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A PRINCE AMONG STONES
That Business with the Rolling Stones and Other Adventures
By Prince Rupert Loewenstein
BLOOMSBURY Copyright © 2013 Loewenstein Investments Limited
All rights reserved.
'Only children know what they are looking for'
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Le Petit Prince
When I was fourteen, at boarding school shortly after the end of the Second World War, one of my classmates came across a comment in the social column of a paper talking about my parents getting a divorce. This was complete news to me. I had no inkling whatsoever that they were planning to do something quite so irreversible – and when I heard I was much disturbed. I went straight down to the school office and asked if I could place a reverse-charge telephone call to my mother.
I got through, and asked her, 'What's happened?' 'Darling,' she replied, 'I wasn't going to tell you, because it doesn't count.' It was her own odd interpretation of what it meant in the eyes of the Church: in her mind she had married my father and that was that. For her this divorce was purely a civil arrangement that in no way altered the fact of her marriage.
What was strange was that I had not realised that my parents had split up long before, when I was very young, maybe four or five. They lived in separate places, and indeed separate countries, my father principally in England, my mother mainly in France, but periodically they were together, and whenever I was with them both they seemed to get on very well. They certainly never spoke critically of each other.
On one occasion, puzzled by our living arrangements, I had gone so far as to question my mother, with whom I lived, on the reason all three of us did not live in the same house. 'Well, it's very easy to understand,' she said, explaining, quite plausibly, that 'Papa likes to get up early. And I like lying in bed and getting up in time for lunch. So it's really much more convenient this way.'
And so it was. I would see my father on and off (more off than on). From time to time I would go and have lunch or dinner with him where he lived just o- the King's Road in Chelsea, or occasionally stay for a night or two. Whenever I saw him, there was always some nice young woman there, too, but I have few memories of any of them as they were usually never there again the next time I visited.
But I do remember staying with him when I was ten or twelve and he was living with the actress Googie Withers. Born in Karachi to a Dutch-German mother and a father who was a Royal Navy officer, she had been given the nickname Googie by her ayah: it meant 'little pigeon'. I much enjoyed meeting her, because I was fascinated by her being a film star and having seen a number of her films: she had become famous during the previous few years, appearing in The Lady Vanishes and One of Our Aircraft Is Missing. She was charming, pretty and also particularly kind to me.
There was one Easter holiday a couple of years later when my mother was in New York and my father told me he couldn't have me to stay, because, he said, it was complicated for breakfast. That I really thought was carrying things too far, although I didn't much mind. I made great friends with him in my teens, and we got on very well. Although he was distant, he was extremely witty and perceptive.
On the rare occasions I found myself alone with my father, he would talk to me about our background and our family tree, which interested me very much. I think it was the only thing my father ever talked about. From an early age he made me aware that I came from a certain sort of distinguished background.
He was Prince Leopold zu Loewenstein-Wertheim-Freudenberg, from a family that can trace itself back to Luitpold Markgrave of Carinthia and later Duke of Bavaria (who died repelling the Huns in 907).
My family is a branch of the Bavarian royal house, which started its own independent history at the end of the fifteenth century as a result of the morganatic marriage of Frederick I the Victorious, Elector Palatine, and Klara Tott, a pretty lady-in-waiting at the Palatine court. Their son, Ludwig of Bavaria, was created Sovereign Count of Loewenstein-Scharffeneck by the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I in 1494. His descendants made some good marriages and were then created counts of further territories.
The elder line became Protestant, thinking that their fortunes would prosper by backing Luther, whereas the younger line stayed Catholic, the family dividing in 1611 shortly before the start of the Thirty Years War. The younger line had backed the right horse and were made princes of the Holy Roman Empire in 1711, whereas my line had to wait to be made princes by the Bavarian King in 1812 after the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire as a result of the Napoleonic Wars in 1806 (for a fuller history and genealogy, see the Appendix, page 239).
As far as history was concerned, my father considered himself, as he later wrote, 'a mere amateur with a certain insight into our motives. What had always fascinated me about my own family was not its role in history – important up to the end of the fifteenth century, but negligible since – but the occasional flashes of eccentricity and genius which down the centuries light up and mellow those stern unvarying features of the family face.' His first conscious memory of his younger brother, for example, had been seeing him sitting on his pot aged three or four, wearing a long red dressing gown, shouting, 'One day I'll be Emperor and kill you all!'
There had been many family twists and turns, and all of those stories were fascinating to me, but my father also talked about what he called tenue, a single French word that has no English equivalent able to convey so successfully that blend of emotional control, impeccable manners, elegant dress and correct posture. Tenue was my father's touchstone.
In his late sixties, he was interviewed by the Guardian's Terry Coleman, a conversation in which he talked about tenue, a concept in which he had been drilled by my grandfather. 'One must remain undismayed, and never show weakness.' Terry Coleman asked him whether it was anything like the English stiff upper lip. 'More than that,' my father answered, 'a stoic attitude. The attitude of the samurai in the face of death.'
