Sisi & Néné – Sisters through thick and thin (Part three)

(public domain)

Read part two here.

In February 1868, Helene was back in Regensburg, and she wrote sadly, “I lead a quiet, monotonous life, but have so much to do so that despite my loneliness of heart… and gloominess of my heart, time flies quickly.”1 She added, “The children are now my only diversion, the sole purpose of my life and this duty alone has preserved me. Otherwise, I would certainly have followed him soon. So I may only look forward to this moment when my task is completed. The children are well, and the two girls are now quite busy with their studies… […] But I prefer to be in Regensburg, if only because of the crypt, where I listen to mass every morning and kneel with him for an hour.”2

Her young son Maximilian Maria was now his grandfather’s heir. Just four years after his father’s death, he succeeded as the 7th Prince of Thurn and Taxis at the age of nine. As per her marriage contract, Helene became the regent of her young son, and she would fulfil her duties diligently for the next 12 years. Meanwhile, her two daughters were married. Louise married Prince Frederick of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen on 21 June 1879, but this union would remain childless. Elisabeth married Miguel, Duke of Braganza, on 17 October 1877. She had three children in quick succession before tragically dying following childbirth at the age of 20. Helene’s son officially came of age on 24 June 1883, which was celebrated with grand festivities. He had been well-trained for the task ahead, but tragedy was to strike yet again.

On 2 June 1885, Maximilian Maria died at the age of 22 of cardiac paralysis – he had suffered from a heart defect following a bout of scarlet fever in his childhood. Elisabeth came to lay flowers on his grave, having arrived too late to see him alive. She also wrote a little poem for her “Bubi.” Helene was understandably devastated at the loss of her son with her niece Marie Valerie even writing that she had gone “insane.”3 Her younger son Albert now became the new Prince and at the age of 19 was not yet of age. Once more, Helene was called upon to act as regent. Helene drew her strength from her deep faith, and she even had a chapel right next to her rooms at St. Emmeram’s Abbey, the palace where she and her son now lived.

In 1888, she was finally able to hand over the business to her son Albert. Helene was still only 54 years old, but she was becoming quite the eccentric hermit. Marie von Redwitz wrote of Helene, “In the opposite wing of the palace lived the Prince’s mother, Hereditary Princess Helene. She led a rather lonely existence there. Ate alone most of the time and never got to put her things in order. Since no one was allowed to touch them, there were piles of books on the furniture and pictures leaning against the wall. She spent the whole year shopping for Christmas and gave immensely. In spite of her own messiness, during the minority of her son she was said to have administered his fortune with great understanding and good success.”4

In 1890, it became clear that Helene was seriously ill with stomach cancer, and Elisabeth hurried to be by her sister’s side. Her niece Marie Valerie reported, “Aunt Nene, who did not believe she would die, rejoiced to see Mama and said to her “old Sisi” – she and Mama always spoke English together – “We two have had hard puffs in our lives,” said Mama. “Yes, but we had hearts,” aunt Nene answered. Her last words were reportedly, “Ah yes, life is a sorrow and a misery.”5 She died on 16 May 1890.

Helene had outlived two of her children and her husband. She was buried in the family crypt in Regensburg. The current head of the House of Thurn und Taxis is her great-great-grandson. For Elisabeth, Helene’s death was just another reason to withdraw from the world. She had been longing for death since the death of her son Rudolf in the Mayerling Incident. Marie Valerie wrote, “Mama will probably never again be as she was at one time; she envies Rudolf his death, and day and night she longs for her own.”6 She had already given away all her light-coloured gowns and accessories to her daughters. She had also given away her jewellery to her daughters and Rudolf’s daughter.

  1. Fürstinnen von Thurn und Taxis by Marita A. Panzer p.119
  2. Fürstinnen von Thurn und Taxis by Marita A. Panzer p.120
  3. Fürstinnen von Thurn und Taxis by Marita A. Panzer p.123
  4. Fürstinnen von Thurn und Taxis by Marita A. Panzer p.125
  5. The reluctant empress by Brigitte Hamann p.348
  6. The reluctant empress by Brigitte Hamann p.348

About Moniek Bloks 2666 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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