Tuesday, July 10, 2012

export ban for Mecklenburg treasures

before the wars changed the family dynamics
Duchess Donata, Alexander Solodkoff and their first daughter, Thyra.  Photo by Marlene A. Eilers Koenig, London 1992.
In November 1918,  Duke Friedrich Franz IV of Mecklenburg-Schwerin abdicated his throne, and spent the rest of his life with his wife, Princess Alexandra of Hanover, Princess of Cumberland, and their five children, Hereditary Grand Duke Friedrich Franz, Duke Christian Ludwig, Duchess Olga, Duchess Thyra and Duchess Anastasia.

After Friedrich Franz abdicated, he and his family moved to Denmark at the invitation of his sister, Queen Alexandrine, and lived at Sorgenfri Palace for about a year.  They returned to Mecklenburg and moved back into Schloss Ludwigslust.

After the end of the second world war, the British took control of Ludwigslust and then it passed into Soviet hands.   Duke Friedrich Franz died in November 1945.  His elder son, the Hereditary Grand Duke, succeeded him as head of the house. 

The family moved to Schloss Glücksburg, the home of Duchess Anastasia and her husband, Duke Friedrich of Schleswig-Holstein.    Duke Christian Ludwig slipped back into the Eastern zone to bring back the family's possessions from Ludwigslust.  Unfortunately for Christian Ludwig, he was arrested and take prisoner by the Soviets, and sentenced to 25 years in Lubyanka prison in Moscow.

Duke Christian Ludwig was freed in 1953 after then German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer helped to arrange for the return of German POWs in the Soviet Union.   Duke Christian Ludwig returned home in time for Christmas.   In July 1954,  Duke Christian Ludwig married Princess Barbara of Prussia.   They had two daughters, Duchess Donata (1965) and Duchess Edwina (1960).

Much to the disappointment of his family, especially his father, the former Grand Duke,  Hereditary Grand Duke Friedrich Franz joined the SS in 1931.  He served in Denmark during the second world war, which caused a major rift with his aunt Alexandrine and his first cousin, Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark. 

Friedrich Franz IV was so disappointed with his eldest son that he called a family council in May 1943.  Duke Christian Ludwig was named as the heir bypassing Friedrich Franz.  Two years earlier, Friedrich Franz had Karin von Schaper, a marriage that was considered non-dynastic.

Duke Christian Ludwig died in 1997.  His older brother died in 2001.   Duchess Donata and Duchess Edwina are the last members of the Mecklenburg-Schwein line. Due to Salic law, the sisters and their children have no rights to succession.

But they do have rights to the family property and possessions in Mecklenburg.  After Germany unified in 1990, courts restored the Mecklenburg property to Duke Christian Ludwig.    According to the ruling, German, Mecklenburg must purchase the art works from the family or return them.  One of the most famous painting in the collection is a portrait of Queen Charlotte, consort of George III from Thomas Gainsborough's workshop.   Charlotte was born a duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.

The dispute involves 260 pieces from the collection, which include paintings and furniture.  An independent estimate of the worth of the collection is 7.9 million euros.   Duchess Donata has submitted an estimate of 9.7 million Euros.

In April, the family was upset at the news the Minister of Education wanted the collection to be classified as a "nationally valuable cultural asset."  This action would prevent the family from selling their collection abroad.   Another government official wants to "preserve the collection" for Mecklenburg and Western Pomerania.  He has informed the Duchess of his view in a personal letter.

Today a list of the collection was published in the Mecklenburg's official journal, as a first step to prohibit the export of 268 items.  The government continues to negotiate with Duchess Donata on her family's possessions.  With the exception of four paintings on display in the National Museum at Schwerin, the rest of the items are in storage.

The palaces, including Ludwigslust and Schwerin, belong to the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, and are open to the public.


It was only after the end of the second world war

No comments: