austrian empress

Sisi was only 16 years old and woefully unprepared for married life. Traumatized by the consummation of the marriage on the wedding night, she remained secluded in her bedroom for three days, refusing to come out. Afterward, she struggled to adapt to the Habsburg court life with its rigid expectations and practices and stringent etiquette. Before long, she fell ill, but her illness turned out to be her first pregancy.

5

“My dear Sissi! 

I hope that you are having a nice time in Hungary, but considering how long you’ve been gone, could you return to Vienna for a few weeks? The Viennese can be very jealous!

And me, too!”


Romy Schneider as Sissi in Sissi: The Fateful Years of an Empress (1957)

  • dir. Ernst Marischka
Royal Tutor Encyclopedia

So if you watch Oushitsu Kyoushi Haine (also know as ‘The Royal Tutor’), maybe you’ll start to think which country is the main inspiration for the mangaka’s Granzreich. In some of the manga’s bonus features it is revealed that the Austro-Hungarian Empire, my country and Austria’s 19th century alliance gives the most of the details to the story. Today I will show you the parallel points of the reality and the fiction based on the first four episodes.

What we know that the kingdom of Granzreich is basically similar with Austria (in German ‘Österreich’ - ‘österr’ means Austrian) and their capital is Wiener (’Wien’ in German or ‘Vienna’ in English is the capital of Austria). Wiener’s popularity in the time of the show were 1,300,000 people, which is similar to Vienna’s popularity around the early 1900′s. (1,700,000 people if the Wikipedia says right things.)

And what things are the current parallels?

1. Royal Crest

The Granzreich family crest was based on the Habsbourg family crest - they are the royal family of Austria from the middle ages to the end of the World War II. Althought the crown on the top is a little bit different - that’s the crown from the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s Crest.

2. The Royal Palace

This was based on the Hofburg Palace, Vienna. This was the first royal palace in the town, but Franz Joseph I, the emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire built a bigger palace at the end of the town (Schönbrunn Palace) and the first metro line, because he likes the calm life but hates carriages. Now this is a governmental building and also works as a museum.

3. The Royals

Franz Joseph I was the main inspiration of the royal prince’s appearances and clothing. The black dress is from his youth and the blue, royal dress is in the early 1900s - he sat on the throne almost 70 years, from 1848 to 1916.

4. The Vain Princess

This is also based on a true story. Marie Antoinette, child of the Austrian and Hungarian Empress Marie Theresa (1717-1780) was married to the royal family of France as the wife of King Louis the XVI. They lived in big luxury when their people were starving, so in 1789 the france revolution was started and then she killed with the guillotine.

5. The Royal Capital

The places in the anime were also exist - the Ring (’RingStraße’), the Royal Opera House and the Town Hall. Here are my pictures about these buildings.

+ The Royal Puppy

Do you wonder which species is the royal dog? It’s a ‘komondor’, a Hungarian shepherd dog. Their fur also mop-like than the puli’s (Mark Zuckerberg’s Beast is also a hungarian dog, a ‘puli’ or mop dog), but their height are bigger to guard the cows or horses.

In her beautiful hair she wore a large comb that held back her braids, she wears her hair fashionably combed away from her face. The little one’s bearing is so charming, so modest, so impeccable, so graceful yes almost humble, when she dances with the Emperor. She was like a rosebud, unfolding under the rays of the sun, sitting beside the Emperor during the cotillion. She seemed to me so attractive, so childishly unpretentious and yet quite unaffected with him. It was only the crowd of people that intimidated her.
—  Archduchess Sophie describing Sisi, 17th of August 1853

Sisi was a trendsetter. She didn’t subscribe to the heavy makeup popular at the time, and women were inspired by her natural look. Her waspish waist became her trademark. Suddenly women were tightening their corsets or, if they could afford it, ordering the newest versions from bespoke shops and other countries. Sisi tried boned fabric styles, leather styles…and the women she ruled followed suit.

