Elisabeth Amalie Eugenie was born as a “Christ Child”.

Sisi's amazing Journey - Österreichs legendäre Kaiserin Sisi

When and where was Empress Elisabeth born? How many siblings did she have and how was her childhood? What was your favorite activity? Where did she spend the summer months?

On December 24, 1837, exactly on Christmas Eve , Elisabeth Amalie Eugenie saw the light of day in Munich. She brought her first milk tooth with her, which was considered a symbol of good luck. She was also a Sunday child, ie children born on a Sunday were particularly lucky, one thought. Now her fate shows that things turned out differently.

She was the fourth child of ten children from the marriage between Princess Maria Ludovika (1808-1892) and Duke Maximilian in Bavaria (1808-1888). The parents did not exactly lead a model marriage, the father had several illegitimate children.

The mother was one of the daughters of King Maximilian I Joseph of Bavaria. Her older sister Sophie had already married into the Habsburg imperial family in Austria. She was the wife of Archduke Franz Karl, the father of Emperor Franz Joseph I. So Sophie was not only Elisabeth’s aunt, but later also became her mother-in-law.

Her father, Duke Maximilian in Bavaria , from a branch of the Wittelsbach family, was a freedom- loving man, a bon vivant and womanizer. Whenever possible, he fled his official duties and was considered unreliable. In the Sisi films, an intimate picture is drawn between father and children, but in reality he was rarely present and hardly took part in family life. Sisi was only a few days old when her father left for a long journey to the Orient.

A carefree childhood at Lake Starnberg

Possenhofen Castle on Lake Starnberg

Although closely related to the Bavarian royal family, Elisabeth had a carefree childhood, free of any conventions and protocols. The family lived a secluded life in Duke Max’s palace on Munich’s Ludwigstrasse.

The family spent the summer months in the small Possenhofen Castle on Lake Starnberg. Here Elisabeth could move freely. She liked to go horseback riding, was at one with nature and could speak in the Bavarian dialect. Sisi always affectionately called Possenhofen “Possi”.

Her mother Ludovica was responsible for her upbringing, who was very careful about etiquette but not too strict. She inherited a certain shyness from her mother and later hated being “gazed” (stared at) by many people. Sisi didn’t think much of studying and sitting still, instead she loved being outdoors. She much preferred to frolic around with the neighborhood farm children. She also loved to swim , preferably for hours at a time.

Thanks to her father’s liberal attitude, Elisabeth enjoyed a very unconventional upbringing. It was he who introduced her to horseback riding , which she practiced with great zeal for many years and later also achieved considerable success.

Throughout her life, Elisabeth remained closely connected to her siblings, especially to her older sister Helene, known as Néné. She was the one who was actually chosen as the bride for Emperor Franz Joseph and was quite snubbed when he preferred Sisi, who was only 15 years old. Nevertheless, the two were a great support in the course of life. She also had a close relationship with her younger brother Carl Theodor, known as Gackel.

Tip from Sisi’s Amazing Journey: In the Sisi Museum you will find exciting objects from Elisabeth’s childhood.

More information: Sisi Museum – Hofburg Vienna (hofburg-wien.at)

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