Among the least studied of all medals of the long-ruling House of
Habsburg are the coin-relief issues that appear occasionally on the
numismatic market commemorating imperial and royal coronations over
One of the most handsome 19th century issues was that struck to mark
an epochal event, the June 1867 coronation of Austrian Emperor Franz
Josef and Empress Elisabeth as Apostolic King and Queen of Hungary.
The emperor held the Hungarian crown since his ascension in the
revolutionary year 1848, but the coronation did not follow until after
the Ausgleich or Compromise in 1867 that created the Dual Monarchy.
The violent repression of the Hungarian uprising led by Louis
Kossuth (Kossuth Lajos) made a coronation impossible until the
reconciliation that was brought about largely by the efforts of the
Bavarian-born Empress Elisabeth (Hungarian Erzsebet) and the statesman
Count Gyula Andrassy.
Daughter of Maximilian Josef, Duke in Bavaria, Elisabeth was one of
the most colorful royal figures of the 19th century, defiant of the
stultified protocol of the Habsburg court, a devotee of physical
culture and healthy diet, and a spectacular beauty.
She was wildly popular in Hungary and is portrayed alone and with
Franz Josef on the coronation medals by engraver Wenzel Seidan,
bearing on obverse the title Empress of Austria. The reverse bears the
Holy Crown of Saint Stefan over a four-line inscription.
The medal shown here is virtually the size and weight of the later
1-korona coin (23.5 millimeters, 5 grams).
Artist Seidan (1817 to 1870) created many significant
Austro-Hungarian medals including those for the 1867 coronation.
With age, her eccentricities became more pronounced and were a trial
even to her adoring husband.
She endured the deaths of several family members, including the
suicide of her son, Crown Prince Rudolf, and her own end was tragic.
She was assassinated Sept. 10, 1898, in Geneva, Switzerland, by
Italian anarchist Luigi Lucheni, who had just missed his first target,
the French Pretender the Duke of Orleans.
Her grieving husband lived until 1916, as the Austro-Hungarian
realms were engulfed in World War I, but her portrait medals preserve
the memory of her immortal beauty.