Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A question of inheritance


December 8, 1908

In 1891,  the Regent of Bavaria, "somewhat reluctantly, gave his consent" to the marriage of his niece, Princess Elvira of Bavaria to Count Rudolf Wrbna Kaunitz.  The Wrbnas are members of the mediatized houses, and do not have "prerogative of mating with royalty" on an equal footing, writes the Marquis de Fontenoy.  The regent did not insist on a morganatic alliance when he allowed Elvira to marry the count.
It was due to the "colossal wealth" of Count Rudolf that allowed for the approval.  The count is the principal heir of the fortune of Prince Kaunitz, the chancellor of Empress Maria Theresia.  The late prince was a great landowner in Bavaria and in Austria.   Prince Kaunitz left no male descendants.  His will stated that the estates be inherited with a major provision.  The heir must show "eight generations of ancestors on the father's side, and an equal number of generations on the mother's side," of noble ancestry. No commoners.
Since the end of the 18th century, the estate has increased "a hundredfold in value," and the primary heirs after Count Rudolf's family are  the heads of the princely house of Palffy.   In the course of his research, a genealogist discovered that Count Rudolf's great-grandmother was not of noble birth, but a mere commoner.   She had taken the name of the Hungarian village where she had been born, and the documents, "which she had furnished to the Imperial Court at Vienna," presented at the time of her marriage, "were clever forgeries."
The student genealogist showed his research to the Palffys, and they have brought suit against Count Rudolf "with the object of compelling him to surrender the whole of the Kaunitz property as well as his rights to the armorial bearings and name of Kaunitz."  They claim that he no longer fulfills the "genealogical qualifications" of the late Prince's will.
There may be "much circumstantial evidence" of fraud perpetuated by the Count's late great-grandmother, but the Marquise believes that it would be "extremely difficult to establish" the fraud in a a conclusive manner" to compel a court to order Rudolf to surrender the name and family arms, and all of the Kaunitz property.
The Count was a widower with a one year old child when he married Princess Elvira.   The Princess, who now has a son and daughters from her marriage, has raised her husband's first child as her own.  The couple are very popular in Munich and in Vienna,  Their marriage is a very happy one, and the Princess has not inherited the "extraordinary eccentricity" of her mother, Infanta Amelia of Spain, who spent the final years of her life "under restraint."
One of Elvira's sisters is married to the Duke of Genoa, brother of Queen Margherita of Italy, and her other sister, Princess Clara, was once engaged to the very rich Bavarian ironmaster, Baron Cramer-Clett, but the marriage was forbidden by the Regent "on the grounds on insanity in the family."
Princess Elvira's brother, Prince Louis Ferdinand, married to Infanta Paz of Spain, sister of the King Alfonso XII, is a noted obstetrician, who "can boast of having brought many hundreds of young Bavarians of the poorer class into the world, free of coast."

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