37 — July 2023

clustered | unclustered

The (Em)Bracelet. Sentimental Mechanisms in Royal Jewellery.

Part 1 / 2 — Editors: Charlotte Vanhoubroeck, Arne De Winde

Bracelet Echo – details from portraits of Louise-Marie d’Orléans, 19th century, various materials. Collected and composed by Charlotte Vanhoubroeck.


clustered | unclustered

Pictorial Echoes of Love, Grief and Status. The Iconographical Importance of the Ever-Present Bracelet of Queen Louise-Marie d’Orléans

Charlotte Vanhoubroeck

Wavering oval miniature portraits, brilliantly wreathed, embrace a soft woman’s arm. Quietly, they seem no more than an illustrious detail in her portraits, but once noticed and rhythmically exposed next to each other, the depictions of this peculiar bracelet seem to demand attention. The wearer of the piece(s) is Louise-Marie d’Orléans, first queen of the Belgians (1812 – 1850). A somewhat forgotten queen who, during her life in Belgium, tempered her feelings of melancholy with the comforting power of what is often called sentimental jewellery. These treasures encapsulated miniature portraits, eye miniatures, human locks of hair, engraved names, dates or messages; they commemorated loved ones and memorable moments. According to her Estate Inventory, Louise owned more than a hundred sentimental pieces of jewellery. Almost all of these pieces got lost and dispersed through series of inheritances, causing a gaping lack of visual information about Louise’s sentimental jewellery. Fortunately, there are a few remaining portraits in which Louise adorns herself with a heavy miniature bracelet. Does it always concern the same piece of jewellery, or are they all different bracelets? And what do these arm pieces reveal? A declaration of love? A display of status or prestige? Do each of these surviving portraits depict a scene of mourning? Or are we witnessing nothing more than a random, romantic fashion fad?

Creating the bracelet(s)

Several contemporaneous artists laid eyes on the real bracelet(s). Especially the well-known portrait painters Nicaise De Keyser (fig. 1), Franz Xaver Winterhalter (fig. 4) and Fanny Geefs (fig. 2), who have painted some of Louise’s state portraits, were able to admire her and her jewellery up close during the posing sessions. In these portraits Louise had to radiate the serene and dignified aura of a queen. The use of light and colour, the correct – yet slightly idealised – physical likeness, the overall composition, ... were all carefully considered. Also renowned printmakers, such as Eugène Van Maldeghem, Charles Billoin and Henri Grèvedon have depicted the queen with her bracelet (fig. 3). These portraits always show Louise from a three-quarter viewpoint, mostly with her arms crossed over her stomach and with a timid yet direct look in her eyes. Prints could easily be duplicated and distributed and were therefore made for the general public.

Fig. 1 (l): Nicaise de Keyser, Portrait of Queen Louise-Marie d’Orléans, oil on canvas, 1856.
Fig. 2 (r): Fanny Geefs, Portrait of Queen Louise-Marie d’Orléans, oil on canvas, 1861.

The series of bracelet scenes shows us how some of the artists chose to depict the miniature portrait with clear precision, and how others preferred to mysteriously display an abstract silhouette or even veil the complete miniature in a haze. Some artists surrounded the miniature with rows of silky pearls, others with shiny (semi-)precious stones set in metal. Sometimes, the piece seems to be dangling smoothly around the arm; in other scenes, the bracelet appears to be a static, unmovable chunk of metal around the wrist. The bracelet is always the same, yet it is not. Subtle differences in representation provide the captive viewer with a new jewellery piece over and over again. These minor differences shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, since, of course, every artist interpreted these particular features in ways that fitted their style. Especially the printmakers frequently gave free reign to their imagination when shaping luxurious details. Often, they didn’t even get to physically observe the queen – and thus also her jewellery – and had to base their portraits on already existing images. What we get, then, is an interplay of repetition and variation. Sometimes, however, there seems to be some indication that, maybe, not every bracelet is the same in this series of scenes. This will become clear further on.

Love or grief?

Who is depicted on the bracelet’s miniature portrait? Some artists created a sumptuous piece of jewellery, but didn’t pay attention to who was depicted. The place where the portrait should be was often filled in with a hesitant blur, or mysteriously concealed behind a fan, under some velvet or lace. Was it because, to the artists, the little portrait appeared to be no more than a trivial detail? Or would they, maybe, rather not disturb the sentimental content of the piece too much?

Fig. 3: Portraits of Louise-Marie d’Orléans, lithographies and engravings, 19th century.

All in all, five artists did provide the bracelet with a clear miniature portrait and confidently painted a small but noble dark-haired King Leopold I in the oval. This raises the question if the gem was a declaration of love from a king to his queen. Louise’s official Estate Inventory lists eight pieces of jewellery that refer to Leopold. The fourth piece in the list resembles the bracelet in the portraits quite closely. It is described as follows: “Un bracelet avec le portrait du Roi, entouré de brillants, tour de bras avec modèle gourmette avec chaînon en brillants.” (“A bracelet with the portrait of the King, surrounded by brilliants, arm band in ‘gourmette’ style with brilliant links.”).1 The portrait and the diamonds turn the piece into a precious, heavy bracelet. Yet it is also a flexible piece, since a ‘gourmette’, a type of chain, can move smoothly around the arm. Description N° 113 also attracts the attention: “Un médaillon formé du portrait de Sa Majesté Le Roi Léopold, entouré de dix huit brillants avec un anneau orné de cinq brillants plus petits.” (“A medallion with the portrait of His Majesty King Leopold, surrounded by eighteen brilliants with a band decorated with five smaller brilliants.”).2 This piece concerns an impressive diamond medallion which shows Leopold’s portrait and which can also be attached to a golden bracelet set with diamonds. At the time it was sometimes the case that a medallion was a separate element that could be mounted into several types of jewellery pieces, which is why N° 113 should be taken into consideration as well.

