Friday, May 29, 2020

Mail call

@cour grand ducale/Loa Velasco

Thursday, May 28, 2020

A Natural child: Valerie Marie zu Schleswig-Holstein

all images from Marlene A Eilers Koenig's collection

My book, Queen Victoria's Descendants, was the first to include complete genealogical information about Valerie Marie zu Schleswig-Holstein, the natural daughter of Duke Albert of Schleswig-Holstein, a grandson of  Queen Victoria.  I was fortunate to have the assistance of the late HH Prince Friedrich Ferdinand of Schleswig-Holstein and the Duke of Arenberg's archivist, who provided me with documents to fill in the missing pieces. Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation (and disinformation), including one opportunist who created a fake noblewoman, stating she was the mother of Valerie Marie.  For the record, her mother's name is not known. According to Duke Albert's letter to Valerie,  her mother was that she was a "lady of very high rank."

Valerie Marie was mentioned in several genealogical references.  Her information was incomplete until I obtained the missing details including her first marriage, when she was able to change her surname, and even about her death.

In a letter to me in August 1980,  Prince Friedrich Ferdinand said that the Duke of Arenberg had made a similar request more than 20 years earlier.   Here is the text from my book:

"Like his cousin, the Duke of Albany, Prince Albert transferred his residence to Germany when it became clear that the marriage of his cousin Duke Ernst Gunther of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg would be childless.  He succeeded to the Augustenburg estates upon his cousin's death in 1921.

Prince Albert never revealed to anyone, not even his daughter, the name of her mother, although he did tell his two sisters that the woman was of high birth.

Born in a part of Hungary now in Czechoslovakia in 1900, Valerie Marie was raised by a Jewish family named Schwalb, whose name she bore until her first marriage to lawyer Johann Wagner.  In 1939, she acquired by registration the surname zu Schleswig-Holstein, and her birth registration was also changed to include the fact that Prince Albert was her natural father.

Valerie Marie knew nothing of her parentage until she received a letter from Albert in 1931 only a few days before his death.

The change of her name was necessary because Valerie Marie was engaged to marry Duke Engelbert-Charles of Arenberg. As her maiden name was of Jewish origin, Valerie Marie was thought to be Jewish, and under Nazi law, mixed marriages were not permitted.  Although her foster parents were Jewish, Valerie Marie was a Roman Catholic.

In July 1938, Valerie Marie's two aunts, Princess Helena Victoria and Princess Marie Louise co-signed a letter acknowledging their niece and attesting to the fact that Valerie Marie was not Jewish.

"We hereby acknowledge and declare that Valerie Wagner is the illegitimate daughter of our brother His Highness Duke Albert of Schleswig-Holstein, who died on the 27th of April 1931.  We are entirely ignorant of the names and identity of Valerie Wagner's mother, but we understand that she was a lady of very high rank.  Our brother in order to shield this lady's honour never divulged her name to anyone.  Valerie Wagner's foster parents, in whose name she was registered, were of Jewish descent, but we desire to emphasize the fact that Valerie Wagner herself is not of Jewish birth.  Our brother, the Duke of Schleswig-Holstein, in a personal letter to Valerie Wagner, deplored the fact that she had been entrusted to the care of a family of a different race and faith to her own."

Valerie Marie's first marriage ended in divorce in 1938 and was annulled by the Catholic Church two years later.  She married the Duke of Arenberg in a civil ceremony in Berlin in 1939.  A Roman Catholic ceremony was performed in October 1940 following the annulment.

In April 1945, the American 9th Army requisitioned the Arenbergs' 300-room castle on the Rhine River.  The Duchess was indignant when the officers asked her to give up most of the rooms in the 200-year-old castle.  `I wouldn't put servants in the quarters the Americans asked me to live in.  Imagine me getting along in fourteen rooms,' she told an Associated Press reporter.

