Sunday, November 29, 2020

Karl of Austria's not so secret divorce.

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Archduke Karl of Austria was recently interviewed about his new book, his 60th birthday, a new woman in his life, and a secret divorce from Baroness Francesca von Thyssen-Bornemisza.

He told Krone, an Austrian newspaper:  “Yes, since all of our three children came of age, Francesca and I have been divorced. We have never made this public before."

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 Karl added:  "Of course it is a very unfortunate affair for me. Because you see that two people living together does not necessarily always have to work. We tried to save the relationship, but all too often the children are the ones who suffer. That is why the well-being of our children has always been the most important thing for me and Francesca. "

Oopsies, Karl.  You should have checked with your ex-wife because she spilled the beans in a November 1, 2019 interview with the Financial Times. 

"Long gone is the wild party girl who became tabloid fodder in the 1980s. Since those days she married, and has recently divorced amicably from Karl von Habsburg, the grandson of the last Austrian Emperor, Charles I, and father of their three children."

In 2019 Francesca resumed the use of her maiden name.

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Archduke Karl's new book.

He also acknowledged his relationship with Christian Nicolau de Almeida Reid, the youngest daughter of the late Robin Reid and Elsa Andresen Nicolau de Almeida. Although he had British nationality,  Reid's family had lived in Porto, Portugal for more than 100 years before his birth.

Friday, November 27, 2020

India Hicks and David Flint Wood are engaged

She finally said yes.   After more than 24 years together  -- 4 children, one adopted son  -- India Hicks and David Flint Wood have announced their engagement.   India is the youngest child of the late interior designer David Hicks and his wife, Lady Pamela Mountbatten, the younger daughter of the late Earl Mountbatten of Burma.  

India is a goddaughter of the Prince of Wales and was one of the bridesmaids at his 1981 wedding to Lady Diana Spencer.

It was the Mail on Sunday on November 17, 1996, where the world first learned that India, 29, was the new love in the life of 36-year-old David Flint Wood, who was running the Ocean View Club on Eleuthera in the Bahamas, where India's family owned a vacation home.   David dated Lady Helen Windsor for four years before she met art gallery owner, Tim Taylor.  They married in 1992.

At the time, India was based in New York City where she modeled for Ralph Lauren and Yves Saint Laurent.

A day after the Mail on Sunday broke the news of India's relationship, the Daily Mail had another scoop.  India was expecting David's baby, and there were no plans for marriage.

"It's wonderful news and we're all delighted," India's older sister, Edwina told the Mail.

India and David spoke of their romance in Hello, only a week later.  "It's very complicated. I'm madly in love with a man I first had a crush on when I was a teenager, and now it feels like I've won the lottery. I'm going to have a baby and I'm living in paradise.  I have never been so happy."

They first met when India was 11.  "He used to drive down to my boarding school and come and take me out with Edwina for hamburgers.  He was like a wonderful, older brother, someone  I could play up and terribly naughty with."

David thought India "was a spoiled little brat in those days."   

They reconnected in the spring of 1996 after India's nine-year relationship with Aris Comninos had ended traumatically the previous fall. 

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In the Hello feature (November 23, 1996), India said: "I think marriage, whether it comes or not, can happen later.  And if I do get married I want to do it in the proper way, with my family and all our friends.  I don't want to skip off down the road and do it quickly just because I am having a baby." 

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The couple has four children: Felix Austen  May 23, 1997) Amory John (June 25,1999), Conrad Lorenzo  (April 25, 2003) & Domino Carmen (December 17, 2007, Miami, Florida).  All four children were born in Miami, Florida.

Lady Pamela and the Prince of Wales were "unfazed" by India's decision to have children without a wedding ring.  But her late father disapproved.  "We were never close," India told Tatler in May 2002.  "There was something about me that irritated him.  It became a matter of wills towards the end."

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The three boys were baptized in the parish church at Eweleme, near Lady Pamela's Oxfordshire home, where India was also baptized. Domino's baptism took place at St.Bartholomew's  Church in Brightwell Baldwin, where India's father was buried in 1998.

In 2011, India became the joint guardian of a local boy, Wesley, then 15 years old, after the young man's mother died from breast cancer, sharing custody with Wesley's aunt.   

India was certain that marriage was not for her.  "One would have thought that being stranded on a rock for 16 years would have had the effect of driving us apart, but it seems to have had the reverse effect and bonded us together.

"We have a relationship built on respect and humour -- lots of humour -- and  I think living life slightly less ordinary had made us stronger.

"It is also perhaps because I have a man who is an upstanding, moral, and good human being who I am still in love with,"  India told Hello in November 2011. 

She reiterated this feeling in another Hello interview in April 2015.  "The marriage thing was never important for me.  What was important was that the children knew they were the centre of our world, which they are."

India remains close to her godfather who wrote the introduction to her third book, India Hicks: Island Style.

India and David and their family live in Hibiscus Hill, a 2-story house on Harbour Island in the Bahamas.

"I carry with me an impressive historical background.  I've built a unique life here, where my children are free from smog, traffic, r shoes.  But more than anything, I realise that to be loved and understood and to love and understand in return is to be truly blessed," she said in 2015.

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 The family now divide their time between Harbour Island and their country.  India owned some farmland in Oxfordshire "near but not too near to her mother", where they built a house with a small garden overlooking large fields.  The country retreat has been named America Farm.

India is a descendant of Queen Victoria.  Victoria - Alice - Victoria - Louis - Pamela - India.   Lady Pamela and the Duke of Edinburgh are first cousins.

If you liked this article, perhaps you can buy me a latte

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Two noble deaths today: the Prince of Khevenhüller-Metsch & Princess Ilke of Wied

Two German noble deaths today, November 26, 2020.

 HSH Princess Ilke of Wied and the HSH The Prince of Khevenhüller-Metsch.

Princess Ilke was 83 years old.   At this time, I do not have the place of death.

