Shelved Dolls: Empress Sisi – Possibly The Strangest Woman That Ever Lived

The romantic fairy tale portion of her story hinges on the fact that when Emperor Franz Joseph came to meet Sisi’s sister – who he was supposed to marry, though God knows why the Emperor of Austria was supposed to marry one of crazy Duke Maximilian Joseph of Bavaria’s daughters (because Max was fun, maybe?) – the Emperor met Sisi, and immediately fell in love with her instead. Sisi was 15, and Franz Joseph was 23. I want to stress one point: this is not actually as normal as it is always made out to be in historical dramas.

Yes, you could be a man in your 20s and marry a young teenager in the mid 19th century, there were no laws against it, but it was still frowned upon. Suffice to say, Franz’s mother wasn’t thrilled about the choice, but was determined to educate Sisi in a way that would make her able to rule Austria “with dignity.”

This was during an age where Austria was often called “the sick man of Europe.” That was an impression that the court tried to combat largely by behaving pretty much impeccably. Franz Joseph himself was a quiet, dignified man who spent his spare time studying metaphysics. Soon after she arrived at the court Sisi was informed that she would not longer be able to yacht, go on shopping sprees or drink beer. The idea was that she would devote her time to more classic, ladylike pursuits, like, you know, weaving, or something like that. This may seem kind of obvious, but Sisi was not happy. 

She told her mother, “I am treated like a freak at a circus.”

This, I think, is one of the reasons that Sisi is frequently likened to Princess Diana. The notion is that she was just too young and beautiful and spirited for a stuffy court.

This is actually a pretty false comparison. Look, here’s why:

Sisi responded to her situation by making up poems which she then recited to the court. Sounds really mature of her, right? No shopping sprees and beer swilling for her! Only ladylike poetry. Here’s an example:

Ich aber, web’ euch Kappen

Und näh’ auch Schellen dran;

Als narren geht ihr dan herum


I have woven some caps for you

And decided to put bells on the top;

That way you can go around like buffoons

Sisi basically wrote the poems that you recited all angry-like at a coffee-shop when you were 15. And then she started getting weird!

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    • Lizzie

      Given that Albert II of Belgium is still alive and king of Belgium today, it’s pretty safe to say you got that one wrong. Way to check your sources!

      • Jennifer Wright

        You’re right, it’s Albert I of Belgium.

      • Kat

        Actually, it would’ve been Leopold I.

      • Trish

        Jeez….do you have to be so nasty? Mistakes happen.

    • NeuroNerd

      The Emperor of Austria was supposed to marry one of Crazy Duke Maximilian Joseph of Bavaria’s daughters because they were first cousins–their mothers were sisters. Franz Joseph’s mother believed she could better “control” her niece.

    • Kate

      Love this, as I love all the Shelved Dolls series. Please never ever stop writing them!

      • Nancy


    • Lynn

      actually the slug this is very popular in Asia, well it’s more snail than slugs. It’s called snail cream and it brightens the skin…check it out.
      But loved this articles, I love history especially weird history!

    • Lizzie (A Different One)

      I wonder where/how that type of personality would fit in nowadays. It seems like people have forgotten how to be properly eccentric. You never hear about celebrities strapping themselves to the front of ships- the most scandalous things they ever do is get married or cut off their hair. Tabloids would be so much more interesting if Sisi were around.

    • Cee

      There are pictures of her. She is so beautiful and such a tiny waist! It’s sad that she was murdered by someone who just wanted to kill a royal who wasn’t there and settled for her.

      • linda

        Please don’t judge all anarchists by the actions of a few idiots who use the name in vain – like all people, most of us abhor violence of any sort. Viva les Sisis! Viva les Dianas! Viva Daphne Guinness and viva Paris Hilton!

    • Amanda

      Thank you so much for writing about Sisi! So many people don’t know about her, and that lonely woman deserves some acknowledgement. Her story always saddens and jolts me; it’s incredible how relevant her problems are today.

    • lola

      Demel, not ‘Demsel’ is the patisserie in Vienna. They still make the candied violets, no chocolate just candied, and sell them in the most beautiful boxes.

    • linda

      Ms Wright this is the first article of yours I’ve read, and OH BOY! can the goil write! Loves it and itching for the next. xoxo

    • Lerie

      I imagine this is how Victoria Beckham maintains her lithe figure.

      • Jennifer Wright

        Secret duck blood vat. The Sun should really be on that.

    • Molly

      This series would make a great book. Any plans?

      • Jennifer Wright

        I am excited to accept you as my personal assistant! Please find an agent and publisher for me forthwith (I think Random House just seems more accessible than St. Martin’s, but either is okay by me!) You will be paid in glory and hilarious Miranda Priestly impressions.

    • Kate

      I really love reading this series

    • محمد عبد الكريم

      انها سيسى امرأة جميلة
      ولكن على حد علمى انها كانت
      تحتقن فى الوريد بالماكس لانها كانت مدمنة ياللهول

    • Miss M

      Love the series, but I’m pretty sure that the Ottoman Empire was “the sick man of Europe.”

      • Kat

        Yep, it was. I agree though, cool series!

    • Jules

      Sooo this is a ham that I saw at a supermarket in Romania recently. I have absolutely NO idea what Sisi has to do with ham!

      Under her picture is says that “Sissi is a very fine ham” :P

    • Kat

      Great article! And yes, it’s pretty much said that the Emperor gave her a venereal disease shortly after they were married, which had a huge impact on their marriage, naturally. History would end up repeating itself when their son, Crown Prince Rudolf gave HIS wife, Princess Stephanie, VD, and in this case, she was left unable to have anymore children.