The last voyage
In the fall of 1898, the Empress travelled incognito throughout Switzerland with a party of 12 individuals. Besides Countess Irma Sztáray, others were General Berzeviczy, who acted as Marshal of the Court, Dr Eugen Kromar, who was the intendant, Frederik Barker, who served as a tutor, as well as two chamberlains and six servants.
During their stay at the Hotel de Caux in Lausanne, the empress and her party occupied fifteen rooms on the first floor. These rooms opened onto a spacious balcony. As usual, the empress occupied 3 of the rooms, the others were for her servants.
In the early hours of the morning, at around 5 o'clock, the Empress would wake up and go for a walk after taking a bath. Irma likely accompanied her. She drank a glass of goat's milk somewhere along the way, and some days that was all she ate.
Empress Elisabeth and Irma travelled across the Geneva lake to Pregny, to visit the Rothschilds' estate. They then travelled further to Geneva, to spend the night at the Hotel Beau Rivage.
Irma emphasizes that she complied (reluctantly) with the request of accompanying the incognito travelling queen alone to Geneva. General Berzeviczy had expressed his concerns, as Geneva was a hotbed of political activism at the time, and there was a real threat of violence against the empress. In the years leading up to her assassination, she had been the target of several threats and attacks.
Elisabeth did not listen to the warnings. She ordered her entourage to take the train back to Montreux in the morning, while she and Irma would be travelling by boat.
Impressions of Geneva around the turn of the 20th century
This is why, on September 10, 1898, they strolled together along the promenade to catch the ferry. An anarchist named Luigi Lucheni approached them and, while he acted as he stumbled, Lucheni stabbed Elisabeth with a sharpened file, striking a fatal blow to her heart.
In the face of this shocking and brutal attack, Irma Sztáray demonstrated extraordinary courage and quick thinking.
She was the only servant present during this fateful event, making her an eyewitness to the shocking incident.
You can read the details on the assassination of Empress Elisabeth here.
The steamship “Genève” on which Empress Elisabeth died is still afloat today
In short, Sisi managed to get up and walk to the ship. On board, Elisabeth loses her conscience. They are still not aware that Luigi offered more than a blow. Only after Irma loosens the corset of the Empress, she discovers a small stain of blood. She quickly raises the alarm and has the captain turn around the boat that already started the trip. With the help of some bystanders, the empress is brought back to the hotel.
Back at the Beau Rivage Hotel, Irma is aware that the situation is very serious. She immediately sends a telegram to Count Paar at the Hofburg in Vienna, saying: "Her Majesty the Empress was badly wounded, please report this to His Majesty the Emperor with the deepest respect."
The Empress dies very soon after this message, so Irma needs to send another message to the Emperor: "Ihre majestät die Kaiserin is entschlummert".
The empress is dead, and Irma is devasted. She stays at the empress' side though, all the way to the Imperial Crypt beneath the Capuchin Church in Vienna, where Sisi was buried.