The Duchess of Arenberg died in 1953.  Her aunt, Princess Marie Louise, attended Valerie Marie's funeral at Enghien, Belgium.  Born illegitimate, her mother's name unknown, Valerie Marie died a duchess with the style of Serene Highness."

Princesses Helena Victoria and Marie Louise's notarized statement was written on  July 26, 1938.  Valerie Marie divorced her first husband, Ernst Johan Wagner in 1938.  They had married in civil and Roman Catholic ceremonies, and the divorce applied to the civil marriage.  The Roman Catholic wedding was annulled.  Valerie Marie was engaged to Duke Engelberg-Charles of Arenberg  German German authorities were not going to allow the marriage to take place as Valerie Marie had been raised by a Jewish family named Schwalb.  Valerie Marie was Roman Catholic and she had to prove to the German authorities that she was not Jewish.

 When she married Ernst Johann Wagner, MD  in 1925, she used the name, Valerie Marie Schwalb. When the marriage was annulled in October 1940, she used the name Schleswig-Holstein, although she was using Schwalb when she was granted a civil divorce in 1938.

Valerie Marie was born on April 3, 1900, at Liptovsky Svaty Mikulas, Hungary.  Her birth was registered the following day: Valerie Maria Schwalb, girl Roman Catholic.

(Liptovsky was a part of Hungary until 1920, then Chechoslovakia until 1938, when it became Slovakia, from 1945 until January 1, 1993, again in Czechoslovakia, and now Liptovský Mikuláš in Slovakia).

Duke Albert's letter to Valerie Marie was written on April 15, 1931.  He died on April 27.  Valerie Marie's birth registration was changed on May 5, 1939.  This was done at the District office in Liptovsky Svata Mikulas.  The name Valerie Maria Schwalb was erased and replaced with "Natural father of the child is Albert Herzog zu Schleswig-Holstein.  As the name of the girl the family name is specified as zu Schleswig-Holstein."

the official letter from Princesses Helena Victoria and Marie Louise

During the Second World War, Valerie Marie and her husband, Engelbert-Charles, had lived in Germany, although  Prince Engelbert-Charles was a Belgian national.  In March  1945, the U.S. 2nd Armored Division captured the family's 200-year-old castle, Schloss Nordkirchen in Westphalia. The Duke claimed that he was not a Nazi, and had not fought in the war, but the American military noticed an autographed photo of Joachim von Ribbentrop, the German foreign minister. 

He also told the American authorities that he had met Hermann Goering once.  This happened in 1939 when he married the daughter of the Duke of Schleswig-Holstein.  As she was part English, the British Ambassador Neville Henderson had introduced them to Goering, who "had arranged the necessary papers for them."

Living with Valerie and Engelbert Charles was the prince's cousin, Karl Rudolf, the Duke of Croy, whose home had been destroyed by a bomb ten days earlier.  (The Duke was married four times.  His first wife was American, Nancy Leishman.  They divorced in 1922.)

Valerie Marie never met her father, but she did have a relationship with her two aunts, which led to meeting other cousins, including Queen Victoria Eugenia of Spain, who lived in exile in Switzerland.

"My mother loved "the Schleswig-Holstein bastard" who smothered her with lovely presents," Infanta Maria Cristina of Spain wrote to me in July 1988.  "But Aunt Louie [Princess Marie Louise of Schleswig-Holstein] wasn't amused by this intimacy between the cousins.  She was always known as the bastard.  Poor Valerie,  very smart, pretty & fickle.  She killed herself one night with every pill she found.  Depression I suppose and an impossible love.  It was a general shock.  Her father must have been a crashing pompous bore!"

If you liked this article:

New to my collection

These cards were a gift to me by a friend .. lovely to add to my collection.  Thank you so much.