Ilke Fischer was born on December 9, 1936 at Bonn, the daughter of Gottfried Fischer and Maria Mühlenbein.  She married HSH Prince Wilhelm Friedrich Urich of Wied(1931-2010) on December 2, 1968 in Munich,

She is survived by her two children, Prince Wilhelm Friedrich Ulrich (1970) and Princess Wilhelmine Friederike  Pauline Elisabeth Marie (1973). who is the widow of Duke Friedrich of Württemberg (1961-2018) and six grandchildren, Prince Friedrich (2001), Prince George  (2004), and Prince Philipp (2010) of Wied and Duke Wilhelm  (1994), Duchess  Marie-Amelie (1996) and Duchess Dorotheé of Württemberg.

The Prince of Khevenhüller-Metsch was 64 years old.  He died in Rome from COVID-19.  He had fallen into a coma a month and never regained consciousness. 

Maria Johannes Franz Xavier Lazarus Maximilian Felix Hubertus was the 10th Prince of Khevenhüller-Metsch.  He was born in Lugano, Switzerland, on November 20, 1956.  He was the eldest of six children of HSH Max Alfred Bartholomäus Friedrich Anton Franz Eduard Joachim Anna Maria Schnee Oswald Hubertus 9th Prince of Khevenhüller-Metsch (1919-2010) and Countess Wilhelmine Henckel von Donnersmarck (1932).

He married Donna Camilla Borghese (1962) on July 3, 1986, in Rome.  He is survived by his widow, Camilla, and their four daughters, Countesses Franziska, Helena, Sophie, and Cäcilie.

Johannes' brother, Maria Bartholomäus Lazarus Maximilian Hubertus (1958), succeeds as the 11th Prince of Khevenhüller-Metsch.  He is married to Doña  Cristina Sanchez de Movellán y Garcia Ogara.  They are the parents of four children.  The eldest, Andreas, is now the Hereditary Count.  He is married to Countess Johanna of Trautmannsdorff-Weinsnerg. a granddaughter of Count Ferdinand Kinsky who died earlier this week.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Count Ferdinand Kinsky (1934-2020)

Count Ferdinand and Countess Hedwig at the wedding of their daughter, Marie Valerie in Villefranche-sur-Mer, France, in September 1987  (Private)

Count Ferdinand Kinsky von Wchinitz und Tettau died earlier today in Vienna.  The cause of death was COVID-19.  He was 86 years old.  Ferdinand was the older brother of HSH  Princess Marie Aglae of Liechtenstein, the wife of Hans Adam, Prince of Liechtenstein

Count Ferdinand Eugen Franz von Assisi Bonaventura Maria Theresia was born in Prague on October 25, 1934, the eldest of seven children of  Ferdinand Carl Bonaventura Antonius Maria (1907-1969) and Countess Henriette von Ledebur-Wicheln (1910-2002).  

His childhood was spent at  Horažďovice Castle, but he and his family had to leave Czechoslovakia after the end of World War II.

The family settled in West Germany, where the young count was educated.  He also became a German national.   He studied economics and philosophy at the University of Munich (1954-1955) and at the University of Frankfurt where he received a Master of Arts in sociology in 1958.   He received a post-graduate degree in international studies at the Institut Europeen des Hautes Etudes Internationales at the University of Nice.

A noted political scientist,  Count Ferdinand was a strong supporter of European unity and was one of the directors of CIFE, which trained "professionals and citizens in the subject of a united Europe."  He was also a devout Roman Catholic.

Count Ferdinand was married at Straubing, Germany on April 28, 1962 to Countess Hedwig von Ballestrem (1933).  They had five children: Countess Maria Theresia (1963, who is married to Count Alexander von Trauttmansdorff-Weinsberg,  Count Johannes (1964-2008), Countess Marie Valerie (1966), the wife of Hereditary Count Maximilian zu Königsegg-Aulendorf, Count Friedrich (1967) and Count Wenzel (1969-1971).

Count Ferdinand and Countess Hedwig with Count Johannes zu Königsegg-Aulfendorf at the wedding of Ferdinand's granddaughter, Countess Alice zu Königsegg-Aulfendorf in 2017 @stefan

He is survived by his widow, Countess Hedwig, three children, seventeen grandchildren, three great-grandchildren, and four sisters:  Countess Eleonore, Frau von Krempach,  Marie, Princess of Liechtenstein, Countess Aglae von Ballestrem, Countess Elisabeth zu Dohna-Schlobitten, and numerous nieces and nephews.

The Count's granddaughter, Countess Elisabeth Kinsky,  daughter of the late Count Johannes, is engaged to marry Count Konrad von Rechberg.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

a 73rd Wedding anniversary

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Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh celebrate their 73rd wedding anniversary tomorrow, November 20.   The couple is looking at a card made by three of their great-grandchildren: Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis of Cambridge.

Covid quarantine for Harald and Sonja

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From the Royal Palace in Oslo

Covid-19 has today been detected in an employee at the Royal Court. His Majesty the King is in self-imposed home quarantine. Her Majesty the Queen is in quarantine as a result of close contact with the person in question.

 The royal couple is asymptomatic. 14 employees at the Royal Court are also in quarantine.

 The court has routines that are in line with rules and recommendations from the authorities related to infection control, including the practice of distance regulations, the use of face masks, intensified cleaning and hand hygiene, as well as the use of home offices.

 As a result of the quarantine, His Majesty the King will lead the Council of Ministers next Friday by telephone from Bygdø Kongsgård. His Royal Highness the Crown Prince holds an audience with the President of Estonia. The royal couple's program will be updated.


Sunday, November 15, 2020

The Curse of November 16


Grand  Duke Ludwig IV and Grand Duchess Alice and their children
(all images except for Getty: Marlene A. Eilers Koenig Collection)

In November 1878 diphtheria struck the Grand Ducal House of Hesse and by  Rhine with a vengeance.  The entire family had gathered together for tea and cakes and to listen to the eldest daughter, Princess Victoria, reading Alice in Wonderland to her brother, Ernst Ludwig, and her sisters, Elisabeth, Irene, Alix, and four-year-old Marie, known to her family as May, who was delighted by the story.  

Enchanted by the story, May wanted to hear more.  She also wanted another piece of cake.

Unfortunately for May, there would be no more cake that night.  It was time for the children to go to sleep.  As she was getting ready for bed, Victoria mentioned to her mother, Alice, the Grand Duchess of Hesse and By Rhine, that she had a sore throat.  Alice asked her daughter to open her mouth so she could have a look.  Fear quickly gripped Princess Alice as she noticed the white membrane on Victoria’s throat.   

