Saturday, July 24, 2021

The Saxe-Coburg Double Suicide that Rocked the Gotha

Ernst-Leopold and Sabine.

On 27 June 1996, Ernst-Leopold Prinz von Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha and his wife Sabine died by suicide at Bad Wiessee, a resort town in Bavaria. Ernst-Leopold was sixty-one; Sabine was fifty-five, having celebrated her birthday only two days before her untimely death. The bodies of the couple were discovered by a local farmer who came across their white Mercedes Benz outside of a pub; the car had been parked when the farmer entered the pub and was still there when he left the pub. Peering inside, the farmer discovered the horrific sight of the deceased couple, who each had hunting rifles in their laps. One of the detectives involved in the case stated: "It couldn't have been a murder then suicide. All the circumstances and all the evidence from the discovery of the bodies to the post mortem confirm the joint suicide thesis." Upon learning of the death of the couple, an unnamed relative of Ernst-Leopold told The Guardian, "Oh God, I bet the British royal family is getting anxious. It's those Coburgs again.

Born on 14 January 1935, Ernst-Leopold Eduard Wilhelm Josias Prinz von Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha was the eldest son and second child of Hereditary Prince Johann Leopold of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and his wife Baroness Feodore von der Horst, who wed in 1932. Johann Leopold and Feodore's marriage was morganatic; the result of this was that Johann Leopold gave up his rights of succession to the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha as well as the ability to pass on his princely titles to his children. Ernst-Leopold had one older sister, Marianne, and one younger brother, Peter.


In 1961, Ernst-Leopold Prinz von Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha married Ingeborg Henig. Ernst-Leopold and Ingeborg had one son, Hubertus, before divorcing in 1963. In 1963, Ernst-Leopold married Gertraude Monika Pfeiffer. Ernst-Leopold and Gertraude had five children: Viktoria, Ernst-Josias, Carl-Eduard, Friedrich, and Alice. Ernst-Leopold and Gertraude divorced in 1985. Finally, in 1986, Ernst-Leopold married Sabine-Margarethe Henning. 

Ernst-Leopold found it difficult to accept his position as a morganatic member of the extended family of the Ducal House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. When he visited the United Kingdom, Ernst-Leopold would introduce himself as the Duke of Albany, a title that was stripped from his grandfather Duke Carl Eduard of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in 1919. After the unification of West Germany and East Germany, Ernst-Leopold relocated to Limbach-Oberfrohna; there he established a property development and consulting company. A German baron, who was a friend of the family, recalled: "He tried to build up that business in Saxony, got taken for a ride by the sharks out there and got trapped in a hopeless financial situation. He was living beyond his means." Ernst-Leopold was hopeful that he could gain restitution of properties that had been seized by the Soviets. However, as the elderly baron remembered, "He got nothing, because the government has recognised the Soviet robbery and, anyway, he is well out of the line of succession. That's because under the law he and his children are allowed to call themselves princes and princess but they have no inheritance rights where the dukedom is concerned because his father [Johann Leopold] married wrong. She [Feodore] was an excellent woman but she wasn't a princess. Ernst Leopold made a mess of most things. His suicide was the only way out of desperation, out of a hopeless financial, economic and personal situation.

After learning of the tragic death of his first cousin, Prince Andreas of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha stated: "He had a complex about this for years. He always had problems. His last known residence was near Chemnitz. He bought up some property that wasn't very successful. So I imagine he had some problems. Some people say he got into a lot of debt. It's hard to say. He had a lot of ups and downs in his life.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

The Demonisation of Queen Mother Frederica of Greece During the 1974 Greek Referendum

Poster from the anti-monarchy campaign in the 1974 Greek referendum.

In the chapter on King Constantine II of Greece in Royalty in Exile by Charles Fenyvesi, the author notes on page 181 that "the most effective weapon in the antimonarchist campaign was a poster with Frederika's picture captioned, 'I am coming!'"

For almost a decade, I was curious as to whether such a piece of propaganda actually existed. I searched for it, but was never successful in finding anything. A couple of months ago, my dear friend Justin Vovk, an academic and royal historian, was able to locate an image of the poster. It has always intrigued me as to how the Greek republican movement managed to weaponise Queen Frederica of Greece to galvanise their turnout in the 1974 referendum on whether Greece should retain the monarchy or become a republic. 

The poster shows a photo of Queen Mother Frederica. The text reads: "ΕΡΧΕΤΑΙ!!! - Η "ΠΟΛΥΑΓΑΠΗΜΕΝΗ" ΤΟΥ ΛΑΟΥ ΒΑΣΙΛΙΣΣΑ-ΜΗΤΕΡΑ Φρειδερίκη" ("COMING - THE "MOST FAVOURITE" OF THE PEOPLE  QUEEN MOTHER FREDERIKA"). 

