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Sisi: Empress on Her Own by Allison Pataki

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Sisi: Empress on Her Own by Allison Pataki

Post by Susan » Sun December 4th, 2016, 2:01 pm

This is a review of Sisi: Empress on Her Own by Allison Pataki about the later life of Elisabeth of Bavaria (Sisi), the wife of Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria. The author also wrote a novel about her early life called The Accidental Empress which I liked better.

During the time period this novel covers, Empress Elisabeth of Austria may have been fascinating, but she did not evoke sympathy. During the time period the first novel The Accidental Empress covered, Sisi was a young, naive girl who had spent a carefree, unstructured, unrestrained childhood and then was put in a difficult situation, not of her choosing. She was not the first or the last to marry into a difficult or challenging royal situation. The way a person meets their challenges shows their true character. Sisi chose to literally run away from her challenges involving the royal court, her marriage, and her two elder children. Sisi fled from her husband and children, as well as her duties at court, by frequent traveling. Because of the nature of the historical Sisi, she does not make a sympathetic character in this novel at all. Instead, she is selfish and self-centered, and that is the major problem with this novel. I simply can't find anything to like about her.

The first half of the novel was OK, but somewhere near the middle it started to really drag. I've been to all the Habsburg sites in Vienna, but I would have appreciated more description as Sharon Penman and Elizabeth Chadwick do in their medieval works. Those authors make readers feels as if they are there with the characters. There was too much wonderings of Sisi with too many rhetorical questions (pages and pages of wonderings) and too much about riding horses and Bay Middleton, so I started to skim. There were too many errors with facts that could have been easily checked, so I started to ask myself if I could trust any facts at all. Yes, it is historical fiction and I will give historical fiction writers some artistic license, but I do expect some things to be factual. The following are just several of the things I have issues with. I am a Queen Victoria and family buff and the factual errors about her children drove me bonkers!

1) When she visited the World's Fair in Vienna in 1873, Crown Princess Victoria of Prussia, the eldest child of Queen Victoria, was not a "young princess" or living in her "new home Berlin." So very wrong and so easy to check facts. Crown Princess Victoria was born in 1840 (she was 33 when she visited Vienna) and was only three years younger than Sisi (born in 1837, she was 36 at the time of the World's Fair). Victoria married in 1858, had lived in Berlin for 15 years and was the mother of eight children by the time of the Vienna visit.

2) "Edward was closer in age to Rudolf than Frederick had been..." insinuating Albert Edward (not Edward, see #3) and Rudolf would have more in common. OK, but Albert Edward was still 17 years older than Rudolf. They were hardly contemporaries. Rudolf was a 15-year-old and Albert Edward was a 32-year-old married man with five children. Crown Prince Frederick of Prussia was born in 1831, Albert Edward, Prince of Wales was born in 1841, Crown Prince Rudolf was born in 1858.

3) Queen Victoria's eldest son and heir would never have been called "Prince Edward". His name was Albert Edward and his title was Prince of Wales, not "Crown Prince." He would have been called The Prince of Wales or if using "Prince," Prince Albert Edward. He was called Bertie in the family. He used his second name when he became king, reigning as King Edward VII, but he was still called Bertie in the family. He chose to reign as Edward (his mother wanted him to reign as Albert Edward) so as not to diminish the status of his father's name.

4) Rudolf bought Mayerling in 1886 and converted it into a hunting lodge. Previously, it was a possession of the nearby Heiligenkreuz Abbey for over 300 years and was not a Habsburg royal hunting lodge as stated at the time Sisi rode to it in the novel. I also doubt Sisi would have been allowed to ride the 25 or so miles from Vienna to Mayerling alone and in the winter, and the 25 miles is using today's roads. I've driven from Vienna to Mayerling, which is literally in the middle of nowhere. Once we got off the highway, it was all country roads. It took about 1 1/2 hours to drive there. Sisi would have been riding over 50 miles in winter conditions, which highly unlikely in reality.

5) It's stated that Rudolf could not marry any of Queen Victoria's daughters because they were Church of England. In 1881, when Rudolf married, all the daughters but one, the youngest Beatrice, had been married for years. Beatrice was born in 1857, her sisters were much older, born 1840 - 1848. Yes, make the case that there were not a lot of Catholic princesses, but not that Queen Victoria's daughters could have been major prospects if only they were Catholics.

6) “...the young German emperor, younger than Rudolf, will expect to be honored as an old friend" Kaiser Wilhelm II was only five months younger than Rudolf which is insignificant, and yes, Wilhelm would expect to be treated as a friend as Austria and Germany had a treaty.
~Unofficial Royalty~
Royal news updated daily, information and discussion about royalty past and present

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
Posts: 3562
Joined: August 2008
Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favourite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Re: Sisi: Empress on Her Own by Allison Pataki

Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Sun December 4th, 2016, 7:07 pm

Thanks for the review. And for the fact-check!

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