Sunday, February 5, 2017

Luxarazzi 101: Elisabeth of Luxembourg, Duchess of Hohenberg

Continuing in our series of profiles on the children of Grand Duchess Charlotte, we move to the eldest daughter and second child in the family, Princess Elisabeth. Elisabeth Hilda Zita Marie Antonia Friederike Wilhelmine Louise was born to Grand Duchess Charlotte and Prince Felix at Château de Berg on December 22, 1922.  She was named in honor of several relatives, including a paternal aunt (Zita of Bourbon-Parma, former Austrian Empress) and three maternal aunts (Elisabeth, Hilda, and Antonia).  The following year the Luxembourg government issued a set of miniature collector stamps in celebration of Elisabeth's birth, the first such stamps produced anywhere in the world.

Elisabeth as a child
Elisabeth joined her brother, the future Grand Duke Jean, in the family nursery. The two enjoyed a closeness that would span Elisabeth's entire life. Three sisters - Marie-Adelaide, Marie-Gabrielle, and Alix - and brother Charles followed Elisabeth in quick succession. Elisabeth and her siblings spent their childhood at Château de Berg, where they were initially educated by private tutors.  She later attended school in Brussels with several of her siblings.

Elisabeth was with her family at the Château de Ham in Steenokkerzeel, the Belgian home of her aunt Zita, when the Germans invaded the country on May 10, 1940. She was seventeen years old at the time. The family had been celebrating Zita's 48th birthday the previous day. Evacuation plans had been made in advance to escape a possible invasion, and the entire family - including Zita and her children - fled Belgium. The group traveled through France, Spain, and finally to Portugal. In Lisbon, Elisabeth and her family were then able to board the USS Trenton, a cruiser sent by President Franklin Roosevelt bound for the United States.  Prince Felix had requested - and been granted - temporary asylum for the family there.

The Grand Ducal Family spent a short time in the United States before settling in Montreal, Québec, in Canada. During her time there, Elisabeth attended College Jesus-Marie de Sillery, a French language boarding school affiliated with Laval University in Québec City.  Elisabeth roomed with her Austrian cousin (also named Elisabeth), with whom she was close in age. Settling in Canada was necessary as a means of not violating the then-neutrality of the United States. Residence in Québec also allowed Elisabeth and the rest of the grand ducal children an education in the French language, of which they were more familiar than English.

Elisabeth (l.) as a teenager with her
sister Marie-Adelaide
During her time in Canada, Elisabeth served as patron of the Luxembourg exhibit at the Women's National Exhibition of Arts and Industries in New York. Elisabeth and her sister Marie-Adelaide toured the exhibition unrecognized by the crowds in 1941. The two were also guests of honor at a children's party associated with the exhibition.  Elisabeth was naturally present at a mass for her grandmother, Dowager Grand Duchess Maria Ana, who died in New York in July 1942. 

By 1943 Grand Duchess Charlotte had permanently settled in London, where the family joined her. Along with her sister Marie-Adelaide, Elisabeth continued her education at the Convent of the Sacred Heart (now known as the Woldingham School) in Surrey. During this time, Elisabeth served as a nurse with the British Red Cross along with several of her sisters.

While Prince Consort Felix and Grand Duke Jean had participated in the liberation of Luxembourg in early 1945, the remainder of the Grand Ducal Family had not yet returned to the country. Elisabeth, her siblings, and Grand Duchess Charlotte made their entrance into the Grand Duchy on April 15, 1945. Elisabeth, along with her siblings Marie-Adelaide, Marie-Gabrielle, and Charles drove as part of a convoy of trucks and ambulances filled with food, medical supplies, and other necessities of which the residents of Luxembourg were in great need. The supplies were donated by the British Red Cross to assist in recovery of the Grand Duchy and its people.

Elisabeth engagement was announced on November 22, 1955.  Her groom-to-be was Franz, Duke of Hohenberg, the grandson of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand, whose assassination sparked the First World War.  The House of Hohenberg was a comparatively young noble house, formed in 1900 by Austrian Emperor Franz Josef in the wake of Franz Ferdinand's morganatic marriage to Sophie Chotek, a Czech countess. Sophie and their three surviving children all belonged to the House of Hohenberg and had no succession rights to the Austrian Imperial throne.  Franz was the eldest son of Maximilian, who was himself the eldest son of Franz Ferdinand and Sophie. A spring wedding date of May 9 was announced on January 18, 1956.

Elisabeth and Franz on their wedding day
The couple was married on May 9, 1956, first in a civil ceremony conducted by Luxembourg City Mayor Emile Hamilius at the Grand Ducal Palace.  The religious wedding was held later that day at the Cathédrale Notre-Dame, with Monsignor Leo Lommel officiating. Over 100 members of European royalty attended the religious service. Elisabeth was thus the fourth child in the family to wed following the marriages of Princesses Alix and Marie-Gabrielle as well as Grand Duke Jean.

Following their wedding, couple lived in Schloss Artsetten, the seat of the Hohenberg family, in Lower Austria.  Elisabeth and Franz had two daughters: Anna (known as Anita) born in 1958, and Sophie who followed two years later.  At Elisabeth's request, both children were born at Château de Berg.

At some point after the birth of their children, Elisabeth and Franz separated.  Franz stayed in Austria while Elisabeth and her daughters quietly moved back to Luxembourg and into Château de Fischbach, living with her parents, brother Charles, and his family.  Elisabeth and Franz never divorced, and he died on August 16, 1977, just twenty days after the death of Elisabeth's brother Charles.  Elisabeth inherited Artstetten Castle from Franz, which she granted to her daughter Anita.

After the death of her mother in 1985, Elisabeth moved from Château de Fischbach to the nearby area of Waasserhaf.  During the following years Elisabeth was visible at various public ceremonies and family activities within the Grand Duchy. She also had an interest in the history of the Grand Duchy, spending time at the library at Château de Berg studying the family archives. Following the death of Grand Duchess Joséphine-Charlotte in 2005, Elisabeth moved back to Château de Fischbach to be closer to her older brother.

Elisabeth in her later years
Elisabeth's daughter Sophie has fought since 2007 to obtain compensation for the seizure of Zamek Konopiště, a castle in Czechia, from the Hohenberg family during World War I. Konopiště had been bought by Franz Ferdinand following the sale of some Italian properties and inherited by his children.  In 2001 Elisabeth (who inherited any rights to the property after Franz's death) signed her claim to the property to Sophie. Because the children were Hohenbergs and not legally Habsburgs, Sophie maintains the property was taken illegally.  Her legal battles continues to this day.

Elisabeth's final years were unfortunately spent in ill health after suffering stroke in 2010. She died at Château de Fischbach on November 22, 2011, exactly one month before her 89th birthday. Elisabeth was survived by her two daughters, seven grandchildren, and one great-grandchild; two additional great-grandchildren have been born since Elisabeth's death. She is buried beside her husband at the Hohenberg family crypt in Schloss Artstetten.  A mass was celebrated for Elisabeth on December 15 in St. Michael's Church in Luxembourg and was attended by both of Elisabeth's descendants as well as members of the Grand Ducal Family.

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