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!