Elizabeth - Empress of Austria - George Upton
On the twentieth of April, 1854, Elizabeth, accompanied by her parents and her two oldest sisters, started on her bridal journey to Vienna. Peasants from all the surrounding country thronged the streets of her native city through which she passed, and, overcome with the grief of parting, she stood up in her carriage and waved a tearful farewell to the cheering crowds.
The steamboat Stadt Regensburg conveyed the party from Straubing to Liutz. Work was everywhere suspended as on a holiday, and nothing was thought of but the coming of the long-awaited princess. At Liutz they had to go ashore to change boats, and there Franz Joseph met them, hurrying back to Vienna, however, so as to be there to welcome his bride. The town was buried in flowers. A magnificent arch had been erected. Bonfires burned on all the surrounding heights, while torch-light processions, theatrical performances, and serenades concluded the festivities of the day.
The next morning, April 22, the journey down the Danube was resumed. The Franz Joseph, which carried them from Liutz to Mussdorf, was covered with roses from stem to stern, the cabin hung with purple velvet, and the deck transformed into a flower garden. It was a beautiful spring morning. Banners waved from every roof and tower, and the river banks were lined on either side with cheering throngs, eager to catch a glimpse of their future Empress. What they saw was a slender, white-robed figure hastening from one side of the vessel to the other and bowing continually in response to the storms of greeting of which she never seemed to tire.
Meanwhile, at Mussdorf, the landing place for Vienna, great preparations had been made to welcome her. Since early morning crowds had been flocking thither, waiting with imperturbable patience and struggling to keep the places so hardly won. Near the bridge a pavilion had been erected with a wide portico whose gilded turrets and cupolas gleamed afar, and by noon it was filled with nobles, prelates, high officials, and deputies from the middle classes. Stationed upon a terrace to the right were the foreign ambassadors with their ladies; on the left sat representatives from Vienna and other cities under the Hapsburg rule. The weather had been threatening in the early part of the day, but towards noon heavy gusts of wind scattered the clouds, leaving the bluest of skies to welcome the bridal party. At half-past six the boat touched the shore amid the booming of cannon, strains of music, and the solemn pealing of bells. Franz Joseph hastened forward to embrace his bride, closely followed by his parents, the Archduke Franz Karl and the Archduchess Sophie, who embraced Elizabeth and then led her back to the bridegroom.
At last came the long-awaited moment when Elizabeth, leaning on the Emperor's arm, entered the Austrian capital. From thousands of throats came the shout, "Long live the Emperor's bride!" The sound was so overwhelming that Elizabeth stood for some moments by her lover's side as if spellbound; then, as her glance swept slowly over the excited throng, she smiled charmingly and waved her handkerchief to the delighted spectators. Many years have passed since that day, many misfortunes have overtaken Austria and the house of Hapsburg, but eyewitnesses are still living who remember that moment and tell of the picture the fair young princess made as she then appeared in all her exquisite loveliness.
EMPEROR FRANZ JOSEPH IN HIS TWENTY-EIGHTH YEAR.
The progress from Mussdorf to Schonbrunn was a continuous ovation. At half-past seven they reached the gates of the old palace, where the Emperor once more bade his bride welcome before leading her up the great staircase, which was decorated from top to bottom with tropical plants and flowers. On the following day the state entry into Vienna took place. Every house had been decorated by loving hands, and the streets through which the bride was to pass were perfect rivers of flowers. The Elizabeth Bridge, which connected Vienna with the suburb of Wieden or "An der Wien," was opened that day and given the name of the Empress. Here the mayor and council of the city were stationed to welcome her. About the eight statues of famous men which adorned the bridge, thousands of rare shrubs and blossoms from the hothouses of Princes Lichtenstein and Schwarzenberg, the fragrance of which filled the whole town, had been effectively arranged. As far as the Corinthian gate stretched a triple wall of citizens, and at short intervals young girls stood strewing flowers.
