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Nellie Ryan
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My Years at the Austrian Court
by Nellie Ryan, 1915

[Nellie Ryan was the English companion in the household of the Archduke Karl Stefan, cousin of Franz Josef and Admiral of the Austrian fleet.]


  1. The Island Lussin

  2. Festivities on the Island

  3. Cruises in the Adriatic

  4. Last Glimpses of the Adriatic


The Island Lussin

To arrive in Lussin on a January morning when one has left Vienna deep in snow, when one has rushed through days and nights filled with the pleasures of town life, dancing and skating, joyous houis at the Opera, and tasted the delights of the Vienna cafés! What an amazing change in a joumey of twenty-four hours!

When the train, after plunging through the wilds of the Styrian and Julian Alps, at last skirts the mountainous shores of the Adrėatic, lying soft and dazzlingly blue, and all the air is changed from a piercing cold to sunshine and warmth — then indeed can one truly say there is joy in contrasts.

At the busy but picturesque town of Trieste, one of the Archduke's beautiful yachts generally awaited us, so that the last eight or nine hours of the journey down the Adrėatic to Lussin was made in luxurious comfort.

[207] Sometimes we sailed direct to the island, at others, when the weather was particularly calm, and the wind in our favour, halts would be made at some of the ever-fascinating little isles, and the towns on the Istrian Coast.

Rovigno, a miniature Venice, full of antique remains and buildings, whose architecture at once called forth exclamations of surprise and enthusiasm, was always a favourėte halt with the Archduke.

Next we reached the tiny isle of Brioni, with its rich Roman remains, its exquisite villas, little chapels built high up amidst great palm-trees, and scented Southern flowers, truly a spot of perfect beauty and peace. Very often we sailed across from Lussin, and explored the hidden wonders of thės little island, and sometimes bathed in the clear warm waters which washed its shores.

Our next stoppage was almost a shock after the calm and peace of Brioni and Rovigno, for it was Pola, the important naval port of Austria, behind which rose the grey stone walls of the arena in whose arched enclosure once over fifteen thousand people witnessed the terrible struggles of gladiators and wild beasts, in the old Roman days.

[208] The outer walls were in marvellous preservation, and the whole arena I found much larger and more magnificent than the more widely known one in Rome.

For many years Archduke Karl Stefan owned a beautiful villa in a delightful corner of Pola, where every year the Imperiai Family spent some months, when the children were very young, and before the house on the island of Lussin was finished.

We generally reached Lussin when the long chain of Dinaric Alps on the mainland — which was distant about forty-five miles — began to put on its mysterious evening colours, and the sea reflected stili more varied hues.

The island was divided into two parts; Lussin Piccolo, where was situated the little harbour, and the beautiful little piazza, with here and there a picturesque café, and a tiny hotel, with quaint and wonderful gardens, from which masses of colour showed up against dark cypress trees and shady palms; and Lussin Grande, with Monte Jovanni, on whose rugged and picturesque slopes was built the Archduke's white stone villa PodjavorL

Outside the enormous grounds, one or two [209] charming hotels and some beautiful villas were to be seen, besides a moderate-sized church and one or two very old and beautiful little chapels.

The inhabitants of Lussin are Italians, but every year in the season, from November to the beginning of April, wealthy Austrians from the capital and other towns, and indeed vėsitors of many nationalities flocked to this Jittle isle on the Austrian Riviera, where summer was always smiling in that delicious, intoxicating Southern air, where life was all peace and simplicity, and where there were no bands or promenades, no roads for carriages or motors.

Podjavori itself was delightful, just a long, white, rambling stone building, two storeys high, furnished throughout in simple bungalow style, with corridors and stairs of grey marble. Its greatest charm was the glorious and superb views from its many casement Windows, and flower-bedecked terraces, across the crystal blue waters of the Adriatic far down below, with its myriads of tiny isles, and the snow-clad Alps on the mainland beyond.

The garden was ideal, stretching far and wide on the wild and rugged slopes of Monte [210] Jovanni. It was full of surprises, with its steep and winding pathways and moss-grown steps, hewn out between great upstanding rocks, some of which were covered in marvellous growth, or else left projecting there, many feet high, just wild grey rocks towering up against an azure sky.

To the tight and left one caught glimpses of gorgeous cqjouring from masses of rose-trees, groups of orange and lemon-trees, and scarlet camellias in between tAll waving palms, and the low-spreading olive branches.

Dancing brown lizards jumped and skipped over the grey rocks; snakes glided and wriggled in the sun; and the warm and scented air, over this superb scene of beauty and peace, seemed to vibrate with the intoxicating munnur of myriads of insect life of the sunny South.

Ceremony was more or less waived during the stay of the Imperiai Family on the island, and every one seemed to drop for a while the tedious restraint of Court life. Vėsitors carne and went with far less formality, and the Arch-dukes and Archduchesses wandered about the tiny island, outside their own groxmds, accom-panied by one lady or gentleman of the Court.

[211] Visitors to the island were quite accustomed to meet dėfferent members of the Imperiai Family climbing up the steep paths of the mountain, or strolling on the little piazza. They were always very courteous and polite, and would stand and curtsy, or salute, when-ever they met a Prince or Princess; but they never annoyed them by waiting about in groups and staring at them.

Tennis, boating, and expeditions to the countless small islands round formed the chief amusements of the day, but the young Arch-dukes and Archduchesses were always periectly happy and content to wander, and explore the beauties of their extensive and rambling garden. They all were great gardeners. Each owned quite a large plot, and, although from time to time one of the many Italian gardeners—of whom there were about eighteen—gave them some assistance and advice, their private portions were the results mostly of their own labours.

Numerous birthdays and name-days occurred in those months spent in Lussin. If it was that of Her Imperialjffighness, always the same order of ceremony was observed; one's smartest [212] frock was donned; and the men wore full dress uniform.

After Mass, we assembled in the main entrante hall, the young Archduchesses and ladies carry-ing small nosegays, and all arrayed in the regulation white kid gloves; then we proceeded in processėon to the boudoir of Her Imperiai Highness, and ofiered our congratulations.

All the young Archdukes and Archduchesses went forward first and kissed their metter's band, presented their fiorai ofierings, and other gifts, nearly always of their own design and handiwork; then they each in turn recited some verses, each one in a different language.

