EMPRESS SISI, THE IRISH CONNECTION
A notable horsewoman Sisi rented Easton Neston in Northamptonshire. Hearing reports of the quality of hunting in County Meath she came to stay with Lord Langford at Summerhill for the 1879/ 1880 season, accompanied by “Bay” Middleton, a.d.c. to the Lord Lieutenant, Earl Spencer. The Master of the Meath Hunt was Captain Robert Fowler of near by Rahinston. Sisi later said it was the happiest period of her life.
Though her influence on Austro-Hungarian politics was limited the free spirited, restless Sisi has become an historical icon, a kind of Austrian Lady Diana.
Born Elisabeth of Bavaria she was to become Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary, Croatia and Bohemia. Married at 16 to Franz Josef of Austria she had three children in quick succession, Archduchess Sophie of Austria (1855–1857), Archduchess Gisela of Austria (1856–1932), and the hoped-for crown prince, Rudolf (1858–1889). In 1857, tragedy struck. Elisabeth, against the advice of the doctors, took her two daughters on holiday to Hungary. Both girls became ill but while Gisela recovered quickly, her older sister Sophie succumbed to the disease and died; she was two. The marriage suffered and she became a restless traveller and fashion icon with little influence over the upbringing of her children. In 1889, Elisabeth’s life was shattered by the death of her only son. Thirty-year-old Crown Prince Rudolf and his young lover Baroness Mary Vetsera were found dead; an investigation suggested it was murder-suicide by Rudolf. The scandal was known as the Mayerling Incident, after Rudolf’s hunting lodge in Lower Austria. In 1898 while walking she was randomly stabbed in the heart in Geneva by a young anarchist and died aged 60.
The legend lives on. The 1950’s Sissi trilogy with Romy Schneider is shown every Christmas on Austrian, German and French television and her story has inspired films, television series and a ballet.