New book: Queen Elisabeth and the Hungarians – Friendship or Love?
Author: Barbara Káli-Rozmis
Expert proofreader: Historian Patricia Zita Pálinkás
Publisher: Helikon Kiadó, October 2021 (Language: Hungarian)
“The author of the book is the researcher of Empress and Queen Elisabeth. The historical facts and contexts are interpreted in a comprehensible and readable way, the book almost seems to be a novel. Nevertheless, the work is by no means a fiction, as events come to life using authentic contemporary reports, recollections, diary entries and private letters. Many of the source materials have not been processed or published to such depth until now. Dialogues have been reconstructed as authentically as possible – so they are not only based on the sources, but were recorded by the contemporaries of Empress and Queen Elisabeth. Through a novel approach, the readers become acquainted with historical characters by engaging themselves in a series of events.”
The Recommendation was written by Archduke Michael von Habsburg-Lothringen, great-great-grandson of Empress-Queen Elisabeth. Special thanks to Count János Seremetyeff-Papp, who helped with a lot of valuable advice and the picture selection (many of the images are from the Family Archive of the Hungarian branch of the Habsburg family).
From the Foreword:
I wanted to provide the reader with a book that is captivating and exciting, and informative and authentic. While my friend and fashion designer Mónika Czédly creates authentic replicas of the dresses of the Empress-Queen, I reconstruct many scenes of Elisabeth’s life in writing. However, my work written in a novel style is by no means fictional. The conversations are authentic because they were recorded and saved from being forgotten by the Empress’ contemporaries. The descriptions are not figments of my imagination either. As the Works Cited section illustrates, I used many sources from reminiscences, diaries, letters, and contemporary reports. I selected from the available sources and compared them with each other because there are several things to consider, for example, the time between the events and their recording, and the subjective approach of a particular source. Therefore, it is important to examine even the opposing accounts from different perspectives.
Many books have been written on the Empress. To describe events, novelists often rely on fantasy rather than historically accurate sources. I was inspired to write my book in a narrative form to show that reality can be as enthralling as fiction.
My research aims to uncover as many compelling things as possible about the Empress and her family and to present sources that are less known or “forgotten”, or have not been processed to an adequate degree. In some places, the texts I used may not seem sufficiently justified or credible, and the reader might consider them fictitious because of their exceptional content. I should like to note that before giving credit to any source I consulted the works considered most thorough and authoritative, including the biography of Empress Elisabeth of Austria by Brigitte Hamann and that of Count Egon Cäsar Corti. However, for the sake of the novel style, I rejected the idea of supporting the message with the already known source material. Instead, I included other gripping facts that nuanced our picture of the Empress and her family. The sources are provided in endnotes to enable those interested to study them.
One of the most compelling questions is the relationship between the Queen and Count Julius Andrassy, which is still the subject of countless speculations and legends. For this reason, Count Andrassy, who was part of Elisabeth’s life from January 1866 until his death on the 18th of February 1890, is one of the main characters in my book. It is a slight overstatement to say that every woman was a little bit in love with Julius Andrassy in Hungary during the time of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. I have read many opinions of him from people who were indifferent toward him, or even hated him. When studying their recollections, they seemed to consider him a great man. One of the most striking insights I had during my research was about him. I was sure that he was over-mystified but the more I delved into his private life and his relationship with the Queen, the closer he came to me, and I found myself beginning to respect and love him. He was a true friend, who, as he himself confessed, had not honoured many people with friendship, but those whom he did, he never let go.
Two extraordinary people met on the 8th of January 1866. It was cold and snowing outside when the Austrian Empress, flushed with excitement, received the Hungarian delegation led by Count Julius Andrassy in the Viennese Hofburg. From the very first moment, the two had a powerful effect on each other and a close bond developed between them. This would stand the test of time in a complicated and obscure atmosphere. The reader is left to wonder whether this special relationship was friendship or love, and how the other two people involved, namely Emperor Franz Joseph and Andrassy’s wife, Countess Katinka Kendeffy, viewed this relationship. Besides Elisabeth’s connection with the Hungarians, the subheading refers to that of her husband, which has been interpreted in many ways. Was it love at first sight? Or is it just a myth?
