A few years ago an incident occurred which is so characteristic of the little Archduchess [Elizabeth] that it is worthy of being placed on record. There is a well-known young ladies’ school at Dresden, where a great many Viennese girls are sent, when they reach the age of ten, to finish their education under the care of the celebrated Madame F————, the owner of the school in question, and an Austrian by birth. Until the autumn of the time to which I refer, the little girls were in the habit of receiving from home, once a month, small boxes containing some of the delicious confectionery for which Vienna is renowned. Unfortunately, several cases of sickness among the pupils having been caused, according to the house physician, by too many bonbons, Madame F———— gathered the young people around her one morning and declared to them, solemnly, that she absolutely forbade any more indulgences of this nature, and that she would moreover address a circular to the children’s parents requesting them not to send sweetmeats or any other toothsome dainties to them during their stay at her school.
The edict caused terrible consternation among the little gourmandes. There came very near being an open revolt against so arbitrary a measure, and matters were looking very black indeed when, suddenly, a dark-eyed, fair-haired little beauty of eleven summers climbed on a table, and silencing her noisy troop of comrades, harangued them as follows:
Painting by Jean-Étienne Liotard
“Children,” she exclaimed, in vibrating accents, “We must be revenged! We cannot allow such injustice; we will not submit to an undeserved punishment which robs us of our only pleasure. Madame is an Austrian, and as such, she must submit to anything done by our imperial family. Do you know what? We will send a round-robin to our little Archduchess, imploring her to forbid Madame to treat us so cruelly.”
“What little Archduchess? Who is she? Where does she live?” cried such of her excited listeners as were not Austrians.
With a smile of pity for so much ignorance, the speaker explained to her now delighted audience that Archduchess Elizabeth, the Emperor’s granddaughter, was powerful at the court of Vienna, and that should she consider their prayer favorably, the whole imperial family would come forward, if necessary, to crush Madame’s decree against the importation of sweets.
Painting by Luke Fields
The truth of this statement was so patent that without further delay the little girls set to work in great glee to draw up their petition — a document which cost them much pain to compose, and which ran thus:
“Dear Archduchess Elizabeth, — “We love you and your grandpapa very much, and we are here in Dresden at school, where we are generally pretty well satisfied. Today, however, something awful has happened. Madame has forbidden our dear parents to send us any more bonbons for ever so many years; no more sugar-plums, no more chocolates, no more cakes, nor anything sweet and good. So we want to ask you to help us out of our trouble, dear Archduchess! Please, please tell your dear grandpapa to send word to Madame that she is to let us have bonbons again as before. With this ardent prayer we close our letter. Our best love to your dear grandpapa and grandmamma. We all kiss your little hands, and remain your true and respectful little compatriots.”
When the long list of names had been signed to this remarkable epistle, it was carefully put in an envelope and addressed to “Die Kleine Frau Ezherzogin Elizabeth, p. Ad. Ihrem Grossvater, den Kaiser von Oësterreich, Wien.” (To the little Madame, Archduchess Elizabeth, care of her grandpapa, the Emperor of Austria, Vienna.) And with many misgivings and heartbeatings it was duly mailed.
A week later, Madame F———— was much surprised to receive a huge box addressed to “The pupils of the F———— Institute, Dresden.” It came from Vienna, and was stamped on the lid with the imperial coat-of-arms. She immediately summoned all the children, and as soon as they caught sight of the gigantic package, the little Austrian conspirators huddled together, whispering to one another, with glowing faces and glistening eyes.
Candy roses. Photo by Sarahnocera.
On the top of the box lay a pink and silver card, on which was written, in a round, childish hand: “From Archduchess Elizabeth, to her dear little compatriots in Dresden.” Under the card was a letter sealed with the imperial crest, which Madame F———— opened and read with boundless amazement. It was written by Countess Coudenhove, the lady-in-waiting to the little Archduchess, who said that as a rule no notice was taken of such petitions as had been sent by Madame F———— ‘s little Austrian pupils, but that in this instance the little Archduchess had begged so hard to be permitted to grant it that their Majesties had allowed her to choose and send the contents of the box to her dear little compatriots, with the wish that they might be allowed to enjoy them to their hearts’ content.
Photo of Bonbons, Marzipans, Chocolates by Prillen.
With shouts of joy the children, now almost beside themselves with delight, crowded round the box to examine its sweet and fragrant contents. Nothing can give an idea of their enthusiasm when, one after another, boxes of exquisite bonbons of all descriptions were brought to light — boxes made of daintily tinted silks with the imperial arms and crown stamped in gold on each of them; bags of silver tissue tied with azure ribbons and filled with chocolate pralines, each of which was wrapped in multicolored tissue-paper, with devices and mottoes; marvelous bars of Viennese nougatine enclosed in satin wrappers, on which the pictures of the Emperor and Empress were painted in water-colors; tiny crystal bonbonnières containing sugared petals of roses and violets and orange blossoms, certainly prepared by fairies for the special delectation of good little Austrian subjects of his royal and imperial majesty, the Emperor Franz-Joseph! The shouts almost deafened poor Madame F———— , who, not so very black at heart after all, could only end by forgiving her pupils, to whom she suggested that in return for the kindness and favor just received, they would do well to embroider a handsome bedquilt for their little benefactress.
Painting by Frederick Richard Pickersgill
This piece of work was duly brought to completion, and it was superb, all the little ladies having labored at it with a will, while they nibbled now and again some of the Archduchess’s exquisite bonbons, loyal little Austrian monarchists forever! The quilt was presented to her imperial highness upon her birthday, and gave her much pleasure.
Marguerite Cunliffe-Owen, The Martyrdom of an Empress (New York: Harper & Brothers, Publishers, 1902), 235-9.
Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 412