Sisis Erben – Die Kinder der Kaiserin Elisabeth

Ein Film von Martin Koddenberg, 52 min., ZDF/ARTE 2022

available until 20.01.2023 in the ZDF Media Library

A ‘Loving mother’? The real Empress Elisabeth of Austria is the exact opposite of what the legendary “Sissi” trilogy from the 1950s shows. Throughout her life, the eccentric Sisi put her own interests first. How does she live with her children?


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After her marriage to Emperor Franz Joseph I in 1854, Sisi feels the pressure of her relatives: the continuation of the dynasty depends on the young woman. A year later, at the age of 17, she gives birth to her first child, Sophie. But even the birth of the second daughter, Gisela, does not fulfill the expectations for a male successor. When Sophie dies during a trip to Hungary in 1857, deep cracks appear in the parents’ relationship.

Only the birth of the heir to the throne, Rudolf, in 1858 defuses the situation. Sisi then takes off and leaves for two years. Her children grow up without her during this time – when Sisi returns, they do not recognize “the strange woman”.

In 1868, Sisi gives birth to her fourth child, Marie Valerie, in what is now Budapest. This “Hungarian daughter” is smothered with love and affection by her mother. When she emancipates herself, she marries into the “scandalous line” of the Habsburgs, expresses herself in a German-national way. Nevertheless, with her nine children and numerous grandchildren, she ensures that the family is still widely branched out today.

Sisi was only just able to prevent Emperor Franz Joseph from raising the heir to the throne to become a strict soldier. From then on, the emperor keeps him away from all decisions. Rudolf takes refuge in a world of drugs and alcohol excesses. He kills himself and his mistress. Sisi is caught off guard: the empress has turned away more and more from her family. She lives in her own world, which consists mostly of traveling, horseback riding and writing poetry. Meanwhile, Emperor Franz Joseph worries about his fatherless granddaughter Elisabeth-Marie, known as “Erszi”. She becomes a rebel at the Viennese court. After the fall of the empire, she begins a new life in SPÖ circles and marries a representative of the Viennese working class.