Elisabeth of Bavaria
Duchess Elisabeth of Bavaria (December 24, 1837 - September 10, 1898) was the wife of Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria.
Born in Munich, Bavaria, into the royal family of Wittelsbach, she was the fourth of ten children of Prince Maximilian of Bavaria and his wife Princess Ludovika. Known as "Sissi", she grew up in a warm and convivial family atmosphere with her brothers and sisters at Possenhofen Castle. In August 1853, she went to Bad Ischl with her mother and older sister Helene, to celebrate Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph's 23rd birthday. The event was also supposed to be the occasion to announce his engagement to Helene, but Franz Joseph was so taken by the young and beautiful Elisabeth that he proposed to her instead.
They were married in great pomp in Vienna on April 24, 1854. The couple had four children; Sophie (1855-1857), Gisele (1856-1932), Rudolf (1858-1889) and Valerie (1868-1924). Franz Joseph and Elisabeth became King and Queen of Hungary in 1867, when the two country joined together and created the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Suffering from lung disease and melancholia, and disliking the strict etiquette of the court, Empress Elisabeth was often away and lived long period of time abroad, notably at her villa in Corfu.
Her only son, Rudolf, committed suicide in 1889, after killing his young mistress Marie Vetsera. Empress Elisabeth was assassinated by an Italian anarchist in 1898, while on a visit to Geneva.
She has since become something of an historical icon and highly romantic figure, through a serie of films called Sissi in the 1950s, featuring actress Romy Schneider.