Riding in ancient gilded coach

Here’s a photo from the picture page of the June 23 1930 edition of the Toronto Daily Star that features a princess in an ancient gilded coach.

Princess Elsa Lichtenstein (1875-1947), born Elisabeth von Gutmann, was already a widow when she met Prince Franz of Lichtenstein in 1914. It was something of a May-December romance, as the Prince was more than two decades older than she.

The prince’s older brother, Prince Johann, who had been ruling Lichtenstein since 1858, disapproved of his younger brother’s new flame. Despite this, the two married secretly in 1919 and remarried openly in 1929 when Franz succeeded his childless brother as ruler.

The Princess remained the first lady of Lichtenstein until 1938, when three things happened more or less at the same time:

  • Her husband abdicated in favour of his grandnephew.
  • Her husband then passed away.
  • Neighbouring Austria was annexed by the Nazis.

Since the Princess had been born Jewish before converting to Roman Catholicism in 1899, she prudently fled to exile in Switzerland, where she passed away nine years later.

Maria Theresa Walburga Amalia Christina (1717-1780), the woman that Princess Elsa was portraying, ruled the Habsburg empire from 1740 to 1780 while giving birth to the last fourteen of her seventeen children. She was, technically, the last of the Habsburgs: she was succeeded as ruler by her eldest son, Joseph, who founded what became known as the House of Lorraine. The second-last of Maria Theresa’s children was Marie Antoinette, the last queen of France.

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