Lindsay and Richard Offer
Sisi In England published
Empress Elisabeth of Austria’s numerous trips to England and Ireland
23 July 2020
New book celebrates Empress of Austria’s love and travels in England and Ireland
A new book Sisi In England is the first to celebrate all of Elisabeth, Empress of Austria’s extensive travels in both England and Ireland.
Scandalous, rebellious Sisi, the Empress of Austria is a cult figure in Europe, figurehead of Vienna’s tourist industry. Lionised in modern-day Austria, Hungary and Germany, Sisi is often compared with Diana, Princess of Wales. The reluctant empress found true happiness and a doomed love during her hunting trips to the English Midlands and then Ireland before being forced to switch back to Cheshire.
Elisabeth’s first trip in 1874 was a seaside holiday on the Isle of Wight with her six-year-old daughter Marie Valerie. Sisi fell in love with England and the people of the island, if not Queen Victoria who was in residence at Osborne House. She was introduced to English fox hunting and decided to return two years later.
It was on her second trip staying at Easton Neston near Towcester, for the hunting season, that Sisi fell in love with a dashing horse rider, the ex-officer Bay Middleton. It was a doomed affair as the devout Catholic empress could never consummate her love. Empress Elisabeth joined the Pytchley and Grafton Hunts and also sponsored a race meeting that led to the opening of Towcester race course. It remembers Sisi with the Empress stand.
Sisi In England reveals how Empress Elisabeth broke every convention in the book. She scandalised the strict Viennese Court by befriending British and Irish gentry, aristocrats and the Rothschilds. These new friends were larger-than-life characters like ‘Chicken’ Hartopp who played with dynamite, Winston Churchill’s mother Jennie Jerome and her future lover Count Kinsky, the nouveau riche Baltazzis who came from Turkey and politician Earl Spencer. The visits angered many Austrians and others as extravagant and irresponsible when they were dieing in fighting in Bosnia.
The empress made two successful but controversial trips to Ireland in 1879 and 1880. Sisi just went for the challenging hunting but Ireland was in uproar due to the return of the famine and the anti-British land agitation. The Catholic majority fell over themselves to welcome Elisabeth but the British government feared her presence could lead to a full-scale revolt. Their fears were heightened when the hunt raced into the Catholic seminary at Maynooth, which was then viewed as a hotbed of sedition. Home rule leader Charles Parnell exploited Sisi’s visits and humiliated Britain’s viceroy the Duke of Marlborough.
Politics forced Sisi to return to England and she chose Combermere Abbey in Cheshire for hunting. But she found the hunting less thrilling than in Ireland and on her second visit was disappointed that Bay Middleton only spent a short time riding with her. Later Empress Elisabeth did return for holidays in London, Bournemouth, Cromer and for short trips on the South Coast.
Sisi In England also reveals the extraordinary ‘Grand Tour‘ that her son Crown Prince Rudolf made to England, Scotland and Ireland as part of his education to be a future emperor. The liberally-minded prince spent a month visiting factories, a workhouse, courts, theatres and museums. He also became the most-sought after guest at every London social event for another month. Whereas his mother shunned Queen Victoria, Rudolf stayed with her on the Isle of Wight. The aged monarch’s diary records how she fell for the charming, young prince. A decade later, Rudolf committed suicide at Mayerling.
Lindsay Offer said: “Our interest in Empress Elisabeth’s visits stemmed from an exhibition in Vienna about her fascination with Greece, where she had a villa for some years. Had she visited Britain we asked? When we found Sisi had come to England and Ireland we set out to produce a short brochure. Instead this full-length book materialised.
“Elisabeth is still remembered here. We found mementoes of Elisabeth both in England and Ireland. She gave Earl Spencer her portrait at Althorp and Mary Throckmorton amassed a collection of memorabilia, which is now at her family home Coughton Court (National Trust). In Ireland, the University at Maynooth has treasures donated by Sisi and another portrait is in Dublin.”
The book, which is fully referenced, is now available in paperback (ISBN 9798654235626) and on Kindle and Kobo readers. The website is at www.sisi-in-england.com
Sisi’s travels in England and Ireland
1874 Seaside holiday on the Isle of Wight with visits including London and Melton Mowbray
1876 Easton Neston with visits to the Rothschilds and Queen Victoria at Windsor
1878 Cottesbrooke Hall, Northamptonshire
Crown Prince Rudolf tours England, Scotland and Ireland
1879 Summerhill, Meath, Ireland
1880 Returned to Summerhill
1881 Combermere Abbey, Cheshire
1882 Returned to Combermere Abbey
1885 Cruise called in at Ramsgate, Deal and Brighton
1887 Seaside holiday at Cromer and visits Queen Victoria at Osborne
Crown Prince Rudolf attended Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee
1888 Holiday with Marie Valerie in London and Bournemouth
1890 Cruise called in at Dover overnight
Notes for editors
Illustrations of the book cover and of Empress Elisabeth and others connected with Sisi are available as jpegs.
The latest exhibition at Vienna’s Carriage Museum at Schonbrunn Palace is entitled Empress Elisabeth The Lady Diana of the 19th Century.
Further details: Richard Offer +44 75 9797 4130 or 020 8760 5093Tags: Crown Prince Rudolf Osborne, Crown Prince Rudolf Queen Victoria, Diana Princess of Wales, Empress Elisabeth of Austria, Jennie Jerome, Queen Victoria, Sisi Bay Middleton, Sisi Combermere Abbey, Sisi Cottesbrooke hall, Sisi Earl Spencer, Sisi Easton Neston, Sisi in England and Ireland, Sisi Isle of Wight
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