Researcher of Elisabeth, Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary
Order (in Hungarian) abroad: HERE
Purchase the Hungarian edition: Click here.
The book has been one of the most successful publications of Libri Publisher Ltd., in which Helikon Publisher is included.
The Képmás Magazin (Print.) chose it as one of the most beautiful Christmas presents of 2021 in its printed paper.
Nők Lapja (“Women’s Magazine”), 2022. február 16: Interview with Barbara Káli-Rozmis and her work as a researcher of Empress-Queen Elisabeth
Three-pages interview with Barbara Káli-Rozmis about her book in Nők Lapja (“Women’s Magazine”), which has been one of the leading weekly magazines in Hungary since 1949. (The replica of Empress-Queen Elisabeth’s first Hungarian ceremonial gown worn by the author of the book was made by Mónika Czédly fashion designer.)
The interview was conducted by Emese Dudics about my work and my book Queen Elisabeth and the Hungarians – Friendship or Love. And some thoughts about my second book on her which has been in process. Read the beginning of the interview online for free: HERE
Excerpts from the book (note: the excerpts are in English, however, the language of the book is Hungarian)
By October 1866 the Empress had Andrassy’s confidence, who noted his conversations with her:
“I have received an evil-minded anonymous letter,” Elisabeth said to the Count.
“May I ask Your Majesty what it is about?”
“About you, Count Andrassy. The writer says you are an excessively vain person and therefore suggests that I should take the advice of Sennyey and Majlath instead,” Elisabeth replied. Both mentioned politicians were Hungarians: George Majlath was the court chancellor, Baron Paul Sennyey was another leading politician. Majlath was not identical with Count John Majlath, who taught Elisabeth during her engagement and later died in 1855. George Majlath belonged to another branch of the family, which, at that time, did not have an aristocratic rank.
“Does Your Majesty give any credence to these slanders?”
“Of course not. If I had doubted you, I wouldn’t have mentioned the whole thing. Instead, I would have observed whether the accusations were true or not,” replied the Empress with a smile, and encouraged, Andrassy openly expressed his opinion about the former Prime Minister of Saxony, Count Friedrich Ferdinand von Beust, whom the Emperor intended to appoint as Foreign Minister of the Monarchy:
“I must confess, Your Majesty, that I consider Count Beust utterly incapable of bringing the monarchy back to life because he is a foreigner. Please do not think it immodest of me to express my conviction, but presently, I am the only one who can help this cause.”
“How many times have I said this to the Emperor! At luncheon the other day, we toasted the health of the old gentleman [i.e., Franz Deak],” said the Empress. Andrassy was very pleased, and continued:
“Allow me, Your Majesty, to enlighten you and clarify that a Hungarian government must be appointed as soon as possible. Otherwise restoring good relations between the throne and the nation is hardly possible.”
“To my greatest sorrow, this plan has hardly or no chance of being fulfilled. However, I assure you that I shall make every effort to remove any obstacles in the way,” answered the Empress.
The Hungarian coronation was on 8 June 1867. Shortly before that the imperial-royal couple got the news of the tragic death of a relative (a young duchess). The scene below is from the eve before the coronation day.