Diphtheria.   It was not long before Grand Duke Ludwig IV and all the children but the second daughter, Elisabeth, came down with the disease.  Ella was sent to stay with her paternal grandmother, Princess Karl (Elisabeth) of Hesse at the Prinz-Karl-Palais in Darmstadt to avoid the infection. 

Alice's mother, Queen Victoria, sent her doctor, Sir William Jenner, to Darmstadt to help treat the family.  ‘Darling May’ became ill on November 11. Her fever would not abate and, five days later, shortly after midnight,  she succumbed to the disease. 

It was November 16, 1878.

  Worn out from caring for her children and husband, Alice was desolate, saddened by the death of her youngest child.  It was Alice, in the depths of the deepest grief imaginable, who had to arrange for her daughter’s funeral, which took place two days after May’s death.   None of the children had yet been told about May’s death.  Ernie, still very ill, had begged his mother for information about his young sister.  Alice could not tell her young son the truth.  With “unbelievable stoicism” she said: “She is now quite well and happy.” Ernie, who would celebrate his tenth birthday on November 25, wanted to give a book to his little sister as a present.  After Ernie recovered, Alice found the courage to tell him that May had died. And then she leaned over and kissed him.

The Kiss of death. It is believed that Alice contracted diphtheria when she kissed her son.  Alice was too worn out, too weak to fight the disease. She died on December 14, 1878.   Princess Alice, Grand Duchess of Hesse and by Rhine, the beloved Landsmutter, was 35 years old.   

Alice’s husband, Grand Duke Ludwig IV, and the four other children who had become ill,  all regained their health, but all in their own ways never recovered completely from the trauma of the deaths of their wife, their sister, and their mother. Ernie had learned early how to compartmentalize grief and loss.  When he was four, he witnessed the tragic death of his two-year-old brother, Friedrich Wilhelm “Frat,” during playtime when Frittie climbed on a chair and fell through an open window, and landed on the ground.  He would probably have survived the fall, but Frittie, a hemophiliac, died later that evening,   

Ernie and his sisters were taken in haste to the nursery.  Only four years old at the time, Ernie was understandably “bewildered and confused” by the loss of his only brother.   The youngest child at the time was Princess Alix, who was 11 months old at the time of Frittie’s death.  Alice would give birth one more time.   May was born on May 24, 1878, five days before the first anniversary of  Frittie’s death. Ernie adored his little sister... and then she was gone to Heaven, joining Frittie, the brother she did not know.

One can only imagine the pain and grief that the young Ernie suffered when he lost his two siblings.  The sadness of their loss would remain with him for the rest of his life.

Early autumn 1937.   Schloss Wolfsgarten, south of Darmstadt.  

Ernst Ludwig is 68 years old.  He has not been well for some weeks and is receiving tender care from his wife, Eleonore, and his eldest sister, Victoria.  Several years after his divorce from his first wife, Princess Victoria Melita of Edinburgh, Ernie found comfort and joy with his second marriage.  Eleonore gave him two sons, Georg Donatus, the heir to the now-former Grand Duchy, and Ludwig.  He was proud of his sons. Georg Donatus had married in 1931 to Princess Cecilie of Greece and Denmark, the third of five children of Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark and Princess Alice of Battenberg, who was Ernie’s niece, the elder daughter of his eldest sister, Victoria, who had married her father’s first cousin, Prince Louis of Battenberg.  This was a supremely happy marriage. Victoria and Louis had settled in England, where Louis rose through the ranks of the Royal Navy, culminating with the rank of Admiral of the Fleet. 

In what would be the final months of Ernie’s life, he would be able to spend time with his family and enjoying the time with his three young grandchildren.  Don and Cecilie and their family also lived at Wolfsgarten, which provided Ernie and Onor with unmeasurable pleasure.  As he watched his grandsons play in their late aunt Elisabeth’s playhouse, built in the garden at Wolfsgarten, it is possible that he reflected on the tragedies that had shaped his own life.  He could be forgiven in thinking that now – in 1937 – his family would be free of another tragedy.   There had been already too many tragedies for one man, one family to comprehend.

Ernie had few regrets about his life after the fall of the German empire in November 1917.

Although there would be no official abdication in November 1918,  Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig lost his throne when Imperial Germany collapsed in the defeat of the first world war. Unlike his first cousin, Kaiser Wilhelm II, who went into exile in the Netherlands, Ernst Ludwig and his family remained in Darmstadt and eventually received restitution for their confiscated properties.  Schloss Wolfsgarten, south of Darmstadt, in Langen, was private property, and after the war, the family spent most of their time there.  But there could be no compensation for what Ernie had lost due to the war. 

 His elder sister, Victoria, and her family were living in England, where her sons served in the Royal Navy.  Anti-German sentiment had forced her husband, Louis, to resign as First Sea Lord in the fall of 1914, and spent the rest of the world war, living quietly with his wife at their home on the Isle of Wight.

  His third sister, Princess Irene, married to Prince Heinrich, younger brother of Kaiser Wilhelm, spent most of the war at Hemmelmark, their estate in Schleswig-Holstein.  Heinrich was a career naval officer in the Imperial Navy.  Ernie’s two other sisters, Ella and Alix, were in Russia.   Ella was the widow of Grand Duke Serge, assassinated in 1905, as he left their palace in Moscow.  Ella turned her grief into forgiving her husband’s assassin and founding an order of Orthodox nuns.  For the rest of her life, she eschewed her fabulous jewel collection and gave her life to help others.  Alix, called Sunny by her family, was married to Nicholas II, Emperor of all the Russias.  Ernie could only watch from afar, as the sovereign of an enemy grand duchy, as Russia fell into the conflagration of revolution.  Nicholas II was forced to abdicate and was soon under house arrest.   