Queen Elena of Italy

Queen Elena

Vittorio Emanuele, Maria Beatrice, Maria Pia and Maria Gabriella, children of King Umberto

Monday, May 25, 2020

Interview with HM Margareta, Custodian of the Crown

@HM Margareta (all photos)

Thank to HM Margareta, Custodian of the Crown, for agreeing to an interview and in providing the photographs..  As many of my readers know, in January I was in Bucharest for four days to attend the celebrations honoring Her Majesty's first visit to Romania and the establishment of her foundation

Where are you staying while staying in Săvârsin during the quarantine?

Săvârsin House is our home during the mid-summer months and winter celebrations – Christmas and New Year mainly. But now, exceptionally, we have spent over 12 weeks here, sheltering during the pandemic.  As it is for everyone, we have passed through a difficult and worrying time, but our village is quiet and fairly remote, and we were very lucky to be able to be here during the Spring months of March, April and May and work every day in our park, improving it, planting, cultivating vegetables and flowers, and see it all flourish and blossom, something we were rarely able to do before.
photos at Savrasin were taken in March & April

Săvârsin is an estate established first in 1650, it underwent several transformations and renovations over the centuries, then became a royal home in 1942; my father and grandmother Queen Helen spent time here in those difficult War years.

What have you been doing during the quarantine? Are you able to keep in touch with your charities and other organizations? Is there a particular charity that you would like to talk about that you are involved in Romania? 

Yes, I am doing this daily. Communications by Zoom and the Internet have been a blessing these days.  Together, Prince Radu and I are royal patrons of about 50 associations, organizations, and institutions. We try to encourage, inspire, and help all of them.  Of course, the Red Cross ( and the Margareta of Romania Royal Foundation ( are in touch with me every day.  We have a very strong, precise, and focused activity during the COVID-19 crisis.

The Margareta of Romania Royal Foundation (MRRF) is the authority on the elderly in Romania through three decades of investment in programs for seniors.  This experience means that the Foundation is well placed to mobilize nationwide support for the elderly in this time of crisis. We are focusing on these issues with a two-pronged approach; emotional and practical support for the elderly AND mobilization of funds and volunteers:

Our Elderly Helpline, launched in 2015, has provided information and help to thousands of elderly people – to date we have received and responded to 43882 calls - on a wide range of topics.  In the light of the crisis, two new services have been added, namely psychological counselling and emotional support, and the possibility to place orders for home delivery.  The counselling service is provided by 5 dedicated volunteers so far, but we will need to recruit more.

Secondly, mobilization of funds through a nationwide campaign. Thus the FRMR Special Fund for the Elderly is a dynamic vehicle for fundraising from both individuals and companies – the funds raised will be used to support elderly through necessary products or food for those facing poverty, material and financial support for those now homebound, social services provided by small NGO’s or offered by citizen initiatives acting now within their communities for serving elderly people.

As President of the Romanian Red Cross, can you tell me about how the organization is coping with the current situation?

Our Red Cross is an organization with branches in every county, every town, and in many rural areas of the country. It numbers over 6 000 volunteers and covers basically the whole territory of Romania. We have a large number of actions every day, focused especially on disaster relief, people in need, children in rural areas, elderly people, and those who need assistance. For the coronavirus crisis we have been particularly active and have undertaken far-reaching activities.  In the context of the spread of COVID-19 on the Romanian territory, the Romanian Red Cross was designated at the governmental level as the main collection point, both for financial donations and in kind.

Through our national fundraising campaign "Romania Saves Romania", we have collected so far (May 20, 2020), over 6,700,000 euros in cash, and 1,300,000 euros worth of products. We purchased equipment and materials for hundreds of hospitals and are helping everywhere it is possible. We obtained and distributed over a million masks, gloves, food, medicine, first aid, medical equipment, ventilators, ICU monitors, a mobile intensive care unit ATI, test kits.

There are not many articles in English, I have included a few here to give an idea of the scale of our actions.

How are you passing and Prince Radu passing the time?  It does look like you are having good weather.

