The Reluctant Empress (Paperback)
Faber & Faber, 9780571271306, 450pp.
Publication Date: July 15, 2010
Empress Elisabeth of Austria, known to her family as Sisi, belongs to a famous love story of European royalty - in 1853 the Emperor Franz Josef, the most eligible bachelor in Europe, fell in love with her at first sight when she was fifteen; they were married the next year. On the surface, it was a fairytale marriage, all the more poignant, with hindsight, because her death signalled the twilight years of the Habsburg Empire.
At the time of its first publication in 1988, Brigitte Hamann's biography, which tells Elisabeth's story from her birth as a member of the Bavarian nobility to her assassination at the hands of an Italian anarchist, led to a revised and deeper understanding of Elisabeth. During her lifetime she was idolised solely for her grace and beauty; now, for the first time, the Empress was portrayed as a stronger character, bitter at her marriage, seeking independence, and struggling against the powerful influence of her mother-in-law, the Archduchess Sophie. Researched by a respected historian, this is the definitive account of Elisabeth's life, death and legacy.