Next the ladies and gentlemen of the suite advanced, made a very low bow, kissed the Archduchess's band and murmured some appropriate words of felicitation.

The rest of the day was given over to festivities, a special dinner, and possibly an evening dance.

It nearly always happened that His Imperial Highness was away yachting on his bėrthday; then the young Princes and Princesses were obliged to write long letters, and each one had to be written in a different language. That [213] was always considered rather an irksome task, but nevertheless some wonderful lettere were written; the Archduke always replied, but generally in English, a language which he wrote as correctly as he spoke.

The Princes and Princesses were also examined from time to time, with equa! ceremony, even on the island.

Archduke Karl, whose day was nearly all study, went through many stiff examinations when his Imperiai father and mother were present, his aide-de-camp in full parade dress and white gloves, and his various tutois and professore. One felt almost sorry for the young Prince at times, especially during the sojourn on the island, when from the early hoixr of six o'clock, and practically throughout the long sunny day, no relaxation was given to this eldest son of the Archduke.

Lussin, peopled by so many Italians, was famous for its religious ceremonies and prō-cessions.

Soon after my first arrivai on the island, I was present at some of the solemn services which take place on Good Friday, and I was par-ticularly impressed by the evening procession.

[214] Good Friday, that year, fell early — at the beginning of April — and the weather in the South was just like our hottest August weather. Every one wore deepest mourning all day, and the Imperiai Family attended all the services in the Parish Church on the island, instead of going to their little private chapel.

At ten o'clock in the morning we all pro-ceeded in solemn procession, garbed in black, through the grounds of Podjavori, under a blazing sun, and the deepest of blue skies. Down across the dazzling white stone piazza by the side of the rocky shore, we went, to the Dome Church, which is, for the size of this tiny island, quite a large imposing church, very beautiful, very old and very Italian.

Special crimson and gold seats were set aside for the Imperiai party at the altar rails; and the service lasted for about two hours, in the middle of which a lengthy sermon was delivered by Don Antonio, the old Italian priest of Lussin.

Again at three o'clock, we proceeded in the same order to the church, and an early dinner took place at six o'clock to enable us to be present at the evening service. I might mention that on Wednesdays and Fridays in Lent no [215] meat was ever allowed at any of the meals, and on the last four days in Lent neither meat, nor eggs, nor butter, nor milk was allowed. To vary the menu on these days, the chef must have required remarkable skill and thought, for it seemed that the most wonderf ul dishes appeared, notwithstanding, during all these times.

The first Good Friday evening stands out very vividly in my mind, for on entering the church, which I have explained was truly immense, we found it lit with nothing but candles, and packed to overflowing with a seething mass of picturesque Italians. Around the top of the walls of this very lofty church was a tiny gallery; and along this, round the entire church, were hundreds of lighted candles.

By some mistake, on entering the church — which was certainly most bewildering and very weird — one of the ladies and myself found ourselves separated from the Imperiai party, and not wishing to make a fuss we slipped quietly into a seat on the right-hand side of the church, four or five rows from the top.

At the beginning of the service, every one was presented with an enormous candle quite [216] three feet high. The next proceedings were very sudden, and almost grotesque, because I found, to my dismay, that we had seated ourselves on the wrong side of the church, apparently, for on the right-hand side, where we sat, there were only men. A beU rang suddenly, and all the men arotind us—there seemed many hundreds—stood np and began to put on long white fiowing habits, with white hoods and girdles. The scene was amazing, and it was a very long time before we could succeed in pushing our way through this struggHng mass of humanity, in that dim religious light.

We did eventually, breathless and bewildered, each clutching our enormous candle, push our way out, and stood at the bottom of the aisle to await the next event.

Then all the clergy carne down from the high altar, with Don Antonio in magnificent purple vestments carrying the Cross under a great embroidered canopy.

They paused opposite to the Imperiai Family, who followed on down the aisle in procession with the ladies and gentlemen of the suite. Then carne the servants of the household, the [217] nuns from the cloisters of Lussin, and the general congregation, numbering many hundreds, all with their candles Mghted, and the men wearėng those extraordinary white garments.

Down the many steps of the church, and on down to the piazza went this long procession, walking in twos. The moon by this time was shining full and bright; all the visitors of Lussin had fiocked to see this wonderful sight, and were grouped on either side of the way, as we proceeded to walk through the principal parts of the island.

In the Windows of every villa, every tiny house and hut on the hill and mouijtain-side, two lighted candles were placed, and the singing of this vast crowd was superb. We walked on and on, and actually entered and passed through two other churches, and werided our way up and down and round, until at last we returned to the big Dome Church, after walking for at least two hours.

The scene was indescribably weird and solemn; the heavenly night with its purple sky, and the lights dancing on the water, and the slowly moving procession going ever [218] onwards, with its lighted candles, was a sight which one can truly say ės seldom seen. In fact, only in Lussin and in Pola, I understand, does thės particular procession, in this peculiar manner, take place. [219]


Festivities on the Island

Easter was very often spent by the Imperiai Family in Lussin, and it carne as a welcome and joyous re-laxation after the monotony of Lent, and the solemnities of Good Friday in which we had all just partaken.

Easter Sunday was given over to great rejoicings, rules were put on one side, and the Princes and Princesses were practically free to do what they pleased. There was always a very elaborate lunch, to which Don Antonio and other priests were invited, besides any chance friends of Their Imperiai Highnesses who were staying at their villas, or at the hotels on the island.

Then followed always the egg hunt, in the grounds of Podjavori, an Easter custom which is stili observed in several other European countries. Beautiful and enormous eggs, [220] containing costly gifts, and the choicest bonbons, to each of which a name was attached, were hidden in that portion of the extensive grounds given over to the hunt.

Every one donned gala attire; the day was usually perfect weather, and the scene was always one of gaiety and amusement for young and old.

Another custom, which struck one as being very quaint, was the placing in every one's apartment of a piate containing a dozen hard-boiled eggs, painted over in various brėght colouis, and another piate on which was found various kinds of cold meat. As it was obvious no one ever felt the need of this strange food, these curious gifts were immediately sent down to be given to the poor.

On Easter Monday Lnssin's little regatta took place, which was looked upon by all as if it were as great an event as the races at Kiel, or as important as the Cowes Regatta.

