Temporary exhibition

Empress Elisabeth – a passionate horsewoman

Temporary exhibition in the Audience Waiting Room
10 June 2016 – 8 January 2017

Sisi loved animals and horses in particular, learning to ride at an early age. Later on, riding gave her a way of escaping from the strictures of life at the Viennese court. One of her favourite pastimes was practising and perfecting her equestrian skills at Gödöllő, her country residence near Budapest. But she soon became bored by the flat surrounding countryside that lacked interesting challenges for her riding abilities. She longed to practise show jumping and go hunting with hounds, both of which demanded consummate riding skills. The Viennese court was scandalized by her devotion to this passion.

She got her way in the end and soon set off for new destinations in England and Ireland. There she made the acquaintance of Captain Bay Middleton. A professional horseman, who was later to die in a riding accident, he was deeply impressed by Elisabeth’s daring and horsewomanship. The close friendship between the two and the considerable amount of time they spent in each other’s company gave rise to rumours of a romantic relationship which persist to this day. When Middleton married in 1882, Elisabeth gave up riding for good, selling all the horses she kept in England and devoting her energies instead to hiking for hours at an excessive pace.

The exhibition Empress Elisabeth – a passionate horsewomanfocuses on the exceptional equestrian abilities of the empress, who thought nothing of jumping English hedges and Irish ditches despite riding side-saddle, and also examines the risks she exposed herself to while engaging in this challenging sport.

The painting of her pair of greys, Flick and Flock, which she had personally trained to perform circus tricks in her manège at Gödöllő, together with her riding crop and riding gloves from her childhood, are some of the exhibits that have been preserved as mementoes of her equestrian exploits.

The story of the empress and her riding companion Bay Middleton casts an interesting light on the empress as a passionate horsewoman.

Admission to the exhibition is included in the ticket for the Imperial Silver Collection, Sisi Museum and Imperial Apartments.

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