With Netflix's drop of their newest drama, The Empress, on Sept. 29, royal fans everywhere have been dying to know how accurately the German show is when it comes to its depiction of life at the Viennese court. (Yes, Bridgerton and The Crown fanatics, I'm looking at you.)
The Empress follows Elisabeth von Wittelsbach, or "Sisi," as she adapts to her life as the Empress of Austria after marrying Emperor Franz Joseph I. ICYMI, Franz reigned from 1848–1916 as a member of the House of Habsburg, per The Cinemaholic and Brittanica.
Sisi's challenges are many, including her adjustment to the strict norms of royal life and her struggle integrating into the dynastic, powerful Habsburg family. And this historical drama is actually based on a totally true story of a young girl and the imperial family she marries into, per Tatler.
But who are the Habsburgs and what were they all about? Here's everything you need to know about the family and their long rule in Europe.
Who are the Habsburgs?
The Habsburgs were a German-Austrian royal family, and one of the major European dynasties from the 15th to the 20th Centuries. The Habsburgs ruled over Austria from 1282 to 1918, and controlled Hungary and Bohemia between the years of 1526 and 1918. They also governed Spain and the Spanish empire for almost two centuries, from 1504 to 1506 and 1516 to 1700, per Brittanica.
The family name comes from the castle of Habsburg, built in 1020, in what is now Switzerland, according to Brittanica.
What role do the Habsburgs play in The Empress?
The Empress takes place during Franz Joseph I's reign. Franz was a Habsburg, and his rule continued the family's succession, per Brittanica.
Franz's uncle, Emperor Ferdinand I, did not have children, so Franz knew from an early age that he was the heir-assumptive, and that he would be tasked with continuing the family's dynasty and lineage.
Sisi would have known the heavy weight her husband's responsibility carried, too, and that becomes very clear in the series.
What are the Habsburgs known for?
The Habsburgs became the dominant political party during the European Renaissance period. Not only were they notorious for their ability to gain power over numerous territories, but the family was also well-known for their appreciation and patronage of art, literature, and science throughout the Renaissance, per Encyclopedia.
Of course, there's also the famous "Habsburg Jaw," which refers to the very noticeable protrusion of some family members' lower jaw. Scientists now say the physical feature was likely the result of inbreeding, which passed on a recessive gene, per the Smithsonian. This portrait of Emperor Charles V is one good example of the jaw structure in question:
Who are the famous Habsburgs?
The name may sound familiar to you because a lot of famous royals were born into this family. The list of people you may have heard about includes:
Charles V of Spain (nephew of Henry VIII's first wife, Catherine of Aragon)
Marie Antoinette (of the infamous, "Let them eat cake!")
Ferdinand II of Spain (a.k.a. "Ferdinand and Isabella," who financed Christopher Columbus' journey to the Americas!)
Maximilian I of Mexico
One of the early family members to gain power was Rudolf I who served as the German king in 1273. Frederick IV was also a Habsburg king of Germany and was crowned Holy Roman emperor in 1452, per Brittanica. The Habsburgs continued to hold on to the title of Holy Roman emperor until 1806.
Frederick's son, Maximilian I, later acquired the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Burgundy through his marriage to Mary of Burgundy in 1477, according to The World of Habsburgs.
But the peak of Habsburg power came during Emperor Charles V's rule in the 16th Century. Charles ruled over an empire extending across Europe, from Spain and the Netherlands to Austria, and even overseas to parts of the Americas.
However, Charles had a hard time keeping his huge empire together and he eventually abdicated his title to his brother Ferdinand I, Franz Joseph's uncle.
Archduchess Marie Antoinette, born in 1755, was the child of the Holy Roman Emperor Francis I and the powerful Habsburg Empress Maria Theresa, per History.
What happened to the Habsburgs?
Although some members of Habsburg family are still around, their ruling dynasty ended in November of 1918.
In 1919, the last emperor, Karl I, went into exile in Switzerland, The World of Habsburg reported. He tried to regain power in Hungary twice, but both attempts failed. As a result, his family was once again relocated in 1921, this time to Madeira.
Where are the Habsburgs now?
There are actually still a number of Habsburgs running around in Europe and there's at least one prominent socialite in America.
Karl von Habsburg lives in Austria and acts as the head of the House of Habsburg-Lorraine, according to Parlament. True to his roots, he is also a politician.
Another relative, Tatiana Galitzine, daughter of Princess Maria Anna Galitzine and Prince Piotr Galitzine, currently lives in Houston, Texas. She is the great-granddaughter of Emperor Charles I of Austria, per Paper City Mag.
And then there's Eduard Habsburg-Lothringen, or Archduke Eduard of Austria, who is a Hungarian diplomat and a member of the House of Habsburg Lorraine. Apparently, his daughters have been busy making butter at home after being inspired by reading Laura Ingalls Wilder, and he tweeted about the cute at-home event.
My daughters made butter out of cream! They got the idea from the Laura Ingalls books (and a video of HomesteadingFamily).
Fill a jar half with cream, shake a while, separate the butter from buttermilk; knead butter & wash under cold water. Salt. Use Buttermilk for baking. Easy! pic.twitter.com/KF1y1Mas8n
— Eduard Habsburg (@EduardHabsburg) October 5, 2022
And there are certainly a number of other imperial relatives floating around out there.
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