Elizabeth - Empress of Austria - George Upton - ebook
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On the ninth of September, 1888, an unusual event occurred in the princely house of Wittelsbach. Maximilian Joseph, the head of the ducal line of Vorpfalz-Zweibrucken-Birkenfeld, and his wife Ludovica (Louise), daughter of King Maximilian First of Bavaria and his second wife, Caroline of Baden, celebrated on that day their diamond wedding, both bride and groom having been barely twenty years old at the time of their marriage. Few princely couples have been closely connected with so many of the reigning families of Europe. Their eldest son, Ludwig Wilhelm, renounced the succession to wed an actress, Henrietta Mendel, who had received the title of Countess Wallersee. Helene, the eldest daughter, married the Hereditary Prince of Thurn and Taxis, and their daughter Louise, by her alliance with Frederick of Hohenzollern, formed new ties between the Wittelsbachs and the royal house of Prussia. The next daughter was Elizabeth of Austria-Hungary, whose son in his turn took for his bride the King of Belgium's daughter, Stephanie. After Elizabeth, in the family, came Karl Theodore, well known as an oculist, and, on his father's death, the head of the ducal line of Wittelsbach. He first married his cousin Sophie, daughter of King John of Saxony; the second and present wife is Marie Josepha, Princess of Portugal. Two other daughters, Marie and Mathilde, allied themselves with the younger branch of the Bourbons. Marie became the wife of King Francis Second of Naples and Mathilde married his half-brother, Count Louis of Trani. The youngest daughter, Sophie, was betrothed at one time to her cousin, King Ludwig Second of Bavaria, but afterwards married Duke Ferdinand d'Alenyon, nephew of Louis Philippe of France, while the youngest son, Max Emanuel, married Amelie of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, thereby becoming connected by marriage with Prince Ferdinand of Bulgaria. The Wittelsbachs have always been eccentric. Mental disorders have been common with them, and during the last century between twenty and thirty members of the family have died insane. Yet in spite of their peculiarities and eccentricities they have always been exceedingly popular with their subjects, as much for their personal charm as for their devotion to the happiness and welfare of their people. The annals of Bavaria have little to record of treason or conspiracy against the princes of the land, but tell much of the loyalty and sacrifices of life and property on the part of the people...

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ELIZABETH - EMPRESS OF AUSTRIA

George Upton

PERENNIAL PRESS

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All rights reserved. Aside from brief quotations for media coverage and reviews, no part of this book may be reproduced or distributed in any form without the author’s permission. Thank you for supporting authors and a diverse, creative culture by purchasing this book and complying with copyright laws.

Copyright © 2016 by George Upton

Published by Perennial Press

Interior design by Pronoun

Distribution by Pronoun

ISBN: 9781518375552

TABLE OF CONTENTS

The Diamond Wedding

Birth and Childhood of Elizabeth

Betrothal of Princess Elizabeth

The Wedding Ceremonies

First Troubles

Travels and Sorrows

Birth of Crown Prince Rudolf

Elizabeth’s Illness and Sojourn in Madeira

The Empress’ Flight from Vienna

The Coronation in Hungary

The Archduchess Marie Valerie

The Castle of Godollo

The Empress in Vienna

Marriage of Crown Prince Rudolf

King Ludwig Second of Bavaria

The Empress’ Travels

The Empress’ Literary Tastes

Daily Life of the Empress

Death of Crown Prince Rudolf

Death of the Empress

THE DIAMOND WEDDING

~

ON THE NINTH OF SEPTEMBER, 1888, an unusual event occurred in the princely house of Wittelsbach. Maximilian Joseph, the head of the ducal line of Vorpfalz-Zweibrucken-Birkenfeld, and his wife Ludovica (Louise), daughter of King Maximilian First of Bavaria and his second wife, Caroline of Baden, celebrated on that day their diamond wedding, both bride and groom having been barely twenty years old at the time of their marriage.

Few princely couples have been closely connected with so many of the reigning families of Europe. Their eldest son, Ludwig Wilhelm, renounced the succession to wed an actress, Henrietta Mendel, who had received the title of Countess Wallersee. Helene, the eldest daughter, married the Hereditary Prince of Thurn and Taxis, and their daughter Louise, by her alliance with Frederick of Hohenzollern, formed new ties between the Wittelsbachs and the royal house of Prussia. The next daughter was Elizabeth of Austria-Hungary, whose son in his turn took for his bride the King of Belgium’s daughter, Stephanie. After Elizabeth, in the family, came Karl Theodore, well known as an oculist, and, on his father’s death, the head of the ducal line of Wittelsbach. He first married his cousin Sophie, daughter of King John of Saxony; the second and present wife is Marie Josepha, Princess of Portugal. Two other daughters, Marie and Mathilde, allied themselves with the younger branch of the Bourbons. Marie became the wife of King Francis Second of Naples and Mathilde married his half-brother, Count Louis of Trani. The youngest daughter, Sophie, was betrothed at one time to her cousin, King Ludwig Second of Bavaria, but afterwards married Duke Ferdinand d’Alenyon, nephew of Louis Philippe of France, while the youngest son, Max Emanuel, married Amelie of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, thereby becoming connected by marriage with Prince Ferdinand of Bulgaria.

