some tidbits on my siblings …

Doesn’t my gay brother-in-law look thrilled to be in this portrait with my two hot sisters?

We Wittelsbach children were a handful, I admit. The eight of us were wild children, raised to ride well and walk as though we had wings beneath our feet, but stable, long-term relationships were not our strong suit.

My eldest brother, Ludwig, was raised to be a military man, but his real love was the theater, and he fell head over heels for an actress named Henriette. He soon knocked her up (twice) which caused quite a stir in the court. Wittelsbachs don’t marry commoners, apparently, and it was up to me to legislate his union with the woman. Which I did. Not that it did any good–she was shunned from the circle, and died, bitter and aggrieved. After which, my brother married (and divorced) a young dancer before having a fatal heart attack at age 90.

Helene (known to us as Nené), as you know, was slated to marry Franz Josef, when I scooped her in Bad Ischl. Poor Nené tried not to be bitter, and was bee-lining toward old maid, when Maximilian Anton von Thurn and Taxis scooped her up, and in short order, along came four babies. All was not well with poor Max, who died at the young age of 36, leaving Helene to raise their small children alone (with the help of a full staff and governesses and so on , of course).

My favorite brother Karl Theodor (Gackl), lost his first wife to tuberculosis (which he also suffered from). At age 35 he married 17-year-old Princess maria Josepha of Braganza with whom he had five children.

My handsome little brother Mapperl. What a cutie!

My three little sisters were all somewhat precocious–each of them (Marie, Mathilde and Sophie), engaging in countless affairs–even having “secret” children with their lovers who were squired off and raised elsewhere. Marie, known as The Heroine of Gaeta, had a husband with a malformed organ (which was eventually corrected, but not before she gave birth to a set of bastard twins by her lover); Mathilde ‘Spatz” married Marie’s brother, whom she despised; and poor Sophie — she kept getting set up with gay men (my brother-in-law and our cousin Mad King Ludwig II), and was eventually betrothed to Duke Ferdinand of Alencon. Ah, but dear Sophie was a handful, and eventually ran off with her doctor, for which she was punished and thrown into a mental asylum and shocked into submission.

My youngest sibling, dear brother Mapperl (Max Emanuel), had perhaps the happiest marriage. He wed his love, Princess Amelie of Coburg (even though she’d been promised to Prince Leopold of Bavaria–something I took care of by suggesting my daughter, Gisela, in Amalie’s place). They had three sons together before Mapperl died of ulcers at age 42.

As you can see, happily ever after was NOT the Wittelsbach tagline!

why my sister did not become empress (a reprise)

Yes indeed, we’re flashing back to a popular post (originally penned over a  year ago). If you feel you’ve read this before, you have! But there are several new readers, so I am offering this post, yet again.

nene and sisi

after my engagement, my sister grew grumpier yet

Alas, poor Nené, my humorless sister.  As the eldest daughter in an inbred family full of loons, she was the only sane one and for all of her sanity, she very nearly became an old maid.

As you all know, I was “that little monkey” who was dragged to Bad Ischl as an afterthought that day in August, 1853.  The Emperor was not supposed to pay me any mind–I was a mere child, just fresh from the nursery.

My sister’s likeness preceded her introduction in the form of many a studio shot: sitting in a brocade parlor chair with lips pinched; gazing into space, sporting a fresh heart-shaped coif; on horseback with the strong, straight back our father demanded of us, but an expression that merely said, “this corset is digging into my ribs.”

In photographs, my sister’s face always looked sour and stern.  Her eyes squinted under heavy brow bones, her mouth, well, someone should have recommended more of a smile–(though, in her defense, none of us Wittelsbach woman ever smiled with teeth showing for our family curse included a mouthful of unsightly brown). And yet, had Helene been bubbly and animated in the flesh, she may still have been able to charm the young Emperor.  But, it was not the case.

Now, here’s where I came in.  Franz Joseph’s mother, the ever-meddling Archduchess, had decided that her son, the heir, would marry her sister Ludovica’s daughter, period. No one was more surprised than she (except, maybe, me) when he chose “the little monkey” instead of the more turned out, well-behaved elder girl.

Years later the Emperor shared his disappointment in how plain and stern my sister looked when first they met.  “No youth!  No joie de vivre!  You’d think, at eighteen, she was forty!”

nene

Nené, looking glum, glum, glum

Elisabeth of Bavaria

I was rather fetching...

It is true, Emperor Franz Joseph robbed the cradle by plucking a fifteen-year-old child from her nursery, but things were quite different back then.  For one, not only was I a child, I was also the Emperor’s cousin.  Ah!  But there was no child protective police in 19th Century Europe, so off to the Hofburg I went, leaving my elder, jilted sister to sulk for years to come–until she finally married a wealthy prince named Prince Max at the ripe old age of 24.

But here is the irony. My sad-faced sister was the only one among us to have a happy marriage in the end.  Go figure.