Could the bracelet depicted on Louise’s portraits be one of these two bracelets, N° 4 or N° 113? And could one of these two pieces maybe even be the medallion that Leopold gave to Louise on their wedding day? Both Inventory descriptions resemble this iconic wedding gift quite well, a gift which is discussed in several sources. For instance, in 2001 Marguerite Coppens published an extract from the diary of Marie-Amélie, Queen of France and mother of Louise, in which she reports about her daughter’s wedding day. Among other things, she briefly describes the toilet ritual: “Elle a revêtu une magnifique robe en point d’Angleterre que lui avait offert Léopold, le collier, les pendants d’oreille et le médaillon entouré de brillants étaient également des présents de son fiancé.” (“She wore a magnificent dress in ‘point d’Angleterre’ that had been given to her by Leopold, the necklace, the earrings and the medallion surrounded by brilliants were also gifts from her fiancé.”).3 In Louise’s biographies written by Mia Kerckvoorde4 in 1988 and Madeleine Lassère5 in 2006, the same diary fragment is mentioned. Was this wedding present from Leopold an honest act of love? Or a somewhat uncomfortable formality? As was often the case in royal and noble circles, Leopold and Louise did not marry for love. In the same diary fragment, Queen Marie-Amélie notes how miserably pale and inconsolable her daughter was on the day of her wedding.6 Transitional events such as 19th-century royal weddings were often unsettling, and the opulent rituals of the bridal attire served to distract the wife-to-be from her impending marriage duties and the departure from her familiar home. The jewellery given by Leopold thus transformed Louise (literally) into a radiant bride, but at the time it barely held any genuine love sentiment. Yet one could wonder – would love have blossomed between the two later on? When Kerckvoorde later in her biography reports on Louise’s far too early death, the medallion is mentioned a second time. This time, however, the piece enters the scene in a different way: “Als hij [Leopold] later kennis zal nemen van haar testament, zal hij pijnlijk geschokt zijn. […] Ze gelooft dat hij zal hertrouwen, en het trouwcadeau dat hij haar destijds schonk, zijn portret in miniatuur, omringd door diamanten, maakt ze over aan zijn toekomstige echtgenote: ‘Als een pand voor het geluk dat zij ze beiden, nog vele jaren, van harte toewenst’.” (“When he [Leopold] will come to learn of her will later on, he will be painfully shocked. [...] She believes he will remarry, and the wedding gift he gave her at the time, his portrait in miniature, surrounded by diamonds, she passes on to his future wife: ‘As a pledge for the happiness she wholeheartedly wishes them both, for many years to come’.”).7 In time, it appears, Louise learned to love Leopold, albeit driven by feelings of duty rather than passion. Leopold’s miniature portrait – the miniature depicted in many of the bracelet scenes? – thus gradually acquired sincere sentimental value and eventually even made its way into her final will.

The bracelet scenes that include Leopold’s portrait could thus possibly allude to Louise’s love for Leopold. The depicted piece could be N° 4 or N° 113 in the Estate Inventory, of which one could maybe even be the wedding gift. However, one scene in the series of bracelet depictions – the bracelet painted by Winterhalter (fig. 4) – seems to suggest other bracelets are involved. Winterhalter didn’t portray Leopold in the bracelet, but someone else. The depicted person is a young, light-haired child. Several sources8 assume the child is Louise’s first son Louis-Philippe, Belgium’s very first crown prince. The boy unfortunately did not live to see his first birthday and left Louise in deep mourning. A miniature portrait of this prince would suddenly transform the bracelet into a grim mourning piece. The Estate Inventory informs us that Louise had some portrait jewellery of her children. One specific description catches the eye: “N° 54: Un bracelet en chaînes, tressée en or, avec le portrait du Prince Royal défunt.” (“N° 54: A bracelet, braided in golden chains, with the portrait of the deceased crown prince.”).9 Here a bracelet is mentioned with the portrait of the deceased – ‘défunt’ – crown prince. Might Louise have worn this bracelet, N° 54, during her posing sessions with Winterhalter? Did she, maybe, want to commemorate her deceased first son on her portrait? However, the rest of the description is a bit more difficult to align with Winterhalter’s bracelet. There is no mention of the colourful stones, which are probably turquoises, and furthermore N° 54 mainly consisted of golden chain work. The existence of the bracelet painted by Winterhalter is therefore difficult to demonstrate.

Yet, when we bring in a copy of this painting, also painted by Winterhalter, a new scenario presents itself (fig. 5). This painting was commissioned by Queen Victoria and is a three-quarter-length version of Winterhalter’s full-length portrait of Louise (fig. 4).10 Altering the canvas size necessitated Winterhalter to rethink the composition of the portrait. Louise’s left hand would no longer hold a fan – the fan would fall out of frame – but would this time rest on a piece of furniture. Louise’s lace shawl, which Winterhalter had draped around her arm in the full-length portrait, was now also positioned on this piece of furniture. These compositional choices exposed Louise’s left arm, on which, suddenly, a second bracelet appears.

Fig. 4 (l): Franz Xaver Winterhalter, Portrait of Queen Louise-Marie d’Orléans, oil on canvas, 1840 – 1850
Fig. 5 (r): Franz Xaver Winterhalter, Portrait of Queen Louise-Marie d’Orléans, oil on canvas, 1840 – 1850.

Would Winterhalter have made up this second bracelet, in order to rebalance the composition? Or could this bracelet always have been there, tucked away underneath the lace? This line of thinking brings us to N° 152 in Louise’s Estate Inventory: “Une paire de bracelets formée de quatre rangs de turquoises, avec deux portraits du Roi, peints sur émail entourée de turquoises, l’un de ces portraits représente le Roi dans son enfance, l’autre en costume de chevalier.” (“A pair of bracelets consisting of four rows of turquoises, with two portraits of the King, painted on enamel surrounded by turquoises, one of these portraits depicts the King in his childhood, the other in a knight’s costume.”).11 Could Winterhalter have depicted this duo of turquoise bracelets? Indeed, this description matches the depicted bracelets surprisingly well. Both pieces consist of turquoises and carry miniature portraits of Leopold – one when he was a boy, and one when he is wearing a knight’s costume. Could the little child on Louise’s right wrist be this young Leopold, and not – as stated by the sources12 – her son Louis-Philippe? The infant shown in the portrait looks considerably older than a baby of a few months. However, in that case we would also have to assume that the dark-haired King Leopold I was very blond as a young boy. And we also have to ask ourselves why Louise would suddenly choose to pose with a childhood portrait of her own husband? A depiction of her son Louis-Philippe would make more sense, Louise being the grieving mother and therefore also the representation of the grieving state. Could the wayward Winterhalter, while painting Louise’s miniature bracelet, have allowed himself some artistic liberties, possibly even at Louise’s request? Could he, in this one bracelet scene, have changed the miniature portrait, or could he even have mixed up several of Louise’s jewellery pieces, to present a more convincing and distinctive jewellery piece?

Underneath the glamour

Apart from Winterhalter’s bracelet, all the bracelet scenes that allow for the image to be deciphered display primarily Leopold’s miniature. Of all the sentimental pieces described in the Inventory, why is Leopold’s miniature the one to feature in so many of Louise’s portraits? Simply because of its alleged sentimental value? Unfortunately, it seems, it’s not about love.

A further look at the Estate Inventory brings the valuations of the jewellery pieces into focus. Each description is accompanied by a number, an estimated price in French francs, a numerical factor that turns each piece into a relative, measurable subject. It is striking that the sentimental pieces of jewellery were considered to be worth less than the non-sentimental ones. On average, a sentimental piece of jewellery was valued at 336.10 francs, whereas a non-sentimental piece would have been worth an impressive 3,281.17 francs – so almost ten times higher. It is noteworthy that the jewellery commemorating Leopold made up the most expensive sentimental pieces and significantly exceeded the average. N° 4, for example, was estimated at 1,950.00 francs,13 and N° 113 was even worth 18,000.00 francs.14 Was the memory of a king worth more? Or did only the diamonds of these pieces cause its value to rise? Louise, a child of the modest French July monarchy, was not the kind of woman who sought her fortune in noble splendour. She considered diamonds to be no more than broken glass and thought it was absurd to spend a lot of money on them.15 Flaunting her possessions was not part of her nature. Yet, on the portraits in her honour, a Leopold, wreathed in diamonds, literally claimed the centre stage. Through the bracelet, he’s the one showing off, shining brightly and in that way reminding the viewer of his kingship. This is not something you see Louise’s other sentimental jewellery pieces do. For instance, Louise had at least as many, if not more, pieces that commemorated Queen Victoria, but in none of her portraits was the English queen represented. After all, through the exchange of sentimental jewellery, Victoria never presented herself as a fellow queen. By giving Louise sentimental treasures, she simply acted as a kind companion and reminded Louise of her friendship.

