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

Sisi was 5’8, and determined to remain 110 pounds forever. She was actually naturally quite thin, and she walked constantly – often for up to 10 hours a day (and much to the dismay of the companions who had to accompany her). She was also a gymnastic fanatic, and had a gym installed in the palace, at a time when it was unfashionable for ladies to sweat.

However, that still proved a very difficult weight to maintain. Jesus, of course it was. If Sisi had been a model today she might have lived off coffee and cocaine, and sure, Sisi had a cocaine vial, but, I guess, not enough coffee. So she lived largely off of the squeezed juices of steak. The court chefs would squeeze steaks, and Sisi would drink the juice that came out. She also used a juicer to make soups of duck blood and bone marrow.

There’s a good movie to be made about Empress Sisi being a vampire if you choose to go that route.

Whenever her weight threatened to exceed 110 pounds – especially after childbirth (she did bear 4 children) – she fasted. Apparently the sight of meat alone was enough to revolt her. And yet she drank duck blood.

In her later years, she ate mostly sorbets, which I like to imagine were made with fruit. However, I can’t help but feel that Sisi would have loved this.

She transmitted this horror of weight to her daughter, who was, accordingly, terrified when she met Queen Victoria as a child. Terrified as one might be of a monster.

However, Sisi did have one food for which she made an exception. Despite her strict steak-juice drinking sorbet-snacking habits, it’s said that Sisi would venture out of the palace all the way to Demels for boxes of candied violets. Today, she’s still immortalized on many boxes in Vienna:

However, since many of these sweets are actually chocolates filled with violet creams, I get the sense that Sisi would never, ever have eaten those. I get the sense that she actually would have spit them back at people. There is no textual evidence of that, it just really seems like the kind of thing she would have done.

She also slept in clothes that were soaked in vinegar thinking it would help her remain slim, which begs the question: between the veal mask, and being upright, and sleeping in a nightgown soaked in vinegar how the hell did this woman sleep? I suppose ten hour a day walks helped with that.

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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.