FULL HOUSE ON KINGS
The climate is kind and prices are low in Portugal’s Estoril, the home in exile of aristocrats whose fading names are part of Europe’s long sad history. The throneless Umberto of Italy rules a little society that sometimes snubs Carol and the once-glamorous Magda Lupescu
THE LITTLE TOWN of Estoril in Portugal boasts what may be Europe’s oddest industry: it plays host to displaced kings and queens. At first glance, from your ship steaming up the mouth of the Tagus to Lisbon, you wouldn’t see much that is unusual. Sprawling up the hills from the - deep-blue ocean, Portugal’s “little Monte Carlo” consists mainly of clustered white, yellow, and pink houses in the Mediterranean style, though the Mediterranean is two hundred miles away. There are several hotels, a palm-lined park, a gambling casino, a seaside promenade and cafe, a golf course. What makes Estoril (pronounced shtoo-reel) unique is the fact that it has the highest per capita concentration of European ex-kings, would-be kings, dukes, counts, marquises, and so on, to be found in the world.
The all-star cast is topped by two bona fide ex-kings of European monarchies, Carol of Rumania and Umberto of Italy. Almost as good as kings, in the indulgent eyes of Pistorii society, are two pretenders to European thrones, Count of Paris (pretender to the non-existent P'rench throne) and the Count of Barcelona (pretender to the vacant, but legally existing, Spanish throne). A frequent visitor to the town is the Archduke Otto of Hapsburg, who would inherit the Hungarian crown if there were one.
Otto’s cousin, another local resident but not a pretender, is the Archduke Joseph Franz, also of the house of Hapsburg. Neither pretender nor royal, the aged Admiral Nicholas Horthy, likewise in Estoril, was Hungary’s regent and dictator for more than two decades.
Acting as extras and supers to this glittering list is an imposing collection of lesser nobility, including one Russian princess, one German baroness, a dozen assorted Spanish, French, and Italian titled persons, and nearly a hundred Portuguese nobles who range from dukes on down through marquises, barons (a high rank in Portugal), counts, viscounts, and doms.
Although Portuguese nobles have been collecting
in Estoril for two decades, the royal DPs are a postwar commodity. Estoril, a resort almost unknown to the average American, has become their haven for a number of good reasons. For one thing, Dr. Antonio de Oliveira Salazar, Portugal’s prime minister, has been far more friendly to them than most heads of other European governments. F’or another, although Estoril lies
on the Atlantic, its climate is much like that of the French Riviera. Pistorii is comfortably sunbaked a good part of the year, and its winter cold is about like April in Montreal. Well equipped for such kingly and ex-kingly occupations as sailing, golfing, shooting, riding, and socializing, it has the double advantage—for DP budgets—of being cheap. House servants in Estoril, for instance, can be hired full time for the equivalent of twelve dollars a month. FIven a king living off his savings can keep things fairly stylish at that rate. A leisurely dinner at the Casino, with wine, a dance orchestra and a floor show can cost as little as $1.75, tips included, so that even a rather threadbare viscount can avoid taking a regular job, yet make a decent appearance from time to time.
First of the royal exiles to move into Estoril was Don Juan, the Count of Barcelona, who came from Switzerland in 1946. The Count happens to be financially well-off. and Estoril appealed to him more because of its nearness to Spain than its cheapness. Don Juan, a husky, strong-faced, dark-haired man of thirty-seven, is the son of Alfonso XIII, King of Spain who fled his country in 1931. Don Juan has never been a king, but Spain still has legal room for one, for a law Franco rammed through in 1947 gave the Caudillo the right to name the king or regent who would succeed him.
Whether Don Juan will ever be that person is another matter. For years, traveling Spaniards carried messages between him and active monarchist circles in Spain. Recently Franco, fearful about his shaky regime, decided to do a bit of high-level dickering with Don Juan about the future, hoping to win monarchist support. With great secrecy, Franco sailed from a Spanish port in his yacht, while Don Juan put forth in his from Cascais, near Pistorii. At an undisclosed place, possibly out in the Atlantic, they met and had a formal pow-wow. No one knows exactly what went on, but the accepted belief is that Don Juan, a bluff, hearty, rather Anglicized man, didn’t get along with the Spanish dictator.
But Franco may have agreed that Don Juan’s eldest son, a tow-headed boy also named Juan, would be the eventual king of Spain. At any rate, young Juan has been going to school in Spain for two years and would seem to be getting groomed for an eventual kingship. If either young Juan, or his father Don Juan, does get back the throne, be will be carrying on a family tradition nearly eleven hundred years old, for since 888 A.D. the Bourbon family has furnished thirty-seven kings of France, seventeen kings of Spain, twenty-nine kings of Portugal, twenty-one kings of Naples, thirteen kings of Hungary, and four emperors of the Holy Roman Empire.
