The Imperial Austrian Order of Elizabeth (German: Kaiserlich österreichischer Elizabeth-Orden) was an Austro-Hungarian order of chivalry for women. It was established by Emperor Francis Joseph I in 1898. Although dedicated to the 13th-century Saint Elizabeth, it was founded to honour the memory of the Emperor’s wife, the recently assassinated Empress Elizabeth.
The future Empress Elizabeth (“Sisi”) was born into Bavarian royalty in 1837 and was a cousin of King Ludwig II. She was wed to Emperor Francis Joseph I in 1854, and despite a cold start to their marriage, the couple eventually formed a loving relationship. Elizabeth came to develop a kinship with Hungary – an important part of the Habsburg domains – and played a role in the creation of the conciliatory dual monarchy of Austria–Hungary in 1867. Later in life she withdrew from court and travelled widely. While in Geneva in 1898, Elizabeth was stabbed to death by Italian anarchist Luigi Lucheni. The widowed Emperor Francis Joseph memorialized her with the creation of the Order of Elizabeth.
The Imperial Austrian Order of Elizabeth was intended to reward ladies, regardless of social status or religion, for merits in religious and charitable work. In 1918, when the Habsburg monarchy was deposed, the Order of Elizabeth was abolished.