Saturday, February 14, 2015

Three Generations: Interview with Hereditary Prince Alois

This is part two of an interview series conducted by Vaterlandmagazin to mark the 70th birthday of Prince Hans-Adam called "Three Generations". For a translation of the first part with the birthday boy himself, have a look here. This part features questions by Bettina Stahl-Frick and answers by Hereditary Prince Alois.

Your father celebrates his 70th birthday today. Serene Highness, what do you gift a Prince, your father, on such a special occasion?
The Prince enjoys to eat well. He thus likes if we give him some kind of delicacy.

So your father is a gourmet?
You could say so. Thus we will likely also have some good food on his birthday.

How can we imagine a princely birthday celebration?
A princely birthday celebration isn't really any different to a normal birthday celebration. The only difference in our family might come up when it comes to the singing. The singing talent in our family is very unincisive. Sometimes my mother tries to make us sing but it usually fades pretty quickly after only a few lines. (Laughs.)

Serene Highness, I would like to talk about the relationship between you and your father. Do you have a classical father-son-relationship?
Yes, we do. The only difference is, that we also have a 'regency relationship'.

What does this father-son-relationship look like?
The 'regency relationship' entails that as a regent you keep the person you are regent for in the loop about the decisions you make for them. So we don't only communicate about family matters but also political matters of state. However, it's not very different to a family business. There you would also keep your father informed.

So was your father-son-relationship influenced by your father's role as Fürst?
When I was a child, not at all. Only later another level of communication about state matters was added to our private relationship. However, I would add that this new communication has deepened my father's and my relationship. 

Serene Highness, since you were born, it was clear that you were the heir to the throne, that you would one day reign the country as The Prince. What role did this responsibility play in your childhood?
I can't really recall the moment I became aware that this special role was mine. At some point it just became clear that I was born into a role. I didn't have any influence on my daily life though. The only difference was that I became aware at a certain age that people did watch me more than others. As such, I simply did not join into all the silly things some of my school mates did. 

But even as an heir to the throne, you still go through puberty - weren't there even small things you went wild in?
I don't recall any.

Serene Highness, be honest, the limitation period is long over. Weren't there even small tricks you played on your teachers?
There probably were some but there likely weren't big things as I don't recall any specifics. Honestly. 

When you went to school, were you highly respectable class mate or rather an outsider due to your position?
I think neither one nor the other. Though it's probably best to ask my class mates to answer this question. 

Did your friends from school often ask you about your person or the role of the Princely House?
Not really, the questions were more about the usual things: homework, teachers, exams, ... basically everything that is important to you when going to school.

That sounds like a student like every other.
That's about it. And I'm very thankful for that. To be treated normal, that's what every student prefers.

From your childhood via your school years on to your university education: You studied law. Why did you decide to do so?
Law is a very broad subject that caught my attention rather early on. I also knew that studying law would help my in my later life - especially in my role today.

You studied at the university in Salzburg. Did you live in a shared flat?
No, I first lived with an aunt and then got my own place for myself. 

How did you experience your time as a student?
It was a wonderful time. As a student you have so much more free time, I used most of it to travel. Almost every weekend I travelled and spent somewhere else in Europe. 

When did your preparation for your role as Fürst start?
The preparation already started when I was still a teenager. From time to time, my parents and grandparents told me about their political experiences. So I was led there slowly but steadily from early on.

Were there special rules of behaviour you were taught during those years?
Of course there are certain rules how to behave. We were already taught those from our childhood on. 

For example?
There are table manners, which you teach all children. Or you learn that you should get up when a guests enters the room. Or how you properly thank someone. Just normal rules, we maybe just pay a little more attention to them. I never felt any different to other children or teenagers though. After all my siblings and cousins were taught those same rules. 

From how to behave back to your career. Could you have imagined a job in private enteprise for yourself?
Yes. After I finished university, I did work in private enterprise for a while, in the finance sector. 

