Leopold Wölfling became a citizen of Regensdorf in 1908. Portrait dating from 1930.
Leopold Wölfling became a citizen of Regensdorf in 1908. Portrait dating from 1930. Keystone / United Archives / TopFoto

Regensdorf versus the Archduke

The former Archduke Leopold was still a citizen of Regensdorf, but spent years embroiled in arguments with the Regensdorf municipality, while Louise remarried, and fled back to Switzerland when her marriage became rocky.

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.

Louise had left Wartegg Castle on the Rorschacherberg behind her and found a new home in Florence. After other dalliances, she fell in love with Enrico Toselli, a young musician and composer. Toselli was just 23 years old, making him 12 years younger than Louise. He came from Florence, had curly black hair, and wore fine fabrics and a neatly twirled moustache.
He won Louise’s heart: Enrico Toselli, musically talented and elegantly dressed. Portrait, around 1910.
He won Louise’s heart: Enrico Toselli, musically talented and elegantly dressed. Portrait, around 1910. Wikimedia
This Toselli was an early bloomer; as a child he was considered a musical prodigy on the piano and at the age of just 17 he composed the Serenata op. 6.1, which was destined to become a staple of insipid ‘coffeehouse music’ as the Toselli Serenade. Louise gushed about him: “My love is deep and steadfast, my faith in you strong and unshakeable.” The court of her ex-husband in Saxony was in uproar, and even her brother Leopold opposed the relationship: he was “speechless over the outrageous affair”, quoted the Wiener Tagblatt.
Click to hear the Toselli Serenade. YouTube
But all this resistance was in vain; Louise and Enrico were determined to marry. Armed with a ‘Special Licence’ they travelled to London, where the Catholic Church had no influence. They married at the registry office on Henrietta Street in London’s Covent Garden. For traditional Italians, for whom weddings usually mean great festivities, loud organ-playing, hordes of family, valuable gifts, lavish feasting, dancing and music, this wedding was a tragedy.
Louise marries musician Enrico Toselli, secretly in London. Illustration from Das interessante Blatt magazine, 3 October 1907.
Louise marries musician Enrico Toselli, secretly in London. Illustration from Das interessante Blatt magazine, 3 October 1907. Das interessante Blatt
Toselli himself called it a “farce”, because he didn’t speak English and didn’t understand a word the registrar said: “I repeated the sentences like a parrot, and that seemed to have such a comical effect for those present that even the registrar couldn’t help laughing.” But the marriage was legal, and Louise and Enrico left the registry office as man and wife.
Happily married: Louise and Enrico Toselli.
Happily married: Louise and Enrico Toselli. Wikimedia
Leopold, meanwhile, was far from speechless and certainly not inactive in his own ‘relationship activities’. Louise’s brother had walked out on his second wife, Maria Magdalena Ritter, in 1912. During a stay at a health resort in Hesse, she returned to the hotel room to find a brief telegram from her husband coldly notifying her of their abrupt separation: “I shall not be returning, no cause for concern, further details from F…”. ‘F’ referred to Leopold’s trusted lawyer, Dr Emil Frischauer, who would be taking care of the legal aspects of the separation. This cruel brush-off found its way into the newspapers, which took great pleasure in disseminating the juicy details of the abrupt end of the marriage.

