The Country Girl Empress
It was THE romance of 19th century Europe! The young and dashingly handsome Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria needed an Empress by his side according to his mother, Archduchess Sophie. The House of Habsburg was the most powerful ruling family in Europe, and the line of succession had to be maintained. For centuries, marriages had been arranged based on dynastic considerations as well as serve the expansion of the Empire’s power and it was not going to be any different this time.
Princess Elisabeth was born on the 24th of December 1837 at the Wittelsbacher Palais in Munich. As a daughter of Duke Max in Bavaria and his wife Ludovika, Elisabeth called “Sisi”, grew up with her many siblings far away from all protocol in the small castle of Possenhofen on the shore of Lake Starnberg. More of a tomboy than a Princess, she spent much of her childhood there.
Sisi and her cousin Franz Joseph first met when she was 11 years old, and the girl promptly fell in love with the Emperor’s younger brother Karl Ludwig. Franz Joseph, on the other hand, fell head over heels for Sisi’s cousin Anna, niece of the King of Prussia. The handsome young Emperor had no shortage of female admirers, all hoping to one day become his wife. A few years later, Franz Joseph traveled to Bad Ischl to meet Sisi’s older sister Helene who was predestined to be his wife. Little did he know that fate had other plans!
The years of Sisi’s youth took place in the background of an unsettled Europe. Revolts, revolutions, and political intrigue were part of daily life. However, when Duchess Ludovika, along with her daughters Nene and Sisi receive an invitation to join the imperial family in Bad Ischl for the Emperor’s birthday festivities, an elaborate game of love and royal marriage politics ensues and finds an entirely unforeseen end in the idyllic resort town.