Dress-down Friday: Sissi

There she sat in the throne-room of the royal palace in her Hungarian costume of black, adorned with lace. Everything about her was sombre. From her dark hair fell a veil of black. Black were the ornaments in her hair, black her pearls, everything black, only her face was marble-white and ineffably sad…She was still herself, but sorrow had left its mark upon her face. The picture was still the same, but as though shrouded in mist. The lashes drooped over her sweet eyes, so full of life. Still and impassive she sat, as though seeing and hearing nothing. Only her soul seemed to range far and wide. Not a movement, not a glance to betray her interest. She sat like a statue of marble pallor…

The magnates of the realm waved their hats. Still the cheering would not abate. The orator was forced to pause and the Queen inclined her head. Her snow-white cheek showed a faint flush. Its milky whiteness was tinted with a pale rose, then a crimson wave surged up, flooding it with a living red. As though by magic, a Queen appeared in all the hues of life seated at the side of the King. Here eyes dilated and flashed with their former splendour. Those eyes, whose captivating smile had once had power to console a sorrowing land, now filled with tears. Once more the current of sympathy had flowed back and forth. The land, now happy, had succeeded in consoling its Queen, but only for a moment. Majestically she raised her lace handkerchief to her eyes to dry her tears. The orator resumed his speech. Slowly the flush of life faded from the Queen’s countenance, and soon by the King’s side, there sat once more the woman shrouded in mourning, the Mater Dolorosa.

– Count Corti on Sissi (Elisabeth of Austria), quoted in Death by Fame by Andrew Sinclair



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