It proved that both Their Imperiai High-nesses and visitors alike were content to lead the simple life on that little Adrėatic isle, and from it they derived many days of wonderful gaiety and much amusement.

[221] Their Imperiai Highnesses always gave their patronage; and, if they were not able to be present themselves, Admiral Count Chorinsky was sent.

During all the years I spent at the Austrian Court, I received many delightful invitations, much favour and many kindnesses in Vienna and especially in Lussin, where every season the same gathering of distinguished visitors, and military and naval officers, were to be met.

I had much free time, and the very kind permission of Their Imperiai Highnesses to attend the many tennis and sailing parties, dances and dinners, and bridge parties, to which I was frequently invited.

It was indeed a gay world, filled with days of delight, amidst scenes of glory and magnifi-cence which can only be found in the un-frequented tracks on the Adriatic shores.

In no country can one find just the same happy-go-lucky, charming people as the hospitable and light-hearted Austrians.

Chaperoned and introduced by Madame Karger, wife of General Karger, Baroness Thiesbaert, or Countess Huyn, I soon became [222] acquainted with every one worth knowing in Lussin.

Night after night dances were given; there was no fuss of driving to and fro, one just walked through the beautiful grounds in the soft, scented night air. I always had plenty of escori, as all the men attached to the suite of the Archduke's household were most courteous and affable, and were of course invited to all that took place in Lussin.

They were all great dancers and sportsmen, especially the naval commander of the yacht, Captain Cohanyi, a delightful and very hand-some Hungarian, and Herr Theodorovitch, a gay and very frėvolous Pole.

Captain Lyst, too, was always at the dances, and Count Chorinsky, the man who, during all my stay at the Imperiai Court, proved a real friend, a most amusing travelling eom-panion, and succeeded in helping me through many of the intricacies and difficulties one met with in such a strange world.

Holding a somewhat independent position, with a great deal of freedom attached, it was naturai that I should be subjected to a fair share of petty annoyances, jealous remarks [223] and insinuations from the various people to be met at a foreign court. But on looking back on any unpleasantness, somewhere in the background, by his extraordinary tact, Count Chorinsky was sure to be able to put in a timely word which always had a miraculous result.

When the high spirits of the young Archdukes — often far beyond the control of their respective tutors or attendants—reached some disastrous point, if the Count happened to be anywhere near, somehow it always appeared easier to settle matters peacefully. One day, one of the young Princesses, only a year or so before she was grown up, lay in wait behind some tAll bushes and rocks in the gardens at Lussin, with a large water hose ready to turn on to some unfortunate maid who had, perhaps, incurred her displeasure. I happened to be coming up one of the winding orange groves, and carne unexpectedly into the full play of the hose raised ready for action. In a second I was drenched to the skin, and felt and looked a sony spectacle.

Shrieks of delight were raised by the Princess atj^the mistake she had made, which were [224] suddenly hushed by the voice of the Count, who had come to the window of his study, overlooking one of the terraces. Quickly engaging the Princess in some trivial conversation by asking her if she would be kind enough to turn the hose on to some of the special floweis on his balcony, he dropped unobtmsively on my path, as I was trying to make good an undignified escape, one of his long military cloaks.

The inciden t— but a trivial one — might bave proved much more unpleasant. In a few minutes, to escape unnoticed would bave been impossible. People from all directions would bave appeared, endless questions would bave been put: Why was the Princess unattended? Who left the hose in that particular spot, and so on.

The next evening, it happened, I was returning from a ball at one of the hotels in the early hours of the morning. I had been brought to the lodge gates of the park by my chaperon; as there was no means of driving on the island, and no one outside the Court was allowed in the grounds, one had to walk a good ten minutes through those superb, though [225] lonedy, grounds to reach the house. But no one ever minded that. The nights in the South seemed always the best time of the day, with the deiicious cool air, heavy with the scent of orange blossom, roses and lilies, and when the moonlight shone over the distant snow-tipped moizntains, showing up Lussin and the tiny islands around under strangely beautiful evening lights.

GeneraHy there would have been 9everal of us returning to the house, but it happened that my only escort through the park at that ^infortunate hour in the morning was the extremely handsome and very gay Pole, one of Archduke Kari's attendants. We had always been great friends, and were often at the same parties, yachting expeditions, dances, and tennis parties.

Podj avori was the only residence of the Imperiai Family that was more or less kept up without ceremony. The various entrances and doors were left entirely unguarded during the daytime, and left open without the regulation officiai standing just inside; and at night they were simply locked. If one wished to return late at night, it was quite possible to ask for [226]

one of the keys of the doors from the majordomo, and I generally entered by a little side door from one of the terraces nearest to my own apartments.

By some most unfortunate mishap, on nearėng the door, I found to my distress I had lost my key; in fact, after thinking for a few seconds, I distinctly remembered having left it on my dressing-table.

It was certainly a most unenviable position to be stranded outside a royal residence, between three and four o'clock in the morning, alone with one of the male members of the Archducal suite, whose own apartments were in a separate building, and who seemed to have no practical suggestions to ofier, but was inclined to look upon the whole thing as a tremendous joke.

There was no raeans of making anyone hear; there was only one beli, which was at the main entrance of the chāteau, and if rung it would certainly be heard by some of the Imperiai Family. No, there was no way out. I should have to return to the hotel, knock up the night porter, and try and secure an entrance somehow, knowing full well the [227] story — or rather, quite another story — would be all over the island in the morning, and in all probability I should be asked to resign my connection with the Imperiai Family.

In vain I implored my Polish friend to return to his quarters and to leave me to try and right matters alone, but he protested it was impossible to leave me to wander through the grounds alone, and along the piazza leading to the hotel. There were no lamps or lights on the island, and even under the light of a moon, some of the rugged paths and avenues of cypress trees were very dark and difficult to follow.

At last we set off in gloomy silence, for even the ever-bubbling spirits of the Pole began to diminish as he began to realise the awkward position. We had only gone a few steps down a steep incline of the grounds, when we heard footsteps approaching, and saw two men coming up the pathway. Thinking, I suppose, to shield me, my companion caught hold of my arm and drew me behind some projecting rocks, saying it was perhaps wiser to let the on-comers pass without seeing us. But, alas, it was too late! As the figures of the two men [228] reached our temporary hiding-place, the wél-known voice of the chaplain called out:

"Whoever is in hiding, I am afraid you were seen."