Father or son, however, can expect token opposition from Don Juan’s older brother, Don Jaime, Duke of Segovia. Don Jaime used to have the right of succession, but being congenitally deaf and dumb he once waived that right in favor of Don «luán. Nowadays he repudiates the waiver, and considers himself the rightful successor.
Don Juan, however, is obviously the man Franco intends to do business with. An accredited Spanish diplomat, Ramon Padilla, is assigned full-time as a kind of unofficial ambassador to Don Juan. Padilla acts as the Count’s aide-de-camp, calling on him each morning at his house, fending off unwelcome visitors, arranging appointments, and acting as a buffer between the Count and the world. The Countess likewise rates an unofficial lady-inwaiting. Every month a different Spanish noblewoman comes to Estoril and puts up at the Palacio Hotel. In the morning the Countess picks her up in a station wagon and takes her up the hill to spend the day.
Don Juan, Dona Maria, and their children, aides, secretaries, and servants, make their headquarters in a big modern-looking white house on a hill overlooking the ocean an 1 the long curve of the land. The house is one of the largest in Estoril; in fact it used to be the clubhouse of the golf course, which is particularly appropriate because Don «Juan is an enthusiastic and excellent golfer.
Also, appropriately enough, it is located on a street called Rúa Inglaterra—England Street. Don Juan has spent much time in England and was an officer in the Royal Navy at one time. Like many another tar, he has tattoos upon his husky arms and chest, and he enjoys a convivial nip, a good joke and a loud laugh. Friends are wary of the Count’s heavy hand, which is apt to descend in a friendly whack on one’s back with bone-jarring force, and once put a friend in bed for a week.
«Juan’s favorite pastime is yachting. A wealthy Spanish monarchist considers it a privilege to be allowed to lend the Count a fine, clean-lined yacht named Saltillo, in which Juan beats his way around the coast, sitting at the tiller, tanned and husky, and not at all king-like.
Another royal exile in Estoril is a short, neatly made, dark - haired Frenchman — the Count de Paris, pretender to a throne which has not existed since 1870 but which is considered his rightful property by the dwindling little clique of French monarchists. Descended from Louis Philippe, the Count was brought up by his father, the Duke de Guise, to believe in his absolute right to the throne. On the mantel of his lovely sprawling farmhouse a few miles back in the hills from Estoril, he keeps a bowlful of the sacred soil of France. The rest of its soil was until last, year legally of! bounds to him under a French decree of 1886 which forbade his family to enter France.
The Count of Paris is a good horseman and occasionally rides after the greyhounds in the lightning-swift Portuguese hare hunt. But he is really not much interested in sport and social amusements. A thrifty Frenchman, he has husbanded his small fortune with care. He has a farm in the rocky hills behind Estoril, and spends most of his time in overalls, or baggy trousers, and muddy shoes, supervising its operation. Milk and butter from the Count’s cows grace the tables of Estoril’s hotels and help keep his budget balanced.
The Count and Countess have no problem on how to fill their spare time. Their children take care of that for the pair have produced a bumper crop of eleven. Even so, the Countess at forty remains fairly slim, quite attractive-looking and an expert horsewoman and water-skier.
Last year the French Assembly, apparently feeling that the republic had nothing to fear from the Count, revoked the law forbidding the pretender to enter France. In recent months he has spent much time in France shopping around for a chateau cheap Continued on page 32
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Full House on Kings
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enough for his slender purse, yet big enough for his horde of children. He finally settled on one near Paris and expects to split his time in the future between France and the farm near Estoril.
After a brief futile bid in 1938 for monarchist support in France, he somehow got into the French army incognito early in the war as an ordinary poilu. He was wounded in Belgium in 1940 and after the fall of France he made his way back to his family in Spanish Morocco to recuperate. In 1942, after the Allies landed in North Africa, he turned up in Algiers as a French lieutenant. Washington found out and General Eisenhower ordered him back to Spain. Since then the Count has hinted he has lost interest in the French monarchy.
In sunny Estoril, where so many do no work, a principal occupation is gossip, and there is one wonderful bit about the Count de Paris. It tells how he was forced, due to financial troubles, to borrow money from a Portuguese banker on a necklace that had belonged to Marie Antoinette. The loan was shrouded in deepest secrecy, and the necklace was to be kept in a private vault.
The banker, however, in an amorous moment, loaned the necklace to a soprano with whom he was on excellent terms. And she, being a woman, wore it in public against his orders. And ¡ —you can almost write this story
yourself— the first place she wore it was at an affair which the Count de Paris happened to attend and at which he nearly had an apoplectic stroke, as the famous necklace told his secret to all.
A fascinating yarn. Unfortunately ; it is completely factional. But it keeps on being passed around over coffee tables and across martini glasses by people who don’t particularly believe it, but fand it delightful anyhow.
