Archduchess Sophie of Austria

Archduchess Sophie of Austria (German: Sophie, Erzherzogin von Österreich; 5 March 1855  29 May 1857) was the first child and first of three daughters born to Franz Joseph I, Emperor of Austria, and Elisabeth of Bavaria. She died aged two.

Archduchess Sophie
Sophie in c.1856
Born(1855-03-05)5 March 1855
Laxenburg castles, Vienna, Austrian Empire
Died29 May 1857(1857-05-29) (aged 2)
Buda, Budapest, Austrian Empire
Full name
Sophie Friederike Dorothea Maria Josepha
FatherFranz Joseph I of Austria
MotherElisabeth of Bavaria


Within two months of her marriage to Franz Joseph, Elisabeth was obviously pregnant. On 5 March 1855, the seventeen year-old Empress of Austria delivered a daughter who was christened the same day Sophie Friederike Dorothea Maria Josepha, after Franz Joseph's mother. The infant was christened such without Elisabeth even knowing.[1] On both her mother and her father's side, Sophie descended from King Maximilian I Joseph of Bavaria, as her parents were first cousins. On her father's side, she descended from the last Holy Roman Emperor, Francis II. During the next year, Elisabeth delivered another daughter, Archduchess Gisela, a younger sister to Sophie. Even though they were both girls and did not need to be educated for duties a monarch would be obliged to fulfill, both infants right after being baptised were taken away from Elisabeth by Archduchess Sophie, nee Princess Sophie of Bavaria (who was both Elisabeth's aunt and mother-in-law) on account of the Empress being too young to raise two children.[1] Elisabeth later commented:

No matter how long Elisabeth begged Franz Joseph to discuss the matter with his mother, her cries went unheard.[1] Eventually, Franz Joseph did discuss the problem with his mother and Elisabeth eventually began to openly express her wishes to her mother-in-law and even took the little girls with her as she travelled.[1]


Empress Elisabeth adored Hungary and its people and proposed to her husband that they take a trip to her favourite country, perhaps even tour it.[1] This was a desire she would regret for the rest of her life. Franz Joseph accepted and they left in early spring 1857. While in Budapest, both Sophie and her sister Archduchess Gisela fell ill with diarrhea and had a very high fever.[1] Ten-month-old Gisela recovered quickly. However, two-year-old Sophie's body could not take it. At 21:15 in the evening,[2] after eleven hours of struggling to survive,[1] Sophie died in her mother's arms,[1] probably from dehydration due to the diarrhea or from convulsions due to the high fever. It was later theorized that Sophie died from typhus fever, but this is yet to be proven.


Sophie's body was brought back to Vienna and buried in the Imperial Crypt, in Ferdinandsgruft (literally, Ferdinand's Vault), within the southwest pier.

The death of her oldest child would haunt Empress Elisabeth for her entire life. Elisabeth was held indirectly responsible for Sophie's death by her mother-in-law, Archduchess Sophie (née Princess Sophie of Bavaria).[1] She suffered a breakdown and would lock herself in her apartments for days at a time[1] or go riding until she reached a state of exhaustion, just to avoid having to think.[1] Sophie's death also settled who got the children. Princess Sophie indisputably took the children as soon as they were born.[1] Elisabeth also started to neglect her surviving daughter, and their relationship was not a close one. One of Elisabeth's ladies-in-waiting, Marie Festetics, commented in her diary that the Empress did not even take the time to attend Gisela's wedding preparations.[1] Elisabeth also behaved in a similar manner to her only son, Rudolf, Crown Prince of Austria.[1] For the rest of her remaining days, Elisabeth would wear a bracelet with a likeness of her dead daughter[3] and kept a portrait of her in her apartments.[4]



  1. Hotbauer 1998, p. 30.
  2. von Wurzbach, Constantin (June 1857). "Habsburg, Sophie (1855-1857)". Biographisches Lexikon des Kaiserthums Oesterreich. 23 (2).
  3. Hotbauer 1998, p. 31.
  4. Hotbauer 1998, p. 33.


  • Hotbauer, Renate (1998). Empress Elisabeth of Austria: The fate of a woman under the yoke of the Imperial Court. Vienna: Austria Imperial. p. 128. ISBN 3-902196-01-7.
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