Sissi of Austria vs. Empress Eugenie

May 20, 2012

Once upon a time, approximately a century plus relatively 20 years ago, when Lady D and Grace Kelly had yet to become international royal icons, fascinating generation after generation with their undeniable and utterly awing charisma, Europe celebrated as divine exponents of , well, a sex-appeal cumulated with fantastic physical charm, two renowned sovereigns contemporaries of elder and less prettier Queen Victoria. Empress Eugenie de Montijo (shortly named Doña María Eugenia Ignacia Augustina de Palafox-Portocarrero de Guzmán y Kirkpatrick, 16th Countess of Teba and 15th Marquise of Ardales) and Bavarian wacko, Empress Elisabeth of Austria (or Sissi), were, judging by the public opinion which papers never ceased to express, the crowned dignified beauties of late 19th century (otherwise somehow inferior to the peculiar pulchritude of a Lola Montez or a notorious Countess di Castiglione). Noble dames followed their fashion, copied their hairstyles, queued to steal their secret tricks and ultimately spread conspicuous rumors regarding the eccentricities so much talked about in journals across the old continent. A week couldn’t pass without both nasty and flattering news being published all over the Austrian, French, English or German Empire, constancy which eventually lead to their defining as legends, to the shared dismay of their husbands. To gossip on topics concerning the beauteous Empresses was an irresistible occupation of aristocrat high-put ladies while at quite tedious court balls, and, through this jealous rivals, the two made the elevated scandal of the day.

No wonder that, despite the tensed political circumstances and the wrong presumption of natural rivalry between elegant style icons, they developed a friendly relationship originated in an official meeting with the occasion of the Salzburg  reception offered to Napoleon III by Franz Joseph after his younger brother’s, Emperor Max of Mexico’s death on foreign lands. Agreeably not the most proper setting yet nonetheless an opportunity for the enchanting women to get in contact.

The city of Salzburg competed in comparing the two so to realize who was most loved by Aphrodite and the state affairs passed to the second position on the common scale of interest as Elisabeth and Eugenie were placed in the center of everybody’s attention. One witty, emanating confidence, the other sensitive, even timid; one blessed with symmetric features, one decidedly the owner of magnetizing allure: to chose a winner troubled the referees of this indirect contest. Implicitly, they were believed to be unquestionable enemies, still weren’t.

A funny anecdote recorded by the rich Count Wilczek unveils the intimacy shared by them in that short  period. He reports how Sissi, habitually traveling incognito, visited the French royalty in the evening to “speak of certain things” while he was supposed to guard the room entrance to prevent the prospect of someone interrupting them which proved justifiable when Napoleon III himself insisted on seeing his spouse. The Count was then obliged to “cross two empty chambers of the apartment, even the bedroom, to reach the boudoir whose entry had been carelessly left ajar. Before it was placed a cheval glass and the couple of Empresses were treating the door beneath which I remained with their backs, busy to measure, with some ribbons, the probably most beautiful legs in Europe.” He was never able to forget that unimaginable scene until the end of his days… Lucky man!

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4 Responses to “Sissi of Austria vs. Empress Eugenie”


  1. Ah, dear Eugenie. So French in her style and manner. Far more interesting and lovely to spend time with than those stuffy Viennese ladies.

    And remember, what happens behind the ajar doors of royalty, stays behind the ajar doors of royalty. Wink, wink.

  2. Princess of Eboli History Masquerade Says:

    Reblogged this on princessofeboli and commented:
    This is very interesting!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. bb Says:

    Eugenie may have had a “French manner” (in spite of being a Spaniard?), but as far as looks go, Sisi blew her clear out of the water….just Google some pictures and compare. I never understood the fascination with Eugenie….not only Elisabeth, but many slightly later royal ladies, such as Alexandra and Ella of Hesse, and Xenia, daughter of Alexander III of Russia, and heck, even England’s Queen Alexandra were more than a match for Eugenie, even at her youngest and most attractive.

  4. Jeremy S. Says:

    Photos of Eugenie apparently do not do her justice. Almost all of the accounts of her (Merimee, Viel Castel, etc.) stress her good looks. Part of it was her hair (it was red). Part of it was undoubtedly her fashion sense (she was reputedly a genius at it). And part of it was her manners.

    But some part of it was certainly her looks. She’s just too consistently talked about as being a great beauty, all the way to end (although Sissi’s husband, Emperor Franz-Joseph, did make a rather nasty remark about her when he met Eugenie in 1869 at Suez, saying she had grown stout).


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