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Alfred von Montenuovo
A Romantic Origin

Alfred Fürst von Montenuovo was the grandson of ex-Empress Marie Louis, the second wife of Napoleon Bonaparte.  Only a few days after Napoleon had died in exile on the isle of St. Helena, Marie Louis, Duchess of Parma, married Count Adam Neipperg, whose son Wilhelm was born by her only 48 hours after their marriage.  Thus, the legitimacy of the line was assured.  Kaiser Franz of Austria furthered Wilhelm's nobility by creating him Count of Montenuovo (that name being the Italian version of Neipperg, itself a corruption of Neuberg, or "new mountain").  Adam was elevated to Prince, and Kaiser Franz conferred a heavy dowry of lands upon the Montenuovo line. 

As Kaiser Franz showed Adam such favour, his son Wilhelm grew up in the Viennese palaces.  He spent time with his half-brother, the Duke of Reichstadt, also known as Napoleon II, Marie Louis' son by Napoleon Bonaparte.  Wilhelm also became childhood friends with young Archduke
Franz Josef, who would become Kaiser.  Later, Wilhelm's son Alfred would receive the trust and friendship of Franz Josef to a similarly intimate degree.

Unexpected Power

Upon the death of Prince Rudolf von Liechtenstein, Alfred Montenuovo succeeded to the position of Grand Master of the Court, which meant not only controlling all access to the Kaiser, but also being in charge of the Imperial museums, libraries, horsebreeders, and all of the managers of the Habsburg estates.  Furthermore, Montenuovo became chief officer of the Order of the Golden Fleece and of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, Commander-in-Chief of the Imperial bodyguards, and responsible for arbitrating and monitoring all activities of the Archdukes and Archduchesses of the Habsburg family.  And, he was also responsible for researching the pedigrees of all noble families that desired to associate at the Hofburg.  Those whose bloodlines did not match the required eight ancestors of blue blood from each parent were forbidden the opportunity to enter the Court.

"He is Everywhere!"

His control of the Court was legendary.  Many ministers have written unflattering reports of Prince Montenuovo's all-seeing eyes and overbearing personality.  One could not turn in the general direction of the Kaiser without Montenuovo appearing from out of the shadows, insisting on the nature of one's business, whether one had an appointment, and whether his Majesty was sufficiently prepared otherwise.

Amidst his power there were occasions of scandal.  While Montenuovo was serving as president of the Austrian Jockey Club, the well-known gambler Count Potocki lost millions of dollars in illegal bets at the club.  This news was leaked to the press, which then hounded Prince Montenuovo, demanding to know why such activities were occurring.  Suddenly feeling the sort of pressure he was normally accustomed to dishing out to unexpecting visitors at the Hofburg, Montenuovo was forced to resign under a cloud of disgrace.  He never lost his love of horse racing or horsebreeding, and his stables were among the best in Europe, comparable to those of Count
Leopold Berchtold.

A Last Stab at Revenge?

The greatest scandal of Montenuovo's career occurred shortly before the war broke out.  The
Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, the Princess Hohenberg, were assassinated together in Sarajevo.  As their corpses were transported to Vienna, it was the responsibility of Montenuovo to supervise the funeral arrangements.  When the funeral was held, it was duly noted that the Princess' coffin was further apart from her husband's than usual, and also much lower than his.  This was according to official protocol as dictated by rank in nobility, so argued Montenuovo.  The given title of "Princess" did not elevate Sophie Chotek above her morganatic marriage to the Archduke. 

The outrage among the friends and admirers of the Archduke and the Princess was quite loud.  Most notable were the Czech nobles, who saw in the Archduke the possibility of their Kingdom Bohemia returning to its former glory as an equal member in the Monarchy.  Far from accepting Montenuovo's assertion that the arrangements were made according to protocol, the supporters of the Archduke insisted that Montenuovo was using his powers to have one last stab at the Princess Hohenberg, whose "forced entry" into the Habsburg Court rubbed against every noble fibre of Alfred's being.  His dislike of Sophie was well-known; that he deliberately violated protocol in order to humiliate her after her death was a strong accusation, indeed!  Nevertheless, Princes Lobkowitz, Schwarzenberg, and Kinsky called for Montenuovo's resignation and petitioned Kaiser Franz Josef for it.  However, the Kaiser was not about to discharge his most faithful servant over such charges. 

Montenuovo's critics were further antagonized by the news that the now-vacant position of Inspector General of the Ku.K. Army and Navy was granted to Archduke Friedrich, Duke of Teschen, who led the Archdukes in their charge against Franz Ferdinand's morganatic marriage to Sophie in 1900.

GWS, 3/01