New wife, new happiness: in 1907 Leopold married Maria Ritter, another former prostitute.
New wife, new happiness: in 1907 Leopold married Maria Ritter, another former prostitute. Pinterest

Leopold and the women

Leopold Wölfling remarried, and his bride was once again a lady with a dubious reputation. And his naturalisation became problematic. His sister Louise, now also living in Switzerland, was presented with an opportunity to take revenge on the royal house of Saxony...

Michael van Orsouw

Michael van Orsouw

Michael van Orsouw has a PhD in history and is a performance poet and author. He regularly publishes historical books.

Leopold Wölfling, the former Archduke of Austria, and his sister Louise were still making headlines in Switzerland five years after fleeing Austria. Leopold had divorced ex-prostitute Wilhelmine Adamovic. As it later turned out, he had a new lover: her name was Maria Magdalena Ritter, she was 30 years old and, like her predecessor Wilhelmine, she earned her money on her back.
‘A new pot-boiler from Leopold Wölfling’, quipped the Illustrierte Kronen Zeitung newspaper in October 1907.
‘A new pot-boiler from Leopold Wölfling’, quipped the Illustrierte Kronen Zeitung newspaper in October 1907. Illustrierte Kronenzeitung
Wölfling bought Maria Magdalena’s freedom in Munich for 10,000 marks, paying over the money to a pimp with the impressive nickname ‘Schlächter-August’ (August the Butcher). A man like that is certainly not to be trifled with. Leopold told journalists that Maria was a lady ‘who had had a very good upbringing and was highly intelligent’. He also announced that he planned to marry her as soon as possible. Not in Geneva or Zug, but in Zurich this time.
Notice from the Neue Zürcher Nachrichten of 28 September 1907.
Notice from the Neue Zürcher Nachrichten of 28 September 1907. e-newspaperarchives
Astonishingly, Leopold and his Maria took up residence in rural Regensdorf, where they had a room at the unpretentious Zur alten Post inn; for the former prince and archduke, it would have been a very unfamiliar milieu. Wölfling’s new lady-love immediately attracted attention in down-to-earth Regensdorf: she looked like ‘a very elegantly dressed lady in her early thirties, with black hair, a pretty, intelligent face, a neat figure and lively, urbane manner’, reported Vienna’s Neuigkeits-Welt-Blatt newspaper, also mentioning the ‘abundance of diamond jewellery about her neck and on her arms’ and the ‘magnificent gemstone’ on her finger. On 27 October 1907, Leopold and his Maria Magdalena travelled from Regensdorf to Zurich. They were wed in the town hall on the Limmat at precisely 11:30 in the morning. Once again, it was a low-key wedding with only a handful of guests: just six people attended the wedding dinner, among them two sisters of the new Mrs Wölfling-Ritter.
Leopold Wölfling found a new home in rural Regensdorf. But it came with some background noise...
Leopold Wölfling found a new home in rural Regensdorf. But it came with some background noise... ETH Library Zurich
Afterwards, Leopold’s lawyer attempted to negotiate a horse trade with the municipality of Regensdorf. Leopold wished to become a citizen of Regensdorf and relinquish his existing Zug citizenship. In addition to the normal acceptance fee, the former archduke was willing also to pay several hundred francs a year ‘for certain services’, such as donations to benefit the poor in the community. The municipality bumped up the standard rate, while the lawyer was trying to negotiate the most favourable terms possible. This shameful haggling finally ended with 800 francs agreed as the ‘buy-in’ fee and 600 francs as the annual payment. But that wasn’t the end of the episode. The editorial staff of the Wehntaler had got hold of some scandalous inside information: the supposedly decent and high-born archduke, far from being a gentleman, was in fact ‘famous the world over for his escapades with women’. Wölfling had lived an erratic life, ‘one day he is off gallivanting in the great metropolises, then he feels an urge to carouse temporarily among the semi-naked in Ascona, and every so often he pops up at Lake Zug with his nymphs. […] The great Leopold will of course be presented to us as a paragon of virtue of the highest order. […] For the sake of a few shameful pieces of silver, you would propose to put at risk the good reputation of your community. We here in Regensdorf have no need to prettify our list of citizens with the names of Austrian royalty, and we can very happily do without extending rights of citizenship to anyone who seeks to throw himself into our lap like this.’
From archduke to notorious womaniser? Questions were raised about Leopold Wölfling’s moral conduct and lifestyle choices.
From archduke to notorious womaniser? Questions were raised about Leopold Wölfling’s moral conduct and lifestyle choices. Wikimedia
Some newspapers, such as the Graubündner General-Anzeiger, were scathing about Leopold’s search for a new home.
Some newspapers, such as the Graubündner General-Anzeiger, were scathing about Leopold’s search for a new home. e-newspaperarchives
But the warnings fell on deaf ears: on Sunday 21 June 1908, the citizens of Regensdorf unanimously approved the naturalisation of the aristocrat in their midst. In Zug, on the other hand, the secret documents in the Wehntaler had a huge impact. It turned out that someone in Zug had been holding a protecting hand over the Archduke when he settled and become naturalised there. The scandal started making the rounds, and soon Switzerland’s newspapers were talking openly about the ‘Wölfling affair’, which showed the Zug authorities in a very bad light. An administrative investigation in Zug and Bern produced no useful result, but left a bitter taste in the mouths of many.

