Saturday, December 26, 2015

Luxarazzi 101: Princess Elisabeth of Luxembourg, Princess of Thurn and Taxis

The six daughters of Grand Duke Wilhelm IV and Grand Duchess Maria Ana led privileged, but often difficult lives marred by circumstances of war, ill health, and the premature deaths in this close-knit family. Today we'll learn more about the life the fifth daughter, Elisabeth.

Elisabeth Marie Wilhelmine was born at Château de Berg on March 7, 1901. Little Elisabeth, called "Lissi" by her family, was born during the reign of her grandfather, Grand Duke Adolph. She joined her older sisters Marie-Adélaïde, Charlotte, Hilda, and Antonia in the nursery. A year later, the family was complete with the birth of youngest daughter Sophie.

Elisabeth as a child
Little Elisabeth was baptized four days after her birth, with her maternal aunt the Duchess of San Jaime, née Infanta Maria das Neves of Portugal, as godmother. At the time of their marriage, Wilhelm and Maria Ana and the Pope, who needed to give the necessary dispensation for them to marry, agreed that all of the sons born to them would be raised with their father's Lutheran faith, while the girls would become Catholics like their mother. As such, Elisabeth and her sisters were raised as Catholics, like the majority of the subjects in the Grand Duchy.

Elisabeth spent her early childhood mostly at the Château de Berg and Schloss Hohenberg in Bavaria. Although all of Grand Duke Wilhelm's daughters were very close, Elisabeth and Sophie were particularly attached to one another as they were similar in age. The six sisters were raised in a somewhat isolated environment with very little interaction with outsiders. Their lives were centered around family and their lessons. Elisabeth and her siblings enjoyed their rare ventures outside the palace, such as distributing presents to local children at Christmastime.

The Grand Duke's debilitating stroke occurred when Elisabeth was five, casting a shadow over the life of the family for the next seven years. As Wilhelm's health gradually declined, Maria Ana's time was increasingly devoted to her duties as regent of the Grand Duchy and caring for her sick husband. Elisabeth and her sisters were then placed largely under the care of their paternal grandmother, Grand Duchess Adelheid-Marie.

The Grand Ducal Family was in residence at Château de Berg when Grand Duke Wilhelm died on February 25, 1912. Maria Ana continued on as regent during the last few months of Grand Duchess Marie-Adélaïde's minority.  Elisabeth and her family lived at Berg throughout Marie-Adélaïde's reign and during the German occupation of the country in World War I. Following Grand Duchess Charlotte's ascension and marriage in 1919, Elisabeth spent a lot of time with her mother and sisters Antonia, Sophie and Hilda at Schloss Hohenburg in Bavaria. She also accompanied Marie-Adélaïde and their mother to Modena when the former entered a convent there in September 1920.

Elisabeth and Ludwig Philipp at the time of their engagement
Following the marriages of her sisters Antonia and Sophie in 1921, Elisabeth married Prince Ludwig Philipp of Thurn und Taxis on November 14, 1922, at Schloss Hohenburg. Ludwig Philipp was the third surviving son of Albert, 8th Prince of Thurn and Taxis and his wife Margarethe Klementine, an Austrian archduchess. Elisabeth and Ludwig Philipp were a love match and did not refrain from showing open affection, much to the dislike of Lissi's oldest sister, Marie-Adélaïde.

Prince Ludwig Philipp had studied law at the Julius Maximilian University of Würzburg and was a member of one of the wealthiest and - despite only being nobles and not reigning royals - best connected families of Europe. The couple made their home at Schloss Niederaichbach in Bavaria where they raised their two children, Prince Anselm (1924-1944) and Princess Iniga (1925-2008), the great-grandmother of Princess Theresa d'Orléans, née von Einsiedel, whose wedding you might recall.

However, the family's happiness was to be short-lived. Ludwig Philipp died suddenly on April 22, 1933, at Niederaichbach from complications of a cardiac insufficiency. At the time of his death, he was only 32 years old. A devastated Elisabeth devoted herself to caring for her children and moving on as best as she could. Over time, she devoted herself more and more to her faith and became a philanthropist caring for the sick and disabled.

At the outbreak of World War II in 1939, Elisabeth found herself cut off from the majority of her family. Eldest sister Marie-Adélaïde had died in 1924. Her mother, Grand Duchess Maria Ana, accompanied Grand Duchess Charlotte and her family into exile to the United States and later Canada; sister Hilda and her husband also went to the U.S., while Antonia and her family were exiled to Italy, Hungary, and later were imprisoned in Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps. Elisabeth could correspond with her younger sister Sophie in Saxony, but Sophie died following a bout of pneumonia in May 1941. After Sophie's death, Elisabeth rushed to Saxony to be by her brother-in-law's and nephew's sides in this time of struggle.

Following the death of her beloved younger sister, Elisabeth was to face further loss. Grand Duchess Maria Ana died in the United States in July 1942, several years after she'd last seen her daughter Elisabeth. She was initially buried in a New York City cemetery due to the ongoing war and the inability to transport her remains to the family crypt. A final cruel blow came in February 1944, when her son Anselm died at age 19 while fighting in the Ukraine. Only a few months early, he had been drafted into the German military despite the Thurn und Taxis' dislike for Hitler and his party. He was killed by an explosive device in Solotaia-Balka in western Ukraine.

Elisabeth with her children Anselm and Iniga in about 1930
The end of World War II meant the return of Elisabeth's surviving sisters. Elisabeth's health had become very delicate in the meantime, as did that of her sister Antonia, who had spent some time in a concentration camp. The end of the 1940s brought some much-needed happiness to Elisabeth's life. Her daughter Iniga married Eberhard of Urach in 1948; she gave birth the following year to Amelie, Elisabeth's first grandchild. Already in 1946, Princess Elisabeth had been able to return to Luxembourg for the first time in many years. Many visits followed, often times with an array of gifts accompanying her.

However, Elisabeth's happiness was not long-lived. She was taken ill at Hohenberg in late July of 1950, on the way back from celebrating the diamond wedding anniversary of Ludwig Philipp's parents.   Elisabeth's sisters Hilda and Charlotte were able to make it to her bedside at Hohenburg to say their goodbyes. Elisabeth died on August 2, 1950 at the age of 49, the third of the daughters of Wilhelm IV to die. She was buried beside Ludwig Philipp in the Thurn and Taxis family crypt at Schloss St. Emmeram in Regensburg.

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