Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Honors Thesis


Modern Languages

First Advisor

Melissa Etzler

Second Advisor

Sarah Painitz


As one of the most beautiful women of her day, head-strong, and in opposition to the strict traditions of her court life, Empress Elisabeth of Austria - also known as Sisi - is remembered for her confidence and free-spirit. While Sisi’s image is admired throughout Austria (and Bavaria) on postcards, posters, and knick-knacks, she is lesser known to American audiences. During her life, she was often criticized for leaving her responsibilities with the court to go on long trips or for prioritizing her love of Hungary over the Austrian people. However, after the Empress’s tragic death, her public image changed; she became idolized and many of the negative views surrounding her began to dissipate over time. Through the Sissi films in the 1950s, a new image of Sisi was created, and a fake persona was solidified into history. With the recent release of The Empress (September 2022, Netflix), she is now reaching modern American audiences. This research will explore how Elisabeth is portrayed in the first season of The Empress, and how this compares to her personality as represented through both her original poetry as well as factual information provided in her biographies. This will also dive into how her personality is portrayed in modern media as a way to target American audiences. As the show begins to gain popularity, it is crucial to understand who Empress Elisabeth is as a historical figure, recognizing both her accomplishments as well as her flaws, and not fall victim to the fictional Sissi myth.