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The 19th-Century princess Diana; ‘The Empress’ TV Show Review and the Real Story

"The Empress" is a German historical drama recently released on Netflix, which came out on September 29th, 2022. The show is a fictional retelling of the life of empress Elisabeth of Austria, who reigned through a troubled period for her country. The Netflix retelling of Sisi’s story captivated audiences from all around the globe, appearing in Netflix's global top 10 non-English TV list for five consecutive weeks, topping the top 10 in 88 countries around the world, and being renewed for a second season a little over a month after its release. Even though the TV show does tell the story of major events that occurred during Sisi’s life at the beginning of her marriage to emperor Fraz Joseph, they also heavily romanticized her wedding and real life on court.

Sisi was born a duchess of Bavaria since her father was a duke; however, she grew up living a free-spirited life, riding horses and writing poems. She was described to be outstandingly beautiful, which got 23-year-old emperor Franz Joseph I to fall in love and marry the 15-year-old girl, even though he was promised to her sister Helene. Less than a year after meeting, they were married, and Sisi moved to the Austrian-Hungary court. Still, contrary to what is shown in the series, Elisabeth was not in love with Franz and dreaded her life at court since it took her away from everything that she grew up loving.

After her marriage, Sisi did not have an easy or happy life, for she lived under the strict rules and expectations of being an empress in the Austria-Hungary court. To make matters worse, her mother-in-law strongly disliked Elisabeth and would’ve preferred her son to marry Helene. Since her first day at the palace, Sisi was let know that her most essential duty as the emperor's wife was to give birth to a male heir; however, the couple's first child, who was born shortly after, was a girl. As soon as the little princess was born, Sisi’s mother-in-law, Sophie of Bavaria, took the girl away, named her after herself, and did not allow the mother to have the pleasure of raising her daughter. This occurred with every single one of Elisabeth’s children, and she would drown more and more in sorrow each time. She lived in a palace with no contact with her family, no children, no freedom, and without love for her husband. So she thought that the only thing she could control in her life was herself - that was when she became obsessed with maintaining her beauty, especially as she began to age. She had a rigorous exercise regimen and demanding beauty routines; only the care of her long hair took at least three hours.

It was only after the birth of her first son that she finally began to regain a part of her freedom. Rudolf was born in 1858, four years after her marriage, and from that point on, she refused to have any intimate relationship with her husband. She also began to dedicate more time to her passions of horseback riding, poetry, and learning the Hungarian language. Over the years, Sisi fell in love with Hungary - she loved the language, the people, and their drive for independence. That’s why she became one of the essential advocates for their independence movement. For that, she deliberately decided to return to her marriage and ensure that Hungary would gain an equal footing with Austria. The Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867 created the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary, and she was largely responsible for the establishment of the new nation.

Elisabeth was a monarch who lived her life trapped in a loveless marriage with little control over her actions. Nowadays, she is one of the most compared figures to the famous princess Diana, for she was a strong figure with immense beauty that refused to let the rules and restrictions of royal life prevent her from getting what she wanted. Although current monarchies do not carry the same significance as they did before, people like Sisi and Diana -- that is, who were used to having a normal life of freedom and liberty -- seem to be a constant within royal families. And having women like them being a part of the royal family make it explicit that many of the biggest issues and problems of the monarchy.

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