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The true story that inspired Netflix's The Empress

Photo credit: Netflix
Photo credit: Netflix

It's period drama time, as Netflix's new historical romance series The Empress is taking the platform by storm.

Fans have been obsessed with the unlikely relationship between Elisabeth and Emperor Franz, set within the Austrian royal family, with viewers all saying the same thing about the series.

And if the Netflix six-parter wasn't enough, it turns out The Empress is actually based on real events. So, who was the real Elisabeth, and what's the true story behind The Empress?

Who was the real Elisabeth von Wittelsbach?

Born in 1837, Elisabeth von Wittelsbach, nicknamed Sisi, was the daughter of a Bavarian Duke (Bavaria now makes up part of southern Germany). She married Emperor Franz of Austria in 1854 at the age of 16, then becoming Empress consort of Austria and queen of Hungary.

Photo credit: Netflix
Photo credit: Netflix

The Emperor and Empress had four children together, and Elisabeth became famous for her beauty, becoming almost a celebrity at the time. Sadly, in 1898 she was assassinated during a trip to Geneva, Switzerland, dying at age 60.

How did the real Elisabeth and Franz meet?

While Elisabeth and Franz' relationship is romanticised in The Empress, their reality is a little less happy. The pair met in 1853 when Elisabeth, age 15, travelled from Munich to Austria with her mother and older sister, Helene, in order to meet Emperor Franz.

Photo credit: ilbusca - Getty Images
Photo credit: ilbusca - Getty Images

Franz had intended to formally propose to Helene, who was his first cousin, but the pair didn't forge a connection. Instead, Franz became infatuated with Elisabeth, saying he wanted to marry her or nobody at all. The pair became engaged after five days later and married eight months later.

Sadly for Elisabeth, she didn't like Franz, then 23, as much as he liked her, reportedly finding him dull and unfunny. Historical accounts claim that the 16-year-old bride was seen crying on her wedding day, going on to live in the restrictive and formal Viennese Court.

Photo credit: Netflix
Photo credit: Netflix

How did the real Elisabeth die?

Elisabeth was tragically assassinated while travelling in Geneva in 1898. The Empress was walking to catch a ferry when Italian anarchist, Luigi Lucheni stabbed her with a sharpened needle file. She died soon after at 60 years old.

The Empress is streaming now on Netflix.

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