Historical Figures

Sissi's children, Elisabeth of Wittelsbach, Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary

The romantic icon imposed thanks to Romy Schneider is far from the truth. Even if his meeting with Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria is worthy of a real fairy tale , her life as a mother is not very glorious and punctuated by very disastrous dramas. Let's dive into the history of Austrian sovereignty through this article which traces the lives of Sissi's children , Elisabeth of Wittelsbach, Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary.

Sophia of Austria

The eldest of Sissi's children, Sophie of Austria was born on March 5, 1855 in Vienna. It took less than a year for Elisabeth of Wittelsbach to become pregnant after her marriage to the Emperor of Austria. It was love at first sight between Elisabeth and François-Joseph. Their union was celebrated on April 24, 1854, 2 months after only the good news fell, the Empress was expecting a child.

When the first of Sissi's children was born, the Empress was only 17 years old. Considered too young and not mature enough by her stepmother Sophie of Bavaria, Sissi sees her daughter Sophie of Austria entrusted to her grandmother . Elisabeth's daughter was brought up far from her parents, with Archduchess Sophie in Bavaria.

In May 1857, Sissi's children traveled to Ofen in Hungary. Gisèle, Sophie's younger sister, barely 9 months old, then contracts a virus. Some historians agree that it was then measles, others typhoid fever. The young Gisèle manages to get back on her feet and regains her health. But in the meantime, she transmitted the evil to her older sister Sophie . Her grandmother the Archduchess is not alarmed about the young girl's state of health, unlike her parents. Sissi seeks the advice of her personal doctor, but Sophie in Bavaria has decided otherwise. It is her doctor that she imposes to watch over the state of health of the little girl.

Unlike her younger sister, Sophie of Austria is not recovering . The eldest of Sissi's children died on May 29, 1857 at 9:15 p.m. It is a real tragedy for Empress Sissi and her husband François-Joseph, who feel devastated by this sudden loss.

Gisele of Austria

Gisele of Austria is the second of Sissi's children. She was born on July 12, 1857 in Laxenburg, Austria. Like her older sister Sophie, Gisèle was raised by her grandmother , Archduchess Sophie in Bavaria.

Very quickly, Gisèle of Austria reveals a character similar to that of her father:mature, realistic and a sense of reality. The same is true of her physique, the young Gisèle looks like two drops of water to her imperial father. Despite this resemblance, the young girl sees very little of her parents . This lack of parental affection will weigh heavily on her.

When she was only 16, she was married to Leopold of Bavaria, 12 years her senior. This marriage is arranged to allow her uncle Duke Maximilian-Emmanuel in Bavaria to marry Amélie of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. The latter was indeed promised to Leopold, despite her love for Maximilian. In order to allow a happy and loving marriage,the Empress offers her daughter’s hand to Leopold , much more advantageous for him.

This is how Gisèle of Austria, second of Sissi's children, married Leopold of Bavaria on April 20, 1873. From this union, 4 children were born:Elisabeth Marie; Augusta; Georges and Conrad.

During the First World War, the Empress's daughter showed great kindness and set up a military hospital in her own palace. It allows many soldiers to be treated there . The incident with his older sister, who died at only 2 years old from the disease she transmitted to him, pushed him to regularly help those in need of care. Meanwhile, her husband Léopold is working on the Eastern Front as a marshal.

On July 27, 1932, Gisèle died at the age of 76 . She is buried near her husband in the city that saw them grow old, Munich.

Rodolf of Austria

Third of Sissi's four children, Rodolphe of Austria is the only son of the imperial couple. Rudolf of Austria, like his older sister Sophie, experienced a most disastrous fate and makes his parents sad.

