Period dramas on Netflix have seen moderate to massive success in recent years, the most notable being The Crown. This period drama is the most popular for depicting the real-life events of the British Monarchy, which were well documented.
On the other hand, Germany had a long history of multiple monarchies coexisting with each other.
The recent Netflix period drama The Empress portrayed the court and personal life of the Empress of the Austrian Empire, Elisabeth of Wittelsbach.
The first season of this show revolves primarily around Elisabeth's marriage to Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph, her struggle to fit in with the rigid rules of the royal court, her personal relationships with various royal members, and finally, her transformation into an empress sympathetic to the common people.
The season has only six episodes, each of which is almost an hour, so not all events might be well covered. Also, the events of the Austrian monarchy are not as well documented as those of their British counterpart. Thus, some of the portrayals of the events might be dramatized, but that doesn't exclude the show from being a decent historical period drama.
Born as the third child of a Bavarian duke, Elisabeth was not meant to be the royal wife. However, she was independent and rebellious, rejecting proposals from dukes and counts. Elisabeth's life turns around when Emperor Franz Joseph chooses her to be his wife over her elder sister Helene.
She eventually gets her fairy-tale marriage and takes on the title of Empress. But the royal court is not so easy to get along with. Her mother-in-law, Archduchess Sophie, dislikes her because of her rebellious nature. She employs countess Esterhàzy to guide her, who almost acts with Elisabeth as her governess. Elisabeth finds herself in a dilemma: find a purpose on her own as the Empress or confine herself to the monotonous royal life of playing by the rules.
Constant clashing with the family members strains the relationship between Emperor Franz and Elisabeth. Outside of his family, Franz Joseph had to deal with France and Russia from both fronts engaged in the early years of the Crimean War. She sinks into depression but finds solace in two members of the royal court: Archduke Maximilian I and Countess Leontine von Apafi.
But they have their selfish causes, too; Maximilian I plotting to gain favour over his Emperor brother and Countess Leontine being an impostor Ava who covertly plots to kill the whole royal family.
All these events set the plot for The Empress. Can Elisabeth abide by the royal rules? Can she win back the favour of the Emperor? How does she become the Empress of the People rather than the Royalty? The first season covers it all.
This season only covers the early years of Empress Elisabeth. However, with indications of multiple future events in the season finale, there is a high chance of a second season being ready to go into production. Hence, the audience might witness more of the less-known life of the Austrian Empress in the future.