The Wittelsbachs have always been eccentric. Mental disorders have been common with them, and during the last century between twenty and thirty members of the family have died insane. Yet in spite of their peculiarities and eccentricities they have always been exceedingly popular with their subjects, as much for their personal charm as for their devotion to the happiness and welfare of their people. The annals of Bavaria have little to record of treason or conspiracy against the princes of the land, but tell much of the loyalty and sacrifices of life and property on the part of the people.

Duke Maximilian Joseph was born at Bamberg, December 4, 18o8. He was the son of the weak-minded Duke Pius Augustus of Bavaria and his wife, Amelie Louise, Princess of Arenberg. “The good Duke Max,” as he was called by the people, was the only direct descendant of his grandfather, while his wife, on the other hand, was the youngest of a large family of sisters. Two had been princesses of Saxony and one a Queen of Prussia, while the fourth was the mother of the Emperor Francis Joseph of Austria-Hungary. King Ludwig First of Bavaria was a half-brother, and there were also two half-sisters. One was married first to the King of Wurtemberg and afterwards to the Emperor Francis First of Austria-Hungary; the other became the wife of Napoleon’s stepson, Eugene Beauharnais, and the grandmother of Kings Charles Fifteenth and Oscar Second of Norway and Sweden.

Thus most of the dynasties of Europe were interested in the festivities in honor of the aged pair, and sent congratulations to the secluded spot on Starnberg Lake, where the event was celebrated, and where many touching proofs of the loyalty of the people of Bavaria were also received.

Maximilian Joseph belonged to the most eccentric and popular branch of the Bavarian royal family. Educated directly under the eye of his grandfather, his childhood had been spent partly in Bamberg, partly in Munich. At the age of eighteen he entered the University of Munich, where he applied himself assiduously to the study of history, natural science, and political economy, and on coming of age he was given, as provided by the Bavarian constitution, a seat in the Senate chamber. But he did not aspire to fame, either as orator or statesman; nor did he strive for military distinction, though at the age of thirty he was assigned to the command of a regiment of cavalry and in 1857 was invested with the rank of general. His natural love for science, literature, and art more often led him to exchange his uniform for the simple civilian dress.

During the youth of the Duke a musician, named Johann Petzmacher, created a great stir. He was born in 1803, the son of an innkeeper in Vienna, and in his eighteenth year accidentally learned to play the homely zither with which the mountaineers of the Austrian and Bavarian highlands accompany their folk songs. He soon became so absorbed in the possibilities of this instrument that he gave up everything else to devote himself to it. His fame as a performer soon spread far and wide. He played before the most select circles of Vienna and even at court, and made tours throughout Germany, being received everywhere with the greatest enthusiasm. Duke Max first heard him in 1837 at a concert in Bamberg, and determined to learn to play the zither under the master’s direction. Petzmacher was introduced to the would-be virtuoso, and from that time until his death made his home with his art-loving patron. The Duke in 1838 undertook a long journey through Asia and Africa, and his musician friend accompanied him. Savages listened with delight to his playing, and as the two friends sat on the top of the Egyptian pyramids or camped in the hot desert sands, the homely melodies carried their thoughts back to loved ones in Germany, and dangers and hardships were forgotten. While on this journey Duke Max wrote several musical compositions which were afterwards performed in public and received with great applause. Under the name of “Phantasus,” he wrote a collection of dramatic poems and novels that showed no small literary talent. More noteworthy than these, however, is his “Travels in the Orient,” a book of considerable merit. On his return to Bavaria he had a circus ring constructed in the rear of his palace in the Ludwigstrasse, at Munich, which aroused much curiosity, where he frequently made his appearance as ringmaster with members of the Bavarian nobility as circus riders and performers.

It was only during the winter months that he remained in Munich. All through the Summer and Autumn he lived with his family at his castle Possenhoffen, beautifully situated on Lake Starnberg. This picturesque region, shut in by a chain of lofty Alps, seems as if created to inspire poetical sentiment, and various members of the art-loving Bavarian royal family have built summer palaces there.

Max Joseph was an enthusiastic hunter and spent whole days roaming through the forests and mountains about Possenhoffen. Enjoyment of the beauties of nature was one of his passions, and he often came out in the Winter for a few days at a time. On these excursions he wore a simple hunting costume,—short gray jacket, open shirt with suspenders, feathered cap, knickerbockers with long stockings, and heavy-soled shoes. He generally went about on foot, but sometimes made use of the mail-coach, the usual mode of conveyance at that time. His fellow travellers seldom suspected that the good-natured huntsman who chatted so freely with them was a duke and the brother-in-law of their sovereign. He was continually besieged with petitions, and rarely did any one appeal in vain to the comparatively poor but warm-hearted prince. His benevolence was one of the chief causes for his popularity in Munich, though he was most beloved by the people as the gay zither player who with his instrument under his arm would enter their cottages quite like one of themselves, and play for the young people who were never weary of dancing to his music.

