Monday, May 25, 2020

Queen Victoria's Imperious Great-Granddaughter: Valerie Marie zu Schleswig-Holstein (1900-1953)

Princess Valerie Marie of Arenberg, Duchess of Arenberg (née Schleswig-Holstein) in 1945

On 3 April 1900, Valerie Marie zu Schleswig-Holstein was born at Liptovský Mikuláš, Hungary, Austria-Hungary. She was the only child of Duke Albert of Schleswig-Holstein (1869-1931), and the only grandchild of Princess Helena of the United Kingdom (1846-1923), the third daughter and fifth child of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Valerie's father never disclosed the name of her mother; he only indicated to his sisters that she was a "lady of high birth."

Valerie's grandmother Princess Helena of the United Kingdom

Valerie's father Duke Albert of Schleswig-Holstein

After her arrival, Valerie Marie was placed with Rubin Schwalb (1856-ca.1934) and Anna Rosenthal (ca.1878-?), who raised the baby as their own daughter. On 15 April 1931, before his death, Duke Albert wrote to Valerie admitting to her that he was her father. After she received her father's letter, Valerie changed her surname from Schwalb, the name of her adopted parents, to zu Schleswig-Holstein on 12 May 1931. 

A young Valerie Marie zu Schleswig-Holstein

On 28 June 1925, Valerie Marie married the lawyer Ernst Johann Wagner (1896-?) at Vienna. Ernst was the son of Johann Wagner and Josephine Nimecsek. Alas, the marriage ended in divorce on14 February 1938. Valerie and Ernst did not have children. Their union was annulled at Salzburg on 4 October 1940.

Prince Engelbert-Charles of Arenberg, 10th Duke of Arenberg

A little a year after her divorce was finalised, Valerie married again. This time, she took a fellow noble for a husband. On 15 June 1939 at Berlin, Valerie Marie zu Schleswig-Holstein wed Prince Engelbert-Charles of Arenberg (1899-1974), 10th Duke von Arenberg, 16th Duc d’Aerschot. The couple celebrated their religious marriage at Münster on 9 October 1940. Due to her Jewish upbringing, Valerie was required to obtain a legal statement clarifying that she was of pure Aryan descent. 

Prince Engelbert Marie of Arenberg, 9th Duke of Arenberg

Princess Hedwige de Ligne

Princess Lydia of Arenberg, Duchess of Genoa

Through her second marriage, Valerie zu Schleswig-Holstein became allied with a prestigious European noble family. Her parents-in-law were Prince Engelbert of Arenberg (1872-1949) and Princess Hedwige de Ligne (1877-1939). Valerie's brother-in-law Princess Erik Engelbert (1901-1992) became the 11th Duke of Arenberg after the death of Valerie's husband. Valerie's sister-in-law was Princess Lydia (1905-1977), who married Prince Filiberto of Savoy (1895-1990), Duke of Genoa. 

Schloß Nordkirchen

In April 1945, American troops took over the Arenberg's residence at Schloss Nordkirchen, known as the Westphalian Versailles. Valerie was not amused by the intrusion of the Allied troops. The titian-haired princess freely let her thoughts be known about the American forces' request that she and her husband (and their cousin the Duke of Croÿ) move out of their castle into a more modest fourteen room apartment. "I am astonished. I thought that England would protect me. Now you ask me to live in a place without even a kitchen to prepare food. I am astonished." Valerie had more to say. "I cannot stand this. I have had to live in a cellar all winter while you Americans bombed Germany. It has been simply terrible."

Valerie's great-grandmother Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom painted in 1899, the year before Valerie's birth

If one reviews the few details truly known about her, it is fair to surmise that Valerie did not have an easy life. She had no relationship with her father and seemingly never knew her mother. Once she finally learned of her roots, she was already an adult, and this kind of information might have made life even more difficult for her to navigate. Although born an illegitimate child, she was undoubtedly a great-granddaughter of the great Queen Victoria. 

Princess Valerie, Duchess of Arenberg

Due to reasons that only she could know, Valerie took her own life on 14 August 1953 at Nice. She had turned fifty-three years-old earlier that year. The Duchess of Arenberg was survived by her husband. 

2 comments:

  1. Very sad story. God give her rest and peace.

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  2. She did however know her aunts Princess Helena Victoria and Princess Marie Louise and the latter mentions her niece in her memoirs.

    ReplyDelete