We spend a lot of “office-time” with our staff at Elisabeta Palace, at the Red Cross and my foundation and trying to keep updated with the developments both in Romania and the Republic of Moldova. I am in touch with the political authorities and my Household keeps a very close touch with different ministries of our Government since some of our projects are common.

How has the Romanian government responded to the COVID-19? What are the rules for the lockdown?  What is open, what is closed. Are you able to get food deliveries, go shopping, go for walks outside the property? I am loving the photos of the flowers on the twitter account.

Romania responded to the crisis pretty much identically to the other European Union countries. Much of our legislation is in accord with EU regulations. Moreover, Romania has handled the crisis quite well, from the very beginning and so the results are good, but we are still cautious and worried.

Up to now Romania has taken a 2-step approach to COVID-19. For the first step (“state of emergency”), a significant lockdown was implemented.  Between mid-March and mid-May, leaving the house was forbidden except with a written declaration for the reasons for doing so, which needed to be justified from a shortlist (shopping, caring for the sick, volunteering, blood donor, professional reasons). All public-facing businesses were closed, except essential ones such as grocery stores, pet food, pharmacies, and banks. Most institutions adopted a no-public-schedule approach, with communications done only via electronic or postal means. Courts were suspended in most cases.

Food delivery is possible and has been functioning as a lifeline (both for consumers and as a provider of mini-jobs). Walks were permitted, around one’s home only.

One significant outcome was that the state was pushed towards e-government, something which is being kept after 15 May as well.

Since May 15th, under the new “state of alert”, all personal activities within a city are allowed without any written declaration. A statement of purpose is needed for inter-city travel. Many businesses have re-opened, except for the higher-risk ones such as theaters, sports with public, gyms, restaurants, and bars (except for take-out). Significant measures include the obligation to wear a mask in enclosed public spaces as well as many means of social distancing. People’s temperature is measured at the entrance of most public buildings.

As for us, we do not go shopping, we sometimes have food deliveries. Not very often though. We are quite self-sufficient here; we have a kitchen garden and have some supplies from the village itself.

 How were you able to celebrate the Orthodox Holy Week and Easter celebrations and services?

We could not attend the Easter Mass since churches were closed. We had a very unusual celebration, in solitude and I must say that it was a very spiritual, uplifting, and quiet experience. The priest of the village came to bring us the Holy Light in the evening and then, at midnight, according to the Orthodox tradition, we eat Easter eggs painted in red and some cozonac (an Easter cake, a sort of Romanian “Panettone”). And "Pascua”, another traditional cake for Easter, with white cheese and raisins.

What is the first thing you and Prince Radu want to do, once the self-isolation is lifted? When do you think you will be able to return to Elisabeta Palace?

Our work with the Household will continue, but, we hope, from Elisabeta Palace, where we hope to be able to return in mid-June. We have cancelled our external agenda for the rest of the year, except for 2 visits (one to The Netherlands, another one to the Middle East), which are scheduled in November and December 2020. We will have to see what happens before a final decision can be made of course. Inside the country we cannot travel much yet, public meetings are not allowed for the moment, but we might start our working meetings at Elisabeta Palace, observing all the precautions.

Unfortunately, we had to postpone a marvelous celebration at Pelesh Castle, with USA citizens living in Romania, that I wanted very much to host in June, when we celebrate 140 years of diplomatic relations between your country and Romania, established in 1880, during the time of King Carol I and President Rutherford B. Hayes. We will hopefully schedule the event for the end of this year.

 What is your reaction to the government’s decision to have a 49-year lease on the estate for the Royal Family’s estate? Was this a surprise or a decision that was under discussion since after the death of the King. I realize that the original agreement ended with the King’s death.

Background: Before 1947 Elisabeta Palace itself belonged to the aunt of King Michael, Princess Elisabeta of Romania, Queen of the Hellenes, not to my father.  After, it was nationalized during communism. After 1989, the King did not ask for it to be restituted, as it never belonged to him personally, so it remained public state property. In 2001, it was assigned to King Michael as his residence, as a former head of state under a Romanian law (which covers former presidents as well). Following the passing of my father, there have been various discussions with the authorities as to how the Elisabeta Palace could continue to serve the nation by remaining an official residence of the Royal Family.

