.„One hears so much, ach! It would be easy, if she were as good as she was beautiful“ – Empress Elisabeth is characterized by her lady-in-waiting and confidante Countess Marie Festetics in her journal in 1871. What has since changed in the estimation? For her fans, she represents fairytale-like beauty, combative emancipation, a burning desire for freedom and self-determination. Her nonconformism, enthusiasm for sport and animals make her seem very modern. Her critics, however, see in her a spoilt and eccentric woman full of foibles, an unpredictable wife and employer, a seemingly uninterested sovereign and irresponsible callous mother, who spent her abundant leisure time on reckless riding adventures, expensive travels and her excessive beauty cult and diet mania.
Therefore, it is worth re-discovering the personality behind the timeless idol which Sisi has become, who was first of all a loving and suffering woman, caught between these extremes, who was full of desires and hopes, but was soon cheated of her girl-like dream of happiness, deceived by her „highest“ husband and persecuted by court intrigues. Sisi’s restlessness and desolation, as well as her death wish are therefore also a result of these disappointments. When she dies on the 10th of September 1898 in Geneva at the hands of her assassin, this also marks the birth of her myth.
The publication at hand vividly traces the main stations of her biography and addresses her most distinctive traits in words and illustrations. Her death wish, which she committed to her „Poetic Journal“: “Oh thrust your spear into my heart./ Free me from this world,/ Which without you is so dreary, so empty / Nothing holds me“, was thus fulfilled.
Dr. Hannes Etzlstorfer, born in 1959, is an art and culture historian, exhibitions curator and culture journalist in Vienna and Neulengbach. He has devoted his time for decades in research about the Habsburgs, culminating in publications about their residences, travels and culinary enjoyment, as well as a series of exhibitions. He curated the new Crown Prince Rudolf exhibition in Mayerling and the show about "Karl and Zita" in Schloss Eckartsau. Moreover, he was guest of the TV documentary series about the fame and fortunes of the House of Habsburg.