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

Have I mentioned that Sisi was considered to be really, really beautiful? She was. Even people who kind of thought that Franz had not brought home the most suitable bride agreed that she was stunning. “How beautiful she is!” exclaimed the Shah of Persia when he first met her. King Albert of Belgium claimed that Sisi was “a beautiful creature” which is not quite a compliment. But! Beautiful. Everyone agreed on that.

So it’s completely reasonable that she slept upright in a metal bedstand wearing a leather mask stuffed with raw veal.

The veal was against her face, that is. It was not part of the mask. The mask was just there to ensure that a slab of raw meat was held in place.  Why so Hannibal Lecter? Well, veal is… good for your skin? I feel like I am making this stuff up. I swear I’m not, though. And veal is actually not bad for your skin.

Still. Please take a moment to envision this. Envision wandering into the wrong room and finding this lady asleep, upright, strapped to a metal pole, wearing a leather mask. Now imagine noticing that the scent of raw veal is wafting through the room. I’d put odds of me running screaming from that ostensibly nightmarish castle at around 90%. The 10% is accounting for me somehow not having legs that functioned well because the 19th century was rough.

Really, all of Sisi’s beauty rituals were pretty amazing, and seem to stop just short of her bathing in a pool of virgin blood.

And they do sort of make sense. She went from being raised in a really bohemian home to going to a very strict court. (She was supposed to be weaving, remember.) While I’m apt to dismiss the movie trilogy explanation that all her problems were because her mother-in-law was so mean – she was very domineering. I mean, her mother-in-law picked out all her children’s names for her. Her looks were probably one of the only aspects of her life that she had complete control over.

She once claimed:

“Ah, the horror of growing old, to feel the hand of Time laid upon one’s body, to watch the skin wrinkling, to awake and fear the morning light, and to know that one is no longer desirable! Life without beauty would be worthless to me.”

Again, it’s not surprising that she got really controlling. Her hair, for instance.

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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.