On October 28, 1901, Baron Ernst von Wallburg was arrested at Budapest "on a charge of attempting to practice extortion" upon Emperor Franz Joseph, the New York Times reported.
Wallburg is a morganatic son of the late Archduke Ernst of Austria. In "consequence of his debts," he was "compelled to leave the army, after which he sank into poverty."
Two years later Wallburg was interviewed by the Los Angeles Times in Budapest where he worked as a waiter at the Café New York. He had been deprived of his title "Baron von Wallburg" as his father, Archduke Ernst of Austria, never married his mother Laura Skublics.
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The Archduke's Secret Family
He was 34 years old when his father died, and "up to that time he had lived a life of idleness, roaming about the estate, hunting shooting, indulging in outdoor sports, and enjoying himself as a man to whose future was secure."
But he and his siblings were unable to share in their father's estate. Archduke Ernst died in 1899, and his properties were inherited by other members of the family.
"When it became evident that I was not only penniless, but that I must leave the home which had been my father's and my own for over a third of a century a friend of mine advised me to try my luck in Budapest, and I followed his suggestion. After I had sold my personal belongings, I found that I had just $450 in cash wherewith to face the unfriendly world, and when I had paid the cost of taking my wife and children to Budapest, this sum had shrunk to $400.
"I took a cheap lodging of two rooms for $50 a month, but it was a terrible change for us all. We had been use to the country and to living in a large, airy house, with every comfort and convenience, and the small, stuffy rooms, which smelt of poverty,were intensely distasteful to us. The children suffered most of all, for they had previously had several hundred acres of beautiful country as their playground, whereas, now they could not leave the house unattended.
"I set about trying to find suitable work without delay. I soon found that my education and upbringing had rendered me unfitted for nearly all the occupations in which money was to be earned. My title and descent were great disadvantages to me, for everyone to whom I applied for employment told me that the son of an Archduke could not be expected to take orders from an ordinary mortal. It was in vain for me to protest that I was poor, and that I was willing to work and to obey as other employees did. The invariable answer was that no doubt my intentions were excellent, but that the superior force of birth and habit would make it impossible for me to carry out my theories.
The Archduke's Secret Family
"When three months had gone by and I was still searching for employment and my money had decreased to a few dollars, for, economical as we tried to be, we found it impossible to keep expenses down. I now realized that I must obtain work or face starvation, and the knowledge that my wife and children depended solely on my efforts spurred me on to fresh attempts. I cannot tell you what rebuffs I sustained and to what humiliations I was subjected. I suffered keenly, but I knew it was my duty to overcome my inherited prejudices, and to be kicked rather than miss the last chance of earning the money which I required so badly.
"At last all our money was gone, and I was beginning to pawn my watch and other articles of personal property, so that we felt the pinch of poverty in earnest. It was at this period that I yielded to the entreaties of my wife to write to Emperor Franz Joseph to tell him of the plight I was in, and to ask if he approved of an Archduke's son being left to starve in one of his capitals. To this communication I received no reply whatever, and I have often doubted whether it ever reached the Emperor. If it dies, his extreme severity -- I may his say his absolute cruelty -- to me and my family is inexplicable, for Francis Joseph is in most respects a kind-hearted, benevolent monarch. I can only suppose that the facts of my father's marriage have been misrepresented to the Emperor.
"Soon all that we were able to pawn was gone and we were literally at the end of our resources. Our landlord allowed us to stay with him for a week or two without paying the rent, but, finding that our prospects did not improve, he had us ejected one Saturday night. There was I, the rightful son of a Habsburger, and the grand nephew of an emperor, standing in the street with his wife and five children, without shelter and without a cent wherewith to purchase a night's lodging. It was a terrible situation. and I shall never forget the anguish I experienced at that moment.
"In this plight I was driven to make money out of my misfortune, and I hurried to the office of an enterprising daily newspaper to offer the story of my fate for publication. The editor jumped at it, and I came away an hour later with $50 in my pocket, an amount that made me feel as if I had become a rich man, so low had I sunk. I was able to take another lodging -- only one room this time -- and to return to search for work with renewed energy, The money, however, vanished with more rapidity than work appeared and within a very short time I was confronted by the same difficulty.
The Archduke's Secret Family
"At last when I was nearly mad with despair I found a post as clerk in an insurance office at a weekly wage of $5, and I thought myself lucky to get it. The work was simple enough, and soon I was able to rescue my family from the degradation of being in an almshouse, and to give them once more a small one-roomed home. I did not keep my position long, but the fact that I had been engaged there enabled me to obtain other employment as a canvasser for a firm that sold rouge, complexion powder, and other such articles connected with a lady's make-up. In this capacity, I had to go round from house to house and to hold forth to all the women I found at home on the exceptional qualities of the toilette requisites we had for sale. Here again I was not a success, for the sales resulting from my efforts were insignificant, and it was not long before my new employer told me that he had no further need of my services.
"We were on the verge of being ejected for a third time when I received an offer to enter the service of the Café New York, as a waiter, the proprietor of that establishment calculating that the presence of a scion of the ruling house would be an excellent advertisement for his business. He offered me a wage of $5 a week, and what I could make in tips, and without much consideration I accepted the offer and went to work on the following Monday morning. It was a trying ordeal at first, but it was not so bad as being ejected with wife and family or as sleeping out at night with the thermometer at several degrees below zero. I soon learned how to carry cups of coffee without spilling all the contents, and how to take the guests' money and to pocket their tips.
"I found my income from this latter source to be a considerable one, for many of our patrons thought it necessary to give a Habsburger more than they would have given an ordinary waiter. I was stared at terribly at first, and the ladies especially used to come in great numbers to have a look at me, but I soon grew accustomed to these embarrassing attentions, and I received them as if I had been on show all my life. Most of the American tourists who pass through Budapest came to see what I look like, and they give me princely tips.
"Taking all round, the lot of a waiter is not such a bad one. I am earning a comfortable income of $2000 a year, and I do not find that I am subjected to many humiliations -- or else I have gone through so many worse experiences that this appears to me to be a highly respected profession. Recently, I intended to open a café of my own and the capital to do so had already been promised to me when the newspapers got hold of the fact that I intended to call it the Café Habsburg. The court was alarmed, and great pressure was brought to bear on my financier not to participate in an enterprise which would cast disrespect on the imperial family. He gave way, and so I am still a waiter. If I could get something better of course I should be glad to have it it, but so long as I have nothing else I mean to remain a waiter, and to be thankful that I have found a calling in which I can earn a comfortable income.
"I have not given up all hope that some day the justice of my claim on my father's estate will be recognized by either the present Emperor or by his successor, and that I shall then inherit the fortune that is mine by right>"
To learn more about Archduke Ernst and Laura Skublics and their family, please read Daniel Willis's The Archduke's Secret Family, which is available from Amazon.
The Archduke's Secret Family