An article from the Associated Press in December 1974 recalls the way in which the monarchist and republican sides carried out their campaigns ahead of the referendum. "Campaigning has been fierce in the past week. Royalists and opponents have clashed in fistfights, police and civilians have been injured, monarchist headquarters have been stoned. The government consequently banned outdoor rallies. Pictures of the royal family have been plastered with yoghurt and fruit, and caricatures of Queen-Mother Frederika - nicknamed 'Friki' or 'Horror' - have been circulated with blackened eyes and Dracula fangs. The press for the most part has also carried articles critical of the monarchy's role in Greece's turbulent history. For their part, monarchists have undertaken an orderly but expensive campaign, presenting Constantine as a symbol of national unity and tranquility."

Queen Frederica in Rome on a visit to her son King Constantine II of Greece, 1973.
Photograph (c) Associated Press.

By the beginning of her son King Constantine II's reign, it was no secret that Queen Mother Frederica had become unpopular in Greece. There were a number of reasons for this: her strong personality, her intervention in politics during the time of her husband King Paul, and her patronage of the Queen's Camps during the Greek Civil War. However, it is worth noting that by the early 1970s, Queen Mother Frederica of Greece had set on a path that would have made it extremely unlikely for her to ever be a public figure again, owing to her own wishes, even in the event that King Constantine II returned to his country as constitutional monarch following the referendum. 

Queen Frederica in Madras, mid-1970s.
Princess Irene in Madras, mid-1970s.

In the 1960s, Queen Frederica had increasingly become drawn towards Hindu philosophy. This was quite evident in the only public volume of the queen's memoirs, A Measure of Understanding, published in 1971. Together with her youngest daughter Princess Irene, in August 1973 the queen mother began studying at the Center of Advanced Philosophy in Madras. In November 1973, Queen Frederica gave an interview to the Hindustan Standard which gave much insight into the queen mother's interests and future plans. Frederica let it be known that she had become an adherent of the Advaita Vedanta ideology, a philosophical doctrine of oneness; indeed, Frederica and her daughter Irene had been following this philosophy for some years by then. The queen mother stated that she now owned few material possessions and that she was "convinced that the world and all humanity are indivisibly one." Frederica said: "I don't want to merely learn it but to live it. I am willing to be the medium to spread the message of the Shankara, the greatest philosopher that ever lived in the world, to the West... Our happiness is measured by motor cars, refrigerators, air conditioners, and the like. We have absolutely nothing to show the world of lasting value. I would have been here even as a reigning queen. I am on a voyage of discovery, and this voyage does not depend on what a person is or is not." It was noted in the article that the queen mother was receiving instruction in the Advaita doctrine from Dr. Telliyavaram Mahadevan Ponnambalam Mahadevan,  the head of the Madras philosophy center. Queen Frederica and Princess Irene had first met T.M.P. Mahadevan in 1966. The queen, who had once resided in the Royal Palace in Athens, was then living in one room in the guest-home of a Madras businessman. 

Queen Frederica of Greece on the cover of Time magazine, 1953.

Whatever her faults, it was rather below-the-belt that the republican campaign in the Greek referendum chose to focus its ire on Queen Frederica. By 1974, the queen mother was no longer a public person. Furthermore, her desire to seek a certain way of living made it extremely unlikely that Frederica would ever want to resume duties as the mother of a reigning monarch. Yet, the queen mother was turned into one of the biggest liabilities vis-a-vis a return of the Greek royal family by the republican campaign, and, as we know, their campaign succeeded. As Kingsbury Smith, a European correspondent for Heart Newspapers, wrote in December 1974 in an article entitled "Greek democracy about to dethrone king who risked his life": "Unless Athens reports and western diplomatic opinion prove way out of line with reality, the 34-year-old Constantine of Greece will be defeated when the Greek people vote next Sunday on whether to recall him as king or maintain the republic established by the military junta that ruled Greece until last summer. A majority of the Greek people, according to the Athens reports, are believed to be opposed to the restoration of a monarchy whose young king lacks Greek blood in his veins and who, along with his strong-willed mother, former Queen Frederica - granddaughter of the Kaiser - were accused of meddling in Greek politics. Nevertheless, it will be ironic if the recently restored democratic system in Greece rejects Constantine who, at the risk of his life, attempted to restore democracy in his country in 1967 by a counter coup against the military junta that seized power in April of that year. When his attempt failed, he fled into exile and refused offers to return if he would accept the military dictatorship led by Col. George Papadopoulos. Constantine said he would never return until parliamentary democracy was restored."

To learn more about Queen Mother Frederica of Greece and her study of Advaita Vedata, please see the following sources:

Meeting with Perfection by Dr. T.M.P. Mahadevan
A Spanish prince in Madras

Sunday, July 18, 2021

The Marriage of French Designer the Marquis de Castelbajac

The Marquis and Marquise de Castelbajac, 2017.
Photograph (c) Patrick Kovarik.

On 17 July 2021, Marquis Jean-Charles de Castelbajac and Pauline de Drouas were religiously married at the Chapelle Saint-Roch de Vidaillan, Loubersan, Gers. The Marquis and Marquise de Castelbajac civilly married in September 2019. Born in 1949, Jean-Charles is the son of Marquis Jean-Louis de Castelbajac and Jeanne Blanche Empereur-Bissonnet. Born in 1985, Pauline is the daughter of Henry de Drouas and Delphine Motte. The Marquis and Marquise de Castelbajac have one child, Eugénie de Castelbajac (b.2020). 