Current: The solution that was found was that the “Royal Household Association” (which is an NGO that is part of the “Royal ecosystem” of legal entities, along with the Margareta of Romania Royal Foundation,  the Royal Collection Foundation etc.), which has a long existence and significant activities (being the institutional partner for all public activities of the Royal Family) was recently recognized as being “of public utility” (meaning its purposes serve the nation).

Under Romanian law, such NGOs may receive, for free, public buildings to undertake their activities. The Elisabeta Palace was therefore allocated to it for free, for the term of 49 years (maximum allowed by law). In exchange, the Royal Household Association will have certain transparency and reporting obligations annually on its activities, which will appear in the Official Gazette. This decision will allow the Royal Family to continue its public activities in Bucharest as before.

 Romania is now seen by many as a functioning monarchy within a republic. How do you see your role in continuing the growth of the Royal Family’s role within the country? The celebrations of January seem so long ago now but were just four months ago. The three-day event was well reported in the Romanian media.

I have been blessed to be able to serve my country for 30 years so far, without any interruption. I suppose that this is one of the reasons the Royal House is so highly regarded by the Nation, especially by the young generations. My father’s service to the country was constant, long-lasting, and exemplary.  Many of my countrymen considered him to be the most beloved Romanian of our times.  And last but not least, The Romanian Crown is a „young” institution. Created 154 years ago, it encompassed the modern part of our history. Therefore, people consider the Royal House as an instrument of democracy and development, more than a medieval, old fashioned way of leadership.

And, I am sure that people understand better and better how important it is to represent the State institutions with political neutrality and to unite through balance and impartiality.

Indeed, some call Romania a “functional monarchy” meaning that the Head of the Royal House has all the public functions of a monarch, although not the constitutional ones (such as the head of the military).

The model for this work, from Royal Patronages (including state institutions), Royal events, scholarships, charitable activities, international relations work, and more importantly, maintaining the symbolism and meaning of the Crown, comes from the period before 1947. Gradually, the Royal Family has re-established its presence and work in Romania, covering most of the areas that the Crown touched before 1947.

Today, this is done in partnership with the Romanian State, which recognizes the positive impact of the Royal Family’s activities.

What would be your five (or more) favorite places to recommend visitors to see when traveling to Romania.

The orthodox monasteries in Northern Moldova and Bucovina, the Danube Delta, the Saxon villages in Transylvania, Pelesh Castle, and the very historical and culturally rich cities of Cluj, Ia i, Timisoara, Sibiu, Brasov.  There are also other fascinating places to go (the Carpathians, Maramure region, the Black Sea).  There is a really wonderful series called “Wild Carpathia” which you should definitely see! Fabulous.  Both the Prince of Wales and I took part in it.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

The Marriage of Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark and Princess Ingrid of Sweden.

All images  Marlene A. Eilers Koenig collection

Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark, the heir to the Danish throne, married Princess Ingrid of Sweden, only daughter of Crown Prince Gustav Adolf Sweden and his first wife, the late Princess Margaret of Connaught, were married today - May 24, 1935, at the Stockholm Cathedral.

Frederik IX (1899-1972) succeeded his father, King Christian X in April 1947.  He and Queen Ingrid (1910-2000)) had three daughters, Queen Margrethe II (1940), Princess Benedikte (1944), and Queen Anne Marie of the Hellenes (1946). 

Ingrid's father succeeded to the Swedish throne in 1950 as King Gustav VI Adolf.  He died in 1973 and was succeeded by his grandson, King Carl XVI Gustaf.

engagement announced on March 25, 1935

If you enjoyed this,  consider buying me a coffee to say thank you.