Rudolf of Austria was born on August 21, 1858 at Laxenburg Castle near Vienna. The day after his birth, and according to imperial tradition, he was proclaimed Colonel of the Nineteenth Infantry Regiment by his father François-Joseph. Like his sisters, the young boy was raised in the care of his parents, with his grandmother the Archduchess. But as heir to the crown,he must acquire everything necessary to ascend the throne . His father the Emperor therefore closely follows the education of his only son. When he was only 6 years old, he was therefore separated from his older sister Gisèle to be entrusted to a tutor. The one who will teach him the art of governing is the general-count of Lorraine origin Charles-Léopold de Gondrecourt. But the particularly severe methods of this war hero will shock and disturb the young heir. He was eventually replaced by Colonel-Count Joseph Latour von Thurmburg, who managed to establish a much more emotional relationship with his pupil.

Despite this affection, Rodolphe particularly suffers from the absence of his mother Empress Sissi, and the little love she gives him. Elisabeth of Wittelsbach prefers to travel the world and indulge his passion for horse riding. Horses rather than his children.

Rudolf of Austria, who shows a real attraction for the natural sciences, is forced to take a military career . At only 21 years old, the third of Sissi's children served in the 36th Infantry Regiment.

Even if the heir to the throne takes a clear path to the crown, he reveals with age a stubborn character and convictions that go against his father. Liberal, he does not hesitate to write anonymous articles in Vienna newspapers to spread his ideologies. To calm his ardor, the Emperor decides that it is time for his son to contract an advantageous marriage. On May 10, 1881, Rodolphe of Austria, the only son of Sissi's children, married the young Princess Stéphanie of Belgium. 2 years after their union, Stéphanie gives birth to Élisabeth-Marie Henriette Stéphanie Gisèle of Austria , Archduchess of Austria.

But this marriage is not the happiest, and Rodolphe quickly takes mistresses. The best known of them is called Marie Vetsera, a young Austrian noblewoman. As relations between Rudolf of Austria and his father Franz Joseph deteriorated rapidly, a violent argument broke out between them when the Emperor learned that his son wanted to have his marriage annulled to marry his young mistress.

Rodolphe of Austria decides to flee with his mistress and close friends to the Mayerling hunting lodge. A few days later, January 30, 1889, the heir to the throne was found dead on his bed , next to his mistress. Many speculations were made around his death, causing terrible dread at the Austrian court. These are undoubtedly the darkest days for Empress Sissi and her husband François-Joseph. I invite you to read the article on “The tragic fate of Rudolf of Austria:murder or suicide? ”. Austria is then deprived of its sole heir.

Marie-Valerie of Austria

The youngest of Sissi's children, Marie-Valérie, Archduchess of Austria, was born on April 22, 1868 in Budapest. Unlike all her other children, Elisabeth of Wittelsbach truly desired Marie-Valérie . At the birth of her youngest, the Empress was then 31 years old. Perhaps age has seen her maternal fiber born in her. To the delight of little Marie-Valérie of Austria, Sissi has decided to raise her youngest herself . Marie-Valérie is unequivocally her mother's favourite.

Many rumors surrounded her birth, suggesting that Sissi had had a child out of wedlock, with Count Andrassy who was her mentor at the time. But the physical resemblances between the child and his father very quickly put an end to these accusations. This relationship that Sissi forms with her daughter will stir up the jealousy of her other children, and the ridicule of the court.

While Sissi forced her daughter Gisèle to marry a man at just 16 years old, her attitude is totally different with her little protege, her “Kedvesem”. In addition to letting Marie-Valérie of Austria choose her future husband, she even advises him to wait to get married . She finally married her cousin the Archduke François-Salvator of Habsburg-Tuscany, on July 31, 1890. The youngest of Sissi's children was then 22 years old.

Even if the beginnings of their union seem very happy, the young husband will quickly have a good time with other women. What causes in 1914 a real drama:François-Salvator puts a pregnant woman. The latter is forcibly married to a prince of Hohenlohe and moves to London. Despite everything, 10 children were born from this marriage . She died at the age of 56 as a result of lymphoma.