Some of Sisi’s siblings had funny call names: Ludwig (called Louis), Helene (called Nené), Carl Theodor (called Gackel), Marie, Mathilde (called Spatz), Sophie and the nestling Max Emanuel (called Mapperl).
Elisabeth was the third child of eight children from the marriage between Princess Maria Ludovika (1808-1892) and Duke Maximilian in Bavaria (1808-1888). The parents did not exactly lead a model marriage, the father had several illegitimate children.
The older brother was Ludwig Wilhelm Duke in Bavaria (1831-1920), who renounced his first-born rights in favor of a bourgeois actress named Henriette Mendl. He was militarily successful up to the rank of General of the Cavalry . His daughter Marie Louise Mendl, later went down in history as Marie Louise von Larisch-Wallersee. She knew more about the tragedy of Mayerling.
Elisabeth had a close relationship with her older sister Helene (1834-1890), called Néné, throughout her life. Despite the scandal in Bad Ischl when Emperor Franz Joseph chose the young Sisi as his future wife. Néné thought she was meant for it.
At the age of 22, Helene also married the hereditary prince Maximilian Anton von Thurn und Taxis . It was probably a good marriage, in contrast to the younger sisters. Unfortunately, the marriage did not last very long, as Maximilian died of a severe kidney ailment at the age of only 35. They had four children, for whom she took over guardianship. Helene died at the age of 56 from an abdominal ailment.
Elisabeth was brought up together with her sister Helene, called Néné, who was three and a half years older. The governess was an Englishwoman who took care of the girls for four years. How formative this time was is shown by the fact that the duchesses used English as a secret language until the end of their lives. Despite the embarrassment of the bride selection, Helene remained a close confidant for Sisi throughout her life. She always hada positive influence on the younger sister even in difficult times.
Sisi had a special relationship with her younger brother Carl Theodor (1839-1909) . The latter later became a well-known ophthalmologist . He founded the private Herzog Carl Theodor Eye Clinic in Munich and performed about 5,000 cataract operations.
Elisabeth’s younger sister Sophie (1847-1897) lived to be only 50 years old and had a fateful life. Initially, she had several suitors, including Duke Philip of Württemberg, Prince Louis of Portugal, and Louis Victor of Austria, who was, however, homosexual. Her cousin and childhood friend Ludwig II was also considered a candidate, but he broke off the engagement.
Married Ferdinand of Alecon, who was a grandson of the last French king.They lived in exile in England, where Sophie was not very comfortable. Sophie had a son and shortly after they moved to France. Sophie began to suffer from depression and ended up in a mental hospital, which she was able to leave seven months later as cured. She died a tragic death during a fire in Paris.
Another younger sister of Elisabeth was Marie Sophie Amalie, Duchess in Bavaria (1841- 1925) . She was the last Queen of the Two Sicilies by marriage to Crown Prince Franz, whose father was King Ferdinand II. The latter soon died and his son Franz was in principle incapable of governing. The events of that time forced her to flee the declining kingdom into exile inRome in 1861. Marie always caused a stir and provocation. In 1862 she secretly gave birth to a daughter, whom she gave up for adoption. Later she confessed this misstep to her husband. She was in competition with Sisi, especially in riding. The two did not get along very well.
The next younger sister was Duchess Mathilde Ludovika in Bavaria (1843-1925) . She got along very well with Marie Sophie, because she was married to Count Ludwig of Trani, who was the younger brother of the King of both Sicilies. The marriage was unhappy and she separated from him. Because of her squeaky voice Mathilde was called “sparrow”.
The youngest brother was Maximilian Emanuel in Bavaria (1849-1893), who devoted himself to the military and succumbed to a severe stomach hemorrhage at a relatively young age of 44.
Time Travel Tip:
In the Sisi-Mseum you can learn more about the life of Empress Elisabeth and her siblings.