Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"L'autre Sissi"


Patrick Weber entitled his biography of King Albert's consort Elisabeth de Belgique, l'autre Sissi ("Elisabeth of Belgium, the other Sissi"). Like her aunt, the tragic Austrian empress, the Belgian queen had an artistic, unconventional temperament, but how far did the resemblance go? The Italian politician and diplomat, Count Carlo Sforza (1872-1952), has left us a fascinating comparison of these two Bavarian princesses...
Artistically gifted- [the Belgian queen] is musical, she paints, and she feels poetry very deeply- one would be tempted to trace these gifts to her descent from the House of Wittelsbach, the members of which have, for generations, been such devoted patrons of art. But this explanation does not explain the personality of Elisabeth, far from it. What is admirable in her is that, keenly perceptive as she is of beauty, she has nothing of that morbid Wittelsbach estheticism that characterized her unfortunate aunt, the Empress Elisabeth of Austria. Elisabeth of Austria made a refuge for herself at the Achilleion in Corfu, and dreamed exquisite dreams there. But she deserted the heavy duties her station in life entailed, the Hofburg in Vienna seemed a prison to her. The new Elisabeth of Bavaria- she was named after her imperial aunt- on the contrary, unites with an exquisitely artistic nature, not only an honest forbearance for her royal task, but also a healthy simple joy in fulfilling it, every time she feels she can do good or be useful- which means every hour of the day.

~Makers of Modern Europe (1969)

3 comments:

MadMonarchist said...

Maybe its getting to be a habit but it seems to me they were more unalike than otherwise. Queen Elizabeth seemed to take being a Belgian more seriously than Empress Elizabeth took being an Austrian (she seemed at times as though she would have rather been Hungarian but this might have been nothing more than a contrary streak). More significant I think (and I don't know as much about the Queen of the Belgians) is that Queen Elizabeth showed herself to be made of tough stuff in some very hard times whereas Empress Elizabeth often seemed to me to be the sort who made up her mind to be unhappy and was never satsified or content regardless of the situation. Just my impression.

Matterhorn said...

The Belgian Elisabeth had a good dose of her Braganza mother's solidity, I think.

Matterhorn said...

To be fair, I also think she was at an advantage as she had a husband who took great care over helping her adjust to her role. I'm not sure Sissi had the same.