The beauty cult of Princess Elisabeth of Austria

Even the beauty of empress Elisabeth of Austria ( or Sissi as she preferred to be called) has a story of its own. As time passed by, her traits grew more and more stunning, even though you wouldn’t have expected it given her rather average features as a child.

More beautiful day by day…

During her childhood she was pretty, cute, but nothing more. Her mother ( Ludovika of Bavaria) even worried that the girl doesn’t have beauty features“, when they left the royal soxon court without any marriage offer (she was around 15, yet not beautiful enough to be considered “a hit”).

In her first years at the Viennese court her features were merely considered beautiful. However as  days passed by, more and more people started to notice her peculiar yet gorgeous features. But these observations were primarily made solely by common people, not by the supercilious nobles. In her long walks through Prater rather ordinary people rushed to see her Imperial Highness, sitting spellbound at the unusual fairy in front of them.

Understanding the true power of beauty…

It is no secret that she hated the court from the very first moment she set foot in Vienna. She genuinely disdained the aristocracy and its preposterous rules. In order to escape the haughty and despicable court she invoked an everlasting illness managing to get away  for quite long periods of time: firstly on the Madeira island and a while after on the Corfu island. These trips are crucial in the formation of the Empress as we know her.

As any big change, it started from the inside. It was during these trips that she noticed how fast any man is bewitched by her and how she can mesmerize anybody with a simple glance, thus comprehending the incomparable power beauty has. She understood she was truly charming, and as there was certainly no escape from the Viennese court, she resolved that her figure is her best advantage. Consequently she started to invest more in her appearance. Her diets became even more drastic, she made more and more sport to maintain her slender figure and she tried various facial masks et cetera.

Not only she acknowledged her value but she also worshiped other good-looking women. She rejoiced in surrounding herself with beauties and she even owned a beauty album where she collected pictures of beautiful women from all over the world.

The hair of a goddess…

It is acknowledged that her most distinguished feature  was her ankle-length hair. She had a vast ritual to maintain her thick light brown  hair, hence her hairdresser (Fanny Angerer)  was indispensable.  However having such a long hair was also a burden considering it was really heavy, so the queen had to tie it with ribbons to attenuate the unceasing pain.


Personal style…

Her personal style was rather simple and elegant. Her appearance was always discreet, never too charged or flashy. She refused strong perfumes and make up. From her point of view, beauty means having a healthy, gracious body, clear skin and thick hair. She embraced everything that’s natural, and despised imitations and overcharged outfits. As a matter of fact she even said that “Nature offers you more satisfaction than humans.”, highlighting her misanthropy  (more specific hatred of  the aristocracy) and her undying love for nature.

Everybody has its flaws…

Her appearance had one little flaw though:her teeth. Her bad teeth could not be fixed even by the best dentists, so she had to live with it. But she endeavored to hide this imperfection as much as she could. She therefore talked slowly, and most of the time she did not talk at all. Unfortunately this contributed to her “Beautiful but not so smart” image. She in fact was undeniably intelligent, but given her aversion to everything from the royal court she did not want to talk to them in spite of what they might think.

Why did she care so much about her appearance?

The story of her beauty traveled all around Europe and even further, making her one of the most beautiful women of her time. But having this reputation also required proper maintenance. And this is partly why she obsessed so much over being flawless. Her every move was followed, each imperfection commented, so she had to rise to the expectations. But that is just one reason. She mainly did this(excessive diets, a lot of sport, strange beauty rituals) for herself. She was cultivating her beauty exclusively for herself, to entertain the conscience of her own value.

And all this was not in vain. We can say she used her “powers” wisely: she used her beauty to control her husband, Frantz Joseph,  and she always succeeded marvelously, always having it her own way.

I honestly intended this to be a short post, but on this subject there are innumerable things to say. I meant this to be solely about her appearance, and I will make different posts on her life and personality. Here are some quotes about her by people of her time:

“The Empress is a wonder of beauty- she is tall, svelte, with impeccable forms, a bright hazel hair extremely thick, soft eyes, very red lips, a sweet smile, a musical low voice and a behavior partly shy and partly gracious.”-the U.S.A secretary of state.

“She doesn’t sit, she gently leans downwards; she doesn’t rise, she is flying out of the chair.” Wilhelm II, king of Germany



15 responses to “The beauty cult of Princess Elisabeth of Austria

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