The thunder of cannon and pealing of bells from every church tower in Vienna and its suburbs proclaimed the starting of the procession. The golden state coach was drawn by eight milk-white horses with tall white plumes on their heads; the harnesses were covered with gold, and the coachman, footmen, and postilions wore white wigs. On the back seat sat the bride with her mother. Her dress was of red satin, embroidered in silver, and over it she wore a white cloak trimmed with garlands of roses. About her neck was a lace handkerchief, and in her beautiful hair sparkled a circlet of diamonds, twined in which was a wreath of red roses. Never had Elizabeth more fitly deserved the name so often given her, never had she more perfectly looked "The Rose of Bavaria."
Early on the morning of April 24, 1854, Te Deums were celebrated in all the churches of Vienna and the august pair attended high mass in the court chapel. By three o'clock in the afternoon the crowds about the Hofburg and the Church of the Augustins, where the ceremony was performed, were so great that barriers had to be erected to keep a way clear for the coaches to pass. From all parts of the Empire and of Europe guests had been pouring into the capital. On the preceding day alone, seventy-five thousand strangers arrived, a most extraordinary number for those days. Even the Orient—Alexandria, Smyrna, and Salonica—sent representatives to the wedding.
The famous old Church of the Augustins was gorgeously decorated for the occasion. Above the high altar rose a canopy of white velvet embroidered with gold, under which were placed two prie-dieux, also of white velvet. The walls and columns of the church were hung with damask and costly tapestry and the floor was carpeted. From a hundred candelabra countless tapers shed a soft but brilliant light. The Augustin Gallery, which led from the inner apartments of the Hofburg to the church, was similarly decorated and illuminated.
The marriage was to take place at seven o'clock in the evening. By six every available space in the church was filled with invited guests. The gay uniforms of the officers, the many-colored and picturesque court dresses of the Hungarian and Polish nobles, the sparkling jewels of the ladies, the gold-embroidered coats of the ministers and distinguished guests, the red robes of the cardinals, the fantastic costumes of many of the Oriental emissaries, all united to form a scene of incredible magnificence.
At the appointed time Prince Archbishop Rauscher, the Emperor's former tutor, with more than seventy bishops and archbishops in their gold-embroidered vestments, assembled in the sacristy. The master of ceremonies informed his Majesty that all was ready, and the procession entered the Augustin Gallery. First came the pages, stewards, and gentlemen-in-waiting; next the privy councillors and high court officials; then the Archdukes with their chamberlains; and, last of all, the Emperor himself, in the uniform of a field marshal and wearing all his orders. Directly behind the bridegroom came his mother, leading the bride on her left. On Elizabeth's left was her own mother, Duchess Ludovica, and after them followed the ladies of the court led by the Lord Chamberlain.
The bride of sixteen was radiant with all the beauty and happiness of youth. Her wedding gown was of heavy white silk, richly embroidered with gold and silver, over which she wore a loose garment of the same material with long sleeves. A diamond clasp held the long veil of Brussels point lace, and the bridal wreath of fresh myrtle and orange blossoms was secured by a magnificent coronet of diamonds which her mother-in-law had worn at her own marriage and given to Elizabeth as a wedding gift. A diamond necklace encircled her throat, and upon her breast she wore the Bavarian order of Theresa and the Austrian order of the Starry Cross, together with a bunch of white roses.
The Emperor and his bride were met at the door of the church by the Prince Archbishop, who sprinkled them with holy water, after which they knelt on the prie-dieux while the other members of the two royal families took their places. After a short prayer Franz Joseph and Elizabeth advanced to the high altar, made their responses, exchanged rings, and clasped hands. As the Archbishop pronounced the Church's blessing at the close of the ritual, a salvo of musketry sounded from the regiment of infantry stationed on the Josephsplatz, and the next instant the thunder of cannon proclaimed that Austria had an Empress and Hungary a Queen.