The Love Story of Empress Elisabeth
Born into a royal Bavarian House, Elisabeth enjoyed an informal upbringing in their family. She is the fourth child of Duke Maximilian and Princess Ludovika of Bavaria. She and her siblings grew up in a very unrestrained and unstructured environment. She often escapes her lessons to go riding in the countryside. Her love for horseback riding suits her carefree character yet she was shy and introverted by nature. Never did she know that at the young age of sixteen her informal way of living will change in an instant. Princess Sophie of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and also the domineering mother of Emperor Franz prefers to have her niece as her daughter-in-law rather than a stranger. She arranged an acquaintance dinner with her sister Princess Ludovika to introduce her elder daughter Helene to the Emperor. The princess of Bavaria together with her two lovely daughters journey to the castle to receive his formal proposal of marriage. In their arrival, Elisabeth in her peculiar self, wandered around the place right before they were formally welcomed to the banquet. Just in time for Helene and Franz’s introduction, she found her way back to the lobby where her mother and sister are waiting for her and having a conversation with Princess Sophie and the Emperor. As she enters the door, she fumbled and surprised everyone in the room. The innocent gesture that complements her pretty face and her big green eyes has amused the Emperor who by then, gazes as he heads slowly towards her direction. Without any single word even uttered, they continued to gaze at each other. Everyone in the room has noticed it and this has prompted Princess Sophie to call her son Franz to accompany Helene to the dining room. Elisabeth remains dumbfounded with the Emperor’s gesture and feeling uncomfortable, she finds her excuse not to join the banquet.
On the night of their first meeting, the Emperor observed Helene as a pious and quiet young woman and they felt ill at ease in each other’s company. All at once, he was infatuated with Elisabeth who is not only a younger sister to Helene but her best friend. Like an open book, Helene tells everything to her. Elisabeth knows her sister felt extremely happy over this expected betrothal. She was excited to meet the Emperor whom she met when they were just kids many years ago. Bemused over these thoughts she asked herself, how could she afford to steal Helene’s happiness? Subsequently, on that same evening, Franz made a decision that will defy his mother’s plan. Amid his profound thought, he approaches the window of his room to catch some fresh air and there he saw Elisabeth sauntering like a goddess in the dark. He knows he made the right decision and his eyes twinkles as he smirks thinking about his next move.
Elisabeth could not sleep that night. She is overwhelmed by her feeling towards the Emperor, the feeling she has on their first eye contact. Her heart beats abnormally whenever she thinks about him, his meek and humble face, his eyes that stare intimately send chills down her spine, and his total physique as a man who has been into a thorough military training in his childhood denotes his character of a veritable leader. Elisabeth doubtlessly has this mutual attraction with Franz but she, as a good sister to Helene finds it absurd. “A penny for your thoughts?” A new but familiar voice comes close to her back. As she turns her face to confirm who’s with her in the darkness of savanna, she gets startled to see Franz smiling sweetly behind her. “Your highness” ..., as she stands quickly bowing her head to pay respect to the Emperor. “I couldn’t sleep, maybe because of our long journey. I just want to get some fresh air, she answered swiftly. “I am feeling the same as you but something in my mind tells me that I should be telling you…”, answered Franz. He turns following her gaze and continued… “Elisabeth, you are lovely, I find you very interesting, let me say, you are an extraordinary woman. Disconcerted by his words, Elisabeth abruptly changes the mood of the night. “My sister Helene is very happy to meet you. She has been telling me how excited she was to finally see you in person” … she said gasping more air to breathe. “Augh, and she’s telling you all of this?” he sounds frustrated. ‘My sister and I are very close to each other and we are like best friends.” … she replied. As they continue to gaze at each other, Elisabeth finds her way out disquieted not allowing Franz to speak any further.
The coolness of a morning breeze is gently blowing her hair while sitting at the courtyard bench of the castle. Contemplating not to dwell on her emotions for Franz, she saw Helene hurriedly heading towards her direction. “He didn’t like me, he told me we cannot get married” … said Helene as she speaks in a quavering voice. My dear sister you are amazing, he cannot do this to you! When did he tell you this? Don’t be upset, I will try to talk to him? Subdued with her emotions for Helene, she found herself inside the Emperor’s office while the latter is having a meeting with his nobles. “It’s good to see you here my princess but I am having a meeting right now. Would you mind to see me after this?... asked Franz. “No, we need to speak right now… with all due respect your highness! She is genuinely fuming. The Emperor comprehends wariness for this coarse reaction, sends his nobles out and continues to listen to her. “Why did you disappoint Helene, she is very sad. You have to marry her! says Elisabeth. “I will fulfill your wish. I will take back my decision. But you must tell me you do not share the feelings I have for you” … Tell me right here, right now” …, the Emperor replied. She is stunned by his soberness. Her adrenaline spun through her as she stands idle feeling the sudden drought in her throat. She could not speak. She must admit it. She is not only attracted but she is having that special feeling towards him. Her reaction clearly defines approval with the emperor’s words and Franz briskly approaches her with a sweet tender kiss.
Not far away in the savannas lies an old deserted Arbor, surrounded by pampas and trees. This is where they secretly meet before the announcement has been made and even before their marriage has taken place. This is their rendezvous, a place that gives them the freedom to express their true feelings and share their thoughts. The Arbor is the place they go to escape the complexity of life. The tryst beholds and unfolds the solemnity of their affection for each other. This is where their vows are made.
Franz finally has revealed his plan. He defied his mother and informed her that if it is not Elisabeth, he would not marry at all. Princess Sophie and Princess Ludovika are baffled with this revelation yet they cannot resist the Emperor’s decision. Five days later, the betrothal was officially announced.
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Elisabeth took a crash-course in preparation for her upcoming role in the largest empire in Europe. Beautifully dressed in white she began to march down through the aisle to meet her future husband Franz, the absolute monarch of Austria, to receive their marriage vows.
To be continued in chapter 2, The Wedding...