"Yes, better come out," added Onnt Chorinsky, in his drawling, mocking voice.

The Count never betrayed surprise at any-thing, but on that occasion—for perhaps a second—a look of blank astonishment crossed his face when he saw who we were. Before I could even begin to explain, he turned in a laughing, cool way to the rather shocked chaplain, who was not a favourite with many, and said:

"Another practical joke, I suppose, of the English Miss. Too bad to lie in wait and scare us like this. I asked her to wait for my escort to-night, and I am afraid we have kept her waiting. Let's all get on to the house. Good night/' he said curtly to the Pole with a nod of dismissal.

We went up to the house, the Count talking hard all the time. At the chaplain's door we paused a moment to wish him good night, and the Count said:

"Come along, Miss Nellie. I'll give you [229] those letters and see you to your door. You mustn't give me away," he called back to the chaplain, "for keeping the Miss waiting about so long. Good night. Now," he said, as he strode along, "what on earth made you do such a risky thing? "

I was almost in tears by this time as I burst out:

"I have lost my key and I was going back to the hotel."'

"Gott im Hlmmel" he exclaimed, "that's bad," and he stood stili and looked at me. "I don't know how I am going to help you. Of course you could come to my villa/' he said, smiling. " My man wouldn't say a word — but you'd stili have to get back in the morning." Then he frowned, and said, "How could you be so — Look here, there is just a remote chance that my man may have the keys of some of the doors which he had to use in going in and out to attend on Count — when he was staying in that part of the house."'

In less than five minutes he was back with his valet, who always sat up for him, and in hės hands he held some keys, one of which opened the door.

[230] The story was never told, but it might have been — and in a very different manner — if I had happened to run into anyone else but the chivalrous, and ever-trustworthy Count Chorinsky.


Cruises in the Adriatic

Many royal and dėstinguished vėsitors carne to Lussin. During the long, tedious waits and presentations attending their arrivai, when we all stood about in groups — often feeling bored and weary — Count Chorinsky would be sure to introduce the various members of the suite to one another; and a tiring half-hour would quickly pass, helped on by his subdued chatter, and his ever-ready witty remarks.

Archduchess Marie Josepha used to pay a flying visit, sometimes of two days, on her yacht. One could not help admiring her tremendously. She was so gracious, so tAll and elegant, and one felt her hfe had indeed been a tragedy. One of her ladies-in-waiting was Countess Attems. She was, perhaps, one of the smartest and best-dressed Viennese [232] women whom I ever met. She was extra-ordinarily gay and witty, and was always particularly kind to me. She was a great friend of Their Imperial Highnesses, and would come and stay by herself for several days, when she was off duty from Archduchess Marie Josepha. Once or twėce she was a guest on the yacht for some days at a time, and her presence added greatly to the gaiety and amusement of all.

The late Franz Ferdinand and his morganatic wife ako visited the island, and proved themselves very amiable and kindly disposed to all those who were presented to them.

Prince and Princess August of Saxe-Coburg, the Duchess of Wurtemberg, Archduke Leopold — all near relatives of Their Imperiai Highnesses — were also frequent visitors, and seemed to love the peace and quiet of the little fairy isle, where for a while they could shake off all Court ceremonies and indulge in that rare sense of absolute freedom.

Venice, being so near, was often visited. I remember one March being informed that I should be required to accompany Their Imperiai Highnesses the next day for a fōrtnight's stay in that romance ItaHan city.

[233] That was the most informai emise I took with the Archduke and Archduchess; no lords or ladies-in-waiting were in attendance, and only Archduchess Mechtildis and her two brothers, one governess and maids were taken.

We kft Lnssin early in the morning, and the Watūrūs glėded out of the harbour before many of the inhabitants were aware of its departure. We called at Pola for Prince and Princess August of Saxe-Coburg—the htter was Ārchr duchess Maria Theresa's sister—and they botfa accompanied Their Imperiai Highnesses to Venice, and remained with them for the two weeks* sojourn.

Venice, at all times, and under any circum-stances, is ever a most fascinating and wonderful city, but to see it for the first time from the decks of a royal yacht is a delight experėenced by very few.

We anchored in the Grand Canal, almost opposite the Doge's Palače, the Grand Piazza, and in sight of the Cburch Marie de Salute. We remained there about two weeks in that glorious position, where by day and by night, with the ever-changing skies, and by the light of a full moon, Venice could be seen at its very best.

[234] Whenever Arcbduke Karl Stefan went to Venice, he always hėred the same two gondolas, which were attached to the side of the yacht, so that we had the joy of being taken about by the same gondoliere, who in this case knew only too well who were their distinguėshed patrons, and took particular care.

For the first day or two, we were anchored between the yacht of the notorious Archduke Otto and that of Count Malewski, a very wealthy Russian, and one of the Archduke's great friends.

As usuai, there were many distinguėshed guests who visited the Watūrūs, the first being Archduke Otto, the first cousin of Archduchess Maria Theresa, who remained to luncheon with his aide-de-camp.

When I was presented to this gay, and much-discussed Archduke, and I heard his amusing and entertaining conversation at lunch, it seemed impossible to believe the horrėd tales one heard of certainly one of the handsomest men at Court. Champagne-drinking is said to have brought about his ruin; in later years he consumed untold quantities, and was very [235] seldom sober. No one seems to have had the least control over him; but, although his numerous escapades and his many practical jokes caused untold scandal to his regiment, he was extremdy popular with the men.

He seems to have commenced very young, for at an early date we hear of his insulting his colonel at a mess dinner because he had severely reprimanded him the previous day. He suddenly seized the drum, which he had previously caused to be filled with champagne, and leaping on to the table smashed it on the coloneTs head. It may be said that he was not responsible for such an act, but in Vienna the name of Archduke Otto is never very flatteringly spoken of. There are very few restaurants or cafés in which he did not commit some wild or unfortunate escapade, and one must feel much sympathy for Archduchess Marie Josepha, who besides all the untold horrors she was f orced to see, has had the great responsibėlity of guarding, educating, and entirely bringing up the present heir to the throne, Archduke Karl Franz Josef.

