Tuesday, May 26, 2009

No American brides for Salm counts

May 17, 1911

In her colum in today's Chicago Daily Tribune, The Marquise de Fontenoy writes that Counts Erich and Robert zu Salm have arrived in the United States on board the Kaiserin Auguste Viktoria and are planning to spend the summer in Washington D.C., and Bar Harbor, Maine. They are actually altgraves, "Old counts," which is something between a prince and a count, and they are members of a historic mediatized family. They have an equal rank to the reigning families, and rank before the non-mediatized German and Austrian nobles.
Archduchess Maria Christina of Austria is married to Hereditary Prince Emmanuel zu Salm-Salm.
Erich and Robert are both unmarried, and "each of them officer of a crack dragoon regiment of the Austrian army." But they are "debarred from wedding any American woman," unless they receive consent from all the adult members of their "extremely numerous and wealthy family." If either count was to fall in love and marry an American without consent, their marriage would considered invalid, and their wives would not be able to "bear their names and titles," and their children would be barred from inheriting their "father's property, name or rank."
One American girl did marry into the Salm family. Prince Felix, who was the uncle of the present head of the house of Salm-Salm, was an active soldier during the Holstein campaign in 1849. But due to a major problem with debts, Felix was forced to resign his commission and leave Europe. He came to the United States, where he received a commission from President Lincoln, and served with the 68th New York Regiment during the Civil War. He "emerged at the close of the conflict with the rank of brigadier general."
On August 30, 1862 at St. Patrick's Church in Washington, D.C., Felix married Anges Leclerq. The marriage was performed by Rev J.A. Walter. Miss Leclerq' sister, Delia, was married to Edmund Johnson, who was the nephew of former President Andrew Johnson.
Prince Felix and his wife went to Mexico, where he joined the "waning cause of Emperor Maximilian."
Felix was taken prisoner with the Emperor, but did not suffer his fate "had it not been for his wife, who obtained by dint of entreaty, from President Juarez a commutation of his sentence to six years' imprisonment."
Using her sister's connections, Agnes was able to induce the President to intervene on her husband's behalf. Prince Felix was eventually freed and ordered to leave Mexico. He rejoined his American wife in Europe, but their position there was a "most difficult one." The head of the house would not recognize the marriage. Felix also still had not repaid his European debts.
When the Franco-Prussian war broke out, Prince Felix joined the Prussian army. He was killed at Gravelotte in August 1870. Agnes was able to secure a small pension of $1000 from the Austrian emperor, "in recognition of her own and her husband's services to Emperor Maximilian," who was born an Austrian archduke.
Agnes' life in Europe proved difficult. She could not call herself Princess Salm as her marriage was not officially recognized by the head of the house. In 1876, she married a British diplomat, Charles Heneage,whom she had first met in Washington, D.C., before her marriage to Prince Felix.
This second marriage did not turn out "happily. The couple separated after only a few years. Heneage's final years were spent in journalism, and he died about ten years ago.
According the the Marquise, Agnes's second marriage did not appear in Burke's Peerage or in other reference works. Charles Heneage is listed as having died a bachelor. For more than a quarter of a century, the Almanach de Gotha was equally silent on Prince Felix's marriage. Her late husband's family also denied her an annuity from the entailed estates because they did not recognize her as Felix's wife.
Thus, Counts Erich and Robert are certainly aware of the pitfalls of marrying an American girl.

[There is a biography of Agnes Leclerq entitled the Prince and the Yankee by Robert White. This book was published in 2003 by IB Tauris).

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