History - OnThisDay - May 21st. 1864 - Princess Stéphanie of Belgium

May 21st. 1864 marks the birth of Princess Stéphanie of Belgium.
This happy event took place at the Royal Castle of Laeken near Brussels.

Stéphanie - dreaming of a fairy tale?


Her parents were King Leopold II of Belgium and Queen
Marie Henriette of Austria.

Her aunt, Charlotte was married to Maximilian of Austria, a brother
of Emperor Franz Joseph. She later became Empress of Mexico.

The parents of Princess Stéphanie of Belgium had an unhappy marriage.
Finally Queen Marie Henriette retired from court life to escape him
and she lived the rest of her life in Spa.

King Leopold had little interest in Stéphanie and his daughter Louise,
the education of his daughters was neglected.

Leopold also rejected his family for his mistresses and he had many
scandalous liaisons.

Stéphanie and Rudolph


In March 1880, Rudolph, Crown Prince of Austria (son of Emperor
Franz Joseph and Empress Elisabeth (Sisi)) was invited to the
Belgian court.

Rudolph arrived in Brussels on March 5th. 1880. After the meeting
with the 15-year old princess he wrote to his mother:

"I have found what I sought"

Indeed Princess Stéphanie was one of the few catholic princesses
in Europe who was available.

On March 7th., Rudolph asked to marry Princess Stéphanie and the
couple announced their engagement.

Stéphanie went to Vienna to learn the court etiquette but one of her
ladies-in-waiting realized that the girl had not yet reached puberty.

The wedding had to be postponed and the humiliated girl was sent
back to Belgium.

Sisi didn't like the arrangement too. She was disappointed with the
Belgian match as the Belgian monarchy only dated from 1830. In
her eyes they were parvenus.  Rudolph's father on the other hand,
was pleased and he approved the marriage.

Stéphanie and Rudolph

On May 10th. 1881, a few weeks before Stéphanie's 17th birthday,
the two married in the St. Augustine's church in Vienna. Some of
the noble guests who attended their wedding were:

the future King Edward VII of the United Kingdom
the future German Emperor Wilhelm II.

The couple went on honeymoon at Laxenburg castle, just outside

In the beginning the marriage between them was happy, but soon
difficulties developed.

Rudolph was intelligent but impulsive and very liberal. Stéphanie
had a conservative mind.

Their only child, Archduchess Elisabeth Marie of Austria "Erzsi"
was born on September 2nd. 1883.

Stéphanie received little help from the Imperial Family during her
marriage. Sisi avoided and disdained her. She knew Stéphanie wasn't
a good match for her son.

It was said that Rudolph infected Stéphanie with a venereal disease,
which made further pregnancies impossible. Both began to seek
love outside their marriage.

In 1887, during a visit to Galicia, Stéphanie fell in love with a Polish
count. Her husband continued his own liaisons.

On January 30th. 1889, Rudolph and his mistress Baroness Mary
Vetsera were found shot to death in the Mayerling incident.

Stéphanie and her daughter

Second Marriage

On March 22nd. 1900, Stéphanie married Count Elemér Lónyay
de Nagy-Lónya et Vásáros-Namény.

He was an Hungarian nobleman of enequal rank. In 1917 he was
elevated by the Emperor of Austria to the rank of Fürst.

She settled with her new husband in the castle Oroszvár -Rusovce
in Western Hungary (now located in Slovakia) until the Red Army
forced them to flee their estate. They found sanctuary in the
Benedictine abbey of Pannonhalma in Hungary.

In 1935 Princess Stéphanie wanted to publish her memoirs with the
title 'I Was To Be Empress'.

However the Austrian court forbade her to issue her memoirs, but
they were published outside Austria.

Stéphanie in Hungarian dress


Stéphanie died at Pannonhalma on 23 August 1945. Her only child
Archduchess Elisabeth Marie of Austria had four children.

Stéphanie and her second husband

Source pictures: Wikipedia
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