The Austrian nation has felt a deep relief, a great thankfulness, that not the slightest trace [236] of Archduke Otto's many unpleasant, and unspeakably bad traits, has ever been found in the charming and very popolar yoong Archduke. His bringėng up has been extra-ordinarily difficult, but in his early youth he was kept away from every possible evil contact. He spent some time at a big Engiish-speaking school, which must bave been an unusually good training for an Austrian Archduke.

Only the other day I was speaking with some one who had been with him a great deal before the war, and who spoke in terms of the greatest admiration and enthusiasm of the young heir, adding that he was every inch a man, a great sportsman, and possessed a strong personality.

Many people have feared that in recent years the deeply religious atmosphere of his mother's house may have had a wrong influence over himŧ but this 'does not seem to have been the case. Then, too, his marriage to Princess Zita has so far proved a happy and successful one.

Princess Zita possesses a quiet intelligence, and has, I believe, been partly educateci in England. She comes from a beautiful home, where, in spite of the difficulty of brėnging up twenty-one children, everything has been done [237] with an admirable method, almost impossible to imagine.

Some time ago I received a letter from a lady, attached for many years to the suite of the Duke of Parma. She described what a merry, delightful household it was at that time. She said that even then there were twenty children at home, one Prince only having left to marry a daughter of Archduke Friedrich. They never sat down to table less than twenty-five or thirty persons. Everything was arranged on a gigantic scale, of course; riding and driving parties were always a big procession and attracted the greatest attention. The castle at Schwarzau am Steinfelde, where they spent half the year, was a magnificent place, but they all loved better their Italian home, Pianore bei Viareggio, some distance from Florence, where many delightful months were spent every year.

I received a ktter after the wedding of Princess Zita to the present Austrian heir, describing the elaborate ceremony, and teffing me of the genuine liking they all felt for the young Archduke. Especially with the Hun-garians was he much more beloved, because from eariy boyhood he had acquired a complete [238] mastery of their language. Most surely he is much more popular with the majority of Austrėans than the late Archduke Franz Ferdinand, whose bigoted tendencies and almost superstitious nature failed to gain any good influence over certain sets of people, and who was perhaps a little jealous of the nephew who was one day to take the throne of Austria, which he secretly coveted for his own son.

I heard a little story not so very long ago from some one who was present at a dinner given by the late Archduke Franz Ferdinand. One of the guests was the present heir to the throne, then a young man of about nineteen years. The principal table decoration, placed immediately in front of the young Archduke, was an enormous and elaborate ice centre-piece, with the crown of Austria most exactly repro-duced in ice. When the dinner was well advanced and every one had become warmed up with the wines and toasts of the evening, Archduke Franz Ferdinand so contrived that some one should seem to urge the young Archduke to lift the crown of ice and place it on his own head. This the present heir did. Lifting it slowly from its resting place, he [239] placed the fast-melting ice crown on his head, which, with the excitement and heat of the rooms, was almost at fever heat. Incoherently he seems to have spoken the words: "I crown myself Emperor of Austria and King of Hungary." Toasts were again drunk, speeches made, but the crown of ice was fast melting on the head of Austria's future heir. Archduke Franz Ferdinand was evidently not prepared for his own untimely end. Let us hope that the illi omen of the ice crown will not alight upon Austria's present heir, who, from all one hears, is better able to bear the crown than many other members of the Court of Austria.

But to return to Venice, where, for the first time, I was presented to the father of the present heir to the throne, and where we often saw him sitting at the little tables on the piazza of St, Mark's, or mingling with the fashionable promenaders.

All the days we spent there were amusing and delightful. Momings were passed gliding round the canate, either with the Archduke, or the Archduchess, and Prince and Princess August of Saxe-Coburg, often stopping to visit the beautiful churches and the many famous [240] galleries. Sometimes some of us wonld go off with the Archduke to find some remote and artistic view of Venice that he had perchance not yet attempted to paint.

At night we would be serenaded by masked singers in brilliantly illnminated gondolas, who wonld ghde along the canal towards the Watūrūs and sing some of those haunting and wondronsly beautiful Italian songs. Sometimes we left the Watūrūs, and took our own gondolas in the evening, and moved with the rest of the gay procession that wended its way nightly down the grand canal, and paused awhile before the brėghtly lighted palaoes and hotels, from which again music would be poured forth kito our willing ears.

There were many voyages taken on the Watūrūs before it was put on one side, and another took its place. When the Empeior sent Karl Stefan as his representatiro to the coronation of the King of Spain, the Watūrūs was used. Naples, and the northern coast of Africa were ako visited, and the many, many dehghtf ul places on both sides of the Adriatic were continuafly being visited and explored.

Towards the end of May one year, the Archduke [241] proposed to journey down the entire length of the Adrėatic as far as Athens, so that a thorough acquaintance of its many charms and beauties could be made, and a comparėson between the Dalmatian coast and the Italian side could be enjoyed.

We left Lussin in the morning, with the usuai ceremonious leave-taking, which in Lussin was always touched with a genuine sorrow at the departure of Their Imperiai Highnesses. Pretty Italian children lined the way from the gates of Podjavori, with masses of beautiful flowers, and dropped the petals of many roses along the road; all the visitors assembled in the little harbour, and the Burgomaster and Don Antonio were ready with speeches and charming words of farewell.

As we sailed out of Lussin, and looked back on its wild and rocky heights, with the gaily dressed Italians stili waving from various points on the island, to which they had scrambled in their eagerness to catch the last glimpse of the yacht, and the groups of visitors who stili stood about on the little white piazza, we were struck anew with the beauty and charm of this particular Adrėatic isle, [242] Sebenico and Spalato we sailed past without stopping, and then we cruised between many little rocky islands, till we dropped anchor at the grey stone island of Lissa, with its rugged heights and the little isles around. At once the boats of the Watūrūs were lowered, so that we might all be rowed across to the famous caves on the little island of Bussi, the most marvellous being the famous Blue Grotto, which is so often compared with the better known one of Capri, as to the beauty of which opinions very often differ.

Our visit to these historic caves was marked by an amusing but somewhat rėsky adventure.

The Archduke and Archduchess left in the first boat, and the second boat was occupied by two of the Princesses and some of the suite. I followed in the next boat with Mademoiselle, Herr Theodorovitch, one of the Princesses, four or five sailors, rowing, and Captain Cohanyi in command; maids and servants followed in the next.

