Agnes the Secret Princess: An Australian Story by Belinda Dettmann and Jane Stevens Book Review

In 1824 Prince Wilhelm of Prussia and Princess Elisa Radziwill were very much in love, but they had been forbidden to marry. Their story is known as one of the most tragic royal romances of the 19th century. But were they in fact lovers, and did they have a child?

A young woman named Agnes emigrated to Australia in 1848 to became the matriarch of a family in which it was whispered that she was a princess. Such stories abound as old wives’ tales and most of them are unfounded, but this particular story is true.

How did this happen, and how did it remain a secret until now?

The book attempts to answer these questions, and in doing so throws light on the history of Europe in the 19th, and 20th centuries, as Kaiser Wilhelm I and his successors would play a vital role in the creation of modern Europe

This book connects an Australian dynasty to controversial historical events in Europe, and it represents 20 years of research into our own family history. It includes expert DNA analysis alongside a personal journey wrapped up in a ripping yarn.

A while back I was contacted by a woman who claimed to be a descendant of William I, Emperor of Germany through an illegitimate daughter of his with Princess Elisa Radziwill. The two had been in love, but they were forbidden to marry due to Elisa’s low status. After several years of trying to find a solution to this, including trying to have her adopted by Emperor Alexander I of Russia, William gave up on the idea of marriage to his Elisa and dutifully married a more suitable woman, Augusta of Saxe-Weimar. I was sent this book for review, and in it, they researched the possibility of the illegitimate daughter and also possibly an illegitimate son and even a marriage between the two.

The evidence for the illegitimate daughter is rather thin. The child, Agnes, was given up to a woman who had also just had a daughter and was thus able to feed the child. As Agnes grew up, she was informed of her supposed royal status. The book states that her parents had a secret wedding, but before William’s marriage to Augusta his father declared all previous attachments null and void (which is used as evidence that something took place). Agnes eventually married and moved to Australia. Prince Alfred once travelled to Australia with a letter of introduction, which is also used as evidence that Agnes was royal as letters of introduction weren’t used lightly.

DNA was conducted, which turned up a relation who claimed to be a descendant of an illegitimate son of the Emperor. No DNA-testing was ever done on legitimate descendants of the Emperor, and so we can conclude that none of the evidence is conclusive. It makes for an interesting story though, and I do hope that one day they are able to do more extensive testing.

The book Agnes the Secret Princess: An Australian Story is available through their website.

This story is also featured in the Australian version of “Who do you think you are?” on Geoffrey Robertson. (Don’t mind the title of the video, it is incorrect!)

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About Moniek 868 Articles
My name is Moniek and I am from the Netherlands. I began this website in 2013 because I wanted to share these women's amazing stories.

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