|Maurice de Forest|
She claims that she is a great-great-great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria. As the author of the book, Queen Victoria's Descendants, and Queen Victoria's Descendants: A Companion Volume, I do know a lot about Victoria's descendants. There are now more than 1100 descendants. Some of the descendants are illegitimate. I call them natural descendants. These are the descendants who have been acknowledged by their QVD parent.
I am also good at sniffing out the phony claims. It is one thing to claim you are a descendant of Victoria. It is another to prove it. Trust me: I have busted more than one phony-QVD balloon.
Victoria's eldest son, Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, was a ladies' man. He may have fathered a few children, but nearly all of his mistresses were married, and he never acknowledged any illegitimate children. He certainly never met Maurice Forest's mother.
Emmelie claims her grandfather, Count Maurice Arnold de Forest, was the the illegitimate son of King Edward VII (as Prince of Wales) and an Austrian princess, who was a member of the Habsburg family. [Distaff members are Archduchesses, not princesses.] The story has a certain amount of embellishment about it. De Forest's background was a bit sketchy, but I have two words to describe Emmelie's claim: bull dinkies!
Maurice Arnold de Forest was born on January 9, 1879 in Paris. One source states he was the second son of Ferdinand Raphael Bischoffsheim and his wife, Mary Paine. This is incorrect.
His birth was registered in Paris. Records show that Maurice was the elder son of Edward de Forest (1848-1882) and Juliette Arnold (1860-1882), an American couple who worked in French circuses. He had a younger brother, Raymond (1880-1912). The family lived on the Rue Legendre in Paris. Edouard and Juliette were originally from New York. The source for the details about Maurice's parents is in Le Moïse des Amériques. Vies et œuvres du munificent baron de Hirsch by Dominique Frischer, which was published in 2002 by Paris-based publisher Grasset.
Edward and his wife were in Constantinople on tour, when they died in a typhoid epidemic in 1882. Their deaths were noted in church records in Constantinople. The two young boys were soon adopted by German-born Baron Moritz (Maurice) von Hirsch. He and his wife, Clara Bischoffsheim, the daughter of a Belgian Senator, lived in a very large home in Paris. It is suffice to say the Baron was a multi-millionaire.
What was the connection between the two young boys and the very rich Jewish Baron and his wife? Was Clara a very understanding woman, who made a home for two boys who may have been fathered by her husband? Although several sources, including contemporary sources, state that von Hirsch was the natural father of the two boys, French civil records list an American, Edouard (Edward) de Forest, as the father.
Baron von Hirsch and his son Lucien funded orphanages in Russia, Belgium and France. The two boys had been placed in the care of friends or an institution when their parents went on tour. Now as orphans, they needed a home, and Moritz and Clara adopted them.
Maurice and Raymond retained the de Forest surname, but added Bischoffsheim, which was Clara's maiden name. They did not receive the von Hirsch surname because they were not the Baron's sons. Nor were they Clara's nephews.
Baron von Hirsch amassed a huge fortune in banking, starting his career with the banking house of Bischoffsheim & Goldsmidt. He married Clara Bischoffscheim 1855.
The family had homes in Hungary and London, but their primary residence was in Paris. Both Moritz and Clara were known for their philanthropic works. On the occasion of Franz Joseph's 40th anniversary on the throne, Baron von Hirsch donated £500,000 to develop primary schools in Galicia and Bukowina. He also was a major supporter of providing financial relief for repatriating Russian Jews.
He parlayed his growing wealth with the development of the railroads in Austria, the Balkans and Turkey. His father, the banker to the King of Bavaria, was created a baron in 1869.
Young Maurice attended Eton and Christ Church, Oxford. In 1899, Austrian Emperor Franz Josef, created Maurice and Raymond as Baron von Forest. It is unlikely that the 20-year-old Maurice was ennobled by the Austrian emperor because he was the illegitimate son of the Prince of Wales. Both brothers were raised to the rank of baron. There are two schools of thought for the reason why Maurice and Raymond were ennobled. Baron von Hirsch had been successful in obtaining a Belgian baronial title for his legitimate son, Lucien, and may also have petitioned Franz Josef for titles for his two natural sons. But there is no concrete evidence to assume that the baron was the boys' father. The titles were not bestowed until after Moritz's death.
More likely they received the titles because of Baron and Baroness von Hirsch's numerous charitable bequests to Austro-Hungarian organizations.
This was noted in the Court Circular on March 6, 1899. "The Emperor of Austria has given the title of Baron De Forest to M. Arnold Forest and to his brother M. Raymond De Forest, both the adopted sons of Baroness de Hirsch and Gereuth, widow of the late Baron de Hirsch."