A new wife, from the lower levels of society – yet again…

But that wasn’t all. Leopold paid a visit to the Munich vice squad, who monitored prostitution activity in the city. He had fallen in love, once again, with a lady of the night; her name was Maria Schweikhardt, and Wölfling wished to have her removed “from the oversight of the vice squad”, because he wanted to take care of her! For a third time Wölfling saw himself as a knight in shining armour, rescuing a fallen woman and delivering her from her fate. Leopold continued to spend time in Switzerland on and off; he was, after all, still a citizen of Regensdorf. But he no longer adhered to the earlier arrangements. Just to remind you: when he was naturalised in 1908, he had promised to deliver 600 francs a month to Regensdorf. But as of 1913 he had ceased honouring the agreement.
Regensdorf from the air, around 1930.
Regensdorf from the air, around 1930. ETH Library Zurich
Regensdorf therefore sued Wölfling, but the municipality brought its case before a Munich court – a choice which complicated the matter and required a lot of patience, because of the war. It is odd, however, that at that time – we’re talking about 1916 – Wölfling lived not only in Berlin but also, from time to time, in Zurich, in a villa with a brick façade at Stapferstrasse 21 near the Oberstrass church. Now the lawyers of the municipality of Regensdorf kicked things up a notch. They requested the seizure of all Wölfling’s assets! However, the former archduke had very little in the way of available funds. According to the impound report, his cash to hand amounted to a meagre 930 Reichsmarks. In February 1917, after two years of proceedings, the Munich court finally reached a verdict. Wölfling was ordered to pay the backlog of debts and bear the court costs. What happened next in this matter, sadly, is not recorded. But Wölfling remained a citizen of Regensdorf until the end of his roller-coaster life in 1935.
Financially, things went downhill for Leopold Wölfling. He tried his hand as an insurance salesman, stage actor and even as a grocer. He didn’t earn much from these ventures, and he was something of a laughing stock within the community.
Financially, things went downhill for Leopold Wölfling. He tried his hand as an insurance salesman, stage actor and even as a grocer. He didn’t earn much from these ventures, and he was something of a laughing stock within the community. Anno
Louise, too, lurched from one disaster to the next. After one particular quarrel with her husband Toselli, she ran away for an unbroken stretch of 42 hours, fleeing like a hunted animal from Italy to liberal Switzerland, to Montreux’s Hotel Palace. There she hid with her little son Emanuele Filiberto and two servants, “to get away from Toselli”, she said. Her husband supposedly enjoyed himself a little too much with Louise’s maids. Louise got in touch with an old acquaintance, Geneva lawyer and ex-Federal Councillor Adrien Lachenal, who had advised her and her brother after their flight from the Saxon palace in 1902. She discussed with him the possibility of obtaining Swiss citizenship, which her brother Leopold had already acquired. But Lachenal explained to her that it was not possible because she didn’t live in Switzerland. However, he would be able to initiate the divorce immediately.
Adrien Lachenal, lawyer and ex-Federal Councillor from Geneva: He was Louise and Leopold’s legal adviser in Switzerland.
Adrien Lachenal, lawyer and ex-Federal Councillor from Geneva: He was Louise and Leopold’s legal adviser in Switzerland. notrehistoire.ch / Bibliothèque de Genève
Around the same time, Louise sent a letter to a friend in Rome asking her to go and see the Swiss envoy, Giovanni Battista Pioda II. She was afraid that her impulsive husband could demand her expulsion from Switzerland. The Swiss envoy Pioda was sympathetic to her plight and promised protection: the official machinery of Switzerland pledged to oppose any expulsion. The Deutsche Volksblatt commented on this, with a dig at Switzerland: “Switzerland is a popular spot for runaways of all sorts; many an affair has already been initiated from Switzerland.” Her abandoned husband Enrico Toselli wasn’t so easily got rid of. He made enquiries here and there – and he finally tracked her down in Montreux. He immediately rushed to the four-room apartment on the fifth floor of the Palace. Then, yet again, the unexpected happened: Enrico Toselli and Louise talked, and they reconciled. The following day the lawyer Lachenal had to speak to the representatives of the press, denying that his client had any intention of divorcing.
Louise and Enrico had an on-off relationship.
Louise and Enrico had an on-off relationship. Wikimedia
Everyone needed to understand that! The Neue Wiener Journal quite accurately described Louise as an “emotional nomad”, saying her “inner turmoil is stronger than she is. Alas, the pounding of her afflicted heart has so often drowned out the voice of reason.” And her life went on in the same vein, shaped by her quite staggering “inner turmoil”, until she died alone and impoverished in Belgium in 1947.
Louise spent the final decades of her life in Belgium, alone and impoverished.
Louise spent the final decades of her life in Belgium, alone and impoverished. Saxon State and University Library, Dresden

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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