In the early hours on July 17, 1918, Nicholas II and his wife, their five children, and several loyal retainers, were murdered by the Bolsheviks.  Their bodies were burned in acid and buried in a pit outside Ekaterinburg, where they had lived for the final two months of their lives.  A day later, Ella, along with five other members of the imperial family, Grand Duke Serge’s secretary, and one of Ella’s nuns, all of whom had been arrested by the Cheka and were housed in Alapaevsk, were taken at a gunpoint and thrown into an abandoned mine.  The prisoners were beaten and pushed down into the mind.  The murderers could hear Ella and the others singing Orthodox hymns.  Grenades were tossed into the mine, but only Grand Duke Serge’s secretary died as the result of a grenade.  All the others died of their injuries as all of them had been beaten before being thrown into the mine.  Before she died,  Ella took off her wimple and used it as a bandage around the head of the dying Prince Ioann Konstantinovich.

Alapaevsk fell to White Army a few days later.  The grave was found in October and the bodies were taken east and were eventually buried in a Russian cemetery in Beijing.  The remains of Ella and Vara were eventually taken to Jerusalem and buried at the Church of Mary Magdalene.

Ernie’s grief for the loss of Ella, Alix, Nicky, and their beautiful children, who had been playmates of Ernie and Eleonore’s two young sons, Georg Donatus and Ludwig, was unfathomable.   When she was a child, growing up in Darmstadt, Alix was known as Sunny, the sunshine of her siblings’ lives.

May.  Alice.  Elisabeth.   Alix.  Ella.   Elisabeth’s death was certainly the most difficult for Ernie.  His darling daughter was dead at only eight years old.  

Following their divorce in 1901, Ernie and Ducky shared custody of their only child, Elisabeth.   The divorce settlement required the young princess to spend six months with her mother in Coburg and six months in Darmstadt. Elisabeth, who was born in 1895, was very much loved and adored by her doting father. She was very much the Princess Sunshine, especially, when she was with her father.  In Darmstadt, she was always happy and relaxed. When it was time for Elisabeth to return to Coburg, she would burst into tears and hide under a sofa. Ernie would comfort her, telling her that her mother loved her.  A tearful Elisabeth responded: “Mama says it, you do it.”

The little princess was a favorite in Darmstadt as she ran through the streets with a dog by her side.   She longed for a younger sister and reveled in her visits to Russia, where she could play with her cousins, the daughters of Aunt Alix.  Grand Duchess Olga was only seven months younger.  Elisabeth thought the youngest daughter, Grand Duchess Anastasia was so ugly that no want would want her.  She told her father that she would be happy to take Anastasia back to Darmstadt.

Elisabeth was in Darmstadt when her first cousin, Princess Alice of Battenberg, eldest child of Ernie’s oldest sister, Victoria, married Prince Andrew of Greece.   After Alice’s wedding, Ernie took Elisabeth to Nicholas’s hunting estate at Skierniewice in Russian Poland.   While the adults hunted during the day, the children played games, enjoyed the swings, and getting carriage rides pulled by tame deer.    The eight-year-old princess was full of life, and she “masterminded a practical joke, hiding the three eldest Grand Duchesses in her bed. ”   When Empress Alexandra came in to say good night to her daughters, she could not find them.  Elisabeth’s laughter could be heard “all through the house” as the girls’ location was eventually revealed.    

The girls eventually fell asleep, but when Elisabeth woke up the next morning, she complained about a sore throat.  Her illness put a damper on Olga’s eighth birthday celebrations.  That evening, the court doctor, after examining Elisabeth, told Margaretta Eager, who was the governess to the grand duchesses, that he believed there was something wrong with the young princess’ heart.  Neither the Tsarina nor Ernie was convinced that there was something seriously wrong with Elisabeth.  After returning from the theater, Alix and her brother visited Elisabeth “who brightened up and chatted with them.”

Ernie seemed reassured that his daughter was all right.   Her nurse, Miss Wilson, stayed with  Elisabeth all night.  By morning Princess Elisabeth’s condition was critical.  She asked that a telegram be sent to her mother.   Miss Wilson asked for someone to wake the Grand Duke and the Tsarina.  They hurried to her room. Elisabeth asked to see Grand Duchess Anastasia.  It was perhaps the last request she made.  A few hours later, she was dead.  Typhoid.   

The first telegram reached Coburg at 8:00 a.m., announcing the princess’ illness. Ducky made immediate plans to leave for Poland.  Within 90 minutes of the first telegram, a second telegram arrived at Coburg.  Elisabeth’s condition was listed as grave.   At 11:00 a.m., Victoria Melita was getting ready to leave for the train station to catch the afternoon train to Russia, when she received a third telegram from Poland.   Elisabeth was dead.

Victoria Melita’s close friend Meriel Buchanan wrote that the grieving mother arrived in Poland two days later to find her daughter “between masses of tawny chrysanthemums” on a bed.  Elisabeth’s silver coffin was placed on a funeral train for the journey back to Darmstadt.  Her parents accompanied her for the final trip home.  For Ernie, the journey back to Darmstadt was inexorably painful. “My little Elisabeth was the sunshine of my life,” he wrote years later in his memoirs.

Elisabeth was buried in the Rosenhöhe on the outskirts of Darmstadt.  Ducky left for Coburg after the funeral.  This was the only time she would see her firstborn’s grave, as Ducky never again visited Elisabeth’s final resting place.  Two weeks after Elisabeth’s death, Ernie wrote to his brother-in-law, Nicholas to “tell you how I think of you & bless you for all your love to me.  Your dear letter was such a comfort to me & never will it go out of my heart what you have been to me during my misery...I am getting on all right & will soon settle down to my work again, for that is after all the one great thing that helps one overall in everyday life. ”

Ernie would find joy in his second marriage to Princess Eleonore of Solms-Hohensolms-Lich.  In the winter of 1903/1904, Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig invited Eleonore (known as Onor) and her mother, Princess Anna, to say at the Old Palace in Darmstadt, as Anna needed to seek medical treatment.  Unfortunately, she did not respond to the treatment and she died in May 1904.   The Marquise de Fontenoy, whose society columns were syndicated in a selection of American newspapers in the early part of the 20th century, wrote shortly after their engagement was announced on November 21 1904 that Onor was Ernie's childhood sweetheart’ but it was a “pity that the grand duke did not marry Princess Eleonore in the first place. ”   

They knew each other from childhood – Ernie was three years Onor’s senior – but any plans for marriage were “destroyed by those relatives of the grand duke who were determined that he should marry Princess Victoria.”    This was despite those who had objections to the marriage of the two first cousins as they were “diametrically opposed to each other in character, tastes –indeed in everything .”

