History : May-Jun 2019
at a hunting lodge in Mayerling. The“Mayerling Incident” became a sensational scandal across Europe. The death of Franz Josef ’s heir plunged the empire into succession crisis, and the em- press into a deep depression over the loss of her son. After Rudolf ’s death, Sisi traveled franti- cally, taking refuge once again in Corfu, where she had her summer palace, the Achilleion, built. In the fall of 1898, Sisi visited Geneva, and on September 10, she walked to the lakeside to take the ferry to Montreux. Another pedestrian bumped into her; she felt a sharp pain against her rib but continued to walk to the ferry. She had been stabbed in the chest with a homemade knife. Once on board, the 60-year-old empress fainted from blood loss and died that same night. Her murderer, an Italian anarchist called Luigi Luccheni said in his confession that he person- ally had nothing against the empress, only that he wished to kill a royal. Sisi wanted to be buried on the shores of the Mediterranean, but Franz Josef overruled her wishes and laid her instead in the Capuchin Crypt in Vienna. And there she lies still, at the heart of a city that she never loved and which never understood her. Elisabeth and Franz Joseph—she was spirited and cosmopoli- tan while he was dry and conventional—had pushed the couple apart. When in 1885 Katharina Schratt, an actress from the Burg- theater of Vienna, be- came a fixture in the emperor’s life, Sisi accepted the rela- tionship. She felt no jealousy for her husband, and rec- ognized his loneliness and their incompatibility. In later years her views on marriage were forthright:“One is sold as a child at 15, and one takes an oath one does not un- derstand but can never undo.” Violent Ends Terrible tragedy struck in early 1889: Sisi’s son and the heir to the throne, Crown Prince Rudolf, and Marie Vetsera, his 17-year-old lover, had been found dead in an apparent double suicide SISI’S COFFIN IS BORNE THROUGH THE STREETS OF GENEVA ON SEPTEMBER 14, 1898. THE EMPRESS’S BODY WAS THEN TRANSPORTED BY RAIL FOR BURIAL IN VIENNA. AKG/ALBUM A MEDAL OF THE ORDER OF ELISABETH, FOUNDED BY FRANZ JOSEF IN 1898 IN MEMORY OF SISI ALBUM 70 MAY/JUNE 2019 MARÍA PILAR QUERALT DEL HIERRO IS AUTHOR OF A BOOK (IN SPANISH ), THE SHADOW OF SISI, WHICH EXPLORES THE IMPACT OF SISI ON THE AUSTRIAN ROYAL FAMILY.