Thursday, March 15, 2012

+ Princess Maria Anna of Saxony (1929-2012)

It is with much sadness that we communicate the passing of Princess Maria Anna of Saxony (1929-2012).

Princess Maria Anna of Saxony was born on 13 December 1929 at Bad Wörishofen, a spa town in South-Western Bavaria. She was the middle of five children of Margrave Friedrich Christian of Meissen (1893-1968) and of his wife Elisabeth (1903-1976), née a princess of Thurn und Taxis. Although Friedrich Christian was the second son of King Friedrich August III of Saxony, he was his father's heir as the family's eldest son, Crown Prince Georg, took holy orders and died killed by the Nazis in 1943. Georg left no descendants.

At the fall of the Saxon monarchy in 1918, the family of King Friedrich August III was allowed to stay in some of their many residences. The settlement received from the state included, among some amazing properties, two particularly beautiful castles, Schloß Warwitz and Schloß Moritzburg. Friedrich August III continued living at Schloß Sibyllenort, a privately owned property, where he died in 1932, while his third son, Ernst Heinrich, was charged with managing the Moritzburg estate.

However, Prince Ernst Friedrich and his family (he had married Princess Sophie of Luxembourg) claimed Munich as their main residence. In fact, all of Ernst Heinrich's three sons were born in Munich, while his wife also died there in 1941. After the end of the Second World War they migrated to Ireland and later to Canada. Of the three sons, only one married, but this alliance was a morganatic one.

Schloß Sibyllenort was inherited by the Saxon royal family from the last Duke of Oels, Duke Wilhelm of Brünswick-Lüneburg. The Saxons used it as a summer residence, even after the death of King Friedrich August III. During the Second World War, the German Air Force requisitioned Sibyllenort and used it as a depot. It was blown up in early 1945 and the ensuing fire consumed nearly the totality of the vast structure. The region was given to Poland after the war and the remaining ruins of Schloß Sibyllenort were demolished by the Communists in the 1970s and during the 1980s. Today only the park and a carriage house remain of what once was one of the most beautiful examples of Gothix revival architecture in that part of the German Empire.

When it came to choosing a bride, Friedrich Christian settled on a distant cousin, Princess Elisabeth of Thurn und Taxis. She was the only daughter of Fürst Albrecht of Turn und Taxis (1867-1952) and of his wife Margarethe (1870-1955), née Archduchess of Austria. She was the daughter of Archduke Joseph Karl of Austria and Princess Clotilde of Saxe-Coburg & Gothe, herself the eldest daughter of Prince August of Saxe-Coburg & Gotha and of his wife Princess Clementine d'Orléans, herself the youngest daughter of King Louis Philippe and Queen Marie Amelie of the French.

Friedrich Christian's own ancestry was no less impressive. King Friedrich August III was once married to Archduchess Louisa of Austria-Tuscany, a tortured soul who left many a scandal in her wake and got herself thrown out of the Imperial House and banned from Vienna. Friedrich August III's parents were King Gerog I of Saxony (1832-1904) and his wife Infanta Maria Anna of Portugal (1843-1884), herself the daughter of Queen Maria II of Portugal and her Saxe-Coburg & Gotha husband, King Consort Ferdinand, who was the eldest brother of Prince August. Friedrich August III's siblings included Maria Josepha, who married Archduke Otto of Austria and was the mother of Emperor Karl I of Austria.

Friedrich Christian and Elisabeth married in 1923 at Regensburg, seat of the Thurn und Taxis dynasty. As mentioned before, they were the parents of five children: Maria Emanuel (b. 1926), who in 1968 succeeded his father as Margrave of Meissen; Maria Josepha (b. 1928); Maria Anna; Albert (b. 1934); and Mathilde (b. 1936), who in 1968 married her cousin Prince Johannes Heinrich of Saxe-Coburg & Gotha (1931-2010).

Princess Maria Anna met the man who would be her husband, Roberto de Afif (1916-1978), after the end of the Second World War. Afif, whose family claimed an ancient Lebanese princely title (Princes of Gessaphe), was a wealthy Mexican citizen with excellent connections. His sister Alexandra was married to Prince Karl Anton of Hohenzollern, a first cousin of Princess Maria Anna's. Afif and Maria Anna were married in Paris in 1953 and eventually settled in Mexico City, where two of their sons were born, Friedrich Wilhelm and Karl August, in 1955 and 1958 respectively. The eldest son, Alexander, was born in Munich in 1954.

Margrave Maria Emanuel's marriage to Princess Anastasia of Anhalt produced no children. His brother Albrecht is also childless. Saxony followed Semi-Salic Law, allowing the succession to pass to a male through a princess of the royal house. Hence, Maria Emanuel looked to his youngest sister, Mathilde, when it came time to clarify succession matters. Mathilde and Johannes Heinrich were the parents of one son, Johannes, who was initially named by his uncle as the family's heir. Unfortunately, the young prince died in a tragic climbing accident a few months before his 18th birthday, his death robbing the parents of their only son and depriving the Saxon Royal Family of an unquestioned heir.

Faced with this complication, Maria Emmanuel had several candidates in mind, but he waited to see which of them would marry in accordance with them laws of his House. He looked toward his sister Maria Anna and her own sons. The eldest, Alexander, had made a splendid marriage to Princess Gisela of Bavaria, by whom he would eventually father three sons and a daughter. Thus, with the family's agreement, Maria Emmanuel adopted his nephew Alexander and declared that the Saxon succession would pass through his sister Maria Anna to his nephew Alexander and from him to his sons, all of unquestioned royal blood.

Prince Albrecht, Meissen's only brother, later changed his mind and tried to spoil matters by recanting his agreement to his older brother's succession formula. However, no other royal family in Germany, or abroad, pays much attention to either Albrecht or his rather vocal, and meddlesome, wife.

Princess Maria Anna lived in Mexico for many decades. Her husband Roberto died there in 1978, after which time she began thinking in settling in Munich, to be closer to her family. The move took place and she lived in the Bavarian capital for a very long time. Maria Anna was, as are her sisters, a rather private person and she was only rarely seen attending royal events. She delighted in the company of her sisters and looked, with much satisfaction, toward the arrival of grandchildren. Her sons gave her eight grandchildren, the eldest being Prince Georg of Saxony, born in 1988, firstborn son of Prince Alexander and Princess Gisela.

A few years ago, Maria Anna's health began to give much concern. A fatal illness set in and in spite of valiant efforts to fight against it, the Princess succumbed to her malady on 13 March 2012.

She is survived by her three sons, two-daughters-in-law and eight grandchildren, as well as by her four siblings. A Requiem Mass is scheduled in Munich on 24 March.

May She Rest in Peace...

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