In The Accidental Empress by Allison Pataki, in 1853, Elizabeth, Duchess of Bavaria is ordered to travel with her sister to the Habsburg summer court. Franz Joseph, the young and exciting emperor is ready to settle down and get married. His mother, the Archduchess Sophie has decided that Elizabeth ‘s sister Helene would be a perfect match for her son. Helene doesn’t want to get married and she certainly doesn’t want to become Empress but she has no choice in the matter. When the two sisters are introduced to the court it becomes very obvious that Elizabeth or Sisi as she is called by her family would be better suited to be Franz Joseph ‘s wife. Sisi was never trained to become royalty and as she struggles in her new role, she throws the Hapsburg court into disarray
I wasn’t familiar at all with Sisi prior to reading this book. Once I got a few chapters in, I Googled her name to get a better understanding of her. The best way I can describe Sisi and her impact on the Hapsburgs is that she was the Princess Diana of her day. Sisi set the fashion standards for women in the empire and like Diana she became more popular than the ruling family she married into. Unlike Diana, Sisi didn’t have the option of divorcing her husband when the marriage soured.
One of the hardest parts for me to relate to was how Sisi had no relationship with her children. Sophie literally snatches them from her at birth and refuses to allow Sisi to have any contact. Sisi seems content at first to allow it and by the time she finds her back bone, it’s too late.