His wife was very different. She had not his artistic, impulsive temperament, and the good-humored simplicity with which he mingled with the common people did not altogether meet with her approval. The proper maintenance of her position seemed no more than a duty due to her high birth and rank, and for this reason she was never as popular as her husband, though her many admirable qualities commanded the greatest respect and admiration during the sixty years that she remained mistress of Possenhoffen. She was naturally endowed with a good mind and had been carefully educated. Honesty and love of truth were among her most marked characteristics, and all her life she held firmly to what after mature reflection she believed to be right. Like the Duke, she preferred the seclusion of the country to city life, and all through their happy married life she acted as a balance to her loving but restless husband as well as friend and adviser of her children, who adored and looked up to her always. Her glance was keen but kindly. Smiles came easily to her lips, and there was an air of distinction about her that sprang from true nobility of heart. She was one of those strong souls born to help others, but in little need of support themselves. She was by no means unambitious for her children, though the trials suffered because of them taught her by degrees to place less value upon outward splendor. She disliked to excite personal attention and cared only to live as quietly and modestly as possible.

BIRTH AND CHILDHOOD OF ELIZABETH

~

IT WAS THE CHRISTMAS EVE of 1837. The bells of Munich were proclaiming the festival when Max Joseph, wandering about in one of the poorer quarters of the city, met a woman dragging herself painfully toward him with a bundle of firewood on her back. She addressed him with the usual Bavarian greeting,

“Praised be Jesus Christ!”

“For ever and ever, Amen!” replied the Duke, adding kindly, “Why are you carrying such a load upon your back this holy Christmas Eve?”

“I will tell you why, gracious Duke,” said the woman; “it is because my children have no Christmas gifts, and I have been in the forest gathering wood so that they may at least enjoy a warm room.

“You did right,” returned the Duke. “As for me, I have already received my Christmas gift, for my wife presented me to-day with a charming little daughter who is to be called Liese, and I am so happy over it I wish you too to have a Merry Christmas.”

He wrote her name and address in his notebook, and after the darkness had fallen two servants appeared at the poor woman’s dwelling with two heavy baskets filled with food. At the bottom of each was a banknote for a considerable sum.

The child born on this day was Elizabeth, afterward Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary. In many countries it is regarded as a sign of misfortune to be born on Christmas Eve, but the happy childhood of the little princess had no fore-shadowing of the experiences of her after life. 1Vlost of her early years were spent at Possenhoffen, which her father had bought some time before her birth. The great park and surrounding forests were the child’s first playgrounds, and developed in her sensitive soul a deep love of nature and of freedom.

The Duchess’s chief concern was the education of her eldest daughter, of whom she had great hopes. Helene was nearly four years older than her sister and was the favorite of the mother, whom she resembled both in character and appearance. Over-shadowed by her seemingly superior talents, with no interest in books and ignorant of the requirements of court life, Elizabeth—or “Sissi,” as she was called—grew up almost unnoticed. She loved her sister with the enthusiasm of youth and with the natural tendency of the ignorant to look up to those more clever than themselves, but her father and brothers were dearer to her than either sister or mother.

The little girl was the darling of the Duke. She had inherited his love of nature, roamed about constantly with him through the mountains, visiting the peasants’ huts, and learned to look at life and people through his eyes. Her bringing up in no way fitted her for the high station she was afterward to occupy. At the end of her fifth year she was given a governess, but “Sissi,” though an unusually gentle and lovable child, soon learned how to wind her teacher round her finger and concerned herself little about study, for which she had no love. The Empress used to declare that in her youth she was the most ignorant princess in Europe, and the little she did know had been learned as she sat on her father’s knee. But if not over-taxed with lessons, her education in other branches was by no means neglected. The Duke was determined that his children should be well developed physically, and one of the best dancing masters of the time was summoned to Possenhoffen to teach Elizabeth and her sisters to dance and carry themselves properly. Even in her later years the Empress was an excellent walker and famous for her easy, graceful carriage.

“Walking never tires me,” she said once to one of her attendants, “and I have my father to thank for it. He was an indefatigable hunter and wanted my sisters and myself to be able to leap and spring like the chamois.” She also learned to swim and ride and dearly loved to sit a horse and feel the wind blowing through her hair. She was never happier than when riding about Lake Starnberg on her little pony, and in the winter, when forced to stay in the capital, it was her greatest joy to escape to the stables, where she would mount the most unmanageable horses that could be found. One day while playing circus, as she often did, she was thrown by a wild, full-blooded animal. Her governess uttered a shriek of terror, but Elizabeth quickly rose to her feet, neither frightened nor hurt, and laughingly besought permission to mount the horse again, which the terrified governess refused to grant. The happiest time in the whole year to her was when the warm spring days made it possible for them to return to Possenhoffen and she could enjoy unlimited freedom once more. She was passionately fond of flowers, and it is still told among the Bavarian Alps how “Liese of Possenhoffen “used to scramble about the wild unbeaten mountain paths to return at last with her arms full of edelweiss.