Accidental Empress post contains affiliate links.
I was excited to read The Accidental Empress because it a historical fiction book on the life of Elisabeth of Austria, known as “Sisi.” She is of interest to me because she was a cousin and confidante of King Ludwig, who I’ve written about.
Sisi’s story really is fascinating. When she was just 15, she traveled from her Bavarian home to Austria with her mom and older sister, who is to be betrothed to Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria. However, older sister Helena is a shy, quiet character better suited for the convent than the castle. Sisi, on the other hand, is full of youthful fun and exuberance. Guess who catches the Emperor’s eye? Yep, her.
“Once I was so young and rich, In love of life and hope; I thought nothing could match my strength, The whole world was open to me.” ~ Sisi
So Sisi and Franz get married, but things go south pretty quickly. He is busy with state matters. Sisi quickly has three children, but her mother-in-law (who lives with the family at court) decides that she will raise the children herself, keeping them away from Sisi. What’s an empress to do? Well, a dashing Hungarian diplomat catches her eye, and it’s off to the races as they start a romance.
I didn’t feel like this book did a lot of justice to Sisi. Perhaps it’s just that I’d prefer to read such a story as straight non-fiction, but the book (almost 500 pages) went on and on AND ON with conversations that didn’t go much of anywhere. An entire chapter would be devoted to a single state dinner, etc. It just took way too long to get to “the good stuff.” Since this is historical fiction, I also found myself checking in with Wikipedia frequently to see whether various things were true or not.
And since I do know quite a bit about Sisi and her family, I noticed little things. She mentions getting a letter and “a trunk full of baby dresses” from cousin Ludwig — when he would have been nine at the time. This seemed “off” to me.
Much of what I consider the most interesting stuff about Sisi isn’t even covered here; the author has written a sequel called “Empress on her Own.” I doubt I’ll read it, as it promises more of the same type of writing.
This book did remind me a lot of Victoria by Daisy Goodwin — as I looked online, I see that Goodwin has written a bio of Sisi also. Honestly, at various times in reading this book I checked out the author again just to make sure it wasn’t Goodwin. The books are VERY similar, so if you enjoyed Victoria, you’ll likely enjoy this one too. Just not my cup of tea, which is a shame, since I love the subject matter.
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