Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Luxarazzi 101: Princess Antonia of Luxembourg, Crown Princess of Bavaria

After a long absence, we complete our series on the sisters of the only ruling Grand Duchesses of Luxembourg, Marie-Adélaïde and Charlotte. Today we'll get to know a little more about the fourth of the six sisters, Princess Antonia. Antonia's life alternated from prominence to controversy to tragedy, from her marriage to a member of the Bavarian royal family to her extraordinarily difficult experience during World War II.

Antonia was born at Schloss Hohenburg in Bavaria on October 7, 1899, during the reign of her grandfather, Grand Duke Adolph, who - before ascending to Luxembourg's throne - had also ruled as the Duke of Nassau. She was the fourth daughter of the future Wilhelm IV, Grand Duke of Luxembourg and his wife Maria Ana, a Portuguese infanta by birth. She was named in honor of her maternal aunt, Antonia of Portugal, and was also christened with the names Roberte, Sophie and Wilhelmine. Antonia followed her sisters Marie-Adélaïde, Charlotte, and Hilda, with younger sisters Elisabeth and Sophie joining the family in the following years. Her nickname within the family was “Toni”. 

Antonia grew up in the family homes at Château de Berg and Schloss Hohenburg. The family was a loving one, although Grand Duke Wilhelm’s stroke in 1908 interrupted their quiet life. While Maria-Ana served as regent and tended to her husband’s failing health, Antonia and her sisters spent much of their time with their paternal grandmother, the Dowager Grand Duchess Adelheid-Marie. Among her sisters, Antonia stood out as a gifted pianist.

Antonia's teen years were difficult due the outbreak of World War I, the death of her grandmother Adelheid-Marie, and Germany's occupation of Luxembourg. Grand Duchess Marie-Adélaïde'S troubled reign ended with her being viewed as pro-German, leading to her eventual abdication. However, it was the German occupation of the country that brought Antonia closer to her future husband, Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria. 

Rupprecht was the son of King Ludwig III of Bavaria and Maria Theresia of Modena. He had held several prominent commands and earned numerous accolades in the German Army during World War I. He initially commanded the German 6th Army in Lorraine and eventually rose to the rank of Field Marshall. Rupprecht had been married previously to Marie-Gabrielle of Bavaria (a first cousin to Antonia through their respective mothers, Duchess Maria Josepha of Bavaria and Grand Duchess Maria Ana), who had died in 1912. The couple had had five children, but only Albrecht (the third child and the paternal grandfather of Hereditary Princess Sophie of Liechtenstein) survived to adulthood. One daughter had been stillborn, while the other children died separately of polio, diabetes, and diphtheria.

The Bavarian and Luxembourg royal families had been friends for years, as their summer homes in Bavaria were located in the same area. It is likely Antonia and Rupprecht met long before the war given that he was married to her first cousin, although Antonia was probably just a little girl at the time. 

Rumors of an engagement between Antonia and Rupprecht had surfaced during the last year of the war. Prince Rupprecht spent time in occupied Luxembourg during the war, given the position of his troops in neighboring Lorraine. It is believed he and Antonia met again during one of these trips. Word also spread that Antonia was being forced into the marriage because her three elder sisters all refused Rupprecht. The couple may have become engaged as early as February 1918, but the official engagement was announced on August 26, 1918, in a statement made by King Ludwig III from Munich.

The engagement came with an enormous amount of controversy in Luxembourg and France. Rupprecht was not held in high regard within the grand duchy, to say the least - his nickname among the people was "the Luxembourg hangman." The public was critical not only of the considerable difference in age between Antonia and Rupprecht, but also because of the latter’s prominent positions in the German Army and Bavarian royalty and the concern that Antonia had no choice in the engagement just as the people of Luxembourg had been forced into German occupation during the war.

But political pressures made Rupprecht rethink the engagement, which jeopardized both his family as the rulers of Bavaria and Antonia's sister Marie-Adélaïde as the increasingly unpopular monarch of Luxembourg. With a heavy heart, Rupprecht called off the union. Antonia retreated to Hohenburg, where she further pursued her musical studies at an academy in Munich, while Rupprecht tended to his wounded heart in Berchtesgaden.

But the abdication of both Rupprecht's father and Marie-Adélaïde following the end of the war meant that at least the political resistance to the marriage was gone. Dowager Grand Duchess Maria Ana and her sister (and Rupprecht's mother-in-law) Maria Josepha intervened and arranged the couple to meet again during the summer of 1920, allowing the two to rekindle their romance. 

The match was on for good as of February 1921, with Antonia at the age of majority and insistent on proceeding with the marriage. In defense of Rupprecht and her marriage, Antonia said, "I love him more than my life," while Rupprecht stated that his love for Antonia made him feel like a young man again. The Parliamentary vote on Antonia's engagement passed barely in the couple's favor - 26 to 24 votes.

