarchist. No one realized the extent of the injury and she subsequently died. Hearing the news of her death, her husband whispered, “No one knows how much we are loved” and adds, “Nothing will be spared me on this earth”
Sisi, 7.25” x 5.25” x .25”, 10 pages, drum leaf binding with watered silk over board cover. Edition of 4