|Sisi right after her marriage in 1855. The portrait|
is by AmandaBergstedt.
|An intimate portrait of Sissi by Franz |
Winterhalter in 1864.
When Sisi returned to Austria, the court was abuzz about her extended travels, but also about the rabble rousing Hungarians that were essentially conquered peoples. Sisi loved Hungarian culture and even learned the language. She became the personal advocate of Count Andassy, a Hungarian freedom fighter. Historians now believe that the two were lovers, in addition to being close friends. In 1867, a compromise was brokered (largely by Sisi) to allow the Hungarians to govern themselves with a parliament. In exchange Franz and Sisi would be crowned the Emperor and Empress of Hungary. Soon after, Sisi found herself pregnant for a fourth time. However, she now openly rebelled and refused to give the child up to her mother-in-law. But yet Sisi was still unhappy; she began to travel extensively and was constantly dogged by the press. She was very protective of herself, and did not like to photographed. She often carried a parasol and a leather fan to shield herself from prying eyes. She visited England and may have been the lover of George "Bay" Middleton (the subject of Daisy Goodwin's The Fortune Hunter).
|Sisi at her Hungarian Coronation, 1867|
And now for my review of Alison Pataki's The Accidental Empress. It opens just before Sisi leaves on the journey that will change her life. Her reluctant attraction to Franz is detailed as is her utter happiness at being united to him in marriage. But the fairy tale soon ends as Sisi is frustrated at every turn by her husband's aloofness and her mother-in-law's domineering ways. The novel follows Sisi to her coronation in Hungary, and covers her attraction and relationship with Count Andassy. As with Pataki's first novel, there were several mistakes in the clothing descriptions. At times, modern attitudes prevail as well. However, Sisi proves to be much more sympathetic than Peggy Shippen. Readers will find The Accidental Empress a good entry point on the life of Elizabeth, Empress of Austria.