Be still our royal-loving hearts: The Crown has gifted us with an official release date for season 5 (November 9 for anyone who still needs to save the date in their Google cal). But in the meantime, there’s another must-watch royal drama—also available on Netflix—you need to add to your list: The Empress, which is available to binge in all its glory. Oh, and the show happens to be the #2 most-watched series on Netflix's top ten list at the moment. NBD.
This Must-Watch Show May Just Be the New 'Crown'—& It's the #2 Series on Netflix Right Now
Here's the background: The Empress brings to life the story of Elisabeth of Bavaria—known to the world as Sisi and played in this series by Devrim Lingnau—a German princess who became an Austrian empress and fought hard against the restrictive nature of the Habsburg court in the 19th century.
Of course, Duchess Sisi, the daughter of a Bavarian Duke, never aspired to live a royal life. But when her sister Helene is brought to meet Emperor Franz Joseph (played by Philip Froissant) in the summer of 1853, she tags along for moral support and, oops, he falls in love with Sisi instead.
As for The Crown parallels, the subtitled series—which features six hour-long episodes total—is full of opulent royal estates and pomp. (The Vienna wedding scenes alone are the stuff regal dreams are made of.) But it’s also a re-imagining of the historical, giving new life to private conversations and emotions that bring the drama to a fever pitch. This includes everything from Sisi’s desire to live a life beyond what was expected of her to the ambitions of her more-than-meddling mother-in-law and what it was like for Franz to be caught between.
Still, it’s the real-life similarities between Sisi and the late Princess Diana, a royal whose experience in the palace is much fresher in our collective minds, that have piqued our interest off the screen. For one thing, Sisi was just 16 when she wed the 23-year-old Emperor Franz (Diana was 20 when she married a 32-year-old Prince Charles). She’s also said to have been totally unsure of her marriage to the Emperor—she could be seen weeping by the spectators who lined the roads—and struggled to adapt to royal protocol. Much like Diana, she was also famous for her human touch. In fact, crowds adored Sisi in a way that rings similar to ‘Di-Mania,’ in the early 1980s, a spectacle covered in season 4 of The Crown.
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Yes, there are a few familiar plotlines—the claustrophobic pressures of protocol and the heir-and-the-spare dynamic, for example—but it somehow feels new and captivating, perhaps due to the fact that Sisi’s story, for modern audiences, isn’t as well-known. The subtitles don’t make it any less binge-worthy either. We were captivated by this royal duo—Sisi and Franz—from the moment they first meet in episode one. Their chemistry is undeniable…and steamy, too. Also, no matter how much we know about the British Royal Family, watching The Crown continually sends us back to the history books to do our own reporting. The same can be said of The Empress, but with much more about the life of Sisi still left to discover, a forever thrill for royal fans.
Oh, and fun fact: The life of Sisi is also set to get the Spencer treatment, too, via a new film Corsage, out December 30, that’s already getting rave reviews at Cannes. (Yet another royal date to save!)