Now I know I promised Why Genoa? Over a week ago, or thereabouts now too, so Mr Shey would be able to answer that question when he gets asked about Lady Fury. And okay Vienna isn’t Genoa, even I know that. But I don’t think I’d do any better on a Q&A show than I would at sticking to the point, or knowing which is mushy peas, which is broccoli soup.
Stick around though and I might even explain why Glencoe is the setting of my new book. You lucky people, you have no idea the blogs being planned for you. That is why today I am launching the grand world tour. No seriously, today in the first in a short series, It’s all about location. To kick off I am asking the talented Antonia Van Zandt along to talk about Vienna.
Straight off I have to tell you Antonia and I share so much. And not just muses. Her recent blog about Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone With The Wind was a shared interest. http://antoniavanzandt.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/whatever-happened-tomargaret-mitchell.html
AND now she goes and produces this, Vienna with a slant about mental illness and Mayerling in another historical character I’ve always been interested in!
She was born Elisabeth Amalie Eugenie on 24th December 1837 in Munich, the fourth legitimate child of the licentious minor royal, Duke Maximilian in Bavaria, and his wife the Duchess Ludovika – sister of the Austrian Emperor’s mother.
A long history of inbreeding within her family – the Wittelsbachs – had led to an inherent mental instability, which most notably showed itself in the eccentricities of Elisabeth’s cousin, King Ludwig II of Bavaria. He built the fairytale palace of Neuschwanstein along with many others, virtually bankrupting his country in the process.
Elisabeth – or Sisi as she was known within the family – became one of the most painted, photographed and admired women in Europe. She was an accomplished horsewoman and lover of all things romantic and beautiful, but she was doomed to desperate bouts of deep depression and anxiety. She was obsessed with her looks (especially her magnificent long, chestnut hair) and the need to be as thin as possible. As a result, she barely ate. Sisi was a woman incapable of true happiness, though she spent a lifetime searching for it.
She married for love. Her first cousin, Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria adored her and their lavish wedding took place on 24th April 1854. By the next year, Sisi had given birth to the first of four children. Her third was the son and heir, Rudolf, who was prone to violent mood swings and was destined to die in tragic and controversial circumstances in his father’s hunting lodge in Mayerling in 1889, at the age of just thirty-one. There, it appeared, he took the life of his young lover, Marie Vetsera, before shooting himself. Conspiracy theories remain rife and I guess we’ll never really know what actually happened.
Sisi adored her son and never recovered from his death. She had always been restless and her husband had done everything he could to entice her to stay in Vienna – even building her a palace where she would be surrounded by all the things she loved most – Greek statuary, animals, lavish poetry, and, above all peace and privacy. It even boasted a well-equipped gym for the Empress who loved to put herself through a punishing daily exercise ritual. Today, you can visit the palace, known as the Hermes Villa, in Lainzer Tiergarten, a quiet location on the fringe of Vienna http://www.wien.info/en/sightseeing/sights/from-g-to-k/hermes-villa.
As she grew older, the strictures of the Viennese court became ever more anathema to her and she spent as little time as she could at the Hofburg http://www.hofburg-wien.at/en.html and the sumptuous, Versailles inspired Palace of Schönbrunn http://www.imperial-austria.at/schoenbrunn-palace-1.html?___store=english&gclid=CI_xjJmbu7YCFQLHtAodYHQAfA&___from_store=german
In time, she barely visited Austria, although she was adored by her people.
Sisi’s death reflected the tragedy that had dogged her life. On a visit to Switzerland in 1898, she was stabbed by an extremist anarchist, Luigi Lucheni. Afterwards, he declared that he hadn’t stabbed her for who she was but what she was. He intended to kill a Royal and she was an Empress – simple as that.
Her husband mourned her until the day he died. He built monuments to her. A lovely one to visit on a summer’s day is in the Volksgarten http://www.city-walks.info/Vienna/Volksgarten.html
You’ll see images of the beautiful Sisi all over the city – on tea towels, mugs, posters, liqueurs, chocolates; the list is endless. Within the Hofburg, is a museum dedicated solely to her http://www.hofburg-wien.at/en/things-to-know/sisi-museum.html
She championed the poor and downtrodden and was especially beloved by her Hungarian subjects. She was indeed Austria-Hungary’s People’s Empress and these have been just a few of her haunts. Find out more about her here: http://www.wien-vienna.com/sisi.php A quick search on Google will reveal hundreds of pages devoted to perpetuating and venerating her memory. In the hearts of her many thousands of admirers, Sisi will never die.
You can connect with Antonia here:
Her latest paranormal erotic romance, Vienna Valentine, is available from
My next guest on this fabulous tour is debut author Noelle Clark who is taking us in the jet seat to Cambodia.