Owing to the Russo-Japanese war, Ernie’s sisters, Ella and Alix,  and their spouses were unable to travel to Darmstadt for the wedding, which took place on February 2, 1905.   Less than three weeks later,   Ernie had to face another tragic event.  Ella’s husband, Grand Duke Sergei, was murdered when a bomb was thrown into his carriage on February 17.   The newly married Ernie and Onor made the decision to travel to Moscow to be with Ella, as she grappled with her husband’s horrendous death.  After spending time with her, the Grand Duke and Grand Duchess traveled to Tsarkoe Selo to visit with Nicholas and Alexandra and their family.   It was the first time that Ernie had seen Alix’s nearly eight-month-old son, Alexis, the heir to the throne.

Ernie’s heir, Georg Donatus, was born on November 8, 1906.   Nicholas II accepted Ernie’s request to be a godfather but was unable to attend the baptism. “It is such a pity we cannot be present at your baby’s christening.  I tried to persuade Alix to go & see you for a short time but she won’t leave and alas! I neither can leave my country .”

Onor gave birth to a second son, Ludwig, who was known as Lu, on November 20, 1908.  Empress Alexandra agreed to be one of Lu’s godmothers.  Elisabeth also was one of her godchildren.

In November 1918 Ernie proved to be a “fearless personality” when a mob broke into the palace, calling for the death of the Grand Duke.  He refused to go into hiding, preferring to meet the delegation and talk with them, going as far as to offer all a cup of tea.  Unlike other German sovereigns, Ernie never officially abdicated his throne, for himself or his descendants.  He accepted the revolution and the new Germany, free of monarchial rule.   There was not an ounce of bitterness as he and Onor and their young sons stepped back and began to live as private citizens.  

Ernie was bisexual and there would be affairs with men and women.  But he was devoted to Onor.  In 1915, he wrote: “For ten years we have been married ... I will never be able to thank you for what you give and for what you have made of me.  Dear God, how have I deserved this happiness? ”

Onor was his rock, his support, and she was there with him, for him, when he received confirmation that his sisters were dead, murdered by the Bolsheviks.   In 1921,  his elder sister, Victoria,  traveled to China to help bring Ella’s remains to Jerusalem.   He contributed to the cost of the reburial, but could not accompany Victoria.   She wanted to spare him as much as she could about the graphic details of Ella’s death, she writes to him, as she was returning to London: “Oh, my dear Ernie, I fear we shall never have the comfort of being able to do anything for the remains of the other dear ones, shot at Ekaterinburg, and whose bodies were afterward, burned.”

Ernie was very much a prominent private citizen as he and his family remained involved in Darmstadt.   He remained a major patron of the arts and Onor continued her support for local charities.   By the early 1930s, Ernie could be forgiven for thinking that that black cloud of a tragedy that has enveloped his family for long was finally lifted.   In early June 1930,  Ernie’s elder son, Hereditary Grand Duke Georg Donatus, 23, became engaged to 18-year-old Princess Cecilie of Greece and Denmark.   Don, as he was called within the family, had known Cecilie her entire life.  He and her two older sisters, Margarita and Theodora, were childhood playmates with his first cousin, Tsarevich Alexis of Russia.  Cecilie’s mother, Alice, was Ernie’s niece, and, thus,  Don’s first cousin.   

Cecilie’s grandmother, Victoria, Dowager Marchioness of Milford Haven, was thrilled with the news of her engagement ... “that one of my granddaughters should find a home in what was my first one is a joy to me....”

The bride and groom went through three marriage ceremonies, first, the civil ceremony, required by German law, followed by a Greek Orthodox rite at the New Palace, as the bride was Greek Orthodox, and then a Lutheran wedding at the Schlosskirche.   

The wedding was largely a family celebration.  Ernie’s eldest sister, Victoria, Dowager Marchioness of Milford Haven, who was the bride’s grandmother, came from England.   Ernie’s other sister, Princess Irene, the widow of Prince Heinrich of Prussia, was accompanied by her son and daughter-in-law, Prince and Princess Waldemar.   The bride’s aunt (and Ernie’s niece), Crown Princess Louise of Sweden attended the wedding, as did Prince and Princess Rene of Bourbon-Parma.  Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia represented Kaiser Wilhelm II.

Neither of the bride’s parents, Princess Alice and Prince Andrew of Greece was able to attend the wedding.  The residents of Darmstadt “took a great interest”  the young Hereditary Grand Duke's wedding.  As the bride’s carriage was stopped as it approached the Grand Ducal Palace, and Ernie and Don had to “rescue” the bride from the cheering crowds.   The couple’s first child, a son, was born on  October 25, 1931,  Prince Ludwig was named after Don’s younger brother, Lu.  A second son, Prince Alexander,  was born on August 14, 1933.  

In July 1936, Ernie, Onor, Don & Cecilie (who was nearly seven months pregnant), and Lu joined other family members, including Victoria Milford Haven and Crown Princess Louise, at Princess Irene of Prussia’s 70th birthday celebrations at Hemmelmark.   

Princess Johanna Marina Eleonore was born on September 20, 1936, the first princess of Hesse and by Rhine since 1895.   One can only imagine the bittersweet feeling that Ernie felt as he held his granddaughter in his arms and his grandsons at his side in a family photo, perhaps taken at the time of Johanna Marina’s baptism.   Was he thinking of his own little Sunshine when he looked at his granddaughter, knowing that Johanna would be able to play in Elisabeth’s playhouse built so long ago in the garden at Wolfsgarten?

Georg Donatus and Cecilie made Wolfsgarten a comfortable and happy home, where Ernie and Onor could spend their final years with their grandchildren.  Cecilie’s younger brother, Prince Philip, who attended Gordonstoun school in Scotland, often spent school holidays at Wolfsgarten. He was at Wolfsgarten in September 1937 where his grandmother, Victoria, has spent most of the summer taking care of her brother, who “had been ill since the start of the year with lung disease. ”

The families, including Onor and Victoria, were concerned that Ernie would not live long enough to attend Lu’s wedding in London on October 23.  The 28-year-old Prince Ludwig served as an honorary attaché at Germany’s embassy in London.  His bride-to-be was Margaret Campbell Geddes, daughter of Sir Auckland and Lady Geddes.  Sir Auckland was the British Ambassador to the United States from 1920-1924.   Lady Geddes, the former Isabella Gamble Ross, was American.

