Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Half-American HSH Carl, 14th Duke of Croy

all the photos are from my collection

Carl, the 14th Duke of Croy died at Dülmen late on Tuesday night.  He was 96 years old.  

HSH Prince Carl Emanuel Ludwig Petrus Eleonore Alexander Rudolf Engelbert Benno of Croy was half-American.  His mother, Nancy Leishman, (1894-1983) was the daughter of John  Leishman,  former United States Ambassador to Germany.   The marriage between the young American girl and the very rich Duke of Croy was fraught with difficulties largely due to Nancy Leishman's lack of a title. 

The engagement had been announced on May 10, 1913, although it had been rumored "in society circles in Berlin for some weeks."  The German aristocratic society said that "legal proceedings to prevent the Duke of Croy from conferring the rank of Duchess on his bride were inevitable.

There was a precedent for this attitude.  The 13th Duke, as a minor, had his guardian file a lawsuit to debar the children of Prince Philipp of Croy, who had married an Englishwoman, Elizabeth Mary Parnell.  The court ruled in the Duke's favor:  Prince Philipp's wife and children were not entitled to the prerogatives of membership in the princely house of Croy.

Now the 13th Duke of Croy was about to make a morganatic marriage.   An authority on the matter told the New York Times shortly after the engagement was announced:  "Two views may be taken as the Duke of Croy's position,  One is that the Duke of Croy's title is a French title and not subject to any restrictions regarding equality of birth."  This meant that Nancy Leishman and her children would enjoy the same rank and title as the Duke, even if the children could not inherit the Westphalian estates.
"The other view is that the Duke of Croy, who became a German sovereign in 1801, was thereby elevated to a rank above that of a French duke, which he previously was."  

This latter view meant that the Duke, as a mediatized sovereign, had to marry equally for his wife to share his rank.

The Duke was aware of the controversy, which was reported in newspapers on both sides of the Atlantic.  But he was determined to go with the marriage because he was in love with Nancy.

The marriage was opposed by both Kaiser Wilhelm II and Archduke Friedrich (married to the Duke's Aunt Isabella)  but even their opposition would not deter the Duke and Miss Leishman.  Some months before the marriage took place, the Duke of Croy resigned from the Kaiser's Gardes du Corps.  Once the resignation was accepted,  the Duke would not have needed Wilhelm II's permission to marry.

The couple was married in a civil ceremony in Versoix,  near Geneva, Switzerland on October 27, 1913.  A Roman Catholic ceremony was held the next day. An announcement of their marriage was made after the wedding took place.  It is believed that the Duke's mother, Ludmilla, attended the wedding, along with the Duke's younger sister, Isabella, who married Prince Franz of Bavaria.

Nancy gave birth to a son and heir on October 11, 1914, at Dusseldorf.  Her husband was at the front, and her own family in London, when on November 6,  John Leishman finally received news of the birth of a grandson.

In the late 1920s,  German courts ruled that the marriage was unequal, and young Prince Carl could not inherit his father's German properties.  The case was instigated by the Duke's younger brother, Prince Englebert.   By the time the Duke of Croy died in 1974, the situation was rectified, and the family estates passed to his eldest son, Carl, who was known by the very American nickname, Charlie.  The Croy marriage was dissolved by divorce in 1922, and the 13th Duke married three more times.

The  Duke owned the only herd of wild Dülmen ponies in Germany.  This estate now passes to his eldest son, Rudolph.

On June 18, 1953, at Schloss Nymphenburg,  Charlie married Princess Gabriele of Bavaria, daughter of Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria and  Princess Antonia of Luxembourg.  [Gabriele's sister, Irmingard, married the Duke's first cousin, Prince Ludwig of Bavaria.] 

The Duke and Duchess of Croy had three children: Princess Marie Louise,  Rudolf, who succeeds as the 15th Duke, and Prince Stefan.  He is survived by his wife, his three children, and ten grandchildren.


WGABRY said...

I didn't know this story, Thank You

Marlene Eilers Koenig said...

you are very welcome. Nancy's grandparents emigrated to the US, and her father was a self-made millionaire.

croyman said...

Can all current Croy surnames trace back to these royalties?

Marlene Eilers Koenig said...

Croy is a princely family (Belgian, French, German branches). This family has descendants. The present duke is their son who is a widower with children. The Almanach de Gotha and the Handbuch Des Adels include the Croy family