Archduke Dr. Geza von Habsburg will return to the mansion to give a visual presentation on “Sisi, the Tragic Empress: A Great-Great Grandson’s Perspective.” This is the story of the beautiful Empress Elisabeth, wife of Emperor Franz Joseph I of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
“I am so fond of the Emperor! If only he were not an emperor!” Elisabeth is said to have expressed these feelings when she learned of Franz Joseph’s desire to marry her. Clearly she sensed that life as empress at the Viennese imperial court would not suit her personality.
A member of the Wittelsbach family of Bavaria, Elisabeth came from a rather informal household, entering at the age of sixteen into the restrictive formal life at court and the overly rigid supervision of Sophie, her mother-in-law. Franz Joseph on the other hand had been groomed from childhood for his future role of emperor (he came to the throne in 1848), and often showed no understanding for the needs and fears of his somewhat shy wife.
After giving birth to three children, Elisabeth within the first years of their marriage took refuge in travel. Considered one of the great beauties of the 19th century, she was extremely vain of her slender figure, observing strict diets, exercising constantly, unusual for her time, and exhausting her ladies-in-waiting with long hours spent riding or walking.
Tragedy struck in her later years when the couple’s only son, Crown Prince Rudolf, took his own life at Mayerling, some say due the lack of understanding, even from his father, of his desire to modernize the multiethnic empire’s complex political system. In 1898, Elisabeth was assassinated during a holiday in Switzerland, dying at the hands of an Italian anarchist.
Franz Joseph continued to reign until he died in 1916 in the midst of World War I.
Dr. von Habsburg began his career as Chairman, Switzerland of Christie, Manson & Woods Auctioneers, overseeing offices throughout Europe. In 1980 he became Chairman of European Operations for the company. Later, he served as Chairman, New York and Geneva, of Habsburg Fine Arts International Auctioneers. In both companies, he specialized in silver and gold, objects of vertu and Russian art. In 1994, he joined Fabergé Co. as a consultant, spokesman and lecturer worldwide.
Dr. von Habsburg is considered one of the foremost experts on Faberge, the former court jeweler to the Russian Tsars and the subject he covered in 2016 at Ventfort Hall. He has organized and curated exhibitions worldwide, including Fabergé in America, which toured five cities and attracted 400,000 visitors to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Fluent in seven languages, the speaker has authored several books and was also an associate professor at The New York School of Interior Design, The Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts and New York University. He has lectured for over ten years at the Met.
As part of a theme, the planning committee has organized a menu of desserts as offered in Viennese cafés. Committee members are Mary Frances Benko, Patrick Brennan, Karen Carhart, Thomas Hayes, Helga S. Orthofer Kaiser, Lucille Landa, Alice Nathan, Wendy Philbrick and Beverly Rainey.
Tickets for the event are $55 per person. RSVP by Monday, October 21st. Reservations are required as seating is limited. For reservations call us at 413-637-3206.