Antonia married Rupprecht civilly on April 6, 1921, with a religious ceremony following the next day. Antonia was 21 years old at the time, while Rupprecht was 53. Both events were held at the family home of Schloss Hohenburg, with the religious wedding conducted by Bavarian papal nuncio Eugenio Pacelli, the future Pope Pius XII. The Bavarian public was more receptive to the union, and hundreds of locals flocked to the streets to wish the couple well. Antonia wore the magnificent Bavarian Ruby and Spinel Tiara in some of her official wedding pictures, which you may remember from our previous Luxarazzi 101s. Antonia’s youngest sister Sophie married Ernst Heinrich of Saxony at Schloss Hohenburg just a few days later on April 12.

The new couple made their home at Schloss Leuchtenberg in central Munich, while summers were spent at Schloss Berchtesgaden and at Château de Berg. The family also spent time at palaces in Leutstetten, Wildenwart and Hohenschwangau. 

Antonia and Rupprecht had six children:

- Heinrich (1922-1958)

- Irmingard (1923-2010)

- Editha (1924-2013)

- Hilda (1926-2002)

- Gabriele (1927-)

- Sophie (1935-)

Adolf Hitler's rise to power in Germany in the 1920s and 30s was to have an enormous affect on Antonia, Rupprecht, and their children. Hitler respected Rupprecht for his military accomplishments and noticed how the Bavarian people still had great affection for the former royal family. Hitler tried to enlist Rupprecht for an endorsement of his planned regime, believing that Rupprecht's support would provide additional legitimacy for Hitler's rule. But Rupprecht flatly refused, and his dislike of Hitler and the Nazi Party never wavered. 

During the 1930s, Rupprecht and Antonia sent their children to the United Kingdom for their education. This was done so the children could avoid being forced to join any Nazi youth groups as was required in many German schools. The couple’s daughters attended Sacred Heart Convent in Roehampton, which was later attended by their cousins, the daughters of Grand Duchess Charlotte.

Antonia and her children were in Brussels when war was declared in September 1939, while Rupprecht was visiting family in Hungary. Rupprecht’s vocal opposition to the Nazi regime caused the family to essentially go on the run. Strained finances were also a worry, as Antonia and her family were cut off from much of their income. Grand Duchess Charlotte was able to provide support until her own departure from Europe in May 1940.

Antonia and her family moved multiple times before finally settling in Florence, Italy, where they lived a fairly peaceful life until early 1944. But with German and German-sympathetic Italian forces in control of much of northern Italy, the family was in danger. Although Rupprecht tried to hide Antonia and their three youngest daughters in a convent, the women were discovered and arrested in April. They were later joined by Editha and Irmingard, both of whom were arrested elsewhere in Italy.

Antonia and her daughters were moved to various locations in Italy before finally ending up in Innsbruck, Austria. Antonia and Irmingard became ill with typhus and were hospitalized there. The remaining children were sent on to a series of concentration camps in Sachsenhausen, Flossenburg, and Dachau. Antonia and Irmingard later joined the family, which by then included Antonia’s stepson Albrecht and his family. During her time at Flossenburg, Antonia underwent torture at the hands of her captors. Antonia was repeatedly pressed to reveal the location of her husband; each time she refused.

But Antonia’s health, aggravated by malnutrition, effects from the torture, and insufficient medical care, had not fully recovered from her bout with typhus. By the time Antonia was found to be recuperating in a hospital in Jena, she weighed less than 80 lbs. Her brother-in-law Prince Felix took her back to Luxembourg to continue her rehabilitation. Her daughters were able to join her in May 1945, not long after the end of the war in Europe.

Rupprecht had fortunately evaded capture throughout the war, despite being ill for some time in the fall of 1944. He moved frequently to avoid capture, living in Padua, Brixen, Rome, and Florence. Heinrich, Rupprecht and Antonia's only son, was also able to escape arrest by the Nazis and jointed his father in Florence in the last months of 1944. The two returned to Schloss Leutstetten in September 1945.

Antonia rarely spoke of the treatment she'd suffered during the final year of the war. She declared that she would never return to Germany again, a promise she kept. Instead, she divided her time between Italy and Switzerland.

Antonia was helping her youngest daughter Sophie prepare for her wedding when on July 13, 1954, the family received terrible news. Second daughter Editha and her husband, Italian engineer Tito Brunetti, were involved in a serious car accident. Editha survived, but was seriously injured while Tito was killed almost instantly. Antonia's delicate health could not hold up to the shock, and it was soon clear that she would not survive.

Antonia died on July 31, 1954, in Lenzerheide, Switzerland. Sophie's wedding was postponed, and the family gathered instead for Antonia's funeral. Her body was buried in Rome, while her heart was interred in Bavaria. Rupprecht followed her just barely a year later, dying on August 2, 1955. The couple's only son Heinrich died in a car accident only three years after Rupprecht's death. Among Antonia's descendants are members of the Bavarian royal family, the House of Croÿ and the House of Arenberg.

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