Von Hirsch died in Hungary at the age of 64 in 1896. His wife died three years later. Maurice inherited his adoptive father's Austrian residence, Schloss Eichhorn (now known as Veveri Castle, near Brno), and which he owned until 1925, when it was appropriated by the Czech government. De Forest received £100,000 from the Czech government.
Maurice and Raymond were the main beneficiaries of Baroness de Hirsch's estate. Maurice received 25,000,000 Francs, as well as her estates in Rossitz-Eichhorn, Austria. Baron Raymond received 20,000,000 francs and the Chateau de Beauregard in Paris. These legacies were held in trust until each man reached his 30th birthday. When he turned 35, Maurice inherited a further $10 million dollars from his adoptive mother's estate. One has to consider why Maurice and Raymond received the bulk of Clara's fortune? Moritz and Clara left millions to charities as well. Their only son, Lucien, was already deceased.
The brothers also inherited all of the Baroness' furniture, paintings, jewelery, "contained in her mains on the Rue de l'Elysée, Paris, as well as the two houses bearing the numbers 4 and 6 in the same street," reported Reuters.
Raymond died unmarried in 1912. It is likely that his older brother inherited his share of the von Hirsh fortune.
De Forest was naturalized as a British subject in 1900, and received by royal license the right to use his title in the United Kingdom. This was done by direct command of Queen Victoria. No reason for the grant was given. In the same year, she commanded that Baron Boxall, whose title was bestowed by the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, could use his title in Britain.
Queen Victoria did not grant de Forest the right to use his year-old-barony in the United Kingdom on the basis that Maurice was her grandson. He was not her grandson. He was not the first nor the last naturalized Briton with a foreign title to be granted the right to use the title in Britain.
So what was the connection to the Prince of Wales?
Baron von Hirsch was a financial adviser to the Prince of Wales (the future Edward VII). They were introduced by the Austrian Crown Prince, Archduke Rudolf. They first met sometime in the 1880s. One of Edward's biographers, Sir Philip Magnus states that the first meeting took place in 1886. Not long afterward, Bertie visited von Hirsch at his estate, St. Johann, in Hungary. Maurice was born in 1879. In other words, it would have been impossible for Bertie to be Maurice's natural father.
This is confirmed by one of Hirsch's biographers. Crown Prince Rudolf met von Hirsch at a shooting party in September 1886. It was in December 1886 that Hirsch "obtained an introduction to the Prince of Wales, from Rudolf in consideration of a loan of 100,000 gulden. After Rudolf's tragic death in 1889, it was said in Vienna that his debt was waived in return for nobility conferred on Hirsch's natural sons whom his widow had adopted."
Sir Philip also wrote: "after losing his only legitimate son in 1887, Hirsch announced that humanity would be his heir." This meant that Baron von Hirsch also had illegitimate issue, again leading to the possibility that he was the father of the two boys. Hirsch's Viennese obituaries noted that he had "lately had always been accompanied by two young boys, whose mother had been English, or American," according to Kurt Grünwald, the author of Türkenhirsch A Study of Baron Maurice de Hirsch. The boys' mother was American. So was their father.
Maurice de Forest certainly knew the Prince of Wales. In 1899, he was a guest at a shooting party at Sandringham. This connection was due not to fatherhood but to the Prince of Wales' friendship with Baron von Hirsch. The Baron also entertained King Edward and Queen Alexandra at Spencer House. It is very unlikely that Alexandra would have agreed to attend a dinner hosted by her husband's illegitimate son.
An engagement between Maurice and Mathilde Madeleine Menier, nee Letellier, widow of Albert Menier, was announced in April 1901, and would "shortly take place." There are no further reports of the marriage, but it took place in Paris sometime in 1901. In June 1903, the Chicago Daily Tribune reported "a great sensation was caused this week in sport circles by the divorce of the Baronne de Forest. Though the differences had been discussed for some time, the actual proceeding was kept secret, until she came into court of Wednesday with the petition."
Madeleine was the daughter of Eugene Letellier, the owner of Le Journal, a French newspaper.
The Baroness was described as a "racing enthusiast" with many victories. Her estranged husband was said to be a "great votary of yachting, passing much time aboard his Nemesis."
Madeleine gave birth to a daughter, Mabel Béatrix Clara Mary Magdalen, on March 5, 1902. (De Forest had been raised Jewish, and converted to Catholicism before his first marriage. It seems unlikely that Bertie would have allowed for a child of his, even an illegitimate child, to be raised in the Jewish faith.) As Maurice's real parents' deaths were registered in a church, it seems likely that he and his brother were not Jewish from birth.
Madeleine died in 1952 at the age of 82.
Mabel was married three times. Her first marriage took place in 1923 to a French politician Edmond Marcel Barrachin (1900-1975). A second marriage to French tennis player Jean Barotra (1898-1994) took place in 1937. The third marriage to Andre Louis Mariotti occurred in 1956. I have no information on Mabel's death, but she did have three children by her first marriage and a son, Yves, by her second marriage.
