Alexandrine de Rye was born on 14 August 1589 in Brussels as the daughter of Count Philibert de Rye, Count of Varax and Claudine de Tournon-Roussillon. Alexandrine was a highly educated woman, and she remained unmarried until the age of 27. Perhaps her parents had given up hope when she finally married Leonard II, Count of Taxis in 1616 who was five years younger than her. Alexandrine and Leonard had three children together, of which two – Genoveva Anna (born 1618) and Lamoral (born 1621) reached adulthood. She was unexpectedly widowed in 1628 when her husband died in Prague.
The Taxis family ran a courier service in the Imperial Hereditary lands and at the end of the 18th century, this network linked the Imperial seat in Innsbruck with Brussels, Rome and Paris. With her husband’s death, the post of Imperial General Post Master suddenly fell vacant as their nine-year-old son was not enough to take it up. Alexandrine immediately took up the post with the support of Infanta Isabella Clara Eugenia, who ruled the Netherlands with her husband. Alexandrine was confirmed as guardian of her son and postmaster. She was often on the roads for weeks at a time, visiting post offices, recruiting new staff and having robbers arrested. Carrying mail was particularly dangerous work during the Thirty Years’ War, but Alexandrine managed it. In 1633, Balthazar Gerbier, a Stuart agent in Brussels, suspected that his post to and from England was being opened but he did not believe it to be her as “her honesty, dignity, and sex automatically placed her above all suspicion.” Nevertheless, her network was riddled with spies and her employees opened letters and copied their contents before resealing them. Alexandrine was certainly spying for someone as she had the means to do it but she was overlooked because of her gender.
Alexandrine held the post until 1641 when she handed it over to her son. He was later made Imperial Chamberlain, and he was allowed to change his name to “Thurn and Taxis” after Alexandrine had investigated the family’s history and had found aristocratic ancestors. Lamoral married a Belgian noblewoman named Anna Franziska Eugenia of Horne, and it was their son who became the first Prince of Thurn and Taxis.
Alexandrine died in Brussels in 1666 and was buried in the family vault there. 1