It was by a strange twist in fate that Elizabeth of Bavaria ended up marrying Franz Joseph. Elizabeth was accompanying her mother and eldest sister Helene (“Néné”) to what was supposed to be Helene’s and Franz Joseph’s engagement. When Franz Joseph laid eyes on Elizabeth though, he had changed his mind and wanted her as a bride instead. Franz Joseph and Elizabeth initially got along very well. It was later, when she fully realized the constraints and norms of court that she began to withdraw. She entered into the marriage as a shy girl from a more casual court life. She emerged, however, a confident woman who did what she pleased.
Empress Sisi largely neglected her motherly duties as she was generally off somewhere on a spa break or horse riding adventure. She would disappear from court for months but Franz Joseph would always defend her absence. He adored her. He did everything to try to please her but she felt trapped in her marriage and in the formal court life.
Regardless, Empress Sisi and Emperor Franz Joseph had four children: Sophie, Gisela, Rudolf and Marie Valerie. Empress Sisi had Marie Valerie ten years after the others. It is likely that she is Empress Sisi’s favorite daughter as she resolved to raise her herself and not let her mother-in-law meddle.
I have just scratched the surface of the story of Empress Sisi and Emperor Franz Joseph. If you are ever in Vienna, this is a definite must see!