Of course, Sisi’s life wasn’t all eccentric beauty treatments. Her son, Rudolph, was found dead in a murder/suicide pact with his mistress, an event which grieved Sisi deeply. After that, she wore black until the end of her life, and was concerned that some strain of madness in her had been passed on to her son. Not because of the beauty treatments! Because when she and Franz went traveling she liked to strap herself to the front of ships during storms so she could truly experience it. That, weirdly, was the thing people at court decided was a bit odd.
She spent a great deal of time seeing mental asylums erected after that. People who want to compare her to Princess Diana often claim this indicates she was the “people’s princess.” In actuality, I suspect this was just because Sisi felt a great affinity for people with troubled states of mind.
Today, the “Sissi syndrome” is medically recognized as a form of depression suffered by unusually active people.
I think Sisi had a really admirable sense of humor about her issues. When the Emperor asked her, in 1871 what she would like for Christmas, she asked for a tiger, and a fully equipped mental asylum. That’s what I ask for every Christmas, too, or am going to, from now on.
Although it is possible she was serious. It’s hard to tell.
She was ultimately killed by a knife-wielding anarchist at the age of 60. He said he just struck at the first crowned head that passed by, and Sisi did not realize how serious her wound was. Her last words, much like Archduke Franz Ferdinand, were “it is nothing.” I cannot help but feel that I would like to see a more interesting ending for Empress Sisi – devoured by a tiger, perhaps! – but then I remember she was stabbed by an anarchist. That is very high on the list of “interesting ways to die.” And perhaps fitting for a woman who, if not a people’s princess, should be regarded as one of the patron saints of all weirdos.
In her diary, Sisi wrote that:
“I wander lonely in this world,
Delight and life long time averted,
No confidant to share my inner self,
A matching soul never revealed.”
And that is true, but that’s not a bad thing. In a world where a lot of people seem like iron filings, Sisi was a truly bizarre little snowflake. It would be an honor to receive a really, really nasty poem from her. If you want to remember her, here is a place you can buy candied violets and here is a place where you can buy raw veal. The slugs you will have to collect from your own garden.