La mer est furieuse, les vagues mugissent
Et s'écrasent de toute leur énorme puissance
Sur le rivage désert, dans la nuit noire.
Extasiée, j'écoute la rumeur du camp,
La voix du bien-aimé parvient à mon oreille,
Lui, le magnifique, l'homme fort!
— 

Empress Elisabeth of Austria

Translated by Nicole Casanova in “Le Journal poetique de Sissi”

2

On Sunday the 24th of December 1837, Her Royal Highness Elisabeth Amalie Eugenie was born in Munich, Bavaria. Sisi, as she became known, was the fourth child of Duke Maximilian Joseph & Duchess Ludovika. She had been born one of fortune’s darlings as she was born on a Sunday & right during Christmas time. 

Ich bin ein Sonntagskind, ein Kind der Sonne;
Die goldnen Strahlen wand sie mir zum Throne,
Mit ihrem Glanze flocht sie meine Krone,
In ihrem Lichte ist es, dass ich wohne
.

[I am Sunday’s child, a child of the sun; / Her golden rays she wove into my throne, / With her glow she wove my crown, / It is in her light that I live.]

She grew up in a carefree environment where she was able to do as she wished & chase freedom. She was a child of the sun & of nature. She often skipped lessons to go horseback riding instead. She cared not for court protocols & always searched for more ways to spread her wings.

Sisi, a woman who lived for freedom, married Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph & became Empress Elisabeth of Austria at the age of sixteen. This marriage was an unhappy one. They were ill-matched & Sisi’s personality & constant search for freedom clashed with the Austrian court. 

As Empress, she became renowned for her beauty & her peculiarities. Her hair was considered her crowning glory & her beauty regimen is a source of interest for many. She shocked many people when it was revealed that she often exercised & used tight lacing to maintain her weight & thin waist line. She also became known for helping create the Austro-Hungarian dual monarchy due to her great love for Hungary. She often preferred to stay in Hungary over Austria & this love for Hungary caused many to dislike her. 

Later in life, she withdrew from her court duties & she spent the rest of her days wandering & searching for the freedom she lost. 

With her Greek tutor, Konstantinos Christomanos, a great admirer of ancient Greece, Sisi becomes not only perfect in the language, but she is also introduced to Greek mythology. The home of mythology becomes the “home of Sisi’s soul.” The ancient world is highly regarded at this time not only by the restless Empress, but is generally quite popular. Classical virtues greatly influence the mature empress’ worldview.

2

A French Revolution blogger recently remarked on the portrayal of Louis XV’s mistress, Jeanne du Barry, in many books about Marie Antoinette. Madame du Barry is shown as an uncouth whore with little to no manners, an inferior to the fresh, polished dauphine Marie Antoinette, who takes great pleasure in slighting her. The rivalry between Louis XV’s maitresse-en-titre and the young dauphine was the talk of Versailles in the last years of his reign, but many works of fiction tend to take Marie Antoinette’s part in it. After all, Jeanne du Barry was nothing more than the king’s whore, whereas Marie Antoinette was the daughter of the Austrian empress and a member of a family who could trace themselves back to the Roman nobility.

The king had his agents scour the brothels and taverns for Jeanne’s pimp’s brother, the comte du Barry, who was an impoverished nobleman, and Jeanne was immediately married off to him. The comte was given a handsome sum to very conveniently disappear, leaving his wife to become mistress to the king. Madame du Barry was presented at court,and soon she became the king’s mistress.

Unlike Madame de Pompadour, Jeanne was “more successful as a patron of arts and letters” than influencing the king’s politics. The king was enamored of her, and she was “all women to him – a delightful child, a talented whore, a comforting mother.” Despite how much the king adored her, though, Jeanne was still slighted by many members of the court. When the young dauphine Marie Antoinette refused to publicly speak to her, it started a feud that would make Regina’s and Cady’s rivalry in Mean Girls pale in comparison.

