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Toast To Olde Tymes

Maria Magdalena “Magi” Habsburg

The death on August 18th of Maria Magdalena Habsburg von Lothringen, Archduchess of Austria, Baroness Holzhausen closes the chapter on the story of four members of the royal family of Romania who formed strong, though unlikely, connections to Kansas City. Magi was a member of the class of 1957 at Notre Dame de Sion. Her younger sister Elizabeth (nicknamed “Hertzi”) graduated in 1959. Their mother was Princess Ileana. Their grandmother was Queen Marie, who was a granddaughter of Queen Victoria. 

Queen Marie was the daughter of Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, and his wife, the former Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia. Marie was born in 1875 in Kent, England. She married Ferdinand of Romania in 1893 and became queen in 1914. Princess Ileana was born in 1909. During World War I, Queen Marie served as a nurse. Ileana and one of her brothers, Prince Nicholas, were with their mother when she visited Liberty Memorial on November 11, 1926. As Mrs. Sam Ray wrote in the Kansas City Times, “During her short stay in Kansas City the queen rode with her children in the Armistice Day parade, laid a wreath on the memorial and spoke a few words of appreciation to a huge crowd and radio audience, attended a concert at the pavilion, was royally entertained at the Jacob Loose home on Armour Boulevard and warmed the hearts of Kansas Citians by granting permission to Edna Marie Dunn, Kansas City Star fashion illustrator, to sketch from life her silver lace over black velvet evening gown.” Also at the podium that day was President Calvin Coolidge, who spoke for 40 minutes to a crowd estimated at more than 150,000 people. 

Ileana wed Anton, an Archduke of Austria. Queen Marie was spared the sight of World War II – she died in 1938. Ileana and Anton and their six children left Romania in the late 1940s, traveling first to Switzerland and then to Argentina. Magi was 14, and Hertzi was 11, when they arrived in Our Town in 1953. The previous year, they had attended Dana Hall in Massachusetts, close to where their mother was living. Their four siblings were at nearby schools: Stefan at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Maria Ileana and Alexandra (“Sandi”) at Wellesley College, and Dominic (“Niki”) at Brooks School. According to the New York Times, Ileana and Anton were divorced in 1954.  

Why had Ileana chosen Notre Dame de Sion? The mother superior was Mother Marie Irene de Sion. During World War II, she had been assigned to Romania, where she was in charge of several schools, a convent, and a medical dispensary, all under the auspices of the Order of Notre Dame de Sion. It was then that Mother Marie Irene and Ileana had become friends.

When Magi and Hertzi were at Notre Dame, all the classes were in French. Along with the other boarding students, they lived on the third floor. Magi and Hertzi did not use titles, instead taking Habsburg as their last name. The two were among the models in a fashion show staged by the Eucharistic Guild of the Benedictine Convent in March 1957.

Ileana was making her living as a writer and lecturer, with Communism and religion as her main topics. In April 1955, she visited her daughters and gave a talk at the Plaza Theatre. Ileana returned to Our Town for Magi’s graduation. Magi attended classes at the Sorbonne in Paris in the autumn of 1957, and spent Christmas in Rome. 

In August 1958, Magi’s sister, Maria Ileana, and her husband, Count Jaroslav Kottulinsky, welcomed a daughter. Given all the upheaval the family had endured, it might have seemed unthinkable that tragic loss was soon to come. On January 11, 1959, Maria Ileana and Jaroslav were killed in the crash of Lufthansa Flight 502 in Brazil. Their baby was not traveling with them.

Following a brief second marriage, Ileana became a nun and the founder of a convent, the Monastery of the Holy Transfiguration of the Orthodox Church in America in Ellwood City, Pennsylvania. Known as Mother Alexandra, she served as abbess from 1969 until 1980 and continued to reside there until her death in January 1991. Only months before, in September 1990, she had visited Romania for the first time since 1948. The Queen Marie of Romania collection at Kent State University in Ohio features a variety of documents pertaining to the lives of Queen Marie and Princess Ileana.          

Magi’s adult life was spent in Europe. She married Hanns Freiherr von Holzhausen (“Freiherr” is the German version of “Baron”). Like Magi, Hanns came from a family which had known grander times. His father became a prisoner of war during World War II. Hanns missed out on the education earlier generations might have taken for granted. As an adult, he had a burglar alarm business. Magi was employed part-time in jewelry sales; her clients no doubt appreciated the advice of a baroness. The couple lived in Salzburg, Austria, with their children, Johannes, Georg, and Alexandra. Magi delighted in being a mother and relished cooking and entertaining.

 She remained close to her father, until his death in 1987. After Hanns inherited a working farm from his uncle, the couple divided their time between there and Salzburg. Magi and her siblings tried to do what they could for the citizens of Romania in the years after the end of the Cold War. Throughout her life, Magi enjoyed spending time with her Notre Dame classmates, some of whom visited her. By serendipity, a souvenir of the Habsburgs remains in Our Town. While Magi and Hertzi were at Notre Dame, fragments of the giant cyclorama, Panthéon de la Guerre, were brought to Kansas City. Artist Daniel MacMorris created a mural for Memory Hall from some of the pieces. One of the figures represented is Queen Marie in her nurse’s uniform.    

Read more from the December 11, 2021 issue of The Independent
By Heather N. Paxton  

Heather N. Paxton

Heather N. Paxton’s name first appeared in The Independent in a birth announcement back in — oh, never mind. In the mid-1990s, Heather joined the staff as a replacement for a friend who was expecting a visit from the stork. (Let’s hope Heather sent a baby present. The boy is a college graduate now.) Her 20s, 30s, 40s, and now her 50s: Heather has been a staff member for at least brief periods in all of these decades. She is most at home in the office when she is perusing the archives.

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