Sophie Hohenberg

Because their mother was not of royal blood, they were not allowed to be Habsburg’s. After the First World War, they were chased from their home and their properties were confiscated without compensation… because they were, their father’s children…



This is the tragic destiny of World War One’s first orphans.

Archduke Franz-Ferdinand buys the Konopiste estate from the Lobkowicz family.
Archduke Rudolph dies in Mayerling.
Archduke Franz-Ferdinand becomes heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne.
After a long conflict with Emperor Franz-Joseph, Archduke Franz-Ferdinand is allowed to marry the love of his life, the Czech Countess Sophie Chotek of Chotkowa and Wognin, under the strict condition that the marriage is to be morganatic and that his wife and children to be, are not and will never be members of the Imperial and Royal family.
On June 28th my great-grandfather Archduke Franz-Ferdinand signs a Declaration of Renunciation, renouncing, not for himself but for his future wife Countess Sophie Chotek and their descendants, not only to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian empire but also to the name, title and privileges, of a Member of the Imperial and Royal Family of Habsburg.
The renunciation act was read in parliament (Reichsrat).
The Hungarian parliament passes a special law to make sure that Sophie would not be able to become Queen of Hungary.

Sophie and Franz-Ferdinand marry on the first of July in Reichstadt (today Zakupy in Czechoslovakia)
My great-grandmother, will later on receive the title of Princess of Hohenberg, and a few years later Duchess of Hohenberg. 

On June 28th Archduke Franz-Ferdinand and his wife are killed in Sarajevo.

My grandfather Duke Max of Hohenberg (12), his brother Ernst Hohenberg (10) and his sister Sophie Hohenberg (13) lose their beloved parents.

This act of terror plunges Europe into the First World War.
On November 21st Emperor Franz-Joseph dies and Archduke Charles, the nephew of Franz-Ferdinand becomes the new Emperor and King of Austria-Hungary.
His succession is not contested. Had the Declaration of Renunciation not been accepted or even contested, Max Hohenberg would have become Emperor of Austria, King of Hungary, King of Bohemia…
On the 28th of October the act of inheritance is concluded and my grandfather Max Hohenberg is the legal owner of the Konopiste estate outside Prague. 5758 hectares, including 2 brickworks and a distillery, 2 separate industrial plants, entered in the Commercial Court Registry, (a Brewery in Benesov and stone quarries in Mraz and Pozar) with overall modern equipment, furthermore the castle of Konopiste with its significant artistic treasures (Collection of weapons, St George’s collection). Ernst Hohenberg is the legal owner of the Chlumetz estate in southern Bohemia, 6688 hectares, and the castle with complete inventory.
On the 31st of August, Emperor Charles confirms, and bestows the hereditary title of Duke to the eldest and Prince or Princes to the other members of the Hohenberg family. A new crest of arms is also designed at this time.

On October 28th, the Czech national assembly in Prague declares the independence of Czechoslovakia.
Six days later, on November 3rd the signing of an armistice between the Austro-Hungarian and Italian governments marks the formal end of the First World War in central Europe.
On 16th of April, the Konopiste estate, which by now is Max Hohenberg’s property, is confiscated. No official reason is given. The three children Sophie, Max and Ernst Hohenberg, are forced to leave Konopiste and Czechoslovakia. They are allowed to carry 5kg of private belongings each and take refuge in Vienna.
It is only 5 month later, on September 10th that the Treaty of Saint-Germain, is signed by the new Republic of Austria and the allied states of the First World War amongst which Czechoslovakia, “a free and independent allied state” as stated in the treaty text.
Article 208 of that Treaty states: “…States arising from the dismemberment of Austria-Hungary shall acquire all property and possessions situated within their territories belonging to the former or existing Austrian Government. (…) For the purposes of this Article, this property shall be deemed to include (…) the private property of members of the former Royal Family of Austria-Hungary.
On the 16th of July the treaty of St. Germain enters into application.

On the 12th of August, after a long debate the Czechoslovak parliament, passes Law 354. This law supposedly retroactively legalizes the unlawful confiscation of the estates belonging to the Hohenberg children: Konopiste (Max Hohenberg) Chlumetz a Trebon (Ernst Hohenberg).
•        The Czechoslovakian Law N° 354 serves as a transposition of Article 208 of the Treaty of St. Germain.

•         In order to justify the reference to article 208, Article 2 of §3 in the Law n° 354 states Archduke Franz-Ferdinand as legal owner of the said estates not his sons.

•         At that point in time Archduke Franz Ferdinand had been dead for almost 8 years, and his son Max Hohenberg was the legal owner of Konopiste for 6 years, besides which  he never was a member of the former Royal Family of Austria-Hungary.
Prince Jaroslav von Thun und Hohenstein, trustee and uncle of the orphans, files a legal action in Czechoslovakia, against this decision. Arguing that the children of Archduke Franz-Ferdinand are not members of the Imperial and royal family, and are therefore not to be considered as being meant by Article 208 of the St. Germain treaty. But the case was rejected in the last instance by the court on the ground that the law stands as it is and that Max and Ernst Hohenberg are descendants of Archduke Franz-Ferdinand.
The trustee then files a complaint at the allied Reparations Commission in the Haag set up by the provisions of the Treaty.
In March 1923 the Reparation Commission declares: “that it has no authority to interpret Article 208”
The Austrian government declares that Konopiste, the property and goods of Max Hohenberg should not rightfully be considered as falling under the provisions of Article 208, of the St. Germain Treaty.
In spite of bilateral contacts between Austria and Czechoslovakia not solution to this problem was ever found, no compensation, nothing.
Prince Jaroslav von Thun und Hohenstein dies. As on each occasion, the Hohenberg brothers are obliged to ask for a special permission to enter Czechoslovakia, so as to be able to attend his funeral. This special permission must also be asked for, each time they want to visit their sister Sophie, who married Count Frederic von Nostitz-Rieneck in 1920, and lives in Czechoslovakia. This permission is not always granted or is granted with much delay.
On March 14th, not even 24 hours after German troops have entered Austria, my Grandfather Max Hohenberg and his brother Ernst are taken into custody by the Gestapo and sent to Dachau concentration camp.
Their respective property in Austria is confiscated by the Nazi authorities.
On March 15th, German troops invade the remains of Czechoslovakia. The Konopiste estate is kept as a museum by the Nazi authorities. Some of the art collections are confiscated for display in the planned “Führer Heeresmuseum” in Linz (Austria).
Allied army officials locate and secure 42 boxes of art from the Konopiste estate and Prague museums, near Salzburg, in Austria. My grandfather Max released from Dachau claims property of the artworks from Konopiste. The claim is dismissed and in May 1946 the crates are returned to Czechoslovakia.
On February 25th, the communist Czechoslovak government takes office
Max Hohenberg dies; his son Franz Hohenberg is his legal heir. The Konopiste estate mentioned by my grandfather in his testament lies, out of reach, behind the iron curtain.
My father, Franz Hohenberg dies. His wife, my mother Elisabeth Princess of Luxembourg, is the legal beneficiary.
Elisabeth Princess of Luxembourg, Duchess of Hohenberg, renounces her rights to the estate of Konopiste in my favour.
I have reopened the case that my grandfather had to abandon. 

© 2009 Sophie Hohenberg
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