The Empress true story: What Queen is the Netflix show based on?

New Netflix TV show The Empress dissects the tragic life of the late Empress Elisabeth of Austria

The Empress
(Image credit: Netflix)

New TV show alert: The Empress, a new Netflix series based on the life of Empress Elisabeth of Austria.

The riveting new show just debuted on the streaming platform, a fact that excites us even more since we have to wait until November to catch The Crown season 5.

The Empress focuses on the life of the Austrian royal, mostly referred to as Sissi, who ruled the country from April 24, 1854, the day she married Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria. She was assassinated in 1898.

What is The Empress on Netflix about?

"When rebellious Elisabeth falls for Emperor Franz and becomes his unlikely bride, she enters a world of tension and intrigue at the Viennese court," reads an official synopsis about the show by Netflix. "Elisabeth is a young woman ahead of her time, rebelling against the rigid rules of the 19th century and the court. She meets Franz, a multi-layered ruler, who played a major role in shaping modern European history. Against the backdrop of jealousy, intrigue and power struggles behind the scenes of the Habsburg court - and the emerging question of freedom of the people - the audience is taken into a glittering illusory world, in which a young Sissi must fight for her place at court, as well as the right to be the figurehead of an ailing empire."

What Queen is The Empress on Netflix based on?

Empress Elisabeth of Austria, by many simply referred to as Sissi, is the subject of the new Netflix show The Empress.

The legendary ruler was born into a Bavarian royal household and thrown into the spotlight following her marriage to then 23-year-old Franz when she was only 16. 

As history has it, Sissi's relationship with her mother in law, the Archduchess Sophie, was not the greatest - a fact that added to the stress that plagued Sissi throughout her life. Sophie was used to being the most important woman in the empire and therefore resented her daughter-in-law given her new role.

Franz's brother Maximilian was also the subject of much drama, by many reported to be related to his repulsion at not being emperor. 

In addition to the commotion surrounding her family life, Sissi was known for her beauty, including her long auburn hair that historians claim was washed with a mixture of cognac and eggs, dyed with indigo and then brushed for three hours each day.

So obsessed was the empress with her own looks and so panicked was she about aging that she supposedly refused to have her portrait taken after the age of 30. She also embarked on a very strict exercise regiment in order to maintain her 18-inch waist throughout her life.

Sissi's later years were also plagued by horrible tragedies, starting with the passing of her baby daughter Sophie and her eldest son Rudolf, who was the heir to the throne until he was involved in a murder-suicide alongside his lover Mary Vetsera.

The empress died in 1898, when she was 60 years old, after being stabbed by an Italian anarchist while visiting Switzerland.

Who stars in The Empress on Netflix?

Mostly, audience members can expect a variety of newcomers to portray the story of the famous royal family - although we do imagine that all of the actors will become household names following the guaranteed success of the series. 

German actor Devrim Lingnau has taken on the role of Empress Elisabeth and 28-year-old actor Philip Froissant will star as her husband Emperor Franz Joseph. German-Iranian actor Melika Foroutan plays the Emperor's mother, Sophia, and Elisa Schlott was casted as Helene, Elisabeth's older sister. 

Anna Rahmanan

Anna Rahmanan is a New York-based writer and editor who covers culture, entertainment, food, fashion and travel news. Anna’s words have appeared on Time Out New York, the Huffington Post, Fortune, Forbes, Us Weekly, Bon Appetit and Brooklyn Magazine, among other outlets.