Celebrating the Life and Time of Empress Sisi of Austria in England and Ireland
Elisabeth Empress of Austria – popularly known as Empress Sisi visited England and Ireland for holidays and hunting, nine times over her life time.
Sisi’s travels throughout Europe are the stuff of legend. Elisabeth escaped the stifling Habsburg court in Vienna and a sad marriage to Emperor Franz Josef by setting off on long journeys throughout the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Germany, Switzerland, the Mediterranean and France.
In 1874 Elisabeth‘s Sister, ex-Queen Maria Sophia of Naples and Sicily, recommended the Isle of Wight for a summer holiday. While at Ventnor with the young Archduchess Marie Valerie, Sisi discovered the joys of hunting in England and clearly liked the English middle classes. She returned for the hunting and rented Easton Neston in 1876 and Cottesbrooke a year later. Empress Elisabeth spent some of her happiest days hunting in England and Ireland with the local gentry and aristocracy. And she met the second great love of her life, the rider Bay Middleton.
The than Earl Spencer encouraged Sisi to take the greater challenge of hunting in Ireland. She loved the country but unfortunately Sisi could not entirely escape her responsibilities as a monarch and the fraught political situation in Ireland. Forced to give up hunting in Meath, Elisabeth rented Combermere Abbey, Cheshire. But without Bay Middleton as her pilot, Sisi lost her enthusiasm for hunting and gave up riding.
On her third visit Empress Elisabeth was accompanied by her son Rudolf, the young Crown Prince. He was conducted on a whirlwind tour of British and Irish industry as a vital part of educating the future emperor, which then culminated in taking London by storm socially. Where Elisabeth shunned Queen Victoria and the British Royal Family, Rudolf quite captivated the elderly and widowed Queen.
Portrait by Karl von Piloty [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons