Katharina Schratt, the “girlfriend” of the emperor?

Sisi's amazing Journey - Österreichs legendäre Kaiserin Sisi

Who was Catherine Schratt? When and where was she born? How did she meet Emperor Franz Joseph? What connected the two?

Katharina Schratt was born on September 11, 1853 in the spa town of Baden near Vienna . From the age of six she knew she had a passion for theatre . Her parents wanted to dissuade her and sent her to a boarding school in Cologne. That didn’t change much. She performed for the first time at the age of 15 in Leobersdorf in the play “Obstinality”. Eventually her parents gave in and she was allowed to attend an acting school in Vienna .

Soon she had engagements in Vienna, Berlin and St. Petersburg. Vienna became her main place of work, where, at the age of 26, she married the Hungarian Miklos Baron Kiss de Ittebe . A year later her son Anton was born , but she also separated from her husband without divorce.

Next came an engagement in New York , but it was only at the Hofburg Theater that she celebrated one successful performance after another. She became the most popular actress in Austria. In 1887 she was even appointed court actress , but had disagreements with the director at the time and preferred to retire before 1900, aged just 47.

In 1885 the actress Katharina Schratt met Emperor Franz Joseph at the “Ball of Industrialists”. She already knew him from an audience in 1883. Elisabeth encouraged her husband ‘s relationship with the actress Katharina Schratt. This freed her from her marital duties and she knew her husband was in good hands. Katharina Schratt and Franz Joseph got along particularly well on a spiritual level . Franz Joseph bought her a villa near the summer residence of Schönbrunn.

He also wanted to have her near him in Bad Ischl – for the summer holidays – and bought her the “Schratt Villa” there. He enabled her to lead a generous lifestyle and always gave her expensive gifts and financial benefits . A villa in Gloriettegasse bears witness to this.

Katharina Schratt caused a scandal in 1903 when she portrayed an empress in the comedy Maria Theresia . Many saw this as a tasteless allusion to her secret liaison with Emperor Franz Joseph. The emperor was always careful to keep everything secret and did not understand the procedure himself. Katharina Schratt never entered a stage again.


The friendship between the two lasted, with one interruption, until Franz Joseph’s death in 1916. However, it was no longer as intense as in Elisabeth’s time. In addition to Franz Joseph, Katharina Schratt was also “close” friends with other men throughout her life.

After Emperor Franz Joseph had found a close confidant in Katharina Schratt , Elisabeth was able to indulge her passion for travel even more without having a guilty conscience. She herself promoted the friendship between the two from the beginning. As she traveled through Europe, she was always in extensive correspondence with Franz Joseph.

Tip from Sisi’s Amazing Journey: Katharina Schratt’s grave is next to her husband, from whom she was never divorced, at the Hietzinger Friedhof, near the “Schratt Villa”. At the Hietzinger Friedhof you can also visit the graves of Gustav Klimt, Otto Wagner and Franz Grillparzer .



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