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THE GRANDDAUGHTER OF AN EMPRESS

 

That was not a tiring day, in fact, nothing happened. She returned to her bedroom some hours before so as she could be alone. Her excuses were fatigue and headache as usual, which proved to be good reasons to leave those who loved her very much. She did not understand why she was sad again. She kept looking at herself in the large, wood-framed mirror, it seemed impossible to accept that her belly was rounded once again. She did not want another child. Definitely not. She did not care a lot with the previous ones either and became angry when someone threw it over her eyes. The last pregnancy. It was the same suffer as the previous ones as regards her inner world. However, she loved that one, the child who was really her own, who she was fighting for not letting any other women care about this one as it happened in the case of the previous ones. This child was hers. She felt it. But enough was enough. She no longer wanted to bear more babies. She was looking at her rounded belly, in which a new life was developing. She did it for her husband. She had to allow him once again although she felt she would have died instead of carrying another child. She was stubborn and obstinate just like her beloved grandmother.

She sat down in front of her dressing table, and took a silver framed hand mirror into her hand, which was given by her legendary beautiful grandmother, "If grandma had decided not to allow grandpa again, mother would not have been born, and then I would not exist now. Perhaps it would be better not to exist.” She was playing with the idea of leaving this world while she was examining her slightly visible facial wrinkles in the mirror. She belonged to the upper class, had everything she wanted, at least as regards belongings, and yet she did not know what to do with her life. She put the mirror away and looked at her rounded belly again. She simply wished to be over the whole. She did not know whether she wanted to be over the next day family ceremony or the birth giving or it was her whole life she wanted to be over.

Elisabeth by József Árpád Koppay

 

She sighed and picked up the silver-framed mirror again. "Grandma" – whispered she. As she looked into the mirror, she was a little girl again. She was standing at a corridor of a magnificent palace. Her mother went to bed early that day, she was pregnant again. Grandma complained several times that she was ashamed herself of her daughter’s shape, which had changed a lot again. She did not understand what it meant exactly but the beloved Grandma’s reprimanding words inscribed themselves deeply into her consciousness, and she remembered them whenever she was studying her rounded belly in the mirror.

After her mother went to bed, the beautiful grandma allowed her to be at her dressing room during the combing ceremony. This was one of her most beautiful memories. She was impressed by the ceremony as well as by her grandma. At first, the hairdresser extracted the famous crown hairdo carefully, which took for several minutes. Meanwhile she was sitting in a chair disciplined. The hairdresser, who was wearing white gloves, was combing the beautiful hair rapids with a silver hair brush pulling them into strands hidden under her apron the hairs which rested at the comb. When she asked about the reasons for this as an adult, she was told that the lady tried to spare her Majesty’s nerves, who considered her hair as the most remarkable feature of her beauty. After the hairdresser finished the procedure, she presented the fallen hairs on a small silver tray to her mistress. Of course, she knew there were more but said nothing to Grandma. The Empress stared at the fallen hairs and took a reproachful glance at her hairdresser then she had a look at her granddaughter in the mirror considering her such a lovely little thing she could not help smiling. When the Empress rose from her chair, she could see her hair reached her heels. She looked like a fairy. “A fairy Godmother” – thought the little girl. That was the time when she gave up being disciplined. Suddenly she stood up and ran to her Grandma, who smiled and told her some kind words than kissed her forehead.

After having said goodbye, the governess led her to the children’s room but while walking towards the destination, she suddenly turned around and started running back as fast as she could. By the time she got back to the Empress' suit, Grandma was on her way towards her simple bed. The maids were taking her beautiful curls, which was like a train, after her. She was standing quietly in the doorway watching the event, which is crowned the whole combing ceremony. She was amazed and breathless, the sight was so breathtaking. The majestic grandmother went to bed, and the two maids gently laid her gorgeous hair onto the bed headrest. She saw how careful they were to prevent the hair being ruffled. The Empress placed her neck onto her pillow, and the girls checked whether every lock of her hair was rested well in their place. Then one of them noticed her at the doorway with her mouth open wide. The grandmother tried to turn her head gently towards her but she was worried too much about the gorgeous curls because it would have been a risky movement. Exactly then she was caught by the governess, and the spell was broken. She had to accept the fact that she could not catch Grandma’s eyes that night again.

Marie Valerie with her daughter, Ella by József Árpád Koppay

 

She often thought of this moment as an adult and wondered how sad and lonely grandma could be when lying alone without any movements in a room of a palace she never liked. However, she did love that so much because of Grandma. Even after her death but the place was not as magical without her any more. She often stayed at her former suit which was left the way the Empress used to use. She liked being there. Everything was calm and peaceful. Past time and past life. It was over and still not yet fully. Both of them would have had the chance to be happy. But they could not take that chance. She did not even know whether she really wanted to take that. She wanted to be understood. But it seemed impossible. Maybe nobody could be blamed for that. Maybe it was not the time.

The baby suddenly kicked her. She was shaken. She was in her bedroom again holding the silver-framed mirror. Although she was concentrating hard, she could not recall vividly her grandmother's smile. She became sad and remembered the night when the Empress was assassinated. Her mother went into the nursery with crying eyes and quietly whispered to her ears that grandma had passed away. She did not really know then what death meant. As she grew older, she tried to find out more about her beloved grandmother. She wanted to be like her. She stood up. Once again she looked at her rounded belly in the timber-framed mirror before she turned off the lights.

 

NOTE:

The story above is a fiction, however, many things mentioned are facts, for instance, Elisabeth’s personality and combing ceremony including her sleeping habits and worries about her hairdo. Furthermore, the Empress did really tell her daughter, Valerie how much she was ashamed herself of her changed shape, it is what Valerie wrote in her diary by herself.

I would not like to name the protagonist of the story since any granddaughter of Empress Elisabeth could experience this kind of feelings. It is also why I attach only one painting (besides the Empress’ one): Marie Valerie with her oldest daughter, Ella (Elisabeth Franziska), who was said to be the favourite grandchild of the Empress, who was present when the baby was born and became her Godmother. Ella was only six years old when the Empress was assassinated, and her mother, Valerie did really go into the nursery with crying eyes and quietly whispered to her ears that Grandma had passed away. During her journey, the Empress loved buying smaller or bigger gifts to her grandchildren, especially to Valerie’s children. The day before her death, a photo was taken of her (of course without her knowledge) in front of a Genevan shop after buying presents for them.

All in all, I tend to believe that events like mentioned above could possibly happen with Ella or any other granddaughter of the Empress.

 

A few months after having written this short story I accidently caught sight of a silver framed mirror at a German auction. The mirror was said to be a gift to Ella by the Empress.

This short story was written so as I could bring one belonging to the upper class emotionally closer to the reader letting them know that feeling like happiness, joy, sadness and grief are not dependent either on wealth and poverty or which class one belongs. We are all equal.

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In Hungarian: EGY CSÁSZÁRNÉ UNOKÁJA​