Coronation medal depicts a portrait of Empress Elisabeth: The Research Desk

Bavarian-born Austrian served as queen of Hungary
By , Special to Coin World
Published : 10/25/15
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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 the centuries.

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.

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