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Paula McLain. She relented, however, in , as a strategic move: by returning to her marriage, she increased her influence in time to push for the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of , which created a dual monarchy in which Hungary and Austria would be equal partners. With her new official role as queen, Elisabeth had more excuse than ever to spend time in Hungary, which she gladly took.
Even though her mother-in-law and rival Sophie died in , Elisabeth often remained away from court, choosing instead to travel and to raise Valerie in Hungary. Elisabeth was shattered with yet another tragedy in when her son Rudolf died in a suicide pact with his mistress Mary Vetsera. Rudolf had been an emotional boy, like his mother, who was forced into a military upbringing that did not suit him at all. Death seemed everywhere for Elisabeth: her father had died in , her sister Helene died in , and her mother in Even her steadfast friend Andrassy passed in Her fame continued to increase, as did her desire for privacy.
Over time, she repaired her relationship with Franz Joseph, and the two became good friends. Distance seemed to help the relationship: Elisabeth was traveling extensively, but she and her husband corresponded often. Elisabeth was traveling incognito in Geneva, Switzerland in when news of her presence leaked. On September 10, she and a lady-in-waiting were walking to board a steamer when she was attacked by Italian anarchist Luigi Lucheni, who wanted to kill a monarch, any monarch. The wound was not evident at first, but Elisabeth collapsed soon after boarding, and it was discovered that Lucheni had stabbed her in the chest with a thin blade.
She died almost immediately. Her body was returned to Vienna for a state funeral, and she was buried in the Capuchin Church. Her killer was apprehended, tried, and convicted, then committed suicide in while in prison. Her widower founded the Order of Elizabeth in her honor, and many monuments and buildings in Austria and Hungary bear her name. In earlier stories, Elisabeth was portrayed as a fairy-tale princess, likely because of her whirlwind courtship and because of the most famous portrait of her: a painting by Franz Xaver Winterhalter that depicted her with diamond stars in her floor-length hair.
Her story has captivated writers, musicians, filmmakers, and more, with dozens of works based on her life finding success. Instead of an untouchable, ethereal princess, she was often depicted as a complex, often unhappy woman — much closer to reality. Share Flipboard Email.
Amanda Prahl is an award-winning playwright and university instructor. Updated September 28, Although she was often at odds with her own court, she had a special relationship with the Hungarian people and was instrumental in bringing about the uniting of Austria and Hungary in an equal, dual monarchy. Hamann, Brigitte. Knopf, Phoenix Press, Meares, Hadley.
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