Our conversations took place in his sitting room, which contained a large number of books, many, naturally, about family history. He was a writer, or, more precisely, he had had a modestly successful book first published by Faber and Faber shortly after I was born – it was reissued in 1942 as a Penguin paperback – which he had written with William Gerhardi, a novelist, playwright and critic, born in St Petersburg to English parents, who was a renowned and pioneering supporter of Chekhov's writing in the West. (Gerhardi was also a keen supporter of the Tsarina, whom he had met as a young man, and believed that the best influence in Russia was, contrary to all normal belief, that of Rasputin who had been violently against the war with Germany, seeing – apocalyptically – the downfall of the dynasty and of the country as a result.)
Meet Yourself As You Really Are was a very early example of home psychoanalysis, one of those psychological quizzes that officers instant insights into your personality and psyche. The foreword described the book as a 'guide to self-knowledge. It takes the reader on an extensive tour of exploration into some of the less well-charted regions of his own psyche and helps him to discover new and unsuspected aspects of his personality ... If we want to know ourselves we must not only look into ourselves, we must look outside and around us in order to get ourselves and our problems into the right perspective.'
You were asked a long list of questions about all aspects of your life, covering everything from childhood to phobias, social behaviour to daily routine. I remember one that asked, 'Do you like your bath water tepid/hot/very hot?' Others wanted to know whether you easily blushed, blanched or trembled, if you had ever had the feeling that you might suddenly go mad, or suddenly die, and whether you were sometimes amazed at the muddles other people could get into. From those answers and a scoring system, you could discover your personality type among multiple permutations (three million possibilities, the book's strapline proclaimed) leading to a number of basic key types.
William Gerhardi and my father had decided to name these different types after rivers, so you might at the end of the process discover you were the Rhine, the Nile, the Tiber or the River Thames, the latter with its conclusion, 'You're the sort of poor mutt who always pays.'
The authors did not claim any scientific accuracy – this was not a textbook of clinical psychiatry. As they pointed out, theirs was not an exact science. 'Human personality cannot be dissected, weighed, measured, preserved in surgical spirit, or dried, pinned down with needles, put under glass, stuffed or studied under the microscope. It is forever moving and changing, elusive and unpredictable.'
The book is great fun, and amused my father. I think he must have studied psychoanalysis when he had lived in Vienna and Berlin. He had certainly known Sigmund Freud there and that may have sparked his interest. He told me that as a teenager he had mentioned to his own father that he wanted to become a doctor, to which his father had simply said, 'You don't become a doctor, you call a doctor.' The medical profession was clearly not an acceptable choice in our family. So he saw himself as a doctor manqué, a would-be psychoanalyst.
The book was one way for him to get this out of his system, as was one of the jobs he took after he came to England in 1926 planning to make his fortune. He became a psychological adviser to the managing directors of a management consultancy, acting as a consultant to the consultants – his first job in London had been for the American literary agency Curtis Brown. He always enjoyed chatting to doctors and psychologists, and when I got married at least half of the guests he invited were from one or the other profession.
My mother, Countess Bianca Treuberg, was Bavarian, She met my father at a party in Rome in 1931, when she was eighteen and he was ten years older. Her parents had split up, as indeed had my father's parents – very unusual for the time – and she had moved with her mother to Italy, where she was looked after by a Florentine governess and eventually studied sculpture. Her schooling had been erratic, to say the least.
Many years later, I was worrying about one of the school reports my daughter had been given. I had just returned from a trip to New York, and had been staying on Long Island with that most elegant of hostesses C. Z. Guest. I told my mother I had been talking about Dora's report with C. Z., who had said, 'I don't know why you are so concerned about your daughter. I didn't go to school. I'm sure your mother didn't go to school. What are you worrying about?' When I relayed this to my mother she was furious. 'Of course I went to school.' 'Yes,' I said, 'but I must remind you that you have always told me that you only went for one term to the Sacré-Coeur in Rome. After which I am sure that you thought that you knew more than they did.' Wherever or however she had learnt it, she knew the whole of the Divina Commedia by heart. It was a source of great pride for her. She could start o- at any point and carry on.
Whether or not quoting long chunks of Dante was part of her charm to my father, they married in 1932, the year after the party in Rome.
The marriage foundered rather soon, because of my father's behaviour – he was, to be frank, a serial Casanova. Like many people one knows, his entire life had been dedicated to the pursuit of pretty girls. He had married my mother because she was very attractive, and also, then, possessed some money, which was helpful, too, but neither of them knew how quickly that money would disappear.