Both Don Juan and the Count de Paris are pretenders, and never actually wore the crowns of their countries. But their close friend and cousin, Umberto de Savoia, was actually King Umberto II of Italy for one month. In 1946, just after the war, King Victor Emmanuel abdicated in favor of Umberto, his son, because of heavy political pressure from anti-fascists. Umberto, who had been waiting his chance for years, happily assumed his kingship. But a general election and plebiscite was held the next month which junked the monarchy, and Umberto packed his belongings and cleared out in three days, furious and vengeful.
But for him there were consolations. His father, Victor Emmanuel, had had the foresight to place what is said to I be several million dollars’ worth of the family fortune in English and other ! non-Italian places. The old man died in 1947, and Umberto was rich. He settled down in a large yellow mansion overlooking the sea in the town of Cascais (of which Estoril is a part), and decided to relax and enjoy his exile.
Fancying himself something of an intellectual, Umberto dabbles with writing: he is working on a history of the ties between his family and the royal family of Portugal, an opus for which there seems to be no crying need. Not inclined to sports, Umberto shows up to watch an occasional bullfight, or the annual pigeon-shooting contest in Estoril, but his own exercise consists mostly of hiking along the beach alone in an old trench coat in winter, or a pair of shorts in summer.
Like Don Juan, Umberto has his own little court—an aide-de-camp named Graaianni (not -the Grasiani of the
African campaign), a private secretary, a handful of wealthy or noble Italians, and a retinue of servants who run the house and look after his three daughters. (Umberto’s wife and son live in Switzerland for unexplained reasons, a circumstance which furnishes the social circles of Estoril another source of fascinating confidences.
Umberto is perhaps the richest émigré in town, and therefore is able to be the most diligent social butterfly of them all. His big sprawling house is the scene of innumerable parties at which the elegant folk successfully ignore the way history has swept them off into this overlooked corner of Europe.
Escape in the Bathtub
Better known to North Americans than Don Juan, Paris, or Umberto, is the Hohenzollern ex-king of Rumania, Carol. A man with a flair for making headlines, Carol was standard Sundaysupplement stuff in the Roaring Twenties. A playboy prince, he made no secret of his riotous life, and in the best Balkan fashion he dramatically married a commoner for love, renounced his right to the throne, and ran away. His mother hauled him back home, dissolved the marriage, and got him properly hitched to a Greek princess. Then Carol met the greeneyed Magda Lupescu, wife of a fellow-officer, a voluptuous redhead with camelia-white skin. She became Carol’s very close friend, and soon divorced her husband.
In 1925 Carol renounced his throne again, and he and she settled in France. But in 1930, when the shuffles of Rumanian politics gave him the chance, he made a surprise flight back to Bucharest, snatched back his twice-resigned throne, and became king. Magda followed, and his Greek wife, outraged beyond endurance, packed and left Rumania.
For ten tempestuous years Carol ruled the country, struggling against fascist and anti-semitie elements which raged against Magda, who is half Jewish. At one time he managed to clap most of the fascist Iron Guard into jail, but as war drew closer he was forced to make concessions to Hitler and to let the Iron Guard out again. Finally in 1940 he lost all control, and he and Magda made a hair-raising midnight escape in a railroad train loaded with money and possessions, while Iron Guardists raced alongside in automobiles and fired wildly. For safety’s sake, Carol lay
inside an iron bathtub until the train roared across the border.
In exile they wandered to Spain, Cuba, Mexico, and Brazil. No longer the glamorous lovers of former years, Carol and Magda made the headlines again in 1947 when she fell ill in Rio de Janeiro. Carol, long since divorced, married her on what was assumed to be her deathbed. Some have said the reason was that his property is in her name. He had only avoided marriage because he thought it might permanently destroy his hope of going back to his old job. (Later, when Magda recovered, Carol remarried her because a quirk of Brazilian law dissolves a deathbed marriage if the dying person recovers.)
Now using the title of Princess Helena, Magda went with Carol to Estoril in 1947, and settled down in a large cream-colored house on one of the hills overlooking the sea. With his faithful aide-de-camp, Ernst Urdareanu (former minister of the palace), and a few loyal friends and helpers, Carol leads a quiet life. His great bristling mustache is mostly grey, and his face benign and settled looking. Magda is still a remarkably handsome woman, but looks and acts like a middle-aged wife instead of a contemporary DuBarry.
The coming of the royal couple to Estoril posed fearful problems for that small society. The tight-knit little community of Portuguese nobility and the DP royalty took a dim view of Magda. (The fact that Umberto, Don Juan and Paris all have family ties to Carol made them none the friendlier.)
Umberto called on Carol a few times but would never invite the couple to his parties. Others would greet and speak to Carol and Magda at some public place, but only within the limits of mere politeness. Some few did befriend them, however, and by now a dozen or more Portuguese countesses and ladies of high rank count themselves her admirers, and address her as “Your Majesty.”