Marie Antoinette’s mother, Maria Theresa, prevailed upon her young daughter to be kind to the king’s maitresse-en-titre and to keep in mind that things in France were done differently than things in Austria. Still, Marie Antoinette was revolted that the king dared to parade his mistress in front of the entire court. She followed the example of Louis XVI’s aunts in their disdain for Madame Pompadour, which turned into hatred after she discovered that Jeanne had laughed at some slanderous joke about her mother. She refused to even acknowledge Jeanne, until she bent to pressure from her mother and the Austrian ambassador and remarked to Jeanne, “There are a lot of people today at Versailles.” While the act soothed some of the tensions between the two women at the court, Marie Antoinette still loathed Jeanne. When Louis XV was ill with smallpox, it was Jeanne who nursed him. After his death, at his behest, she went to a convent for a year, during which time Marie Antoinette prevailed upon Louis XVI to banish Jeanne from court, which he did. Jeanne spent the final years before the Revolution at her small chateau in Louveciennes. She entertained lavishly and surrounded herself with luxury as she had during her glory days at Versailles, but she also was personally very charitable and did what she could to alleviate the plight of the poor in her area.

Du Barry seems to be a woman who was confident about her sexuality and is was perfectly comfortable with it at a time when women weren’t necessarily supposed to enjoy it. While she may not have had the upbringing that Marie Antoinette or even Madame Pompadour might have had, she would have eventually learned what manners were expected of her during her time as a courtesan whose clients numbered among the most illustrious men in France at the time.

In many books about the Versailles court of Louis XV, you see people exult Madame de Pompadour as gracious and refined, but she was a bourgeoise while du Barry was, to many, from below the bottom of the barrel. In truth, du Barry is rather an admirable woman, for she rose from a life of poverty and difficulty to hold a high position both at court and in the king’s heart in a time when it was very difficult for women to do so.

We also see this comparison with Louise de la Valliere, who was very devout and penitent and who wanted only Louis XIV’s love, and Athenais de Montespan, who was outspoken and ambitious and used the position for her benefit. Athenais was known to enjoy sex as well, unlike Madame de Maintenon and unlike Louise, and can you really blame her for using the position for her benefit? She gave up a lot of things to become maitresse-en-titre, and she knew she would be giving these things up because she wanted the position, but she was also putting her health at risk by sleeping with Louis. There were not only the risks associated with pregnancy and childbirth, but also venereal disease (his cousin Charles II and his mistresses basically played a game of VD hot potato), so she had every right to get what she could from the position?

Also, patriarchal society of the time put women into the categories of either Madonnas or whores. Not that it was right, and Marie Antoinette should never have treated Madame du Barry as she did, but much of her attitude came from the society she was raised in. Sex within the confines of marriage was perfectly acceptable; however, sex beyond those boundaries was considered to be sinful. It very easily turned what could be considered respectable women into whores, and these women were shameful and therefore undeserving of the compliments paid to respectable women. And these attitudes still linger in our society today.

Franz Xaver Winterhalter, Empress Elisabeth of Austria in County Gala Dress with Diamond Stars, 1865, oil on canvas, Hofburg Palace, Vienna. Source

I’ve just finished reading Daisy Goodwin’s ‘The Fortune Hunter’, which was inspired by Empress Elisabeth, or ‘Sisi’, of Austria. She was known for her beauty and obsession with youthfulness, spending several hours a day receiving treatments designed to maintain her looks. In Winterhalter’s portrait, Sisi wears dazzling diamond stars in her hair.

Hamilton, History and Context

In the wake of the Hamilton phenomena, a number of historians have put forward their views that the show doesn’t represent the historical figures fairly, or that the characterisation is impartial. I find this amusing for the simple fact that historical characters - or even contemporary characters - being represented in the media can and never will be exactly the same people they were in their lives. All you have to do is look at the many representations of Elizabeth I to see this.

It especially amuses me because I have yet to see a truly neutral and unbiased historian writing about a specific historical figure. I’m a history nerd. I have read so many biographies it may be bordering on the slightly embarrassing. I always find it eye-opening to read a few of biographies about the same person and see what angle the writers chose to take. As an example, it’s amazing how many historians gloss over the fact that Kaiser Wilhelm was somewhat infamous in the gay scene of Vienna in the late 19th century. Boy was a goer by Viennese accounts. And yet, not one of the English-language bios that I have read mention it.

But to come back to my point: what these historians are missing is the simple fact that theatre isn’t a documentary. It is never going to represent these people with 100% accuracy (or even 10% in some cases) because theatre is about telling a story. Theatre is about connecting with the audience and making them think. Whether it’s planting a specific seed of an idea, or adjusting the history in a form that becomes relevant and understandable to the audience is the key.

Keep reading