Leopold’s ongoing presence in miniature thus may seem sentimental at first, but in fact he was performing no more than a political, status-affirming stunt. After all, Louise was portrayed in a very well-considered way. She was the first queen of the Belgians and through her appearance she contributed to the identity formation of a still young and insecure nation. The Belgian monarchy was trying to align itself with the other Western European royal houses, which, in these tense, post-revolutionary times, wanted to distance themselves from the 18th-century power abuses and its derailed aristocratic decadence. In the 19th century, new middle-class values prevailed, and “[m]arriage and family were among the cornerstones of [the middle-class] conception of society, or more precisely were [its] natural preconditions.”16 The royal houses embraced this mindset and reformed themselves, which led to the reinvention of the monarchy. The monarchy became a fully politically domesticated institution, in which women were often deployed as instruments of legitimation. “[The queen] acts as the nation’s motherly sovereign and a supportive and caring companion to the king, consistently positioned at his side and reflecting his views.”17 The motherly ideal of the queen was already carried out by Louise’s mother, Queen Marie-Amélie. Marie-Amélie’s husband Louis-Philippe, Duc d’Orléans, rose to the French throne following the July Revolution. He was known as the ‘Bourgeois King’ or the ‘Citizen King’, and Marie-Amélie assumed the role of ‘an ideal Bourgeois Queen’. In fact, “her apolitical public image was a conscious construction, designed to emphasise that the role of a queen was simply to be the king’s spouse.”18 In the same way, Louise’s queenship was constructed. Just like her mother, she was presented as a pious woman who devoted herself to her children, charity, religious activities, and who refrained from political comments. Portraiture was used to enforce this political image building. In this way, both on the state portraits and the printed portraits, Louise’s royal status was intensified via the display of her marital status. And what eye-catching element could communicate this marital status better than a brilliantly wreathed miniature portrait of her spouse, who was also her king?

An eternal echoe

The quest for the true identity of this jewellery piece moves along, between image, word and sentiment. Numerous depictions of Louise show (versions of) the piece and please the viewer’s eye with its beauty. The bracelet cautiously reveals itself in Louise’s Estate Inventory, her final will as well as a few intimate diary fragments. In whatever capacity the piece exposes itself – visual or linguistic –, it always arouses (a suggestion of) a sentiment. Of hesitant love, of mutual respect, even of silent mourning. Yet, despite its numerous depictions and representations, the true form and intention of the piece remain veiled in uncertainty.

What did become clear was that the bracelet(s), especially the ones that portrayed Leopold, were given a role in the political imagining of Queen Louise-Marie d’Orléans. She wore the piece in her state portraits, portraits that adorned the long galleries in the royal palaces and impressed their visitors with immortal depictions of their queen. She wore the piece in countless series of prints, prints that portrayed her as a benevolent, angelic Mother of Belgium and were made to charm the people. Almost every time, this earnest looking Leopold, surrounded by expensive stones, felt the need to penetrate his wife’s portrait. His small, yet radiant presence, furthermore described as exceptionally valuable by the Inventory, was meant to reinforce Louise’s marital status and thus also her (and therefore his own) royal status.

In this way, over time, the bracelet evolved into an established value in Louise’s portrayals. The piece became an eternal ornament, a symbol rather than a real piece, an abstract, platonic archetype released from its true self. A shimmering echo. Through her portraits, the Belgian court and the entire population grew familiar with this piece. So familiar, in fact, that a mere depiction of just the stone-encrusted frame alone was already sufficient to direct the viewer’s mind away from Louise and back to the majestic King Leopold I.


  • 1 Estate Inventory of the Personal Property of Queen Louise, with Value Assessment, N° 4, 1851, Conway Archive, Folder 114, Brussels: State Archives of Belgium.
  • 2 Estate Inventory of the Personal Property of Queen Louise, with Value Assessment, N° 113, 1851, Conway Archive, Folder 114, Brussels: State Archives of Belgium.
  • 3 Marguerite Coppens, Elke bruid is een prinses: het verhaal van de bruid in België van de 19de tot de 21ste eeuw (Brussels: Royal Museums of Art and History, 2001), 145.
  • 4 Mia Kerckvoorde, Louise-Marie van Orléans: het vergeten leven van Louise-Marie, eerste koningin van België, 1812 – 1850 (Tielt: Lannoo, 1988), 1.
  • 5 Madeleine Lassère, Louise, Reine des Belges (1812 – 1850) (Paris: Perrin, 2006), 64.
  • 6 Coppens, Elke bruid is een prinses, 145.
  • 7 Kerckvoorde, Louise-Marie van Orléans, 263.
  • 8 Royal Collection Trust, “Louise, Queen of the Belgians (1812 – 1850)”, https://www.rct.uk/collection/search#/15/collection/404520/louise-queen-of-the-belgians-1812-50-0, last consulted on April 18 2022; Griet Byl and Christophe Vachaudez, Koninklijke juwelen van de koninginnen en prinsessen van België (Tielt: Lannoo, 2004), 17.
  • 9 Estate Inventory of the Personal Property of Queen Louise, with Value Assessment, N° 54, 1851, Conway Archive, Folder 114, Brussels: State Archives of Belgium.
  • 10 Royal Collection Trust, “Louise, Queen of the Belgians (1812 – 1850)”, https://www.rct.uk/collection/search#/15/collection/404520/louise-queen-of-the-belgians-1812-50-0, last consulted on April 18 2022.
  • 11 Estate Inventory of the Personal Property of Queen Louise, with Value Assessment, N° 152, 1851, Conway Archive, Folder 114, Brussels: State Archives of Belgium.
  • 12 Royal Collection Trust, “Louise, Queen of the Belgians (1812 – 1850)”, https://www.rct.uk/collection/search#/15/collection/404520/louise-queen-of-the-belgians-1812-50-0, last consulted on April 18 2022; Griet Byl and Christophe Vachaudez, Koninklijke juwelen van de koninginnen en prinsessen van België (Tielt: Lannoo, 2004), 17.
  • 13 Estate Inventory of the Personal Property of Queen Louise, with Value Assessment, N° 4, 1851, Conway Archive, Folder 114, Brussels: State Archives of Belgium.
  • 14 Estate Inventory of the Personal Property of Queen Louise, with Value Assessment, N° 113, 1851, Conway Archive, Folder 114, Brussels: State Archives of Belgium.
  • 15 Griet Byl and Christophe Vachaudez, Koninklijke juwelen van de koninginnen en prinsessen van België (Tielt: Lannoo, 2004), 17.
  • 16 Regina Schulte, “The Queen – A Middle-Class Tragedy: The Writing of History and the Creation of Myths in Nineteenth-Century France and Germany,” in Gender & History 14, no. 2 (2002): 269.
  • 17 Ibid. 283.
  • 18 Heta Aali, French Royal Women during the Restoration and July Monarchy (Cham: Springer International Publishing, 2021), 9.



