Achilleion Corfu Empress Elisabeth Sisi of Austria
18.08.2021

The Achilleion - Empress Sisi's Greek Mythology Retreat

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Empress Elisabeth of Austria became a mythological figure, almost as mythological as Achilles, the Greek hero, after whom she named her retreat on the island of Corfu.

Sisi was no happy person. She didn't fit into the strict rules of the Imperial Habsburg family and subsequently tried to escape her obligations, her husband and even her children.

When 16 year old Sisi married 18 year old Emperor Franz Josef I, she did not fully grasp what it means to be the Empress of Austria. Growing up as daughter of Max in Bayern didn't help either, so she was not prepared to fulfill the obligations she was about to accept when saying "Yes!". Although scholars agree upon the fact, that both spouses loved each other, Sisi soon started to escape the Viennese Imperial Court as often and as long as possible. She developed serious health issues, the best excuse to leave Vienna.

After the tragedy of Mayerling, where her son and heir apparent Rudolf committed suicide and/or murder under still mysterious circumstances in 1889, Sisi started to bild the palace on the island of Corfu she had learned to love on earlier travels. The empress loved - and wrote - poetry and also Greek mythology and the heroes and especially brave and indomitable Achilles. With the help of her travel companion Alexander von Warsberg, former Austrian consul in Greece, she created a wild dream of Ancient Greek, where heroes where independent and strong and the muses inspired the artists - namely herself. She became so obsessed with her reveries, that she learned the modern Greek language.

The undertaking cost the Emperor a real fortune and the Austrian Loyd had to provide the palace with delicatessen from purveyors of the imperial court. Obsessed with her body, the aging empress was seen almost running in ever black dresses on dusty paths, her poor ladies-in-waiting chasing after her exhaustedly, occasionally crossing the paths of goats and bewildered farmers.

She often came back to her new, mythical home until she was murdered by anarchist Luigi Lucheni in Geneva. Most of the furniture was sent back to Vienna for the newly commissioned Corfu Chamber. The palace was sold to German Emperor Wilhelm II. Her husband, Franz Josef, never sat a foot on Corfu. 

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