You soon also immersed yourself in family life: On July 3, 1993, you married Duchess Sophie in Bavaria. How did you meet for the first time?
We first met at the birthday party of a mutual friend but it wasn't an instant spark. We met a few times after that and only then we started to fall in love.

Sophie is a Duchess, you are a Prince - what role do titles play in your relationship.

Together you have four children: Wenzel, Marie-Caroline, Georg and Nikolaus. What are the most important characteristics you would like to give to your children for their life?
I hope that they will all grow up to become decent people equipped with all the characteristics they need to find their place in life and to be happy. As a Christian, I hope that I can pass my beliefs to them. So that they can one day look back and say that they have also lived their lives in a good Christian way. 

How do you try to teach your children about your Catholic beliefs?
In two ways: My wife and I speak with them about it and try to live according to the principles ourselves, so that we act as an example.

You are now in the role your father was once in: You have to prepare your son, Prince Wenzel, for the role of Fürst. How do you do that?
On the one hand I advise him which studies, what work experiences would help him in his future life; on the other hand I talk about political questions with him to introduce him to those matters. I simply try to prepare him in the same way my grandfather prepared my father and my father me.

As a young adult now, has he ever had doubts about his future role?
No, I have never heard that he had such doubts.

Your youngest child is 14 years old. Social media like Facebook and Twitter are probably also a topic in a Princely Family. How do you handle those things as a father?
I talk to them about social media. Together we look at the positive aspects of them but I also try to warn them about the dangers. 

Do they understand these dangers or are they even allowed to have a Facebook account, for example?
There's no use to forbid it. Something that is forbidden instantly becomes more attractive. I think it's much more important to tell them about the dangers not only of social media but the internet in general.

Back to you as a Hereditary Prince. Ten years ago, you became your father's regent. What memories do you have of that day?
I don't have any very specific recollections of that day. It was a national day like any other in the last ten years since I became his regent. Maybe it had to do with the fact that the Fürst had already asked me to work with him in the constitutional question previously. As such, I was used to giving speeches and interviews to journalists. Consequently to do so wasn't a major change for me.

Concerning speeches - aren't you, even as the Hereditary Prince, nervous to speak in front of so many people?
Of course you have great respect, especially in the beginning. However, you get used to it.

You are not Fürst yet but already have all the responsibility of the job. Do you go to bed at night in a relaxed mood or are there days when you wish that you wouldn't have such a major responsibility?
I like having this responsibility and don't think of it as a burden. But of course there are days when things keep you occupied longer than you would maybe wish for and you would prefer a little more calm.

Once in 2002 you said that you would be disappointed if the people of Liechtenstein would not agree with the constitutional changes that were proposed and that the family would move back to Vienna to have more privacy. How would you have arranged your life to be, are there hidden dreams?
I don't have any hidden dreams. I would have probably spent time managing the princely estates and maybe even involve myself in charity work.

Much to the delight of the people of Liechtenstein, the Princely Family stayed. With what feelings do you look forward to the day that you become Fürst of Liechtenstein.
Most probably it will be when my father dies, so it will be a sad day. As I already do the work for more than ten years, not much of my daily life will change though.

Do you think it is enviable to be The Prince?
I think the task to be head of state is an interesting and varied one. It certainly never gets boring.

What kind of Fürst would you like to be for the people?
I hope that I will fulfill my task and make the right decision for the people, so that they can live happily in peace and liberty.

But before all of that comes, you will celebrate your father's birthday today with hopefully many more to come. Your birthday is coming up in June, what does a Hereditary Prince wish for his big day?
Like my father, I look forward to delicious food but apart from that, I don't have any major wishes. Yet, it's still a few months until then...

Coming up next: Prince Wenzel, the third generation, talks about his life thus far and what he aspires for the future. As a cherry on top, we will also hear what the ladies in Prince Hans-Adam's life have to say, so stay tuned!

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