The 1950s Hanoverian Financial Spat: Ernst August Versus His Mother Viktoria Luise
In 1956, a row between Dowager Duchess Viktoria Luise of Brunswick, born a Princess of Prussia as the only daughter of German Emperor Wilhelm II, and her children erupted into public view.
|Princess Viktoria Luise of Prussia, Dowager Duchess of Brunswick.|
The issue began in 1953 upon the death of Prince Ernst August of Hannover, last reigning Duke of Brunswick. In his will, the duke stipulated that his widow Viktoria Luise should receive an annual allowance of 40,000 marks ($9,520). The will contained a further clause that if disputes arose, then a German noble should be appointed as a mediator between the parties. At the time of the duke's death, the Dowager Duchess of Brunswick was living with her eldest son and his wife, Prince Ernst August and Princess Ortrud, at Schloß Marienburg.
An issue over the financial situation of Princess Viktoria Luise soon emerged; her son was opposed to keeping his mother in the style to which his late father had decided she deserved to be kept. Ernst August acted on behalf of his four siblings: Prince Georg Wilhelm of Hannover (married to Princess Sophie of Greece), Queen Frederica of Greece (married to King Paul of Greece), Prince Christian of Hannover, and Prince Welf Heinrich of Hannover. Margrave Berthold of Baden, husband of Princess Theodora of Greece, was named as the "noble intermediary." Ernst August decided that the family's income streams could not support his mother's annual allowance, which was cut by 2/3. The dowager duchess was thus to receive 12,000 marks ($2,856) per year; this move was approved by Berthold of Baden. Viktoria Luise protested but to no avail.
|Prince Ernst August of Hannover.|
In early 1956, Ernst August and Ortrud moved out of Schloß Marienburg. The prince informed his mother that she needed to vacate the residence as well; he maintained that the castle was too expensive to keep up. Viktoria Luise refused and remained in place at her three-room apartment suite in the castle. In response, Ernst August had the gas and electricity to Marienburg shut off. Ernst August then proceeded to sell family heirlooms to a museum, which fetched 2.5 million marks ($59g5,000). Viktoria Luise responded that this influx of cash should allow her son to increase her annual allowance; Ernst August replied by saying that this was not the case, as gobbled had eaten up a great deal of the income from the sale.
Queen Frederica and King Paul of Greece visited Schloß Marienburg for a three-day stay in September 1956. The queen's mother was still in residence; however, due to Frederica siding with her brother in the financial dispute, mother and daughter did not meet. In fact, it was reported that King Paul specifically asked the West German Government and the State of Lower Saxony not to invite his mother-in-law to any events at which he and his wife would be present.
Due to his mother's reluctance to leave Marienburg, Ernst August launched an appeal with the courts alleging that Viktoria Luise was "suffering from a nervous strain and delusions." The Dowager Duchess of Brunswick willingly submitted to examinations by two psychiatrists, who found her to be of sound mind. As a result, Viktoria Luise asked for police protection to prevent her son from having her forcibly evicted from the family home.
Unsurprisingly, due to all of the discord, Viktoria Luise left Schloß Marienburg in November 1956. Taking her personal furniture with her, the Dowager Duchess moved to a ten-room country house in Brunswick. Her son further requested that a number of East German refugees who were living at Marienburg be removed. Ernst August then proceeded with a legal action to have his mother turn over jewellery that the prince felt should be held in trust by him as the Head of the Hanoverian Royal House.
A press conference took place in December 1956. The rather unusual ordeal was attended by representatives of Ernst August and his siblings, Viktoria Luise, and Berthold of Baden as mediator. It was noted that an agreement between the children and their mother was not likely.