June 17, 1929
The German Supreme Court has ruled that the children of the American-born wife of the Duke of Croy are "second class" citizens "incapable of inheriting titles or estates. Carl, the Duke of Croy married Nancy Louise Leishman in 1913. Nancy's father, John Leishman, was the former US ambassador to Germany. The couple, whose marriage ended in divorce after the war, have three children, Carl, 15, and two daughters.
It was the Duke of Croy's brother, Engelbert, who "brought action for a declaration to the reversion of the estates on the grounds" that Carl married an American "whose children are legally incapable of inheriting a dukedom." The court today "upheld his contention."
This decision has stirred "adverse comment" in Germany's liberal press, "which points out that it conflicts with a clause in the German republican constitution which declares all Germans equal before the law."
The court's decision was based on a traditional law that dated back to Emperor Karl VIII in 1743. The law stated that a marriage between a nobleman and a commoner was a misalliance. The court also noted that the republican law does "not abrogate the traditional roles of German nobility." According to the judgment, "the fact that the mother comes from America, a country not recognizing nobility as a legal institution, does not affect her status as lowborn under the code of German nobility."
One of the "amusing features" of this case is that Duke Engelbert has now invoked the help of the German courts after he and most of his family had repudiated their German nationality to protect estates in France and Belgium. He and other family members had taken French and Belgian nationality when the war broke out.