DEATH BY FAME by Andrew Sinclair

DEATH BY FAME

A Life of Elisabeth, Empress of Austria
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KIRKUS REVIEW

A biography of a royal beauty of the Victorian age who was married too young to Emperor Franz Josef and became empress of Austria-Hungary. Veteran biographer Sinclair (Corsair: The Life of J. Pierpont Morgan, 1981, etc.) profiles Elisabeth—of noble Bavarian blood and the bearer of four children (including the notorious Rudolf of Mayerling), despite a philandering husband, who, it was believed, infected her with a mysterious malady. As a young wife and mother, she had to contend with a domineering mother-in-law who took control of the royal children. Elisabeth, a fine horsewoman who loved the outdoors, strove for health and beauty. Bored with ceremonial court life and crowds, she broke away from Vienna and family, seeking solitude. Constantly wandering with a large contingent of servants, she lived in various palaces across Europe, where her glamorous style set fashion standards for 30 years. Her devotion to oppressed people like the Hungarians and the Irish, among whom she lived for long periods, added to her popularity—with everyone except their Austrian and British rulers. Franz Josef gave carte blanche to her expensive tastes and wanderlust; in return, she condoned his liaisons. Sinclair capably provides the historical background as time was beginning to run out for the inbred ruling dynasties of the Hohenzollerns, Hapsburgs, Romanovs, and others. Feared anarchists and socialist assassins stalked the nobility as the nationalist powers were about to destroy one another in WWI. Elisabeth was knifed to death by an assassin in 1898. A well-written, thoroughly researched story of a popular and beautiful empress, who, while self-indulgent, sought a life of privacy and peace, and showed sympathy and charity toward the poor. She died tragically, overwhelmed by publicity and away from royal life. Sinclair finds contemporary parallels in the life of Diana, Princess of Wales. (16 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: April 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-312-19852-3
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1999




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