Of course I’m referring to Sissi the Empress, whose 175th birthday (she would’ve been terrified by the prospect of ugliness this age implies)  we celebrate today, on Christmas Eve (Happy Holidays to you all!). Not for nothing she was called Eugénie, after the obscure patron Sainte Eugénie, commemorated on 24 December.

Between cleaning the last corner of my already ultra-sterilized flat and venturing to decorate the Christmas tree alongside a totally amateurish brother, I decided to take a moment of respite and celebrate my favorite 19th century Empress. Also, since the ‘Quote Monday” has been off for a while, why not revive it with a thematic excerpt from Sissi’s diary to compensate the shortness of the post?

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She was aware they believed her insane and actually pronounced it out loud, publicly, though I’m momentarily unable to recall the exact circumstances which lead to her uttering such audacious a line. Certainly no previous Austrian monarch ever attempted a similar bravery in facing the court. A true eccentric, this woman, and a brave one at that.

She was so interestingly dynamic I believe it’s nearly impossible not to least feel the most malnourished affinity for her and to support my conviction, here are some things I bet you didn’t know about our Sissi (and neither suspected):

  • She admired gorgeous women perhaps as much as men did, with the exception that she only, exclusively, solely accepted the company of this particular category, and even had a picture album to count her preferences (over 100 samples, which numbered beauties from Lola Montes and Maria Sophia of Bavaria to unconventional Amelie Gautreau).  To complete it, the Empress wrote the Austrian ambassadors across Europe to send her photographs of charming ladies in their vicinity, causing amusing scandals regarding the purpose of the collection.
  • She had an anchor tattoo on her shoulder to express a love for sailing never to diminish for as long as she lived. Husband Franz was reportedly displeased by the daring.
  • When catching a sea storm, she often had her attendants tie her to a fixed chair on the main deck, claiming she imitates Ulysses due to the magnetic attraction waves exerted on her… Imagine what terrible coercion subdued the ones who abode her whim but responded before the Emperor if any unfortunate incident took place.
  • To avoid fulfilling her marital duties in the detriment of much desirable traveling, Sissi encouraged Franz’s sexual affairs, especially the long-term relationship with actress Katharina Schratt, whose reputation she always protected. Rumors of their friendship enabled Kat to continue the liaison for over 30 years, as a faithful mistress and friend to the miserable Emperor.

Wasn’t hers a titillating life?

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Splendiferous subtext, if you ask me, and, concomitantly, one of the greatest biblical metaphors ever to be taken from the patrimony of  ancient civilizations without other alteration except that concerning the context.

I strongly recommend to muse about it, let it settle gently on your membrane of intellectual sensibility, allow it to make connections with previous thoughts and ruminate until the tangency it has with several impossible-not-to-relate-to issues least comes to reveal a path towards full understanding.

Can the blind lead the blind?

NO?

If so, why does our magnificently well- structured society permit such immense a mistake and to which effect, really? How do we still fall under the influence of utterly false gurus, all information to prevent it being internationally available?

To which extent to we plunge in that pit?

I have never regarded history as being a sterile chronicle of things past and therefore peremptorily obsolete. We’re history too, after all, and how pathetic would be considering oneself a living, breathing fossil with no purpose except making some future successors yawn? Exceedingly, I assure you.

That’s partially why I though of sharing, every gloomy Monday from now on, a quotation which contributed to my feeling the old days thoroughly, vividly animate. It should be amusing and witty or utterly, bitterly ironical and bring a sense of modernity in the historical context from where it was extracted, although you’ll be the ultimate judge of its value.

So I’m expecting comments on this week’s choice:

Once upon a time in the British Parliament, more precisely in the House of Commons,  the juiciest gossip topic apart the outbreak of a new World War and the perpetual conflicts with Berlin was the enmity between prominent politician Sir Winston Churchill (1874 – 1965), then occupying the privileged position of Prime Minister, and the audacious Viscountess Nancy Astor (1879 –1964 ), known to be the first woman sitting as a Member of the Parliament, who, from some reason or another, could not at all live in mutual tolerance.

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The two were reputed for a series of sarcastic dialogues whose lines were ping-ponged on the halls of Westminster Palace to the delight of the many accidental witnesses that obviously couldn’t refrain a smile when hearing such virulent interlocutions like the following:

Nancy Astor: Winston, you are drunk.

Winston Churchill: And you, madam, are ugly. But I shall be sober in the morning!

Any other lady would’ve slapped him, offended by this type of rudeness which seemed as if taken from Oscar Wilde’s plays, but not our Nancy, no, for she was an adept of intelligent revenge and on numerous times had the chance to retort smartly a mocking proposition to equal the score.

Thus, when the stout Winston attempted to both tease and ridicule her by stating that “having a woman in Parliament is like having one intrude” on him “in the bathroom”, she serenely replied: “You’re not handsome enough to have such fears”, provoking general dissimulated laughter amongst the stiff diplomats, we can imagine, to her satisfaction.

Also, at his impolite question about what disguise  he should wear so that nobody could recognize him at the Astor’s “stupid” masquerade ball, Nancy ironically responded using rhetoric: “Why don’t you come sober, Prime Minister?”

Yet by far my favorite is the immortal exchange of witty words which Consuelo, Duchess of Malborough, registers in her “the Glitter and the Gold” autobiography: “Lady Astor and Winston were actuaded by a strong antipathy one for the other, so much so that one never invited them together, dreading the inevitable explosion bound to occur. It was therefore unfortunate than on one of her visits to Blenheim, when my son was host, Churchill should have chosen to appear. The expected result of their encounter was not long in coming; after a heated argument on some trivial matter Nancy, with a fervor whose sincerity could not be doubted, shouted, ‘If I were you wife I woul poison your coffee!’ Whereupon Winston with equal heat and sincerity answered ‘And if I were your husband I would drink it!’

That’s a first-hand experience I wish I could boast with!

Isn’t it comical?

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