• Tue, Aug 14 2012

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

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.

 

Additional Reading:

Scandalous Women by Elizabeth Mahon

Sissi: Myth and History

Sisi Museum of Vienna Website

The Lonely Empress by Joan Haislip

The Sissi Collection

“The Beautiful and Damned” – Wall Street Journal

 

 

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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

      Seconded!

  • 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.

    http://www.demel.at/en/frames/index_shop_geschenksservice.htm

  • 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.