Camomile with a hint of lavender? Olive and avocado? Pomegranate and pear? All plausible possibilities for shampoo flavors. But how about cognac and egg yolk?
- See also: The Imperial Apartments
Empress Elisabeth, the famous wife of Emperor Franz Joseph, certainly was.
(Franz Xaver Winterhalter, Kaiserin Elisabeth, undated. Photo courtesy of and © Belvedere, Wien (reproduced with permission under the terms of Creative Commons License CC BY-SA 4.0.) Photo by Áment Gellért)
Sisi (as she’s known) was a complicated character. A young Bavarian princess thrown into the limelight when she married into the Habsburg monarchy aged 16 in 1854.
A free spirit that railed against the restrictions of court life.
A melancholy soul touched by romanticism.
An inexorable traveller who could never settle – always seemingly searching for peace, but never finding it.
And a woman a little obsessed with her physical appearance. Perhaps more than just a little.
Sisi dedicated a large portion of her life to maintaining her looks and slim figure (which included a 20 inch waist). For example, she had fitness equipment installed in her palace dressing room, which raised a few traditional eyebrows at court.
Elisabeth’s hair (see the portrait above) was her particular pride and joy. A sentiment shared by her loving husband: Franz Joseph used to work below a portrait of his wife with her hair billowing down in natural splendour.
However, just brushing and arranging the hair took a big chunk out of the day. So much so that the Empress used the time for study and correspondence.
Elisabeth also checked how much hair came out in the process. Allegedly, she could get so angry if she felt her hairdresser had pulled out too many strands that the poor lady took to surreptitiously depositing stray hairs on sticky material inside her dress.
(Hofburg Vienna, Empress Elisabeth’s dressing/exercise room (Vienna Hofburg, Imperial Apartments) © Schloß Schönbrunn Kultur- und Betriebsges.m.b.H. – Lois Lammerhuber)
And then there was washing. Time-consuming enough when you have shoulder-length hair, more so when your hair – as with Elisabeth – reaches down to the floor: a quick dousing and a bit of soap wasn’t quite what the royal coiffure demanded.
Washing her hair was a day’s work for Elisabeth. And she did it using an essence of egg and cognac. The combination is hard to credit, but given Elisabeth’s continent-wide reputation for beauty it must have worked.
Now, I’m no beauty product expert (on account of being largely not beautiful) but my understanding is that egg is actually a recognised shampoo alternative. Something about the natural ingredients cleansing, strengthening and moisturising the hair. (Don’t trust me on this, though).
So Sisi was not actually being unusual. As for the cognac, well, there I’m at a loss. Perhaps it stimulates blood flow to the scalp? Or perhaps it never actually went in the shampoo but was a useful means to dull the boredom of waiting for ankle-length hair to dry?