clustered | unclustered

Vermeende intimiteit: de sentimentele sieraden van Louise-Marie, koningin der Belgen

Hanneke Grootenboer

Het portret van Nicaise de Keyser (1813-1887) van Louise-Marie d’Orleans, koningin der Belgen, toont haar in een weelderige witte jurk met op de rok en rond de kraag fijne lagen kant. Over de jurk draagt zij een traditionele hofmantel, een sleep die ten tijde van de romantiek werd vastgestrikt rond de heupen. De mantel is afgezet met dubbele strikken, die ook op beide schouders zijn aangebracht en op de borst. Deze laatste strik ondersteunt een dubbele hanger die aan een gouden ketting om de nek van de koningin hangt. Het is een spel van superlatieven: de onderste hanger is zelf weer behangen met drie grote, peervormige parels die net weer anders glanzen dan de japon.

Nicaise de Keyser, Portret van Koningin Louise-Marie d’Orléans, olieverf op doek, 1856.

Dit is een klassiek staatsieportret van de jonge koningin, gepositioneerd tegen een achtergrond van zware, dieprode gordijnen, naast een fluwelen troon waarvan de rugleuning is gedecoreerd met een bekroond wapen met een leeuw. De klassieke koningsmantel gevoerd met hermelijn die over de stoel hangt onderstreept haar positie als (echtgenote van het) staatshoofd. In haar rechterhand houdt zij een waaier en kanten zakdoek, terwijl haar linkerhand voorzichtig een paar smetteloos witte handschoenen vasthoudt, symbool voor het huwelijk met Leopold I dat haar tot koningin heeft gemaakt. Om haar devotie aan haar echtgenoot te bevestigen draagt ze een armband met een ingezet portret van hem. Met elk gebaar van haar handen zal ze met de beeltenis van haar nieuwe echtgenoot geconfronteerd worden. Op het schilderij is het miniatuur echter niet naar haar, maar naar het publiek toe gekeerd. Het is niet voor zichzelf maar voor haar toeschouwers dat zij dit zogenaamde sentimentele juweel draagt. Onder sentimentele sieraden worden broches, armbanden of pendanten verstaan met een persoonlijk aandenken in de vorm van een portret of een haarlok. Door deze relieken overtreft de emotionele betekenis van het juweel de monetaire waarde ervan. Deze sieraden komen door de hele kunstgeschiedenis voor, maar in de late achttiende eeuw werden ze populair als gevolg van de opkomst van het sentimentalisme, waarbij zeer persoonlijke gevoelens centraal werden gesteld. Het sentimentalisme komt naast sieraden het duidelijkst tot uiting in de (brief)roman, romantische poëzie en filosofische geschriften. De kwaliteit van de overgeleverde sentimentele sieraden, waaronder ook veel rouwsieraden, is wisselend, wat aantoont dat ze werden gedragen door mensen van alle rangen en standen. De symboliek van sentimentele sieraden lijkt eenduidig, maar de betekenis ervan op officiële portretten heeft meestal een diepere, politieke of propagandistische dimensie die indruist tegen de expressie van het individuele gevoelsleven dat deze versiersels zouden moeten uitdragen.

Op veel afbeeldingen draagt Louise-Marie een portret van Leopold I, die op deze wijze niet zozeer als haar echtgenoot maar ook als (haar) soeverein wordt gepresenteerd. Deze portretten bevestigen haar positie als koningin die bestaat bij de gratie van de koning. Haar lichaam wordt daardoor gemarkeerd als dat van een vorstin, maar fungeert ook als grond waarop de vorst wordt tentoongesteld. Haar lijf staat in dienst van zowel haar echtgenoot als van de koning en de staat. In deze levensgrote portretten wordt zij in feite uitdrager van zijn machtspositie. Dit was niet ongewoon. In veel portretten in de achttiende en negentiende eeuw dragen aristocratische vrouwen afbeeldingen van hun echtgenoten zichtbaar op het lijf, dat in de eerste plaats ten dienste stond van (troon)opvolging. Een goed voorbeeld daarvan is koningin Charlotte van Engeland (1744-1818), die veelvuldig is afgebeeld met een portretarmband van haar man, koning George III.1 Hun huwelijk was zeer liefdevol, wat resulteerde in een kroost van vijftien kinderen (die zelf overigens weinig kroost voortbrachten). Een koninklijke liefdesrelatie is echter een uitzondering. Door het dragen van de portretminiatuur van haar echtgenoot gaf koningin Charlotte haar staatsieportretten een aura van intimiteit die inderdaad in verhouding authentiek was. In het geval van Louise-Marie lagen de zaken anders.

Toen zij in het kasteel van Compiègne in 1832 met Leopold in het huwelijk trad was zij twintig en hij tweeënveertig, en weduwnaar. Eerder was hij getrouwd geweest met Charlotte, kroonprinses van Engeland. Charlottes vader, koning George IV, was in eerste instantie gekant geweest tegen deze verbintenis, maar Leopolds innemende optreden had daar verandering in gebracht. Hij had zich via zijn huwelijk verzekerd van de machtige positie van toekomstige prins-gemaal van Engeland. Zijn politieke ambities werden echter gedwarsboomd door de tragische dood van Charlotte na de geboorte van hun (doodgeboren) zoon. Haar overlijden veroorzaakte een golf van diepe, collectieve rouw in Engeland, wat de populariteit voor het zichtbaar dragen van rouwjuwelen aanwakkerde. In het algemeen wordt verondersteld dat Leopold het verdriet om het verlies van zijn vrouw nooit te boven is gekomen. Het noodgedwongen huwelijk dat hij pas vijftien jaar later aanging met Louise-Marie, de oudste dochter van de Franse koning Louis-Philippe, was een zuiver politiek-strategische zet. De kersverse natie van België die hem als vorst had verkozen, werd belaagd vanuit het noorden door Nederland. Een verbintenis met Frankrijk zou garanderen dat het land niet ook vanuit het zuiden kon worden bedreigd. Louise-Marie was volgens vele bronnen niet gelukkig met deze match.