At the time of her marriage to Barotra, Mabel was described as "fair and slim and a good tennis player." She met her second husband at the British embassy in Paris in 1931.
After his first marriage was was annulled, Maurice was free to remarry. On February 11, 1904, he wed the Hon. Ethel Catherine Hannah Gerard, daughter of the 2n Baron Gerard. The wedding took place at the Roman Catholic Church of St. Oswald, Garwood, Lancashire. According to the report in the Court Circular, the "church was decorated with flowers." The best man was Eric Chaplain, son of Mr. Chaplin, MP. The bride was given away by her brother, Lord Gerard, and she had seven bridesmaids: Lady Marjorie Erskine, Miss May and Miss Aline Beresford, Miss Winifred and Miss Eve Gerard, and Miss Violet de Trafford. Her train was carried by Miss Marjorie Lowther.
The reception was held at Garwood, and the couple's honeymoon was spent on the Continent. One of the wedding gifts was an "enamelled umbrella handle studded with pearls" from Prince Christian, husband of Princess Helena.
Maurice was a keen yachtsman, and owned several yachts. He also enjoyed horse racing and aviation. Before the first World War, the baron lived at Spencer House in London, leasing it for several years.
The couple had two sons, Alaric Frederick Maurice (1905-1973), and John Gerard (1907)
The couple separated in 1910, due to the Baroness' adultery with a young man, Lt. Frank Ashton. There were legal battles, including a slander case. In 1913, the newspapers reported that the couple had reconciled. They moved to the South of France, where they maintained a large estate.
Edith was said to find "life intolerable, owing to her husband's foreign ways and his inability to accustom himself to English ethics and prejudice, in spite of his having been educated at Eton and Oxford."
De Forest was a close friend of Winston Churchill and his wife Clementine. They made several visits to the baron's Austrian home, Schloss Eichhorn, including their honeymoon.
He became an active member of the Liberal Party, and ran for Parliament in Southport. He lost the election, despite the support from Churchill. Later in the year, he was elected to the London City Council, representing Kennington. He remained in this position until 1913.
A parliamentary by-election in West Ham North was held in July 1911. De Forest ran for this seat, and won. He held the seat until 1918. Largely due to his foreign title, de Forest was considered by many to be in sympathy with the enemy. He served with the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve and the Royal Naval Air Service Armoured Car Section.
In a letter to The Times in 1915, the baron's lawyers wrote in response to an article about a meeting where the baron was described as a "naturalized British subject of Austrian birth." The lawyers responded: "...these suggestions are absolutely untrue. Our client was not born, and has never been, of Austrian or German nationality."
On January 16, 1920, Maurice finally renounced his Austrian baronial title, and reverted to his birth surname de Forest. In 1932, he was granted Liechtenstein nationality, and the Prince of Liechtenstein gave him the title Count de Bendern. Bendern is a tiny village in Liechtenstein. He also tried to distant himself from the connections to the von Hirsch family, which the de Bendern family have acknowledged. Maurice's legitimate descendants are well aware of their father's ancestry, and the family tree does not include King Edward VII.
In 1924, Maurice sold his Georgian townhouse at 59 Grosvenor Street in Mayfair. Three years later, he applied for restitution for the loss of his Austrian estates, including Schloss Eichhorn, from the Anglo-Austrian Tribunal. A settlement was reached in early 1928, and de Forest received £100,000 for his Austrian estates, which were now located in Czechoslovakia.
Maurice became known as Count Maurice de Bendern, and his two sons, Alaric and John dropped de Forest and were styled as Counts de Bendern. After leaving England, Maurice settled in the south of France, in a mansion on Cap Martin. He had acquired an art collection, including Frans Hals' The Flute Player, which was stolen in 1967. He also maintained homes in England and in Switzerland.
The 88-year old count told The Times: "Two years ago this painting, with 20 other valuable pictures, was dispatched from my property at Prangins, Switzerland, into the custody of a Geneva bank where they remained until a few weeks ago.
"When, just before their removal from the bank to be taken elsewhere, their protective wrappings were taken off, it was found that a worthless object had been substituted for the Frans Hals.
"The Swiss police have made little progress in the case.
"The Frans Hals was one of a collection of old masters, mainly Dutch but including a Turner, reserved as donations to the Principality of Liechtenstein after my death."
He added: "I have undertaken to pay to charities any sum recovered from the insurance underwriters. But should the picture be retrieved it will be handed over immediately to Liechtenstein."
Alaric's death announcement was published in The Times on July 7, 1973. He died "suddenly" on July 4, 1973 at Biarritz, son of the late Count de Benders of Vaduz, Liechtenstein, brother of Mabel de Forest and John de Bendern. Alaric was 69 years old. He died unmarried.
