The rumors are true. There is but one “legitimate” family portrait that features me, my husband, his family and our children. It is this portrait at right.
Before there was Photoshop, there was the photomontage expert. Smart handlers who knew how to juxtapose likenesses of us all in order to convey normal royal family togetherness. Ha! As if. Getting the blood sausage stains out of all the uniforms, well, that alone was quite toilsome.
Also, I’ve been much criticized for being a cold, distant mother. Rare is the photograph of me holding a child. On this I must opine. It wasn’t that I didn’t wish to stride about town with the children at my hip like Angelina Jolie, but the decorum of the day prohibited such unabashed public maternity. The staging alone required to gather us all in a ballroom or grand hall for a portrait was beyond the scope of our collective constitutions (remember, many of us were battling depression, grouchiness and familial ill-will), but here we are, in 1859, one big imperial clog.
Reviewing this portrait now, I will say, the choreography is a bit off, don’t you think? Who sits in that chair at left? A ghost? Shouldn’t my dear husband be in that chair? Well, you can thank the Archduchess for that edit. She was quite vocal on her assertions that her Franzl show the full measure of his uprightness and stare dead-eye into the lens, so there he is, as though readying himself for leading a battle. Which he did plenty of at the Hof.
Endnote: I am pleased, however, that my little Gisela is facing me, as it should be, rather than her grandmother, the matronly garbed Archduchess.