All Elisabeth’s sorrows evaporated in her excitement on the evening of 7th June. She could not think of anything but officially becoming Queen of Hungary. The Queen of the nation which her mother-in-law and the Austrian imperial court had despised and looked down upon, and whose history and fate had captivated her since she was a bride. On the eve of the coronation, with the help of her lady’s maid, she put on the Hungarian-style silver brocade gown made for the ceremony, with its black velvet waist. The gown had lilacs embroidered on it with a silver thread, and embellished with precious stones. She wanted to show herself off to Franz Joseph. The dress was extremely heavy, weighing about twenty-two to twenty-six kilograms, while Elisabeth’s weight was only about fifty kilograms: just walking around in it was sure to be exhausting. The Queen looked breathtakingly beautiful in her dress as it glittered with diamonds. The skirt with the train, the apron and the veil were made in Brussels, and the four thousand and five hundred or so tiny diamonds were worked into the centre of the lilac patterns later, making the dress exceptionally precious.
The Queen did not want to burden the court treasury: the original dress was not too expensive for the occasion and the wearer, costing only about five thousand francs. However, when she learned that several of the twelve Hungarian ladies of the palace, including Baroness George Majlath (Stephanie Prandau), the wife of the Chancellor, would be wearing a dress embroidered with gold thread, and the gowns of several others would be embroidered with silver thread, she had to think of something. It would have been inappropriate for the ladies to be dressed in anything more glittering than the Queen’s attire. As she did not want to have a new gown made for herself, she had the idea of taking out diamonds from her own jewellery (most of which received as gifts from Franz Joseph and her mother-in-law) and having them sewn onto the dress. It took the goldsmiths and seamstresses some time to get the numerous tiny gems into the centre of the silver thread embroidered lilac flowers. Naturally, the gems would be placed back into the jewellery later, again with tremendous work.
At last, the eve of the big day she had been waiting and working for so long had come. She stood in the most beautiful and precious dress she had ever owned, excitedly waiting for her husband. The Emperor was delighted that his wife had sent for him so suddenly and urgently, so he entered with a smile under his moustache. The palace hall where Elisabeth was waiting was lit by hundreds of candles. Franz Joseph could hardly speak from surprise and delight when he saw his wife, who was shining with happiness. Standing there in her dress glittering with thousands of tiny diamonds, Sisi looked more like a fairy queen than a worldly creature. With slow but springy steps, he approached his beloved wife, with whom he was still as much in love as when he first laid eyes on her. But this woman was no longer a shy and timid girl but a very self-conscious, beautiful woman in full glory of her beauty. When reaching her, he said nothing but kissed her forehead in delight. How wonderful she would look at seven o’clock the next day, in the early morning sunshine, and in the light of the thousands of candles of Matthias Church, he thought.
Count Andrássy was appointed to the Foreign Minister of Austria-Hungary in 1871. The following extract is from a ball scene. The ball is organised at the Viennese Palace of Andrássy, that is, the Palace of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in Vienna:
The military music band had already taken its place in the two adjoining great halls of the Foreign Minister’s Palace, which was loud from the conversations. The guests were speaking in several languages, such as, French, English, Italian, Spanish, German, Russian and Hungarian. When Count Andrássy escorted the emperor into the ballroom, everyone – giving the obligatory respect – bowed obediently. Even Joseph Othmar von Rauscher, Cardinal of Vienna, although his face reflected that he did not consider the Austrian Emperor above him in rank. Franz Joseph and Andrássy started separate conversations with the guests. Andrássy began talking with a gentleman nearly fifty years old, but he (Andrássy) was constantly looking toward the door. His face, according to those present, was “cold and sober”. At last, a Hungarian man wearing a hussar uniform and spurred boots made his way between the ladies wearing evening dresses and the well-dressed gentlemen. Andrássy informed the emperor, then gestured to his wives, who were entertaining her guests in her drawing-room (next to the ballroom) decorated with red atlas, and was waiting for her husband’s signal all the time. She followed her husband through the ballroom to the stairwell, where soldiers wearing light yellow hussar uniforms and light grey fur hat were standing on both sides. Andrássy strode down the stairs to get ready for a reception (of Empress Elisabeth and Empress Augusta, the German Empress consort) at the bottom of the stairwell. Andrássy’s wife, the mistress of the house was waiting in the upper hall…
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