Female BAMFs of History
- Empress Elisabeth Joseph (nee Eugenie) of Austria
Elisabeth - or Sisi as she was more commonly known - was born on the 24th December 1837 to the Duke Maximillian Joseph of Bavaria and Princess Ludovika of Bavaria. She is known for being the Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary, as well as having a significant influence on politics. Sisi married her cousin - Francis Joseph I of Austria - on the 24th April 1854, and gave birth to their first child together, Archduchess Sophie of Austria, just ten months later. Sophie was named after Sisi’s aunt, Princess Sophie of Bavaria, without any input from the Empress. The baby was then promptly put in the care of Princess Sophie, who refused to let Sisi breastfeed or care for her child. A year later, Archduchess Gisela of Austria was born, and was also taken away from Sisi. Shortly after the birth of Gisela, Sisi’s first daughter Sophie died while on a visit in Budapest with her little sister and parents. It was thought that both her and Gisela had suffered from typhus fever, and, although Gisela had recovered, Sophie did not.
This set off a period of mourning and depression in Sisi’s life, and although she wasn’t directly blamed for her daughter’s death, Princess Sophie held her responsible. Sisi suffered breakdowns, would go horse-riding until she was at a state of exhaustion, and she neglected her only living daughter. Elisabeth was unusually tall for her age, and was actually around two inches taller than her husband. She felt as though the only thing she had control of in her life was her physical appearance, and so she began to use this as her main source of self-esteem. She kept her weight at 50kg, which she achieved through fasting and exercise, as well as “fasting cures” when she feared she was going to go over. After the death of her daughter, she refused to eat for days and disliked eating supper with her family, and often ate a diet of either the juice of half-raw beef steaks (meat itself disgusted her) or milk and eggs.
The birth of Sisi’s son, Rudolf, on August 2st 1858, meant that the pressure of producing a male heir was finally lifted from Sisi. It also gave her more of an influence in court, which went well along with her growing interested in politics as she matured. But this did not stop the fact that Sophie was now also blocking her from caring for her only son, and this declined her physical and mental health even more. She had nervous attacks, frequent fits of coughing, a severe exercise regime and fasting cures. Her doctor diagnosed her with anemia, physical exhaustion, and he also feared that she may have tuberculosis. He advised her to take a trip to Madeira, and Sisi jumped at the chance. When she returned six months later, the coughing fits and fever again started showing symptoms just four days after being back in Vienna.
After Rudolf turned four, Franz Joseph wanted another son to safeguard the succession, but Sisi’s doctor said that Sisi’s health would not permit another pregnancy. Sisi commented that “children are the curse of a woman, for when they come, they drive away Beauty, which is the best gift of the gods”, and she fell back into her pattern of escaping boredom by extreme exercising and using her poor health as an excuse to avoid intimacy with Franz. After uses many excuses to avoid pregnancy, Sisi decided that she wanted to have another baby deliberately as a political negotiation. If she returned to her marriage, she ensured that Hungary would gain an equal alliance with Austria. She gave birth to her last child, Archduchess Marie Valerie, in 1868, and she was dubbed “the Hungarian Child”. Marie Valerie was the child that she could finally nurse and call her own, after the decline of Princess Sophie’s influence over the court and Sisi’s children.
In 1888, Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria met Baroness Marie Vetsera, and began an affair with her. Official reports claim that it was Franz Joseph’s demand that the couple break off the affair that made Rudolf commit suicide. According to records, he first shot the Baroness in the head, and then he shot himself. Following this, the marriage of Sisi and Franz Joseph collapsed completely, and Sisi spent much of her time abroad until her assassination at on Saturday 10th September 1898. Franz Joseph, upon hearing the assassination of his beloved wife, stated “you will never know how much I loved this woman.”