There was a heavy swell, and it was quite difficult to get along. But, besides that, water began oozing in at the bottom and sides of our [243] boat, and gradually in a rather more rapid manner.

The Captain kept an immovable countenance, but gave orders to three of the sailors to bale out, whilst the other two rowed on as quickly as possible. When the water became so evident that it was necessary to put our feet up on the seats, and to hold tightly our wet skirts, the officer at last thought it advėsable to call out to the boat in front to keep dose, as he thought our boat was leaking with rather alarming rapidity. The Archduke, having caught the sounds of shouting, and noticing the looks on our faces, called out to know what was happening.

He was not in the least perturbed, but seemed to enjoy our plight. He stood up in his boat, and laughingly shouted across to us not to mind, that there were two boats close at hand ready to take us on board.

It was an alarming few minutes, and we were all relieved to enter the shelter of the caves, even though landing was not possible. The waters were calm, and the walls of the cave could easily be reached.

But there was no hole in the boat and no [244] leakage, and the water of its own accord gradually stopped makėng its way into the boat.

The mystery was afterwards explained. It appeared that that particular boat had not been used, or let into the water during the hot weather at all; and hanging up always in the terrific heat of the sun, this had caused the planks of wood to shrink considerably, so that the cracks of the boat had become very wide indeed. Hence the sudden inrush of the waters, until the wood had become sufficiently enlarged to fill up the cracks.

As soon as we had recovered from the scare, we awoke to the fact that we were slowly passing through cave after cave, where the water was an ever-changing colour, from the deepest turquoise to the faintest possible blue, with stones and bits of rock at the bottom shining and gleaming like jewels. The light was the same weird, fantastic blue, rugged glittering walls were around us, and the boats glided one after the other, very slowly and carefully. The light reflected on us bathed all in wondrously beautiful colours, so that in glancing back, as we went through each narrow [245] passage and cavern, one could easily imagine it was a scene from fairyland.

Once more on board, notwithstanding our wet clothes and feet, and the thought that in another two or three minptes — as the officer afterwards informed us — we should have all been in the sea, we agreed that the Blue Grotto was one of the most remarkable bits of nature that any of us had ever seen.

After that, the Archduke gave orders to steam rėght across the Adriatic to the Italian coast, down which we went, until the little town of Barletta was reached. We landed at once, and made a short and quick tour of this quaint Italian town, followed, as we were in all our Italian visits, by quite a crowd, and with detectives on bicycles. The Italian officiate were extremely particular at the moment of our landing, all passports were minutely scrutinised and many questions asked.

The next little halt we made was at the pėcturesque town of Trani, with its delightful Italian villas and gardens, where quantities of Southern flowers and plants abounded.

A hurried visit was paid to St. Nicholas, a very old and wonderful church, where the [246] carvings and statues were exquisite. The crypt, which ran under the entire church, was fitted up as a beautiful chapel; and here we heard Mass in the morning.

At Bari, after having exhausted the sights of the little town, the Archduke suggested a long drive out into the beautiful Italian country, where we passed along avenues of blooming mimosa and masses of roses and palm-trees. 1

Before we went on board, and we had made exhaustive purchases in the town, the Archduke insėsted on buying a little black goat, which very much took his fancy. Needless to say, the difficulty of getting the animai on board was immense, besides the business of duty to be paid, and all the fuss which arises when one takes anything away from a foreign country. We stayed at anchor a day or so at Bari, so that the little goat was able to find its bearings.


Last Glimpses of the Adriatic

THE journey down to Brindisi was made through a heavy and rolling sea, when nearly every one on board was ili, and we were not more than two or three to sit at table.

Then, indeed, the Waturus presented a sorry sight. Archduke Karl Stefan insisted that it was far better for every one who was ili to lie on cushions and mattresses on the upper deck than to remain in the cabins.

Archduke Karl Stefan never sufiered from sickness, but used to stride about the decks, making endless suggestions and inquiries; and, if one were not ili, almost compelling one to say at what precise moment one imagined the catastrophe would occur.

I always felt so sorry for every one, although I must confess a rough sea was a source of infinite joy to me. [247]

Gravosa, the Port of Ragusa, Dalmatia

[248] A stay of two or three days was made in that busy harbour where the great P. & O. vessels were to be seen. The town itself we did not find beautiful; but the country around, with its vineyards and quantities of immense cactus trees, was exceedingly beautiful.

We left Brindisi at night, and were all up by five o'clock the next morning to enjoy the magnificent journey into Corfu, that most enchanting of Grecian islands, rising to a great height, and affording such superb views of mountainous country. We spent many days there, and were again charmed with the grandeur of the scenery, and the surpassing beauty of the Achilleion.

Patras, so exquisite from the sea, was disappointing on land. So we hurried away and made straight for Athens, passing down the famous canal of Corinth, and anchoring at Phallerius, the harbour of Athens, where ships from every country in the world seemed to have gathered.

Many visits of ceremony were made in this famous Grecian capital, to the late King of Greece, to the Crown Prince and Princess, and to many others.

[249] It was on this particular emise that the Archduke was seized with one of hisŦ many curious ideas.

One day the order went round that His Imperial Highness wished it to be understood that none but those of the Imperial Family were to leave or return to the yacht other than by using the rope ladders. The staircases which every one had been accustomed to use were, for the future, to be for the sole benefit of the Imperiai Family. There was great consternation, and every one expressed much indignation. Poor Countess Huyn and the other ladies, and even the maids were all equally perturbed. It certainly was a surprising command from the Archduke. For some time, unless one was obliged, no one left the yacht, or contrived to do so when His Imperiai Highness was on land; then the commanding officer, in ordering the boats to be swung out, conveniently forgot this order, and the sailors stood ready at the usuai staircase.

But there were some amusing incidents; the Archduke took to standing and watching the departures, and kept a strict look-out for the returns. It was no joke for anyone at all [250] nervous, even when the vessel was at anchor, to ascend and descend a rope ladder, especially when the yacht was perhaps very high out of the water, and the tide was low. One felt so very sorry for some of the ladies who were not very agile, or accustomed to gymnastics.

Fortunately the Archduchess intervened, and managed to suggest it might be rather a dangerous proceeding if a storm carne up, or a heavy swell from a passing steamer overtook the yacht.

