Jenni Wiltz
I write about fascinating royal women, their jewels, and quirky aspects of royal history no one else talks about. Find me at
Four Monuments Men on the steps of a palace. Three are holding recovered artwork.
Four of the “Monuments Men” in 1945. Image by BM, CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

In 1940, one of the most valuable paintings in private possession was Hans Holbein’s Darmstadt Madonna, worth at least $1,000,000.¹ It belonged to a German prince, Ludwig of Hesse and by the Rhine.

When World War II broke out, Ludwig sent the painting to one of his estates in Silesia…

Ernst August in a dark suit and Viktoria Luise in a white blouse with layered cravat.
Prince Ernst August and Princess Viktoria Luise. Photo by T. H. Voigt, public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

The problem started with Prussia. In 1866, Prussia picked a fight with Austria to take over as shot-caller among Europe’s German-speaking territories. Those territories now had to pick a side in the war that followed.

King George of Hanover chose Austria. Turns out, he chose poorly.

Prussia trounced Austria and…

Empress Eugenie in her palace of St. Cloud, wearing a crinoline gown and a white veil.
Eugénie photographed by Gustave Le Gray, public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

In 1870, Emperor Napoleon III of France did something really stupid: he declared war on Prussia. The Prussians — better armed, better trained — made short work of the French army. After trying and failing to get himself killed at Sedan, Napoleon III surrendered.

Back in Paris, his wife and…

Louisa Adams in a red empire-waist gown with a black cap over her brown curls.
Louisa Adams painted by Charles Robert Leslie, public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Future First Lady Louisa Adams spent six years in St. Petersburg while her husband, John Quincy, was the U.S. minister (read about their Russian adventures in my previous story). John left Russia in 1814 to help negotiate a truce with the British. …


Louisa Adams in a muslin dress with a blue sash. Her ash-blonde hair is thick and curly.
Louisa painted by Edward Savage, public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

If you’re ever on Jeopardy!, here’s what you need to know about Louisa Adams: until Melania Trump, she was the only First Lady born outside the United States.

Her father, a merchant from Maryland, had moved to London for business, where he married and started a family.

In 1795, his…


Marie Louise in a white day dress. Her thick dark-blonde hair is in a chignon, and she’s wearing a dog collar pearl choker.
Marie Louise photographed by Lafayette, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Marie Louise was born in 1872, a granddaughter of Queen Victoria. Her dad — clearly a history buff — named her after Napoleon’s second wife, but the family called her “Louie.”

Her parents, Princess Helena and Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein, lived at Victoria’s beck and call. …

Princess Irina Alexandrovna in profile, wearing a white day dress with a long pearl necklace.
Irina Alexandrovna photographed by Boasson & Eggler, public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

When I was little, I never understood why movies about real people featured the following disclaimer: “Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events, is purely coincidental.”

It was a blatant lie.

Of course, Elliott Ness in The Untouchables wasn’t made up. Neither was Mozart in Amadeus.

History, Feminism

Louise in profile wearing a black ball gown and corsage. Her thick blonde hair is in a chignon.
Princess Louise of Belgium. Image from the Library of Congress Bain Collection via Wikimedia Commons.

Born in 1858, Princess Louise of Belgium was the eldest daughter of King Leopold II and Queen Marie Henriette. As parents, these two were not stellar examples, albeit for different reasons.

Leopold, far more concerned with his cash than his kids, was uninvolved at best. Marie Henriette loved her children…

Painting of Olga with a backdrop of Prince Max’s Hohenschwangau Castle.

It helps when everyone involved actually knows it’s a date.

In 1838, Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna Romanov found herself on a blind date with a boy she later described as “the nightmare of my life.” At the time, she was just sixteen years old, the middle daughter of Tsar Nicholas…

Jenni Wiltz

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