Empress Sisi comforts a young widow

July 23, 2012

Painting by Laurits Tuxen

While staying in England at the seaside resort of Cromer, in July 1887, she gave one of these proofs of delicacy of heart which are not easily forgotten among the humbler classes. She was walking on a stormy morning along the shore, when she suddenly caught sight of a group of sailors who were carrying the corpse of a drowned man. She immediately approached and inquired about this disaster, and was told that the victim was a poor employee of the railroad, called Walter Moules, who had accidentally met with his death in the tossing waters.

Photograph of Elisabeth of Bavaria, Empress consort of Austria and Queen consort of Hungary.

Hearing that the man was married and had several children, without a minute’s delay she set off for his humble dwelling, for she said it was necessary that somebody should warn the newly made widow of the terrible misfortune which had befallen her before the sailors brought home their ghastly burden. The kindness with which she broke the awful news to the poor woman was a marvel of delicate tenderness, and she remained with her until the body of the drowned man had been carried into the little cottage; then turning to the bereaved wife she said, softly: “Pray for the soul of your husband; I shall help you, in so far as the children are concerned, as much as I can.” And then she rapidly walked away. An hour later one of Her Majesty’s servants brought to the widow a pocketbook containing six hundred pounds sterling, which there is considered a very large sum indeed.

All these little traits which I now relate were not known among the public, for the Empress had an absolute dread of any publicity of that kind, which generally led to more misinterpretations of her actions.

Marguerite Cunliffe-Owen, The Martyrdom of an Empress (New York: Harper & Brothers, Publishers, 1902), pp. 126-127.

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 197



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