When the Grecian Royal Family visited the Watūrūs, great preparations were made; and masses of immense pink carnations were handed to me to arrange on the tea-tables. I had long since taken over, on the yacht, the duty of arranging the numerous magnincent flowers that were so often sent on board.

The Grecian Royal Family were charming, the old King especially — who was Queen Alexandra's favourite brother — being so gracious and kind. When my turn carne to be presented, he chatted a long time in most excellent English; and he made a point of saying some charming word to every one. The rest of the party, including the Crown Prince and Princess, were equally [251] gracious, and expressed delight with all they saw. The Crown Princess was the sister of the German Emperor.

The many delights of this most famous historical capital were greatly appreciated; and we spent a whole day amongst the great ruins on that rocky summit called the Acropolis.

We were taken through all the wonderful remains, the temples and old churches, by an excellent guide, who explained very carefully all the great history connected with this most interesting mass of ruins.

One day the Archduke gave a big lunch at the Hotel Bretagne'in Athens, where a most enjoyable time was spent, and where the menu was quite a mixture of Grecian, Italian and French dishes.

The journey through the Ionian Islands, passing Cephalonia — with its chief town Agostolle, where we halted for some time — Itaka, Santa Maura and Zante, was just as extraordinarily impressive as that other journey through the Northern isles on the Finnish coast. In this case, the weird Southern light, on the gigantic mountains around, cast extraordinary reflections into the sea; and the whole [252] beauty of these numerous Grecian isles was, perhaps, on a grander scale.

Another short stay was made at Corfu, which we were all enchanted to revisit; after which we began the tour of the much-talked-of Dalmatian coast.

In my estimation the town of Ragusa, which I heard dated back many hundreds of years, and was built by the Greeks, was the most beautiful place on the whole of this coast.

The yacht was anchored at Gravosa, its port, which was possibly two miles away. Then we drove up and up, far above the blue Adriatic, which was dashing against the wild and rugged rocks, along a wonderful roadway, with here and there a flaming garden, and wonderful old walls and doorways, overhung with masses of flowering plants, orange branches and every kind of Southern growth.

The entrance to this ancient town was grandly beautiful, and through the old gateway, Porta Pille, one reached the little narrow high Street called the Corso, every building in which dated centuries back and contained marvellous relics of the past.

One fell under the spell of Ragusa immediately, [253] and it was not difficult to imagine the many vicissitudes through which the old town had passed; indeed, one ran up against the signs of its struggles and its trėumphs at every corner.

We spoke with the brown-robed Franciscan monks, in their fine old cloister, and learnt of the tales of siege, of the plague which carried off thousands of citizens; we were pointed out the gigantic fortifėcations which were then built, and told of the years of prosperity and peace which followed, till those terrible earthquakes shook the very foundations and wrought such untold havoc.

For the Austrian Empire Ragusa has fought many fierce battles, in which thousands of men from the gallant little town have perished; and one was struck at the wonders that still remain, in spite of the storms and stress of centuries.

Archduke Karl Stefan was kindness itself in pointing out its many beautiful features; he seemed to know every corner.

We lingered long in Piazza dell' Erbe, the principal square; and, as it happened to be market-day, it was filled with a medley of gorgeous costumes. There were Montenegrins, with their white coats, embroidered waistcoats, [254] and red and black caps; picturesque peasants from Bosnia and Herzegovina; gipsies from Serbia; and here and there men in full Turkish costume, their little jackets embroidered with exquisite colouring and design.

Archduchess Maria Theresa made estensive purchases, ordering several of the most charming and elaborate costumes, which could be worn at the various fancy dress carnivals, in which the young Archdukes and Archduchesses always took such delight.

I remember at the time, when the massive fortifications and gigantic walls were pointed out to us, being so impressed with the apparent strength of the town, with its superbly elevated position. Then all was peace and security, particularly in this little ancient city, which conveyed the impression that it was resting contentedly after its years of strife in the years gone by.

And within a few years of that day the world is at war. The Austrians are fighting the Italians, and Ragusa is one of the towns that has suffered considerably.

On that gorgeous May morning, when last I visited Ragusa, in the little shops — which were [255] made to open wide and looked quite oriental, particularly in the Corso — Dalmatians sat cross-legged in their picturesque garb, peacefully making extravagantly beautiful embroideries and fascinating garments, which one saw were similar to those worn by the people around.

How difficult it was to tear ourselves away from that enchanting town, but, as the Archduke pointed out, there was so much more to be seen.

And the beautiful white yacht sailed away, only a short distance over the deep blue waters to the little island of La Croma. How grandly majestic the antique walls, the old houses with their scarlet roofs showed up above the Adriatic, which was there so clear that one could distinguish the gliding forms of the fish, and the curious stones and rocks below.

An ancient monastery, belonging to white-robed Dominican monks, and set in a luxuriant background of roses and a wealth of flaming flowers, gave us hospitable welcome; but the stay was brief, as we were due at Spalato at a certain time.

The Imperial Family had often visited and explored that particular town, so there were only two or three on board who did not already [256] know its charms. The Archduke most kindly telegraphed, from Ragusa to Spalato, for the famous Dr. Bulic, that learned director of the great museum, and the historian of Spalato, to meet the yacht on its arrival, so as to be ready to accompany a small party round his ancient town.

This struck me as being extraordinarily thoughtful and generous. The party consisted of only another lady besides myself and one of the gentlemen of the suite, and for three people Archduke Karl Stefan was perfectly willing to drop anchor, and permit us a delightful day on land, whilst the whole Imperial Family remained on board. Thoughtfulness for others is not a characteristic generally attrėbuted to the much-abused Hapsburgs; but, in the case of Archduke Karl Stefan and Archduchess Maria Theresa, at least, it is especially noticeable.

As we sailed into Spalato, our attention was immediately arrested by the magnifėcent array of buildings which were the remains of the famous Palace of Diocletian.

So immense was this palace, which took twelve years to build, that the town of Spalato [257] had actually been built wėthėn its ancient walls.

Dr. Bulic was on the quay, waiting with a carriage; and we spent a most ėnteresting and instructive day with him.

The marvels poėnted out to us were indeed worth seeing: the streets with their ancient columns and great archways, the market-place, with its crowds of men and women from the East, in every conceivable costume, trying to sell their wares, some of which had come in by boats from Turkey, Greece, Italy and Austria.

