A Royal Getaway In Budapest
Australian Women’s Weekly NZ|September 2019
Sue Smethurst follows in the footsteps of a trailblazing “people’s princess” on a palatial tour of Hungary and Austria.

More than a century before Diana, Kate, Meghan and Mary graced the royal red carpet, the first true celebrity princess was arguably Empress Elisabeth of Austria (right). At just 16 years of age, Sisi, as she was affectionately known, was swept off her feet by Franz Joseph I, heir to the Habsburg monarchy’s Austro-Hungarian empire.

In April 1854, they married in a fairytale ceremony in Vienna and Sisi immediately became one of the most powerful and most talked about women in the world. She was breathtakingly beautiful with a natural warmth and shyness which endeared her to the masses and earned her the moniker “The People’s Princess”.

The young Empress was a trailblazer; her exquisite fashion and elaborate hairstyles were copied by Viennese high society, and with every public appearance her popularity grew. But, behind the palace walls she was desperately unhappy, battling bulimia and a broken heart due to an unfaithful husband. Sound familiar?

Tragically, like Diana, Sisi’s life was also cut short. She was assassinated almost 100 years to the day before Diana’s death. She was just 61, and her murder plunged the monarchy and her people into deep mourning.

The story of Sisi is enjoying a renaissance in Budapest as Hungarians capitalise on the popularity of today’s young royals. In death, their beloved Queen Sisi is fuelling a tourist boom. After years under Soviet occupation and communist rule, the Hungarians are reclaiming their royal roots with gusto and inviting visitors to Budapest to immerse themselves in all things Sisi.

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