John de Bendern, a British golfer, was married at least three times. His first marriage was to Lady Patricia Douglas, daughter of the 11th Marquess of Queensbury. They were married at Brompton Oratory on January 27, 1938. They had two daughters, Caroline (1940) and Emma (1950) and a son, Simon Frederick (1947). This marriage ended in divorce in 1950 on the grounds of John's adultery.
Emma de Bendern was once described as having the "naughtiest" face in London. At age 17, she got involved with a petty criminal named Brian, and gave birth to his illegitimate daughter, Atalanta de Bendern, described in an article as Nigel Dempster's stepdaughter.
At age 21, she married the Daily Mail's gossip columnist Nigel Dempster. The marriage lasted about a year. Within six months of the marriage, Emma was off to the South of France for a brief fling with a married man.
They were married in 1971 and divorced in 1974.
In August 1975, Emma married married Giles Trentham. They had one daughter, Amber Mercedes Trentham, a writer and editor. Mercedes is the first name of Emma's late stepmother. This marriage ended in divorce
Emma's third husband was Prince Georg Galitzine, whom she married in 1986. They had one son, Dimitri George, born in 1986. This marriage was dissolved in 1992.
They remarried in 1998 only ten weeks before Giles' death from colon cancer at the age of 53.
The Emma de Bendern who is married to the sculptor, Neil Simmons, is more likely to be Emma Caroline de Bendern, daughter of Simon de Bendern. Emma and Neil live in Somerset with their two children, Prosper and Romilly, a promising show jumper.
There are several other de Benderns who are members of the family, but I am not sure whose children they are. Paul de Bendern, a former Reuters journalist and married to Pulitizer-prize winning war photographer Lynsey Addario. Paul has a BA degree in Politics and History from the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. He speaks French, Spanish, English and Swedish.
Earlier this month, he became managing director of Veracity Worldwide, and is based in London.
Video of their wedding has been uploaded to YouTube with commentary by Caroline de Bendern. Guests at the wedding including members of the Douglas/Queensbury and Hornak families. Another guest was Samantha Grace de Bendern. Could she be Paul's sister?
Samantha de Bendern is a journalist, now based in India.
This leaves us with Sasha Emmanuelle Jurdant, whose mother's surname is de Bendern. He is also connected to Caroline de Bendern as is Michael de Bendern.
Simon de Bendern married Ethel von Horn in 1974. He also has a daughter, Emma Caroline de Bendern, born in 1970.
In 1953, John's engagement (described as the younger son of Count and Countess de Bendern of the Principality of Liechtenstein) to Mercedes, eldest daughter of Señor and Señor Gorina of Barcelona, was announced in the Times. They were married in a civil ceremony in London on November 12, 1952. Mercedes died at Neuilly-sur-Seine in June 1973. John died in 1997. John's last wife was named Barbara Hilda. They lived in Tunbridge Wells. Both died in Kent.
Ethel, Countess de Bendern died after a long illness on September 27, 1966 at Monte Carlo.
So where does Emmelie fit into the family tree? She is the daughter of Ingvar de Forest (1938-2010), said to be the natural son of Maurice de Forest and a Swedish woman, Irma Paula Margareta Engström. Ingvar 's birth was registered in Stockholm with the surname Engström. It was not until he was an adult when he began using the surname de Forest.
Maurice never married Margareta, and he did not have an active role in Ingvar's life. The de Bendern family have never made any claims to being descendants of Queen Victoria. It is unlikely that Emmelie has any documentation to support her statements, especially about Maurice being the son of Bertie and an Austrian princess. It is entirely possible that Ingvar concocted the story as an embellishment to his own birth. He has been married several times, as well. Charlotte has several older siblings or half-siblings, including Birgitta, Edward and Sophie de Forest. They are in contact with their aunt Caroline.
But there are records to prove that Maurice was born in Paris. His birth was registered in Paris with the parents of Edward de Forest and Julie Arnold, both of whom died in 1882. We also know that the boys were adopted and raised by Hirsch and his devoted wife, Clara, who left most of her fortune to Maurice and Raymond. As far back as the late 1890s, there were reports that Baron von Hirsch was the boys' natural father, and that the mother was either British or American. Julie Arnold was American. But the truth is another matter. The Baron and his wife adopted the two boys after the deaths of their American parents.
But Maurice Arnold de Forest was not the son of Edward VII. Bertie did not meet Baron von Hirsch until 1886, seven years after Maurice's birth. This is documented and acknowledged by serious historians and biographers.
In other words, Danish singer Emmelie Charlotte Victoria de Forest has Swedish and Finnish ancestry, as well as American roots. Her great-grandparents were -- gasp! AMERICANS!
But she is not a descendant of Queen Victoria. Period. Full Stop.