|all images Marlene A Eilers Koenig collection|
My book, Queen Victoria's Descendants, was the first to include complete genealogical information about Valerie Marie zu Schleswig-Holstein, the natural daughter of Duke Albert of Schleswig-Holstein, a grandson of Queen Victoria. I was fortunate to have the assistance of the late HH Prince Friedrich Ferdinand of Schleswig-Holstein and the Duke of Arenberg's archivist, both of whom provided me with documents as well as other contacts to fill in the missing pieces. Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation (and disinformation), including one opportunist who created a fake noblewoman, stating she was the mother of Valerie Marie. For the record, her mother's name is not known. All we know -- according to Duke Albert's letter to Valerie -- was that she was a "lady of very high rank."
Valerie Marie was mentioned in several genealogical references but the information was incomplete until I was able to obtain the missing information, including the details on her first marriage, when she was able to change her surname, and even about her death.
In a letter to me in August 1980, Prince Friedrich Ferdinand said that the Duke of Arenberg had made a similar request more than 20 years earlier. Here is the text from my book:
"Like his cousin, the Duke of Albany, Prince Albert transferred his residence to Germany when it became clear that the marriage of his cousin Duke Ernst Gunther of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg would be childless. He succeeded to the Augustenburg estates upon his cousin's death in 1921.
Prince Albert never revealed to anyone, not even his daughter, the name of her mother, although he did tell his two sisters that the woman was of high birth.
Born in a part of Hungary now in Czechoslovakia in 1900, Valerie Marie was raised by a Jewish family named Schwalb, whose name she bore until her first marriage to lawyer Johann Wagner. In 1939, she acquired by registration the surname zu Schleswig-Holstein and her birth registration was also changed to include the fact that Prince Albert was her natural father.
Valerie Marie knew nothing of her parentage until she received a letter from Albert in 1931 only a few days before his death.
The change of her name was necessary because Valerie Marie was engaged to marry Duke Engelbert-Charles of Arenberg. As her maiden name was of Jewish origin, Valerie Marie was thought to be Jewish, and under Nazi law, mixed marriages were not permitted. Although her foster parents were Jewish, Valerie Marie was a Roman Catholic.
In July 1938, Valerie Marie's two aunts, Princess Helena Victoria and Princess Marie Louise co-signed a letter acknowledging their niece and attesting to the fact that Valerie Marie was not Jewish.
"We hereby acknowledge and declare that Valerie Wagner is the illegitimate daughter of our brother His Highness Duke Albert of Schleswig-Holstein, who died on the 27th of April 1931. We are entirely ignorant of the names and identity of Valerie Wagner's mother, but we understand that she was a lady of very high rank. Our brother in order to shield this lady's honour never divulged her name to anyone. Valerie Wagner's foster parents, in whose name she was registered, were of Jewish descent, but we desire to emphasize the fact that Valerie Wagner herself is not of Jewish birth. Our brother, the Duke of Schleswig-Holstein, in a personal letter to Valerie Wagner, deplored the fact that she had been entrusted to the care of a family of a different race and faith to her own."
Valerie Marie's first marriage ended in divorce in 1938 and was annulled by the Catholic Church two years later. She married the Duke of Arenberg in a civil ceremony in Berlin in 1939. A Roman Catholic ceremony was performed in October 1940 following the annulment.
In April 1945, the American 9th Army requisitioned the Arenbergs' 300-room castle on the Rhine river. The Duchess was indignant when the officers asked her to give up most of the rooms in the 200-year-old castle. `I wouldn't put servants in the quarters the Americans asked me to live in. Imagine me getting along in fourteen rooms,' she told an Associated Press reporter.
The Duchess of Arenberg died in 1953. Her aunt, Princess Marie Louise, attended Valerie Marie's funeral at Enghien, Belgium. Born illegitimate, her mother's name unknown, Valerie Marie died a duchess with the style of Serene Highness."
Princesses Helena Victoria and Marie Louise's notarized statement was written on July 26, 1938. Valerie Marie had divorced her first husband, Ernst Johan Wagner in 1938. They had married in civil and Roman Catholic ceremonies, the divorced applied to the civil marriage. The Roman Catholic wedding was annulled. Valerie Marie was engaged to Duke Engelberg-Charles of Arenberg, but the German authorities were not going to allow the marriage to take place as Valerie Marie had been raised by a Jewish family named Schwalb. She was not Jewish but Roman Catholic. Valerie Marie had to prove to the German authorities that she was not Jewish.
When she married Ernst Johann Wagner, MD in 1925, she used the name, Valerie Marie Schwalb. When the marriage was annulled in October 1940, she used the name Schleswig-Holstein, although she was using Schwalb when she was granted a civil divorce in 1938.
Valerie Marie was born on April 3, 1900, at Liptovsky Svaty Mikulas, Hungary. Her birth was registered the following day: Valerie Maria Schwalb, girl Roman Catholic.
(Liptovsky was a part of Hungary until 1920, then Chechoslovakia until 1938, when it became Slovakia, from 1945 until January 1, 1993, again in Czechoslovakia, and now Liptovský Mikuláš in Slovakia).
Duke Albert's letter to Valerie Marie was written on April 15, 1931. He died on April 27. Valerie Marie did not change her birth registration until May 5, 1939. This was done at the District office in Liptovsky Svata Mikulas. The name Valerie Maria Schwalb was erased and replaced with "Natural father of the child is Albert Herzog zu Schleswig-Holstein. As the name of the girl the family name is specified as zu Schleswig-Holstein."
|the official letter from Princesses Helena Victoria and Marie Louise|
During the second world war, Valerie Marie and her husband, Engelbert-Charles, had lived in Germany, although Prince Engelbert-Charles was a Belgian national. In March 1945, the U.S. 2nd Armored division captured the family's 200-year-old castle, Schloss Nordkirchen in Westphalia. The Duke claimed that he was not a Nazi, and had not fought in the war, but the American military noticed an autographed photo of Joachim von Ribbentrop, the German foreign minister.
He also told the American authorities that he had met Hermann Goering once. This happened in 1939 when he married the daughter of the Duke of Schleswig-Holstein. As she was part English, the British Ambassador Neville Henderson had introduced them to Goering, who "had arranged the necessary papers for them."
Living with Valerie and Engelbert Charles was the prince's cousin, Karl Rudolf, the Duke of Croy, whose home had been destroyed by a bomb ten days earlier. (The Duke was married four times. His first wife was American, Nancy Leishman. They divorced in 1922.)
Valerie Marie never met her father, but she did have a relationship with her two aunts, which lead to meeting other cousins, including Queen Victoria Eugenia of Spain, who lived in exile in Switzerland.
"My mother loved "the Schleswig-Holstein bastard" who smothered her with lovely presents," Infanta Maria Cristina of Spain wrote to me in July 1988. "But Aunt Louie [Princess Marie Louise of Schleswig-Holstein] wasn't amused by this intimacy between the cousins. She was always known as the bastard. Poor Valerie, very smart, pretty & fickle. She killed herself one night with every pill she found. Depression I suppose and an impossible love. It was a general shock. Her father must have been a crashing pompous bore!"
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