Friday, August 19, 2011

Anna's conversion creates scandal in Germany

August 19, 1901

The Marquise de Fontenoy's current dispatch tells about the latest royal "sensation" in Germany.  Anna, the Dowager Landgravine of Hesse, has "gone over to the church of Rome."  This conversion has caused controversy for the German Imperial House, as Anna, the widow of Landgrave Friedrich Karl, was born a Princess of Prussia.  She is the sister of the late Prince Friedrich Carl, the famous cavalry General,who was known as the Red Prince.  Friedrich Karl was involved in the battle at Metz, a French stronghold that capitulated in the war of 1870.

Anna's father, Prince Karl, was a younger brother of Emperor Wilhelm I.  She is a first cousin to the present Kaiser's late father, Friedrich III.    Her younger son, Friedrich Karl, is married to Kaiser Wilhelm II's youngest sister, Margarete. Friedrich Karl is "destined" to inherit Hesse-Cassel as his oldest surviving son, Alexander, the reigning Landgrave, has no male issue.

Prince Alexander, who is blind, is a noted composer and violinist.  He became the heir after the eldest son, Friedrich Wilhelm, "mysteriously disappeared" while on a trip "round the world.  He was on aboard a steamer en route from Batavia to Singapore.  He retired to his cabin to take a nap, and when he failed to return, the door to his cabin was forced open.   The prince had vanished, there was no trace of him, and the "portholes of his cabin were far to small" for an adult to slip through into the sea. 

Princess Anna is only the second member of the Prussian royal family to convert to Catholicism.   The first was Princess Marie of Prussia, who "abandoned Lutheranism," when she married King Maximilian of Bavaria.  She was the mother of the late King Ludwig  of Bavaria and his "unhappy successor, the present lunatic" King Otto.

It has also been reported that Princess Friedrich Carl, Anna's sister-in-law,  is also a Roman Catholic.  Credence is given to this story due to the "fact that each year she visits Rome, and has a long audience with the Pope, who receives her with royal honors."    It has also been said that the Pope has blessed her secret union with her chamberlain, Baron von Wangenheim.

This is "mere gossip," however, a morganatic marriage between the princess and Baron von Wagenheim, has not been "officially sanctioned" by the Kaiser, nor does it appear in the latest Almanach de Gotha.   Princess Friedrich Carl is the former Princess Maria Anna of Anhalt-Dessau.  She rarely comes to Berlin, and is "immensely rich," and, thus, is independent of Wilhelm II.   Her only son, Friedrich Leopold, is married to Princess Luise Sophie of Schleswig-Holstein, a younger sister of Empress Auguste Viktoria.

It has also been "asserted" that late Empress Auguste, the wife of Wilhelm I, was also a "secret convert" to the Catholic church."  This view is based on the the late Empress' "frequent correspondence" with the previous and present Popes.  She also had "numbers of sacred images of one and another in her private apartments" at her palace in Koblenz. 

The Marquise de Fontenoy notes, however, that nothing "is known" about the matter of Auguste's alleged conversion.  Her funeral was according to the rites of the Lutheran church.

Members of the reigning house of Prussia are bound to the family statutes, but not to the "terms of the Constitution" or the "laws of the land to the Protestant church."  Members of the non-reigning branch of the Hohenzollerns are all Roman Catholic, and have been for more than 100 years.

Kaiser Wilhelm II will "seriously resent" Princess Anna's conversion. He was furious with his younger sister, Sophie, the Crown Princess of Greece, who joined the Orthodox church -- the church of her husband and family and her adopted country -- after her marriage.   Wilhelm was so angry with Sophie that he broke off relations with her for several years, before a difficult reconciliation was achieved.

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