Duchess Helene in Bavaria photograph

Duchess Helene In Bavaria

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Duchess Helene In Bavaria Life story

Helene "Néné" Caroline Therese, Duchess in Bavaria of the House of Wittelsbach was a Bavarian princess and, through marriage, temporarily the head of the Thurn and Taxis family.

Helene "Néné" Caroline Therese, Duchess in Bavaria (4 April 1834 – 16 May 1890) of the House of Wittelsbach was a Bavarian princess and, through marriage, temporarily the head of the Thurn and Taxis family.


Helene was the eldest daughter of Maximilian Joseph, Duke in Bavaria and Princess Ludovika of Bavaria. Their family home during winter was Herzog Max Palais in Munich and Possenhofen Castle on Lake Starnberg during summer.


In 1853 she traveled with her mother, Ludovika, and her younger sister Elisabeth to the resort of Bad Ischl, Upper Austria with the hopes that she would become the bride of their cousin Franz Josef, then the emperor of Austria. He decided that he preferred Elisabeth instead. Helene was unusually pious, and would have fit into the Habsburg court well. She had one quality, though, that would not have been accepted: she was habitually unpunctual, and often missed trains and appointments.

After the failed engagement, she became depressed and Ludovika became concerned that Helene would take the veil and join a convent. Helene had almost come to terms with remaining single. At 22 years old she was considered to be an "old maid," but her mother arranged for her to meet the wealthy Maximilian Anton Lamoral, Hereditary Prince of Thurn and Taxis. Duke Max in Bavaria, Helene's father, invited the Thurn and Taxis family to Possenhofen for a hunting party, at which Prince Maximilian was introduced to Helene.

While the prince was vacationing at Possenhofen, he brought his marriage plans to his parents, who immediately agreed. The only difficulty involved was that although the Thurn and Taxis family were counted among the richest in the land, they were not considered social equals for a princess of royal blood and a member of the House of Wittelsbach. Because of this, King Maximilian II of Bavaria, who was also cousin of Helene, did not at first agree to a marriage between the two, but through Elisabeth's influence on the king, the marriage took place nevertheless. The wedding ceremony was held on 24 August 1858 at Possenhofen. To mark the occasion, the in-laws gave the bride a necklace worth 160,000 Gulden. In spite of the earlier objections to the match, Helene is considered to have had the only happy marriage among the five Wittelsbach sisters.

Her daughter Louisa was born in 1859, followed by a second daughter, Elisabeth, in 1860. Shortly after the birth of her second child she traveled to Corfu to visit her sister Elisabeth, who was very ill. She returned by way of Vienna, where she reported to Franz Josef on the poor state of his wife.

She gave birth to the much-desired son in 1862, named Maximilian Maria, and in 1867 had another son named Albert.

Even though the couple had a happy marriage, it was overshadowed by the severe illness of her husband Maximilian, who had chronic kidney disease. Neither a course of treatment in Karlsbad nor the best doctors could save him. He died in 1867 at only 35 years of age.

Later life

Helene took her mind off her sorrows with charitable activities. She received the guardianship of her children from the Austrian emperor. Her father-in-law began to include her in the business affairs of the House of Thurn and Taxis, seeing in her a support and successor. In this way she became the head of the family until her oldest son reached his majority.

In 1877 her youngest daughter, Elisabeth, married Prince Miguel of Braganza, the Miguelist claimant to the throne of Portugal. Elisabeth's health deteriorated after the birth of her first child, and she eventually died in 1881.

In 1879 Helene's oldest daughter, Louise, married the young Prince Frederick of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen. The couple had no children.

In 1883, her son Maximilian took over the leadership of the family business, but the well-trained young man fell ill. His heart had been weakened by scarlet fever in childhood, and he suffered from severe heart spasms. In 1885, he died of a pulmonary embolism. This left Helene the family head again, until 1888 when her son Albert reached his majority and took over the family businesses. Helene then retired and dedicated herself to her religious devotions.


Spain : Dame of the Order of Queen Maria Luisa



Brigitte Hamann: Kaiserin wider Willen, 1981. ISBN 3-492-22990-5

Conte Corti: Elisabeth. Die seltsame Frau, 1934. ISBN 3-222-10897-8

Erika Bestenreiter: Sisi und ihre Geschwister, München 2004. ISBN 3-492-24006-2

Sigrid-Maria Größing: Sisi und ihre Familie, Wien 2005. ISBN 3-8000-3857-9

External links

Media related to Duchess Helene in Bavaria at Wikimedia Commons

Thurn-Taxis.com - Helene in Bavaria, a key person in the long history of the Thurn & Taxis Postal family

Duchess Helene in Bavaria Photos

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