my pink parrot

sisi's parrot

This fancy fellow looked lovely on my shoulder.

As an addendum to my pink post, I must include this charming fellow. During the year the Emperor and I were engaged, before I got swept away in a mountain of crinolines and corsets, he gifted me a pink parrot.

It was my sweet-16 birthday present–and was probably my favorite gift of all time.  In my childlike mind, I had assumed that all of my pets would accompany me to the Hof when Franz and I were married, the pink parrot included! Soon, though, a telegram came from Vienna outlining the lack of tolerance the Archduchess had for “critters.” The parrot would be housed outside the castle. As would any other birds, snakes, or cats I might bring. And my horses? Well, they were not invited to the royal stables at all!

Is it any wonder that I would teach this bird to say, “Sophie is a bee-atch!”

Some truths

 Not that you asked…

1. Start each day with a four mile trek. Followed by a vial of calf’s blood.
2. Add a dram of cognac to three dove’s yokes and slather on your hair once a fortnight until stiff. Rinse with rain water.
3. If you must eat peas, eat an odd number of them. It’s for luck, dears.
4. You can minimize perspiration by pinching your earlobes. Really.
5. To strengthen and slim the ankles, make a circle with each foot one hundred times daily. Then reverse the circles.
6. Should you sneeze during chapel, unwelcome news will befall you. Should you sneeze before bed, you will dream of good fortune.
7. When it comes to pets, always have dogs in twos. But should you keep a monkey, he must be your only one, or he may be driven to the demon rum.

monkey business at the hof

into every court a little monkey-business should fall!

It’s no secret that I was a huge fan of pets.  All sorts of pets.  Parrots, ponies, kitties, wolfhounds. Much to my mother-in-law’s horror, I kept my animals in my apartments at the Hof.  Many nights my bed was filled with dogs: one on the pillow beside me, another at my foot.  They kept me warm.  They licked the nasty Court life from my beleaguered body. Pets cured me of many a mania, but occasionally there was the outlier. A pet who broke my heart. I’m speaking of my monkey.

When my youngest and most favored child was a girl, I purchased a charming little macaque. What fun we had dressing the adorable monkey in pantaloons and setting it at our table for tea! Valerie and I were quite entertained by the monkey’s antics–the way it scampered over credenzas, upsetting bottles of ink, swinging from flag to flag in the library.

my daughter and her pussycat.

Alas, my ladies-in-waiting were not so amused, and when our charming macaque reached the age of puberty, well, let us just say the ladies often left the room accompanied by smelling salts and handkerchiefs.  Our little monkey was perhaps too fond of patting his own little monkey.

In addition to the, er, indecorous behavior of the scamp, there was the sickness.  The macaque seemed to catch cold often. No sooner did we nurse the poor dear from one ailment, he caught another. Diarrhea all over the chambers in bloody little pools. Even a devout animal-lover like myself had to eventually relent, and allow our monkey to be carted off to Schönbrunn, where he lived out his days behind bars, entertaining school children with his screaming and carrying on.

After that, I lobbied for a Bengal tiger from Berlin, and also fancied a dancing bear that could be had at the bargain rate of 700 guldens, all to no avail. My family (particularly the Archduchess) filibustered against me and my exotic tastes. So I went straight to the top with my request: my son, Crown Prince Rudolf. “Dear,” I beckoned, “find me a polite monkey–maybe a girl monkey–one of hearty stock.”

I simply wished to know which species of monkey was toughest and combined total good nature with decent behavior. I wanted a monkey who didn’t scream so much. My Rudolf apparently consulted with the Court zoologist, but, as became more and more the case, I believe they gas-lighted me. “Mother,” said Rudolf, “you must give up your monkey passion. Get a little pussy instead.”

And thus, I relented, and filled the Court with normal animals from that day forward.