“But what terrible hours I have passed! What nights of agony! What horrible nightmares! What tears, what sobs! I tried in vain to control myself.”1 For four long years, Louise, declared insane and ostracised by the royal courts of Europe, languished in insane asylums. She was finally moved to Lindenhof, where she regained some freedoms, but she still described it as a “gilded cage” and a “tomb.”2 Her aunt the Countess of Flanders (born Marie of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen) and her daughter eventually came to visit her. She never heard from her father. Her mother died in 1902, and they never saw each other again. They had written to each other while Louise was incarcerated, but as she wrote, “I felt that my mother had been convinced that I was really insane.”3
After four years, Count Geza Mattachich was pardoned for his so-called crimes, and he soon began to plan for Louise’s escape but it would three more years before he was able to free her. Louise was allowed to travel to Bad-Elster to take the waters, but she would still be well-guarded. The Count passed messages to Louise through a waiter in the hotel where she was staying, finally giving Louise some hope. Somehow, the night watchman was in on the escape, and Louise received a communication that read, “It will be tomorrow.”4 It was August 1904 and Louise would finally be free again. During the night, Louise anxiously awaited a signal with her dog Kiki by her side. The nightwatchman came to fetch her and the little belongings she had managed to pack without arousing suspicion. He led her to the ground floor, where she found the Count waiting for her. Through the darkness, they walked to a waiting carriage. Eventually, they made their way to Berlin where they caught the Orient Express to France via Belgium.
As she crossed into Belgium, one superintendent asked the Count, “It is our Princess, is it not? Do not be afraid. Nobody will betray her.”5 Incredibly, their plan had worked. They arrived in Paris, where they set out to prove that Louise was sane. French physicians interrogated and examined Louise, declaring her to be sane. However, she was still left without money, and the immense inheritance she expected to receive would not be forthcoming. Her father promptly removed her from his will when her divorce from Prince Philipp finally became final in 1906. Louise began legal proceedings, but her father died in 1909 without having resolved the issue. She would be given an allowance from the Belgian government, but she did not receive any money until the end of the First World War.
Louise was in Vienna when the First World War was declared, and the Austrian court immediately declared her an “enemy subject”, and she was asked to leave as soon as possible. She intended to go to Belgium but ended up stranded in Munich. For two years, she lived there with the indulgence of the Bavarian court. The German victories in Europe made the Bavarians less willing to host her, and she ended up at the mercy of her son-in-law, Ernst Günther, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg, who wanted her to sign over her rights to any inheritance she might receive from her aunt Charlotte, the unfortunate Empress of Mexico. The Count was forced to leave Munich and was deported back to Croatia. She was now penniless and alone, again. Louise found her way Hungary and was there when the Austrian Empire collapsed. She was mocked with the words, “Here is a King’s daughter who is poorer than I am.”6
She began writing her memoirs, which were published in 1921. The final pages in the memoirs are dedicated to the Count, “This spirit of sacrifice is peculiarly your own. I never possessed it. But you have endowed me with it. No gift has ever been so precious to my soul, and I shall be beyond grateful to you on this side of the tomb and beyond it. I, who alone know you as you really are, and know the adoration that has given you a reason for living, I thank you, Count, in the twilight of my days for the nobility which you have always shown in this adoration? Shall I ever know, will you ever know, the meaning of rest otherwise than the last rest, which is the lot of mankind?7
Louise’s beloved Count died in 1923. Louise died on 1 March 1924 of pneumonia at the age of 66 in Wiesbaden. She was buried at Wiesbaden’s Südfriedhof.