An unexpected visit for Louise

Leopold’s sister Louise also stirred ambivalent emotions. First, she gave birth to her baby Pia Monica in Lindau on Lake Constance. Driven by inner turmoil, she and her baby subsequently lived in France and England. Finally she returned to Switzerland. She found accommodation at Wartegg Castle, the stately residence of the Bourbon-Parma family, to whom she was related. The little castle in Rorschacherberg, with its distinctive tower, belonged to Louise’s uncle. (Today it is a hotel open to the public.) The uncle, Robert of Bourbon-Parma, put the chalet in the castle grounds at her long-term disposal. It was a pretty, spacious building over three floors, tucked away among the greenery of the picturesque parkland. It was designed in the style of a Swiss chalet and surrounded by a cosy veranda decorated with quaint fretwork embellishments.
Wartegg Castle in Rorschacherberg: Louise lived here after the birth of Pia Monica.
Wartegg Castle in Rorschacherberg: Louise lived here after the birth of Pia Monica. Museum Rorschach
Louise would have strolled through the extensive park on the Rorschacherberg, with its old trees, and must surely have thought about her five older children who were growing up in distant Dresden under the charge of teachers and governesses she knew nothing about. Just four times a year she received official bulletins telling her how her children were doing; these communiqués were very brief and would have been unlikely to generate much in the way of maternal warmth.
Louise with two of her older sons, 1890s.
Louise with two of her older sons, 1890s. Wikimedia
Portrait of Louise’s uncle, Robert of Bourbon-Parma.
Portrait of Louise’s uncle, Robert of Bourbon-Parma. Wikimedia
One day Louise received an unexpected visit. Two men she had never seen before asked to speak to her about ‘an urgent personal matter’. Because the visitors spoke flawless Saxon Louise welcomed them into her home, hoping for news of her children. But the men introduced themselves as leaders of Saxony’s socialist party. ‘Your Imperial Highness’, proclaimed one of the men, using grandiose formal language, ‘we have come to ask you to return to Dresden under our protection.’ Louise was astonished, but she decided to hear them out. ‘We have, and we can attest to this, the power to overturn the existing state of affairs. Come back with us, avenge yourself on your enemies, and you will become the red queen of Saxony.’ This came as something of a surprise, but it was a tempting offer, a kind of indecent proposal. It would allow Louise, as Queen of Saxony, to take revenge: on her father-in-law, the king; on her husband, the heir to the throne; on the entire royal household.
A congratulatory card for her 35th birthday: Louise was still a popular figure in Saxony.
A congratulatory card for her 35th birthday: Louise was still a popular figure in Saxony. Gustav Schmidt Kunstverlag, Dresden
But after thinking it over for a short time she firmly rejected the offer, saying that she had no wish to disparage her former husband. The truth is probably, in addition, that she was not a tactically and strategically proficient politician who would have been able to govern a kingdom of Saxony.

Louise and Leopold

In 1902, Crown Princess Louise and Archduke Leopold of Austria-Tuscany fled to Switzerland. The siblings sought to escape from their straitjacketed life in the bosom of the Habsburg family. They succeeded, but their lives became a scandal-plagued descent into a normal middle-class existence, and ultimately ended in poverty and loneliness. Part 1: Escape to Switzerland Part 2: The scandal becomes public knowledge Part 3: The Archduke becomes a Swiss citizen Part 4: Leopold and the women Part 5: Regensdorf versus the Archduke Read the detailed account of Louise and Leopold’s journey in the book of the same name, by Michael van Orsouw. It is published by Hier und Jetzt.

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