Margaret was presented at Court by her mother in May 1934.  She enjoyed traveling and was in Germany in 1936, studying art, when she met Prince Ludwig during a skiing holiday.    Ernie’s sister, Irene, noted in a letter to her brother that “it has not been easy for you to give your consent to his wishes I can well imagine, but all you & Onor told me about her & Lu ought to promise real happiness. ”   

In her book, The Four Graces,  Ilana Miller stated that the objection to Margaret Geddes was never made clear in the letters between Ernie and his sisters.  Margaret was not of royal rank,  but Miller believes that the objections were not based on her lack of royal title, but politics.   Don, Cecilie, and Lu had joined the Nazi party.  Peg Geddes was British and the daughter of a prominent Briton,  a respected academic who may not have been pleased that his only daughter was marrying a German.

The engagement was officially announced in The Times on July 16, 1937.  

Victoria hoped that her brother would live long enough to celebrate his younger son’s wedding.   She wrote to Nona Kerr that Ernie was receiving “x-ray treatment for his lungs, which made him feel miserable.”   The treatment seemed to be going well, and “there is still hope that by the time of Lu’s wedding he may be fit enough to come over for it .”

It was not meant to be.  Ernie died at Wolfsgarten on October 9, 1937.  His funeral took place in October and he was buried at the Rosenhöhe next to his daughter, Elisabeth, his sunshine.

It was decided that owing to the death of Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig, Lu and Peg postponed their wedding, scheduled for October 23  until November 20.   Wedding preparations began in earnest after the funeral was over.    In London, the bride-to-be began overseeing the arrival of the wedding presents, including a “set of monogrammed cuff links” for the groom from Queen Mary and Lu’s first cousin, Louise, the Crown Princess of Sweden sent the couple “some fine table glass.”    

Now back at home at Kensington Palace, Lady Milford Haven sent her grandson, Prince Philip a “timely reminder” about Lu and Peg’s wedding.  “Aunt Onor with Cecile & family arrive to-morrow afternoon .... You are expected to attend Lu’s wedding on Saturday afternoon .”

At Wolfsgarten, Don and Cecilie were making their own plans to travel to London for Lu’s wedding.  Their two young sons, Ludwig, six and four-year-old Alexander were understandably excited.  They were to be pages at Onkel Lu’s wedding and they were going to fly to London on an airplane.  It would be their first time on an airplane.   Fourteen-month-old Johanna Marina was to remain behind in Wolfsgarten with her nanny, as her mother felt she was too young to travel.  

 Cecilie was eight months pregnant, which was a difficult time for a woman to travel.  She was “reputedly so terrified of aeroplanes that she always wore black when she flew .”

Cecilie made sure that the Honiton lace veil, first worn by Princess Alice when she married  Prince Ludwig in 1862, was carefully and tenderly packed.  Peg planned to wear the veil with her Bavarian peasant dress.   She had eschewed the idea of a white formal gown.

Finally, it was time to leave for the aerodrome.  Cecilie and Don would be accompanied by their two sons, Don’s mother, Onor, Cecilie’s lady-in-waiting, Alice Hahn, and Lu’s best man, Joachim von Riedesel.    Don and Cecilie and their children would be staying with Cecilie’s uncle, Lord Louis Mountbatten (who was Don’s first cousin), and his family at Brook House in London.

The plane took off just before 2:00 p.m., in “the bright sunshine in a three-engine junkers monoplane,” which was operated by the Belgian airline Sabena.  The pilot, Tony Lambotte, who was a personal friend and pilot of King Leopold III, was one of the airline’s “most experienced airmen.”

The flight was scheduled to land near Brussels, but due to “thick fog that swept quickly in from the North Sea,” the wireless operator received a message to change course and land at the Steene aerodrome near Ostend.   Lambotte had limited visibility and was “flying blind” as he began his descent toward Steene.   Three rockets were fired by the aerodrome’s staff to aid the descent, but only one worked.  

An eye witness watched the plane “coming out of the fog,” hitting a brickwork’s chimney.  One of the engines and one of the wings broke off and crashed into the building’s roof.  The rest of the plane crashed to the ground and burst into flames.   The first responders - the fire engines and ambulances - had to keep back for some time due to the flames.  It was too late.    Later that day, as the firemen sifted through the charred remains, they found the remains of a stillborn child, “lying beside the crumpled body of Cecilie.”    

Lu and Peg were waiting for the plane to arrive at Croydon Airport.  The plane was late, and as they “anxiously paced up and down the tarmac,” they were told “there was some delay,” until one official took Lu into the Sabena and told him what had happened.

The news of the crash spread quickly and was the leading headline in the evening newspapers.  Lord Louis Mountbatten’s elder daughter, Patricia, was walking home from school and thinking that she would soon see her cousins when she saw the poster announcing the plane crash. “I was going home as I thought I was going to meet them.”

Dickie (Lord Louis) had sent two cars to the airport to pick up all the guests, but only Lu and Peg, “prostrated with grief” returned to Brook House.   That evening, the family went to “Peg’s father’s house and had a ghastly family meeting. My mother said the wedding ought to go ahead, not in four days with all the formality and publicity, but the very next day while they were all still in a state of shock. ”

The family rallied around the grieving Lu and Peg. In just over a month, Lu had lost his father, and now his mother, his brother, his sister-in-law, and his two nephews, along with one of his closest friends.    Sir Auckland released a statement to the media, asking for the press “to respect the deep grief of both Prince Ludwig and my daughter.  Today his mother and his only brother and sister-in-law and their children have been killed.  The family has been practically wiped out and he is left to face the situation.”

Other family members were informed of the crash.   King George V, a first cousin of Victoria Milford Haven sent a “message of sympathy” to Ludwig on the death of his mother and brother. At Gordonstoun, headmaster Kurt Hahn was the one to break the sad news to Prince Philip, who had been looking forward to traveling to London for the wedding.  Philip would later say that he would never forget the “profound shock” when he was told about the airplane crash that killed his sister and her family.   Hahn noticed that  the sixteen-year-old prince did not break down, but that “his sorrow was that of a man.”