However, they stayed together long enough to produce me. They had taken a house in Palma, Majorca, for the summer of 1933, where I was born on 24 August. Years later I went back with my wife, Josephine, to visit the land of my birth. Beforehand, we had lunch with the doctor who had brought me into the world. His own house was a huge place out in the country, very gloomy, like something out of a Lorca play.
The day was extremely hot, the dust outside was boiling. In a vast, dark room the doctor and his wife received us, tapas arrived and sangria was served. We had been asked for 1.30 for 2.00, so I thought this was the lunch. Not at all. At quarter past three another pair of huge doors opened and we went into lunch. I asked him where on the island I could find the house I had been born in. 'I knew you'd ask me this,' he said, 'but unfortunately it has been pulled down.' According to the doctor, in the early 1930s it had been a rambling country house a couple of miles outside Palma, with sixty hectares of land, and had been offered to my father for £1,000 to buy or £100 per annum rent, which is the option he chose. By the time of my return visit, the city of Palma had spread out and over the site.
Because of their separation I was my parents' only child – and remained so, since, although they both later remarried, there were no children from either second marriage. In my father's self-analysis book, the very first question in the questionnaire was: 1) When looking back on your childhood, up to the age of about ten, which impression predominates: that it was, on the whole, a happy childhood? If so, mark A. Or an unhappy one? If so, mark B.
I have to say that I quite enjoyed being an only child (which was the third question ...). It meant that I became grown up at a very early age, and was treated as an adult. Blissfully unaware that my parents were separated, I never felt I had an unhappy childhood, even though I was not brought up by my father – but then in those days, of course, so many people, at least in the world I was born into, were not brought up by their parents. They were looked after by nannies and then either sent away to school or tutored at home. When my old nanny died, my mother's maid took care of me, but I still spent plenty of time in my mother's company.
Because she was a sculptor, I was raised in a world where art and literature were the most important things. She really only liked literary and artistic people. There were telephone calls at all hours of the day and night, visitors, dinner parties. It was definitely an artistic milieu, since she moved to Paris after she split up with my father and lived there with her older brother.
She was very sad that I was born on 24 August, because it meant I was, just, a Virgo, and she desperately wanted me to have been born a couple of days earlier so I could have been a Leo, like her brother, to whom she was devoted. But it didn't happen, quite luckily perhaps, as her brother was an absolutely archetypal black sheep of the family. He was Count Franz Ferdinard Fischler von Treuberg, known to everyone as Bubi.
During the war, Uncle Bubi went initially to Portugal. We heard from him periodically via Barclays Bank in London. Since he was fond of overspending, there was always considerable worry about how Uncle Bubi was managing. Somehow he did. He left Portugal and returned to Germany where, towards the end of the war, he found himself in Buchenwald – he had always been conspicuously anti-Nazi – being marched out of his cell into an interview room where sat three highly decorated generals.
When he was alone with them they told him that they were going to use what remained of their power to save him, since they had all been friends of his father, my maternal grandfather. The only way they could do this was to sentence him to death, have him released into their custody and move him out of the camp in one of their military transports to Berlin where they would deposit him with friends.
Bubi and my mother's father – although his connections had saved Bubi's life – had unfortunately been very extravagant and been obliged to sell o- the family's wonderful Schloss and 5,000-hectare estate in Bavaria, which had been given to my great-great-great grandfather, a Prince of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, as a dowry for his daughter, in 1806.
My mother's father had both wildly overspent and been poorly advised. The factors who managed estates were renowned for siphoning o- funds for their own benefit. Naturally they encouraged their employers in their financial ignorance. This was exacerbated by my grandfather's love of horses: he used to take them to race in different countries at great expense, but none were good enough to win a major race. My mother told me she remembered her father getting a coach and horses ready to be driven into Munich at a time when the motor car was already common. Such unnecessary expenditure was indicative of his fin d'époque mentality.
The lovely Schloss Holzen (which is between Augsburg and Munich) was sold in the late 1920s. It was acquired by Franciscan nuns, and my grandfather retained the right to live in a little house nearby for the rest of his life. He used to join in their Offices every day since he loved chanting the Office and became a Dominican Tertiary.
I wanted to go and meet him after the war, once travelling to Germany started to become a little easier, but he died shortly before I was finally able to make the trip. Instead, I spent some time there with the old parish priest, who had been a great friend and companion of my grandfather. He plied me with some exceptionally good white wine. I was only seventeen or eighteen, and when I had drunk half my bottle I refused any more, thinking that I had had enough, that I was not used to drinking and that a parish priest could not afford to be too liberal with such a good wine. The priest was furious with me. 'Drink up. Your grandfather never drank less than four bottles of this wine every time he came round to see me. It's shocking that you don't drink properly. I suppose that is what England is like.'
Excerpted from A PRINCE AMONG STONES by Prince Rupert Loewenstein. Copyright © 2013 by Loewenstein Investments Limited. Excerpted by permission of BLOOMSBURY.
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