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The Accidental Empress

Cover: 'The Accidental Empress'

Staff Review: "The Accidental Empress" by Allison Pataki


At just fifteen years old, Elisabeth "Sisi" of Bavaria travels to Austria to meet Franz Joseph, the emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, who is to marry her sister. Instead, the emperor falls in love with Sisi and makes her his empress. However, Sisi is ill-prepared for the rigors of court life and for dealing with her domineering mother-in-law Sophie. Sophie accompanies Sisi and Franz on their honeymoon and takes Sisi's children away from her. As a result, she becomes deeply depressed and regrets her decision to marry Franz. Sisi's personal drama occurs in the midst of the breakdown of the empire and the Hungarian Compromise of 1867. As Sisi works toward helping Hungary gain greater political autonomy, she soon finds herself falling in love again. Sisi has been largely remembered as a great beauty and for the lengths she went to in order to maintain that beauty. I found it refreshing that the author focused on other aspects of Sisi's personality--her love of horses for example--rather than just her beauty. I also enjoyed the descriptions of Hungarian clothing and cuisine as well as the details about court protocol in the imperial palaces.

Audience: adults | Genre: fiction

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