Thursday, January 10, 2019

DAY 12: The Woman Charles Married



Jennie's romance with Count Charles Kinsky ended 123 years ago this week, in 1895, after Jennie's return from a six-month final voyage around the world with her dying husband, Lord Randolph Churchill. Why did an affair that had endured twelve years end just as Jennie was about to be widowed--and finally free?

Because Charles was a member of the highest ranks of nobility in the Austrian Empire. In line to become the 8th Prince Kinsky at his father's death, Charles could certainly have chosen to marry Jennie; he had been urging her for years to divorce Randolph and chose a future with him. But the sacrifice he would be forced to make was immense: The marriage would be morganatic--and no child he might have with Jennie would be of noble rank, or allowed to inherit Charles's titles, estates, or wealth. 

The most famous example of this arrangement in Charles's world was the morganatic marriage between Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austrian Emperor, and Countess Sophie Chotek--who, although a minor noble and distantly related to Empress Sisi, was not of a high enough caste to win approval as a future emperess. She was denied the title of Archduchess, shunned by the Imperial family, accorded no precedence at Court beyond that of a mistress, and her children with Franz Ferdinand were commoners. Sophie died next to Franz Ferdinand when he was assassinated by a Serbian nationalist in 1914.

While Jennie was absent that summer and autumn of 1894, Charles's family pleaded with him to make a suitable marriage to a lady of his rank and world, for the sake of the Kinsky dynasty. He finally relented and was affianced to Countess Elisabeth Wolff-Metternicht zur Gracht, a relative of both the powerful Metternicht and Von Furstenburg families. She was the same age as Winston Churchill, twenty years old. Charles was thirty-five.


Austrian Court presentation gown of Princess Elisabeth Kinsky, 1905


The marriage was never happy. There were no children. Princess Elizabeth Kinsky died in Luxor, Egypt, in 1909--reportedly of cancer. I imagine she was on a voyage for her "health" when she passed at the age of thirty-one.

Ironically, Charles's titles and estates were vastly changed by the end of the Austrian empire in 1918, and without an heir what remained passed to his brother at his death in 1919. 

He kept a framed portrait of Jennie in his study to the end of his days.



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