Friday, July 16, 2021

Habsburg Descendant Engaged to Great-Nephew of Dowager Countess of Paris

Sebastián Prieto and Constanza Riesle, 2019.
Photo (c) El Mercurio.

On 4 July, the engagement of Sebastián Prieto Donoso and Constanza Riesle de Habsbourg-Lorraine was announced. 

Sebastián Prieto Donoso.

Sebastián Prieto Donoso is the son of Daniel Prieto Cornejo (b.1961) and Antonia Donoso Cousiño (b.1963). Sebastián's paternal grandparents are Cristián Prieto Díaz (b.1933) and Dora Cornejo Juárez (b.1936). Sebastián's maternal grandparents are Javier Donoso Phillips and Maribel Cousiño y Quiñones de León (1931-2007), who is a sister of Princess Micaela d'Orléans, Dowager Countess of Paris.

Constanza Riesle with her father Héctor Riesle, 2017.
Photo Source: Vitacura Cultura.

Constanza Riesle de Habsbourg-Lorraine is the daughter of Héctor Riesle Contreras (b.1943), the former Chilean Ambassador to the Holy See, and Archduchess Alexandra of Austria (b.1952). Constanza's paternal grandparents are Oscar Riesle Barrón and Ventura Contreras Meyer. Constanza's maternal grandparents are Archduke Carl Ludwig of Austria (1918-2007) and Princess Yolande de Ligne (b.1923). 

Our congratulations to Sebastián and Constanza on their engagement!

Note: Thank you to my dear friend Hein Bruins of Hein's Royal Genealogy Page for providing this information!

Thursday, July 15, 2021

The 70th Birthday of Princess Beatrice of Saxe-Meiningen

Princess Beatrice.
Photograph (c) the Ducal House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.

Today, Princess Beatrice of Saxe-Meiningen celebrates her seventieth birthday. 

Prince Friedrich Josias and Princess Denys of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.

Born on 15 July 1951 at Bern, Princess Beatrice Charlotte of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha was the second child of Prince Friedrich Josias of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (1918-1998) and his second wife Denyse Henriette de Muralt (1923-2005). Beatrice had three siblings: Prince Andreas (b.1943), Princess Claudia (1949-2016), and Prince Adrian (1955-2011). 

Princess Beatrice of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and Prince Friedrich Ernst of Saxe-Meiningen with the latter's parents Bernhard and Margot.

In 1977, Princess Beatrice of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha married Prince Friedrich of Saxe-Meiningen (1935-2004). The couple had two children: Princess Maria Alexandra (b.1978) and Prince Friedrich Constantin (b.1980). 

Our best wishes to Princess Beatrice on her birthday!

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Serbian Royals Remember Prince Tomislav on Anniversary of His Death

Members of the Serbian royal family at Oplenac.
Photo (c) Prince Mihailo Karađorđević.

On Monday, 12 July, several members of the royal family of Serbia gathered at the Church of Saint George at Oplenac to commemorate the anniversary of the death of Prince Tomislav of Yugoslavia. Born in 1928, Prince Tomislav was the second son of King Alexander I of Yugoslavia and Princess Marie of Romania. The prince died at Oplenac on 12 July 2000. The memorial service was attended by Princess Linda (Tomislav's widow), Prince Mihailo (Tomislav's son) and his wife Princess Ljubica, as well as their young daughter Princess Natalija.

Monday, July 12, 2021

The Short-Lived Union of Pierre d'Arenberg and Marie Christine Kraff de Laubarède

Pierre and Marie-Christine in London, 1990.
Photograph (c) Fergus Greer/Tatler.

In 1995, Prince Pierre d'Arenberg, Duke of Arenberg, married Marie Christine Kraff de Laubarède. It is alleged that the couple underwent a civil marriage ceremony in the Philippines; however, it it thought that the marriage was not registered with the French Embassy, for whatever reason. The couple had been together for several years. Pierre was the only child of Prince Charles d'Arenberg, Duke of Arenberg, and Margaret Bedford. Marie Christine was the only child of Leonce Kraffe de Laubarède and Elizabeth Anne Christie-Miller. 

The Arenberg Sisters: Alienor, Lydia, and Dorothée.
Photograph (c) Getty Images/Bertrand Rindoff Petroff.

On 19 August 1995 at London, Princess and Duchess Aliénor Margaretha Elisabeth Louise Marie of Arenberg was born as the only child of Prince Pierre d'Arenburg and Marie Christine Kraff de Laubarède. Pierre and Marie Christine either subsequently divorced or realised that their marriage had not been legally recorded, and the pair parted ways. In 1997, Prince Pierre d'Arenberg married Sylvia de Castellane. Pierre and Sylvia have two daughters: Princess Lydia and Princess Dorothée.