De ongelukkige bruid ontving als huwelijksgeschenk onder meer een miniatuurportret van Leopold, omlijst met achttien briljanten en gezet in een gouden armband, ter waarde van 18.000 francs, een enorm bedrag.2 Zij lijkt dit sieraad op tal van portretten te dragen, zoals gebruikelijk was voor een vorstin in die tijd. Echter, op veel afbeeldingen, zo ook het schilderij van De Keyser, zou het kunnen dat Louise-Marie een andere armband draagt, gemaakt niet van briljanten maar van turkoois. In de na haar dood opgemaakte inventaris wordt immers een armband beschreven als deel van een set van twee, gemaakt van vier rijen turkooizen met een omkransing waarbij in de ene een portret van haar echtgenoot is bevestigd, en in de ander mogelijks een portret van haar oudste zoon (ook Leopold genaamd).3 Ook voor een aantal andere staatsieportretten maakt Louise-Marie een opvallende keuze. In plaats van haar huwelijksgeschenk neemt ze als haar signatuursieraad de turkooizen armband. Zou Louise-Marie hiermee subtiel stelling nemen tegen de optuigingen die haar statuur van haar verwacht? Het punt van het huwelijksgeschenk van het miniatuur gezet in briljanten is voornamelijk de indrukwekkende monetaire waarde ervan, die hier verpakt is in een sentimentele boodschap. In vergelijking met de waarde van haar huwelijksgeschenk zijn de beide stukken met turkooizen veel bescheidenere juwelen (in de inventaris werden beide armbanden samen op 1.040 francs geschat). Turkoois is geen volwaardige edelsteen en daarom veel minder kostbaar dan diamant. Eveneens is het materiaal ook brozer dan diamant. In haar correspondentie met haar moeder onthult Louise-Marie dat zij een hekel had aan diamanten, die zij laatdunkend als stukjes glas bestempelde. Haar moeder Marie-Amélie, die ongewild koningin van Frankrijk werd toen haar echtgenoot Louis-Philippe de Franse kroon accepteerde, heeft daarenboven altijd moeite gehad met het dragen van de kostbare kroonjuwelen.4 Louises opvoeding heeft ongetwijfeld bijgedragen aan deze onpretentieuze houding die authentiek lijkt te zijn. Louis-Philippe, de zogenaamde Burgerkoning, regeerde in relatieve eenvoud en had een duidelijke afkeer van de overdaad en luxe waaraan zijn voorgangers belastinggelden hadden gespendeerd. Hij was voor een prins redelijk spartaans opgevoed door zijn beroemde gouvernante Madame de Genlis die Rousseaus opvoedkundige ideeën als leidraad had genomen. De zeer devote Louise-Marie wordt door onder andere de Engelse koningin Victoria beschreven als verlegen en onzelfzuchtig. In haar portretten is in haar timide houding en bescheiden, gereserveerde blik iets van die onbaatzuchtigheid op te merken. De keuze voor een turkooizen signatuursieraad ligt in het verlengde daarvan. Op een van haar meest bekende portretten – waarvan een aantal kopieën werden gemaakt – geschilderd door de populaire Franz Xaver Winterhalter, draagt Louise-Marie hoogstwaarschijnlijk opnieuw dit turkooizen bijou, ditmaal met een portret van vermoedelijk haar zoon en troonopvolger. Wel bleef haar speelruimte beperkt: ook haar eigen keuzes blijven ingebed in het gevestigde presentatiepatroon voor vorstinnen.

Hoewel dat in haar portretten niet wordt benadrukt, was haar sieradencollectie aanzienlijk en de waarde groot. Toch mogen we veronderstellen dat bijvoorbeeld de armbanden gemaakt van gevlochten haar van haar ouders, met ingezette miniatuurportretten van hen beide, geschat op 80 francs, meer waarde zullen hebben gehad voor Louise-Marie dan de kostbare stukken die behangen waren met peervormige parels en diamanten. Een interessante paradox ligt aan haar sieradencollectie ten grondslag. De waarde van sentimentele sieraden, vaak souvenirs aan dierbaren en specifieke momenten, is niet overdraagbaar. Een haararmband kan op die manier alleen nog gekoesterd worden door een intieme nabestaande, zoals een dochter of een geliefde. Dit zou vooral kunnen gelden voor de acht oogportretten die Louise-Marie in haar collectie had. Dit zijn miniaturen van een enkel oog, vaak in doorsnee meer dan anderhalve centimeter, die als broche, ring of armband, of aan een horlogeketting gedragen konden worden. Het is bijna onmogelijk om te achterhalen aan wie het afgebeelde oog toebehoort: alleen degene die de geportretteerde goed kent zal de blik van de geliefde herkennen. Voor ieder ander zijn deze emotionele portretobjecten ongemakkelijk en vanwege hun intensiteit zelfs afstotelijk. Net als haarjuwelen zijn oogminiaturen intieme sieraden die intense emoties reflecteren die voor niemand anders dan de drager zijn bedoeld. Ze hebben nauwelijks waarde buiten de privéwereld van de bezitter en kennen dus geen publiek.5

Vandaar dat dit soort sentimentele sieraden bijna nooit worden afgebeeld op portretten, en zeker niet op afbeeldingen van publieke figureren zoals vorsten. Hun portretten zijn nooit privé omdat het lichaam dat is afgebeeld letterlijk een belichaming is van de staat. Zoals zowel spotprenten als staatsieportretten door de eeuwen heen demonstreren, steunt soevereiniteit op pijlers als retoriek, symbolisme en theatraliteit, waarbij kleding en andere optuigingen een centrale rol spelen. Tegelijk zouden we kunnen stellen dat sentimentele sieraden zelfs vorsten in staat stellen om een privéwereld op te eisen. De splitsing die we zien in Louise-Marie’s collectie tussen sentimentele en andere juwelen toont de twee lichamen van de koningin, het politieke en het eigen lichaam. Echter, het eigen lichaam van een vorstin was nooit helemaal het hare aangezien het altijd werd gezien als een doorgang van de dynastie, een drempel van mens naar soeverein. Het zou interessant zijn om in dit licht na te gaan hoeveel miniatuurportretten van familieleden in Leopolds sieradencollectie zitten. Zo is geweten hoe er oogportretten van zijn overleden vrouw Charlotte in omloop waren, sommige omlijst met gevlochten haar.6 Een mannenlichaam diende nooit op dezelfde wijze als expositieruimte voor vrouwenportretten als andersom het geval was. Als mannen portretminiaturen of oogminiaturen bij zich droegen, dan bleven deze verborgen in broek- en vestzakken. Voor een man was het uitdrukken van loyaliteit naar een geliefde toe uiteindelijk een privékwestie, iets wat hij deed voor zichzelf. Voor vrouwen, zeker als ze van adel waren en verantwoordelijk voor de bloedlijn, was hun loyaliteit altijd ook een publieke zaak. Een zaak van vermeende intimiteit, zoals die door de vele verbeeldingen van Louises signatuurarmband wordt gedemonstreerd.