The date was November 16, 1937.   Thankfully, Ernie was spared the knowledge of this horrendous tragedy.

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 It was arranged that the wedding would take place the next morning at 8:00 a.m., at St. Peter’s Church, Eaton Square.   The ceremony was private and officiated by PrebendaryAustin Thomas.  Most of the guests including the bride wore black. Instead of the Bavarian peasant dress and Alice’s veil, Peg wore a “black dress, black coat, hat, and veil and carried white Camellias.”  Other guests included the Duke and Duchess of Kent, and the Duchess’ two sisters,   Princess Paul of Yugoslavia and the Countess of Toerring-Jettenbach, the Marchioness of Milford Haven, and Lady Louis Mountbatten.   The Duchess of Kent wore a fur coat over a black dress.  Her two sisters were also dressed in black.    Marina, who was Johanna Marina’s godmother, was particularly saddened by the death of her first cousin, Cecilie.

Lord Louis stepped in as best man and Victoria Milford Haven watched from her pew, comforted by her family, as Lu took Peg as his wife.  One other guest was Lu’s boss, Joachim von Ribbentrop, the German ambassador to the United Kingdom.   The ceremony took less than 20 minutes.    The register was signed by von Ribbentrop and Sir Auckland.  There would be no wedding breakfast as the bride and groom had to leave immediately for Ostend.  The crossing across the English Channel was rough, and Peg spent most of the time in the lavatory.  “The first time I was addressed as Your Royal Highness was by one of the stewards outside the lavatory when I was being violently sick.”

In Ostend, Prince Ludwig had the unenviable task of identifying the bodies of his family. They remained at the mortuary for just over an hour before a German embassy car took them back to their hotel.  A half-hour later they went to the hospital where 11 coffins (including the pilot and his crew) were covered by a black cloth.    Lu began the arrangements to bring the bodies of his family back to Germany.  

Lu and Peg traveled on the train from Ostend to Darmstadt on November 19.  The five coffins for Lu’s family (the infant born during the crash was placed with Cecilie) were taken off the train by airmen and placed in the station’s Grand Ducal Hall where a prayer was said by the Grand Ducal family pastor.  The hall “was hung with laurel,” and one of the many wreaths was one from the children of King Leopold III.

A procession that included National Socialist party organizations, the armed forces, and the police formed behind the coffins, which were taken to the mausoleum chapel at the Rosenhöhe, where they would like in state until the funeral, which was held on November 23.  

Victoria Milford Haven and her younger son, Dickie, and his wife, Edwina were among the mourners.  Cecilie’s mother, Alice, who had spent most of the decade in sanitariums, came from Berlin with her youngest daughter, Sophie, Princess Christoph of Hesse.   Prince Andrew traveled from London with Philip.  It was the first time Alice had seen her husband since April 1931 and the first time she had seen Dickie since 1929.  Princess Irene of Prussia and Philip’s three surviving sisters and their husbands were also present.

There were wreaths from members of the British royal family, including “a beautiful one from the Duchess of Kent,” from King George II of the Hellenes, from Kaiser Wilhelm II, in exile in the Netherlands (he was a first cousin of Victoria Milford Haven), Herr Hitler and General Göring.   Six coffins (five for the victims of the air crash and the other for Ernie) were placed in a grave “overshadowed by beautiful cedar trees brought from Lebanon.”

 At the graveside, Pastor Klein turned to face Prince Ludwig: “God has blessed visibly by giving your young wife in the hour of need.” 

An inquiry into the crash had begun a few days before the funeral.  On December 20, the judge at Bruge finished his inquiry.  He found that an employee at the Steene aerodrome, where the crash took place, was “guilty of homicide by imprudence.”   The employee was expected to be charged in a Bruges court.   He should have “transmitted a message” to the pilot to not land at Steene, but to fly directly to London, due to the fog and the failure of the rockets.

The funeral over, Lu and Peg returned to Schloss Wolfsgarten, where they began the legal proceedings to adopt Princess Johanna Marina.   They also hoped to start a family of their own.  It seems that the curse of November 16 was still with them.  Lu and Peg would have no children of their own. 

On June 14, 1939, Princess Johanna Marina Eleonore of Hesse and By Rhine, the sunshine of Lu and Peg’s life succumbed to meningitis.  She was buried next to her parents and older brothers.  She was two and a half years old.  

It was after the war that Princess Margaret of Hesse and by Rhine “reopened the lines of communication” with the British Royal House and their German relatives.   Peg and her husband sat in the Royal Box at the Coronation in 1953.  Prince Philip and his eldest son, Charles were particularly close to Margaret. In 1964, Ludwig was named as one of Prince Edward’s godparents. Whenever the Duke of Edinburgh visited Schloss Wolfsgarten, Peg allowed him the time to “wander in the gardens alone,” as Wolfsgarten was the “last link to his childhood .”

Prince Ludwig of Hesse and by Rhine, the de jure Grand Duke, died on May 30, 1968.   His beloved Peg remained at Wolfsgarten until her death on January 26, 1997.  They are buried at the Rosenhöhe, near the graves of Elisabeth, Ernie, Onor, Don, Cecilie, Ludwig, Alexander, and Johanna Marina.   

After Frittie’s death, Ernie was said to have climbed into his mother’s lap.  “When I die," he whispered to his tearful mother, "you must die too, and all the others. Why can't we all die together? I don't want to die alone, like Frittie."  

Ernie did not die alone, but he was with his family, together, at Rosenhöhe, forever.

[Another  version of this article was published several years ago in]

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Tuesday, November 10, 2020

a girl for the Astors


The Hon Charles Astor and his wife,  Princess Eliane de Merode are the parents of a daughter, Astrid Henriette Elizabeth Astor, who was born at the Lindo Wing, St. Mary's Hospital, London.   The birth was announced on their Instagram accounts, which includes photos of the new baby.

This is the first child for the couple, who were married on June 17, 2017, at Chateau de Guignicourt in Guignicourt sur Vence, France, which is the home of Eliane's parents, Prince and Princess Lionel de Merode.