Dr. Bulic, who had charge of all the repairs and restorations of the town, who had super-intended the rebuilding of the Campanile, and had built the museum in which all the treasures had been put, was untiring in his desire to show us as much as possible. The Cathedral, dating back to the time of the ancient Greeks, almost next to which was the little chapel of the ninth century, and all the principal buildings in the town, were pointed out to us; after which a long drive was made out to his famous villa, which was entirely built of bits of Roman remains. It was filled with treasures found in some of the excavations: statues, vases, trinkets, [258] coins and marvellous finds, all in excellent preservation.

We drank wine out of cups centuries old, and listened to tales, the like of which none of us will probably hear again.

It was with the greatest difficulty we tore ourselves away, and possibly, had we not heard in the far-off distance the warning of departure of the Waiųrus, we should have lingered even longer in this wonderful town of the Adriatic.

Zara was the last town on the Dalmatian coast at which a short halt was made; and, although the charm of this quaint old historic place was well known to us from the frequent visits we paid whilst staying at Lussin, one and all of us were delighted to roam once more across its piazza, gaze at its ancient towers and buildings, and its well-known cathedral.

We amved at Abbazia, the Austrian Riviera, famous as a gay and fashionable resort, with its superb situation, on the edge of the Adriatic and at the foot of Monte Maggiore. Here we at once found ourselves in a totally difierent atmosphere.

From the terrace of the Casino, one heard strains of excellent music; and many yachts [259] were anchored in the harbour. On the fashionable promenades one was surprised to see the same kind of brilliant, gay crowd which one is accostomed to see at Monte Carlo or Nice.

Needless to say, we were not allowed to remain long at Abbazia. After we had taken a hasty glimpse of its many charms, and had finished a festive lunch on one of the terraces of a very gay hotel, the Archduke quickly made up his mind that even a short stay amidst so much gaiety and fashion would prove irksome to the Imperiai Family.

This trait in the character of a man like the Archduke, generally so gay, witty and amusing, struck one as somewhat surprising, and unlike the majority of the Viennese Court. At times he seemed to have an intense dislike to the fashionable smart world, and would seem literally to flee from it. Often and often I have known of his refusai to appear at the very last minute at some great dinner, or smart function. The guests have been announced, the dinner has been served, all have been standing waiting in the great vestibule, and the Archduke has not appeared. On the surface no surprise has been manifested, one was accustomed to wait for an [260] Imperial Highness, but those who guessed what had happened saw a slight frown gather on the face of Archduchess Maria Theresa. Count Chorinsky, although stili wearing his imperturbable smiling mask, had found out by some mysterious means that the Archduke did not intend to be present.

A messenger would appear, "His Imperiai Highness is suddenly indisposed." Most probably he would have taken to his bed — to read — and to avoid being hopelessly bored by a society function. Very possibly he would rise the next morning between three and four, and start off on a great hunt, miles away in the land of dense forests. He avoided as much as possible the formal receptions at a railway station; detested crowds, and all kinds of conventional and ceremonious visiting. He nearly always started before or after the rest of the Imperial Family when they were making a long train journey.

I well remember on one occasion, in the month of January, being requested to accompany Archduke Karl Stefan and the three Princes, with one of the tutors and a governess, for a cruise in Southern waters.

[261] We left the ancient Polish chāteau in Galicia, en route for the palače at Vienna; there was the usual reception, the smart officials in their resplendent uniforms, and the Court carriages from the palace. We stepped out of the train on to the crimson-carpeted platform; and, as we stood waiting for His Imperial Highness to enter the first state carriage, he turned suddenly to me and said, "Please, get in." Very much surprised, I found myself driving through the streets of Vienna in the first Court carriage with Archduke Karl and his brothers. Archduke Karl Stefan, I believe, drove through Vienna to the palace in a fiacre, and was perfectly happy and content.

None of us, therefore, when we were hurried from the gay and fashionable Abbazia, were in the least surprised. We all knew His Imperial Highness's horror of fashionable resorts, and smart crowds.

After so much sightseeing, Archduchess Maria Theresa then proposed three weeks' calm and quiet in Venice, and bathing in the famous Lido.

That was a great Joy to all. Summer in Venice was ideal, especially in the early [262] mornings, and late at night. Practically the whole morning was spent out on the Lido, where we were taken each time by a little steam-launch.

Once again we seemed back in the land of gaiety and fashion, for we soon found the Lido was one of those famous bathing-places where the wearėng of smart costumes, head-gear, and foot-gear, is far more important than being able to swim well.

But, as the Archduke argued, we should not stay on the Lido — merely go there each day for the bathing.

There was a great terrace built out over that part of the sea where the bathing took place, and beautiful little bathing-houses were arranged along under another wide projection.

On the terrace a fine military band played moming and afternoon; gay luncheons and teas were served, and all the smart world from many European countries was to be seen daily, each trying to outdo the other in wondrous and gorgeous creations.

All the Imperiai Family revelled in the bathing; the water was so warm and delicious, [263] that an hour or more was always spent idling in the gentle waves of the beautiful Lido.

A month nearly was spent at Venice, where the nights on the Grand Canal were even more wonderful than in spring.

At last the cruise came to an end. The Watūrūs glided out of Venice, and set sail once more for Trieste, where a day or two was spent packing up, and making ready for a long train journey to Poland.

I took once more a farewell drive from Trieste, along the waters of the blue Adriatic, to the wonderful marble Palace of Miramar, which stood out at the foot of the mountains for all to see.

Marble steps led down to the edge of the water, where boats glided back with their deep orange sails. Then one looked back through a garden of tall cypress trees and gorgeous flowers, to the white marble palace beyond, which once belonged to the brother of Franz Josef, the Emperor Maximillian,who was brutally murdered in Mexico.

I wandered through the glorious rooms, filled with priceless treasures of art, and once again looked across the magnificent view of the [264] Adrėatic and mountains beyond. A feeling of real happiness and content stole over me when I thonght of the many delightful Hapsburgs I had met and known, who had given me unceasing proofs of their kindly, generous and courteous dispositions, and who had made me know the Court of Vienna as it really was.



  • (Google books) Nellie Ryan, My Years at the Austrian Court, John Lane (London & New York, 1915), Chapters 18 to 21, pp. 206-264.

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Created: Tuesday, April 21, 2009; Last updated: Thursday September 23, 2010
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