DESPITE a budget cut, this year's 'gardens of light' Christmas event is set to be fit for an empress.

Bournemouth council has returned to the roots of the festive tradition for illuminating the Lower Gardens, which as the Winter Gardens were a favourite stroll for royalty in the nineteenth century.

In fact no lesser figure than the Empress of Austria Elisabeth Eugenie von Wittelsbach-Possenhoffen, fondly known as Sisi, enjoyed a candlelit walk through the gardens during her stay in Bournemouth.

The illuminations were restored to celebrate the 1897 Jubilee of another empress, Victoria, and subsequently became a popular annual tradition.

Now the council believes a return to the old days will help cut the cost of the annual gardens of light event while giving the event a fresh twist.

At a Lower Central Gardens Trust board meeting on Wednesday, council events manager Jon Weaver said: "We are taking the opportunity to reimagine the event with the history of where it came from.

"We are hoping we will be able to do that this year.

"We are quite excited about it, and I think the Heritage Lottery Fund support the council on this as well."

Mr Weaver said the authority has bid for £17,000 from the fund and expects to hear whether it has been successful within the next three weeks.

Under the plans the gardens would be lined with candles and lanterns which would be lit by a procession moving through the gardens, with opportunities for youngsters to learn about the history of the event.

There would be some form of concluding event at Pier Approach at the end of the procession, which would take around an hour.

It would still take place on four consecutive Wednesdays.

Mr Weaver told the board that should the council's lottery bid fail it does nevertheless have money set aside to fund a stand-by event of some kind so "not all is lost".

ELISABETH, Empress of Austria, was said to have been charmed on her visit to the small seaside resort on England's south coast.

She was the wife of Austria's Habsburg emperor Franz Joseph I, the assassination of whose nephew Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914 is commonly regarded as the spark which began the First World War.

Born in Munich, Bavaria, in 1837, she ended up playing an important role in Austrian political history and is immortalised in art and literature across Vienna.

In particular, she helped broker the union of the Austrian and Hungarian monarchies, establishing the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1867.

Her life, during a period of growing political strife, was also beset by tragedy. Her only son Rudolf committed suicide in 1889, and nine years later she was murdered by an Italian anarchist named Luigi Lucheni.