  • 1 Zie Marcia Pointon, “’Surrounded with Brilliants’: Miniature Portraits in Eighteenth-Century England,” Art Bulletin LXXXIII (March 2001, number 1): 48-77.
  • 2 No. 113 in de inventaris, zie Charlotte Vanhoubroeck, Verstilde Sentimenten: Een onderzoek naar de juwelen van Louise-Marie d’Orléans (MA scriptie 2019-20), 25 en 70.
  • 3 Lemma no. 152 in de inventaris beschrijft het portret van haar zoon als een miniatuur van de koning als kind. Dit zou een vergissing kunnen zijn, wellicht gaat het om een portret van Leopold II, de troonopvolger, als kind. Op een schilderij van Franz Xaver Winterhalter draagt Louise-Marie, gehuld in een dieprode jurk, de armband met dit kinderportret. Leopold was toen ongeveer 5 jaar, wat lijkt overeen te stemmen met wat dit miniatuurportret weergeeft. Vanhoubroeck, Verstilde sentimenten, 76.
  • 4 Griet Byl en Christophe Vachaudez. Koninklijke juwelen van de koninginnen en prinsessen van België. Tielt: Lannoo, 2004, 17. Zie ook Vanhoubroeck, 39.
  • 5 De enige manier waarop sentimentele sieraden waarde konden behouden was door (oog)portretten of haarlokken te omkransen met kostbare sierelementen. Bij de dood van de bezitter kon het ingelijste relikwie dan immers uit de edelstenen omlijsting worden gedemonteerd. De kostbare lijst vervolgde zijn functie als sentimenteel juweel door voor een nieuwe bezitter een ander geliefd object te koesteren.
  • 6 Het was de gewoonte om lokken haar van de overledene af te knippen en onder familie en andere geliefden te verdelen. Soms werd dit zelfs vastgelegd in een testament.



clustered | unclustered

Peek-a-boo / Gem Friends / Keeping Watch

Amelia Toelke

Digital animation
“Gem Friends”
Animation of 12 original illustrations from the Gem Face series (Best Friends, Wink, Shy Guy, Starry Eyed, Lips, Frowny, Wail, Goofy, Oh Yeah!, Surprise, Cha Cha, Worry Wort, Coco, Lovey Dovey)
Gouache on paper
9 x 12 inches
“Keeping Watch”
Digital animation



clustered | unclustered

The Frog Princess. Sisi and Stephanie from Belgium.

Anke Gilleir

Unter einer großen Tanne Duftend auf dem weißen Moos Freut sich eine Herbstcyclame Ihrer Waldeinsamkeit blos. Doch nicht lange währt ihre Freude Eine Kröte, gelb und dick, Steigt dort aus dem Kraut der Heide Mitten ihr auf das Genick. […]1

(Under a large pine-tree/fragrant on the white moss/an autumn cyclamen rejoices/in its forest solitude. // But its joy did not last long/A toad, yellow and fat/moves from the heather/onto the middle of her neck.)

This little poem about the little “Hebstcyclame” (a violet, later called “poor flower !”, “arme Blume!”) that is crushed by an ugly toad was written by Elisabeth, empress of Austria, famously known as Sisi. She did so at the occasion of an unpleasant visit at her summer residence in 1885, which disturbed her to the point that she experienced it as a violation of her integrity.2 Elisabeth wrote several hundred poems, that were only published long after her death.3 She was a great admirer of the poet Heinrich Heine and even declared to be directly inspired by “the Master” in her own writing.4 The empress’ admiration for Heine was not without its political meaning, as the poet’s image was increasingly slurred by an anti-Semitic spirit at the time.5 Compared to Heine, however, her own lyrical work is in a different league. While they share a critical tone to some extent, Elisabeth’s poems are devoid of irony (let alone any sense of humour), display very little political awareness and cannot be read in any other way than as a release for the many frustrations she felt she was made to suffer.6 Still, it is interesting to look at some of the lyrical images Elisabeth deployed, particularly in a poem such as this one, with its remarkably abject animal image and its evocation of physical violation

A horrible toad is also the protagonist in a well-known Grimms’ fairy tale, “Der Froschkönig oder der eiserne Heinrich” (The Frog King or Iron Henry), which tells the story of a young princess, who is forced by her father, the king, to deliver on a promise she has made to a frog.7 The frog retrieved the golden ball she dropped in a well and in return for his help demanded that she share her food and bed with him from now on. The princess flees from her commitment at first, but after hearing the frog’s complaint her father forces her to comply. However, she cannot bear the sight of the frog and its “thick ugly head”. She chokes on her food when he eats from her plate, cannot bring herself to touch him with more than two fingers and eventually smashes “the horrid frog” angrily against the wall when he wants to be taken into bed with her (whereupon he transforms into a prince with “beautiful kind eyes”, whom she then is ordered to accompany to his kingdom). The tale of the frog and the princess, as all fairy tales do, begs for a psychoanalytical reading. Yet there are a number of conscious aspects that are not less fascinating and eventually tie in with topics such as sexuality, disgust and authority in a materially and historically more convincing manner.

First of all, the story evokes a world of immense material wealth, which, one could argue, is more symbolical than real. After all, considering the specific gravity of gold, a golden ball does not strike one as an obvious children’s toy, not even in pre-pedagogical days, so obviously this is not meant to be ‘real’. But the material reality of the wealth lies in its casualness, which makes it boundless and timeless and displaces it beyond economic origin or historical logic. It simply exists and is to be taken for granted. The fairy tale also deals with the injunction of a strict code of honour: the princess needs to learn the “elite sense of identity”, as Norbert Elias analysed it, which is something that cannot be bargained, but is realised solely in honourable relations that are the essence of aristocratic selfhood.8 In this vein the urge, or indeed the need, as Fredric Jameson would say, to historicise can be pushed a little further still, not in the least considering that all the aspects that are at play in the tale of the frog and princess were slices of life for the imperial poetess. Elisabeth’s life was one of unlimited and unquestionable wealth on the one hand, it was determined by the matrimonial politics of the patriarchal dynastic system of power on the other. The first Belgian constitution from 1831, for example, though considered one of the most liberal in the world, stated expressly that the legal succession of the king only happens “from man to man, according to the right of the first-born and with eternal exclusion of women and their offspring” (“van man op man, volgens recht van eerstgeboorte en met altijddurende uitsluiting van de vrouwen en haar nakomelingen”).9 No matter how the degree of misogyny varied in the course of time, the male template of political sovereignty was the long-standing condition for stability and continuity guaranteed by the offspring the legal women produced.10 While the suitability and legitimacy of women as sovereigns was forever contested, negotiable at best when a male lineage found itself in an absolute deadlock, their function was essentially a biopolitical one. Michel Foucault famously coined the concept of biopolitics as typical of the power mechanisms of modern society and its – invisible – strategies of life management.11 From a gender-conscious point of view, however, the life of women at the power base in premodern society was first and most of all life management. As producers of heirs, they were the physical vessels of male rule, the harsh reality of which remained invisible to society at large for most of the time and only became a ‘romanticized’ topic in modern popular culture.

