The children of Empress Elisabeth and Emperor Franz Joseph

How many children did the couple have and how far apart were they born? Who was the “Hungarian child” and later became the Angel of Wallsee?

On April 24, 1854, Emperor Franz Joseph married his cousin Elisabeth (1837-1898) , who was seven years younger. Sophie, Franz Joseph’s mother, was also his aunt and through the marriage she also became Sisi’s mother-in-law.

The marriage between Franz Joseph and Elisabeth produced four children : three daughters and one son:
Sophie Friederike (1855-1857) died of an intestinal infection at the age of only two. This plunged the young couple into a first crisis.

Gisela (1856-1932) grew up together with her brother Rudolf (1858- 1889) , who was two years younger, under the care of their grandmother Sophie. Elisabeth was considered too young and inexperienced to take care of the upbringing of her children herself. This meant that the two children had little contact with their mother, who was also on a health cure a lot due to illness.

Gisela was very close to her father, Emperor Franz Joseph. The two were united by a similar sober character. At the age of 16 she was married to Prince Leopold of Bavaria and the marriage produced four children.

Crown Prince Rudolf (1858-1889) was the longed-for heir to the throne, but he did not become a ruling member of the Habsburg dynasty. He is considered the tragic figure of the declining monarchy. Compared to his father, Emperor Franz Joseph, he had progressive ideas that he was unable to implement. He preferred to commit suicide together with his lover Mary Vetsera.

At the age of 21, Sisi was thus already a mother of three.

The youngest daughter, Marie Valerie (1868-1924), was born at a considerable distance from her siblings as a “latecomer.” Marie Valerie, was born in Budapest, and was therefore considered a “Hungarian child”. Sisi spoke only Hungarian with her youngest daughter and raised her accordingly.

Marie Valerie married Archduke Franz Salvator, who was a distant relative from the Tuscan line of the House of Habsburg. From this fruitful union 10 children were born. The main residence of the large family was Wallsee Castle, in western Lower Austria. She was very charitable and has therefore gone down in history as the Angel of Wallsee.

Franz Joseph had numerous descendants, 15 grandchildren and 55 great-grandchildren.

Time Travel Tip: You can learn more about Emperor Franz Joseph, Sisi and their children in the Imperial Apartments in the Hofburg Palace or in Schönbrunn Palace.

More info: Vienna Hofburg (

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