The kings and pretenders are befriended by, and mingle with, Estoril’s odd assortment of lesser nobility. Some are still quite wealthy, owning large estates, and some, like the jovial bouncy Marquis de Foz, are successful manufacturers. Many others are impoverished, family fortunes having drained away in the four decades since Portugal became a republic. The Casino and the cafés and restaurants of Estoril are inhabited by many a penniless baron or viscount who lives
off a minute income, or sells a family art treasure once in a while. A few have succumbed to the modern world and taken jobs, but not without pain. An American in Lisbon who unknowingly hired one not long ago said to a friend a couple of weeks later, “I thought this guy 'was a character. A little crazy, only not dangerous. Then 1 find out yesterday what’s the matter with him—all it is, he’s a count. That’s his trouble.”
Officially, of course, no noble titles exist in Portugal, having been abolished along with the monarchy fortyone years ago. But strong man Salazar, having nothing to fear from these people, indulgently permits the use of title and rank. In fact, Portugal’s own pretender—the Duke de Braganza—is permitted to visit Portugal freely. (Being a “pretender” doesn’t mean that you actively pretend. If you happen to be the next in line to a throne or former throne, you are a pretender whether you bother about it or not.)
A somewhat lesser known royal DP is Carol’s cousin, the Archduke Joseph Franz of the famous house of Hapsburg. The Archduke, a mild, unpretentious, grey-haired man of fifty-five, is Estoril’s poorest royal refugee. He and his handsome, black-haired wife, a princess of Saxony, lived in Hungary, and owned several castles and a vast fortune. Unlike Carol, they took no steps to smuggle their money out. When the Russians suddenly got close to Budapest in 1944, they grabbed a few possessions and their eight children and fled. Joseph Franz had been jailed by Communists during the Béla Kun uprising in Hungary in 1919 and he had no taste for more. “Theirs is a religion of hate,” he says; “I dared not remain another moment.”
After a few years of scraping along in Austria, they went to Portugal in 1947 with the four younger children (leaving the others scattered about Europe, either married or in school). Here they now live a few miles from Estoril in a modest country house.
Around the house is a little two-acre farm. The Archduchess oversees the growing of vegetables, their main source of food. Once in a while they sell something or other to pay the rent (the house belongs to the Count da Ribadave, who charges them a token rental).
The Archduke and Archduchess make no attempt to join the gay social life of Estoril. For one thing, they can’t afford it. For another, they are rather more serious than the others. The Archduke has a dreamy, pinkcheeked face, surmounted by a wild thatch of grey hair—and, indeed, he is a poet and a musician. He has written a mass of music and verse, and once had a play produced in Hungary. Currently he is composing an oratorio about Saint Francis of Assisi. He works at an ancient upright piano in a garage under the house.
Once recently they read in a Communist newspaper about a new resort hotel which had just been opened on Lake Balaton in Hungary. The description of its charm and location sounded familiar. They suddenly realized that this was one of their castles.
The Béla Kun Communist regime which had clapped the Archduke in jail in 1919 was overthrown by the Austro-Hungarian admiral, Nicholas Horthy, who led an army against the Reds and overturned them in short order. Horthy today has wound up in a small house in Estoril.
Though not an ex-king, Horthy is the same in some ways, for after overthrowing the Communists he became Regent of Hungary and ruled as a virtual dictator for a generation. A
tall imposing hawk-nosed man, he was uncompromisingly reactionary and strong-handed, and ran the little country as autocratically as any king.
Now eighty-two, his nose more bulbous than hawk-like and his tall frame sagging and paunchy, Horthy is a forgotten, neglected old man. He is practically penniless and his means of support is a local mystery, although it is said he gets “loans” from a wealthy Portuguese sympathizer who can afford to keep him going. His lovely widowed daughter-in-law is looking for a job, but without much luck.
Dukes, marquises, counts at Estoril pretend to take their titles lightly, but actually they live partly in a dream world, often remembering or imagining the days that used to be. The past in which they or their families were so mighty seems somehow more real and more understandable than the chaotic, bewildering present.
The world flows past and around Estoril. The water lies blue and sparkling underneath the dazzling sun, and the pastel-colored houses snuggle against the hillsides. The air is quiet, untroubled by the sound of airplanes,
factories or hurrying mobs. At a cait table in the sun, or around the roulette wheel in the Casino at night, one seems in touch with reality-reality which consists of banter, protocol, manners, wit, gossip, bridge, hunting, ridin^ and good taste. Revolutions and wars, labor unions and middle-class fuerais, atomic power, the great East-West deadlock all these are somehow remote, vulgar, nightmarish.
Sssst! Waiter! Another brandy. And tell the guitarists and the singer to do that last song again. It was so lovely, so sad ... +