Empress Elisabeth of Austria, better known as "Sissi", captured everyone's heart when actress Romy Schneider immortalized her in a trilogy of 1950s romantic comedies.
However, a real person is much more interesting, historians will say. The future empress was born on Christmas Eve 1837 and grew up between Munich and Possenhofen Castle on Lake Starnberg in Bavaria. The duchess, from a side branch of the royal house of Wittelsbach, spent a carefree childhood away from the constraints of court life. Her engagement to the Emperor of Austria was accidental.
Looking for a way to expand her influence in the imperial court, her aunt, Archduchess Sophia of Bavaria, initially chose Sissi's older sister Helene (Nene) as a suitable bride for her son Franz Joseph at the age of 23. He was only 15 years old at the time, and Sisi was part of an escort and accompanied her mother to Bad Ischl, where the young man planned to formally propose to Ellen.
However, this did not affect Franz Joseph in any way, and the younger and more cheerful Sissi immediately won his heart. And although the Archduchess Sophie doubted her niece's suitability for the court, the emperor made it clear that he would either marry Sissi or nobody. They eventually married the following spring at the Augustinerkirche in Vienna, putting the young Elisabeth in the spotlight.
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She was a celebrity in her day
Sissy's fame as an icon and trendsetter began at an early age. Slender and 1.72 cm tall, she was considered one of the most beautiful women, and her personal style was often imitated both inside and outside the empire.
In particular, she was famous for her wasp waist, which varied between 40-50 cm in circumference, achieved through corsets and compression practices. To further emphasize her delicate physique, she was one of the first women to eschew overlapping skirts and petticoats in favor of a simpler, slimmer figure. At 32, she began to refuse to pose for portraits and photographs in an attempt to preserve her youthful image in history, and this increased the charm around her.
She had very thick hair
Cissy was famous for her hair, but she was especially proud of her very thick chestnut curls, which she never cut. His hair reached to the floor, and every morning it took several hours to comb; washing was a procedure that took a whole day, sources from the time say. She wore extremely elaborate braided hairstyles created by her personal hairdresser Fanny Feyfalik, who became her confidant and who she also used as a body double due to their physical resemblance.
She was dieting and exercising
Of course, maintaining a slim figure was not easy, and the Empress was known for her picky diet, following various dietary regimens fashionable in the 19th century, including the orange, restrictive, dairy-only, and egg-only diets.
She often avoided eating meat, preferring meatless soups or sauces with meat juices and broth instead. She also took steam baths to lose weight and olive oil baths to keep her skin toned. The Empress weighed herself three times a day. In rare cases, when he approached 50 kg, she adhered to strict diets.
Exercise also played an important role in maintaining her beauty, and gyms were installed in all her homes. Her dressing room at the Hofburg was equipped with rings and crossbars so she could do gymnastics during her morning routine.
Despite her strict regime, the Empress occasionally indulged in hearty Bavarian dishes and sweets. Her favorite was the violet flavored ice cream that is still offered in Demel in her honor.
Sissy's favorite sport was horseback riding. She trained regularly at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna and rode extensively at the Hungarian royal residence in Gödöll. Of particular interest to the press at the time were her numerous equestrian appearances in the British Isles in 1876-1882.