Astrid has several interesting ancestral lines and family connections.  Her father's paternal first cousin, Harry Lopes is married to Laura Parker Bowles, the daughter of the Duchess of Cornwall and her first husband, Andrew Parker Bowles.

Charles Astor is the only son of John Jacob Astor, 3rd Baron Astor, and his second wife, the Hon. Elizabeth Mackintosh, younger daughter of  John Mackintosh, 2nd Viscount Mackintosh of Halifax.  He is the heir apparent to the Astor of Hever barony.   Until 1983, Hever Castle in Kent was owned by the Astor family.  It was purchased in 1903 by William Waldorf Astor, was the richest man in America following the death of his father, John Jacob Astor III.   Willam moved to England and became a citizen in 1899.  He was created Viscount Waldorf in 1917.  Lord  Astor died two years later and was succeeded by his eldest son, William, as the second Viscount Astor.  

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 Lord Astor's second surviving son, John Jacob Astor V married Lady Violet Elliot-Murray-Kynynmound, daughter of Gilbert Elliot-Murray-Kynynmound, 4th Earl of Minto, Viceroy and Mary Caroline Grey, a granddaughter of Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey and the Hon. Mary Ponsonby, daughter of  William Ponsonby, 1st Baron Ponsonby.  

Lord Ponsonby's mother, Lady Elizabeth Cavendish, daughter of the 3rd Duke of Devonshire.

John Jacob Astor V was created by Baron Astor of Hever in 1956.   

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 His eldest of three sons, the Hon. Gavin Astor married Lady Irene Haig,  who was the daughter of Field Marshal Douglas Haig, 1st Earl Haig, Commander of the British Expeditionary Force in World War I.    

The first Lord Astor died in 1971 and was succeeded by his eldest son.  The 2nd Lord Astor of Hever was the Life President of the Times.   He died in 1984 and was succeeded by his eldest son John Jacob Astor, the present Baron Hever of Astor.

The Castle was sold in 1983 to Broadland Properties.  Lord and Lady Hever live in Kent.

Princess Eliane is the fourth child and only daughter of Prince Léonel de Merode and Countess Regina de Liedekerke.  The de Merode family is one of the oldest noble families in Belgium.  In 1929, members of the family (male line) were raised from the rank of Count or Countess de Merode to Prince or Princess de Merode

The first John Jacob Astor emigrated to the United States from Walldorf in Electoral Palantine in what was then the Holy Roman Empire.  He made his fortune in the fur business.   

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 The line of descent from John Jacob Astor to Miss Astrid Henriette Elizabeth Astor is as follows:

John Jacob Astor & Sarah Todd -- William Backhouse Astor & Margaret Armstrong (whose mother was a member of the Livington family) -- John Jacob Astor III & Charlotte Augusta Gibbes -- William Waldorf Astor, Viscount Astor & Mary Dahlgren Paul --John Jacob Astor V Lord Astor of Hever &  Lady Violet Mary Elliot-Murray-Kynynmound -- Gavin Astor, Lord Astor of Hever & Lady Irene Haig -- John Jacob Astor VIII, Lord Astor of Hever & Hon. Elizabeth Mackintosh -- Hon. Charles Astor & Princess Eliane de Merode.

Astrid is a descendant of Robert Livington the Elder (1654-1728) & Alida Schuyler (1656-1727).  The Livingstons were a prominent New York political family.   Margaret Armstrong's maternal uncle,  Robert Livington was a member of the Committee of Five, along with Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Ben Franklin, and Roger Sherman, that drafted the Declaration of Independence.

Eliane's family produces Wignac cider, made on their estate.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

The newest QVD

@Nicholas Medforth Mills

 A statement from the Romanian royal house

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Crown Prince Alexander with President-Elect Joe Biden


All three photos courtesy HRH Crown Prince Alexander

Crown Prince  Alexander and  Crown Princess  Katherine with President-elect Joe Biden and Jill Biden and Nancy Brinker

Friday, November 6, 2020

Countess Sarolta von Habsburg (1940-2020)


Countess Charlotte  Isabella Mária Krisztine Eszter Katalin Pia von Habsburg-Lothringen was elder of two daughters of HI & RHJ Archduke Albrecht Franz Josef Karl Friedrich Georg Hubert Maria of Austria, Duke of Teschen and his second wife, Katalin Bocskay de Felsö-Bánya.  The Arcduke was the ninth and youngest child (and only son) of Archduke Friedrich, Duke of Teschen and Princess Isabella of Croy.

Countess Sarolta in Hungary in 2015 at the opening of the Karapancsai Castle Park, which was once owned by her late father. @Rimóczi Irén 

She was known by Sárolta, the Hungarian version of Charlotte.   The countess married Ferdinand Joseph Wutholen (1927-2018)  on July 20, 1967.

She is survived by her four children,  Isabella Siddiqi, Alessandra, Marina, and Misha Wutholen, and four grandchildren, as well as her Ildiko Fortier.

Sárolta Wutholen died on November 2, 2020, near Geneva.

Monday, November 2, 2020

50th anniversary of King Peter II's death


King Peter and Queen Alexandra and Crown Prince Alexander 



Belgrade and New York, 3 November 2020 – A memorial service for His Majesty King Peter II (son of the great unifier His Majesty King Alexander I) is going to be officiated tomorrow Tuesday, 3 November 2020 by His Grace Bishop Jovan of Sumadija at the Church of Saint George in Oplenac.

King Peter II and Queen Alexandra 

According to protocol, the first wreath will be laid by Mr. Dragomir Acovic, chairman of the Advisory Bodies of the Crown on behalf of His Royal Highness Crown Prince Alexander head of the Serbian Royal Family (son of His Majesty King Peter II) on the tomb of the late King.

In New York, His Grace Bishop Irinej of Eastern America will officiate a memorial service for His Majesty King Peter II in the presence of Their Royal Highnesses Crown Prince Alexander and Crown Princess Katherine who will light candles in memory of the Crown Prince’s father, HM King Peter II, at the Serbian Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Sava. His Majesty King Peter II was very close to the cathedral during his time in the United States.


Queen Alexandra, Crown Prince Alexander and King Peter II (all four photos courtesy of HRH Crown Prince Alexander)