Thursday, March 21, 2013

Prince Andreas of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha: 70th birthday

Schloss Callenberg
HH Prince Andreas Michael Friedrich Hans Armin Siegfried Hubertus of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha celebrates his 70th birthday today.  He was born March 21, 1943 at Schloss Casel in Lower Lusatia in Brandenburg, which was one of the estates of his maternal grandparent.

He was the only child of Prince Friedrich Josias of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (1918-1998) and his first wife, Countess Viktoria Luise of Solms-Baruth (1921-2003.)   He was a grandson of the late Carl Eduard, the last reigning Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.  His parents divorced in 1946. His father remarried two more times, and his mother married an American soldier, Richard Whitten,  and in 1949,  Andreas moved with his mother and new stepfather to New Orleans.

He maintained contact with his father.  When he turned sixteen, he began to visit Germany on a regular basis to learn more about his family's history, heritage and businesses. 

It was not until 1965, after graduated from college, when Prince Andreas made the move to Germany permanent.  He moved to Germany to avoid being drafted to serve in Vietnam.

 From 1966 until 1968, he did his obligatory military service in Eutin, in Schleswig-Holstein. 

He spent several years in Hamburg where he trained as a timber merchant.  It was in Hamburg where he met and married Carin Dabelstein.  They were wed in 1971.  Although Carin was a commoner, the marriage was approved by Andreas' father, Prince Friedrich Josias. 

They have three children, Stephanie (1972), Hubertus (1975) and Alexander (1977), all of whom are involved in the family businesses.

Prince Andreas succeeded as head of the house in 1988.  He lives in a family property in Coburg,  and owns two castles: Schloss Callenberg outside Coburg and Schloss Greinburg in Austria.

After the collapse of East Germany in 1989, and the eventual unification of Germany,  Prince Andreas was able to regain ownership of forest and lands that had been lost after the second world war.

The family businesses employ 60 people.  Last year,  Andreas' eldest son, Prince Hubertus, took over the family businesses.  A former investment bank, Prince Hubertus and his American-wife Kelly, moved from New York and are now living in Coburg.

In an interview with Coburg's local newspaper, the Neue Press,  Prince Andreas said "it was a pleasure to design something and build it into something solid," referring to the rebirth of the family estates.

Prince Andreas is very family oriented.  From 1996 to 2002, he served as an alderman in the CSU, and continues to hold several honorary positions.   He is patron of the German Shooting Federation. and Chairman of the Olympic society, and is a member of the board that runs Schloss Friedenstein in Gotha. 

He loves hunting and fishing and admits to being a techie, and is fascinated by all the new cameras, smart phones and cars.

He also said: "the older you get, the more you are interested in your roots."  He is very proud of his own family history and the connections to other European royal families, including Great Britain, Belgium and Bulgaria.  He does lament that the ties with the British Royal family are largely non-existent, as they have shown little interest in closer contacts with Coburg.

Andreas is a great-great-grandson of Queen Victoria.  He is close to his first cousin, King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden (whose mother was Princess Sibylla of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, older sister of Prince Friedrich Josias). He is one of Princess Madeleine of Sweden's godparents. He has German and British passports. [His father also obtained a British passport.  Until 1949, when the Sophia Naturalization Act was superseded by the new British Nationality Act, all the Protestant descendants of the Electress Sophia of Hanover were considered British nationals, and entitled to a British passport.  In 1957, the late Prince Ernst of Hanover won his case in British courts, proving he was a British national and entitled to a passport.  The Sophia Naturalization Act was largely forgotten when Prince Philip went through the process of naturalization, something he didn't have to do because of this law.]

He does not believe that his nobility accords him a special privilege.  Raised int he United States,  Prince Andreas believes that "we are citizens like anyone else."   He does not have a lot of close friends in the German nobility.

He admits to being very focuses, "perhaps more focused than others.  We need to pay attention, do our job and fulfill our responsibilities."

He does not think much about aristocratic scandals.

Prince Andreas is a strong believer in tradition, home, family and loyalty.

He celebrated his birthday today with a reception at Schloss Callenberg.  A new family portrait by Dresden painter Christoph Wetzel was unveiled.;art83423,2440494

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