Let us return to the Grimms’ tale of the princess and the frog, the image of which is rehearsed in Elisabeth’s poem of the toad that soils the little violet. The fairy tale evokes the image of a spoilt girl, at least from a contemporary point of view. She appears helpless when something unexpected happens and can only respond by sobbing very, very loud, but she is also ill-tempered and negligent of those around her. She lives in a golden world. Her time is spent playing, but it is also mentioned that she is often bored, as there seems to be no sensible occupation for her. Duty of honour performed by the law of the father forces an unforeseen partnership upon her. She loathes it initially, but after some resistance (there is no kiss in the Grimms’ tale, rather she tries to smash the frog) the abject shape transforms into an acceptable one, which, again in the name of the father, will be her “mate and husband” (“Geselle und Gemahl”) from now on. The tale does not relate any happiness experienced by the princess in the end, we only learn about the relief of the prince and that of his eponymous servant Heinrich. In many ways it resonates the life of Elisabeth herself, whose legacy has been that of a beautiful princess who was extracted from a golden childhood and coerced into a marriage with a powerful sovereign. The fascination for Elisabeth until the present day is based on the very part of the fairy tale that remains untold, namely her life-long resistance against all her duties as a matrimonial partner and sovereign. The story of her life consists of endless anecdotes and stories that relate rebellious and extravagant behaviour. In her own poetry, Elisabeth reinforces an overall image of victimhood, of a person whose true self is unacknowledged by the rest of the world and threatened by those who surround her.

The most enduring iconic representation of the beautiful but unhappy queen was no doubt created by Ernst Marischka’s film cycle Sissi in the late 1950s. Featuring the seventeen-year-old Romy Schneider in a setting that changes between lavish historicity and idyllic nature, it contained all the elements to distract the – German and Austrian – audience from the atonement of its recent National Socialist past (leaving aside the discussion to what extent this happened at all). World-wide Sissi added to the myth of the eternally young and refreshingly rebellious empress, an image Elisabeth herself had fostered during her life-time. The role of Romy Schneider has become inseparable from that of the historical persona, in spite of later remakes and a new Netflix series.12 The recent movie Corsage (2022), a European co-production by Vicky Krieps, underscores the image of the empress as a celebrity, “displaying non-conformity and indifference to possible opinion.”13 Often and particularly in recent years, as the advertising for Corsage expressly does, Elisabeth’s “state of social exception” (Marcus) is projected as a form of feminism and the empress as an image of identification for women’s emancipation. However, there is very little evidence that Elisabeth’s circumvention of norms implied new social norms for others.14 Her disposition was shaped by the idea of absolute sovereignty even without appearing on the political stage.15 With the (famous) exception of her engagement for ‘the Hungarian cause’, which was propelled by a particular personal inclination and not pursued for any other party in the Habsburg empire, Elisabeth’s realm of sovereignty was focused solely on her personal life management. The frantic manner in which she did this is well-known and either romanticised or viewed as fascinatingly eccentric today. The romantic gaze is turned towards Elisabeth’s great love of walking and horse riding, which functions as a metonymy of her sense of freedom. Contemporary criticism, on the other hand, discloses the image of a woman who was obsessed with her weight, her bodily fitness and the preservation of her youthful looks in total disregard of those surrounding her. While Ernst Marischka’s Sissi shows a young girl happily climbing mountains, the webpage of the Austrian State Archives dedicated to “Sisi” speaks of a “neurotically charged unruliness”. The famous empress is described as someone whose profound desire was only geared towards herself and revealed itself in a “compulsive actionism as well as in an excessive cult of body and beauty […].”16 Elisabeth’s compulsive cult of the self may appear as the symptom of a ‘neurotic’ nature. Against the backdrop of women’s territorialisation as biopolitical subjects in the ancien regime, however, the empress’ obsessive bodily self-regulation strikes one also as an extreme, even perverse process of identification with the function she had been cast in at a very early age, when the frog stepped onto her plate.

Elisabeth’s self-inflicted or not, but in any case compulsory pursuit of biological perfection is concomitant with a total lack of solidarity with, or even acknowledgement of, other women who were equally ‘arranged’ within the Habsburg dynasty in order to preserve its dynastic rule. This is disclosed in the rebuff with which the empress met her barely sixteen-year-old daughter-in-law princess Stephanie from Belgium. Stephanie’s life story is yet another biopolitical scenario in the grand order of sovereign rule, though far more harrowing than Elisabeth’s. She was betrothed to Elisabeth’s son and heir to the throne, Rudolf, at the age of fifteen. The marriage had to be postponed, because Stephanie had not yet reached the physical maturity to bear children, the core function for which she had been elected. The menstruating princess’ body thus became a political and public matter.17 After the birth of her first child, which, to the distress of her family, was a girl, Stephanie was infected with syphilis by her husband, because of which she became infertile. The real nature of her disease was kept secret from her and her Belgian family, which had the perverse effect that she was both unaware of her inability to produce an heir and pressured by her family to do so.18 In public opinion it was the faltering partnership with Rudolf that was the cause of the failed prospect of procreation, a rumour Elisabeth contributed to. The Belgian princess became an annoying and even redundant object. When Rudolf, who was traumatized by his education and inclined to depression by nature, committed suicide, the twenty-five-year-old woman was formally of no use anymore, neither to the Austrian dynasty nor to the diplomatic ambitions of her father, Leopold II. Elisabeth had always disliked Stephanie, who became lively only when the empress was not present.19 Her judgement on Stephanie’s – perceived – lack of beauty, eagerly echoed by her favourites, is disheartening.20 Stubby, too tall, yellow-haired and badly dressed: the Belgian princess was projected as her counter-image, even to the extent that she was transformed into an abject figure. For, indeed, in Elisabeth’s little poem that evokes the image of the flower violated by the toad, the empress personified herself as the violet whereas the toad was none other than Stephanie, the twenty-one-year-old Belgian princess. The “toad, yellow and fat” jumps onto the flower’s neck and leaves her “bowed down” (“ganz gebückt”), “crushed” (“verrieben”), “choked” (“erdrückt schier”) even. The poem ends:

Gleich der armen Hebstcyclame Liegt mein Geist noch immer hin; Statt der Kröte, eine Dame Nahm ihr jeden frohen Sinn.21

(Like the poor violet/My spirit is still beaten down/Instead of the toad, a lady/Robbed me of all good spirits)

The image of the abject male frog/prince and innocent girl/princess that is so telling of the position of women in the patriarchal system of sovereignty, is remastered in Elisabeth’s poem. Male force is executed by a female monster. While reversal of gender roles may be refreshingly subversive in hindsight, this is not the case here. To put is somewhat more technically: Elisabeth’s queer refiguration of genders does not in any way appear as an alternative to the hegemonic system in the sense of Jack/Judith Halberstamm.22 It is just harsh, and if anything, reminiscent of Simone de Beauvoir’s wry diagnosis that women’s common oppression creates a sense of competition among them. Elisabeth, who transformed her own subordination into the brutal preservation of her body, with equal energy stigmatised Stephanie, whose fate mirrored her own in an ominous manner.23

One could (try to) pursue the question whether indeed Elisabeth did have an obnoxious character and/or whether Stephanie was genuinely plain, as Jan van den Berghe does with malicious pleasure in his book De schaduw van de kroon (The Shadow of the Crown), in which he amply quotes testimonies of the judgements Elisabeth and her entourage passed on Stephanie.24

Betrothal Portrait of Rudolf, Crown Prince of Austria-Hungary and Princess Stéphanie of Belgium, accompanied by their parents Emperor Franz Joseph I and Empress Elisabeth, and King Leopold II of Belgium and Queen Marie Henriette. Photograph, 1881.

The official family picture25 taken at the betrothal of Stephanie and Rudolf shows Stephanie in an awkward posture, smiling a bit gawkishly even, whereas Elisabeth, seated before her, looks grave and composed. But apart from the conclusion that Stephanie appears unsettlingly young, a mere teenager, the photo was composed. Elisabeth refused to have her picture taken after the age of thirty and so on all photographs her aging face was replaced – photoshopped as it were – with that of her younger self. One could, however, also try to understand things from a more structural point of view: as the coercive situation of women in a system of male dynastic sovereignty that first and foremost transformed them into bodies according to a ruthless biopolitical strategy and then eventually – and paradoxically – threatened the dignified persona these women had to embody as representatives of that same rule.

Popular culture amply witnesses that female beauty and women’s pathological behaviour appeal greatly to our sense of curiosity – much more so than ‘common’ existences. The mass of literature and other media that deal with the life of the Austrian empress Elisabeth, Sisi for her friends, is beyond compare, certainly compared to Stephanie’s. In the end one wonders why. The fascinating element in all this is hardly the person of Elisabeth. Fascinating at most is the phenomenal persistence of an awkwardly self-fertilizing myth that indulges in anecdotes and, in spite of all its voyeurism, remains blind towards the gendered biopolitical rule to which Stephanie was not less subjected than the little flower, alias the princess with the golden ball.


  • 1 Kaiserin Elisabeth, “Besuch”, Das poetische Tagebuch, ed. Brigitte Hamann, Vienna: Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1984, 73.
  • 2 Poetisches Tagebuch, 73. See also: Karl and Michela Vocelka, Sisi. Leben und Legende einer Kaiserin, Munich: C.H.Beck 2014, 107.
  • 3 The bulk of her poems dates from the years 1885 and 1888, but Elisabeth kept them in a sealed box that reappeared in the archive of the Austrian Academy of Science around 1950 and was published in 1984. Poetisches Tagebuch, 9-38; Vocelka, Sisi, 101.
  • 4 “der Meister hat sie [diese Schriften] mir dictiert.” (the master has dictated them [these writings] to me) Vocelka, Sisi, 103
  • 5 When the German emperor Wilhelm II bought Elisabeth’s villa in Corfu, he had the statue of Heine removed from the garden. Vocelka, Sisi, 103; on Elisabeth’s infatuation with Heine see also Conte Corti, Elisabeth von Österreich. Tragik einer Unpolitischen, Munich: Wilhelm Heyne 1978, 343
  • 6 Hamann edited Elisabeth’s poems as “lyrical diary” (“poetisches Tagebuch”).
  • 7 https://www.projekt-gutenberg.org/grimm/khmaerch/chap003.html (accessed May 17th 2023)
  • 8 Norbert Elias, Die höfische Gesellschaft. Untersuchungen zur Soziologie des Königtums und der höfischen Aristokratie, Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp 1969/1994, 145.
  • 9 De Belgische Grondwet van 7 februari 1831, see: https://www.dbnl.org/tekst/_bel003belg01_01/_bel003belg01_01_0005.php (accessed May 17th 2023)
  • 10 See Anke Gilleir, “On Gender, Sovereignty and Imagination”, in: Strategic Imaginations. Gender and Sovereignty in European Culture, ed. Anke Gilleir and Aude Defurne, Leuven: Leuven University Press 2022, 7-26.
  • 11 Foucault, The History of Sexuality, vol. 1, An Introduction, London: Pinguin 1978, 139 f.
  • 12 One of Elisabeth’s main biographers, Brigitte Hamann, published an anthology of images with art book publisher Taschen, which has Franz Xaver Winterhalter’s 1864 portrait of the empress on the front cover and Romy Schneider’s picture as Elisabeth on the back. The caption “A portrait of one of the most beautiful, intelligent and self-willed women of her time” is oddly enough printed across Romy Schneider’s image. The title of the book uses the film name Sissi with double ss instead of the historical pet name Sisi. Brigitte Hamann, Sissi, Cologne: Taschen 1997.
  • 13 Sharon Marcus, The Drama of Celebrity, Princeton: Princeton University Press 2019, 27.
  • 14 Marcus, Drama of Celebrity, 25.
  • 15 Conte Corti’s 1934 influential biography, published in more than forty editions until the beginning of the 21st century and translated in nine languages, first had as title Elisabeth. Die seltsame Frau, in later editions it was changed into Elisabeth von Österreich. Tragik einer Unpolitischen. On Conte Corti, see Vocelka, Sisi, 119.
  • 16 Wolfgang Maderthaner, “Die evasive Kaiserin”, https://oe99.staatsarchiv.at/19-jh/die-evasive-kaiserin/index.html (access June 19th 2023)
  • 17 Brigitte Hamann, Rudolf. Kronprinz und Rebell, Münich 1991, 160.
  • 18 Stephanie de Belgique, Je devrais être impératrice. Mémoires de la dernière princesse héritière d’Autriche-Hongrie, Brussels 1937, 167.
  • 19 Conte Corti, Elisabeth von Österreich, 303.
  • 20 Hamann, Rudolf, 165.
  • 21 Elisabeth von Österreich, “Besuch”, 74.
  • 22 See: Judith Halberstamm, The Queer Art of Failure, Durham: Durham University Press 2011, 88.
  • 23 Goffman defines stigmatizing as attributing someone with socially discrediting characteristics. (Erving Goffman, Stigmata. Gedachten over leven met een geschonden identiteit, Deventer: van Loghum 1971).
  • 24 Jan Van Den Berghe, De schaduw van de kroon. Mythes en schandalen rond het Belgische Koningshuis, Antwerp: Manteau 2005, 113. The same uncritical quotation of opinions on the alleged contrast between Stephanie and Elisabeth is repeated in Johan Op de Beek’s biography: Leopold II. Het hele verhaal, Antwerp/Amsterdam: Horizon 2020, 493 f. In the early 1930s Stephanie wrote an autobiography with the challenging title Je devrais être impératrice. Mémoires de la dernière princesse héritière d’Austrie-Hongrie (which first appeared in German and subsequently in French translation). Van den Bergh calls her memoires “een van zelfbeklag bulkende autobiografie” (an autobiography overflown with self-pity) and quotes a contemporary reviewer from the Austrian press, who called her book a work of “nazi propaganda”. It is neither of both. Stephanie’s autobiography is a remarkably neutral account of her early life. Its moderate tone is all the more striking in a world of rampant mythologization, which was also continued in the story of her husband, Rudolf ‘Mayerling’.
  • 25 https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Crown_Prince_Rudolf_of_Austria-Hungary_with_his_family.jpg (access June 22nd 2023).