Monday, July 3, 2017

Ernst-August vs. Ernst-August: A Family Feud

What it's about: Schloss Marienburg
On Thursday and Saturday, Hereditary Prince Ernst-August of Hanover will first civilly and then religiously marry his long-time girlfriend Ekaterina Malysheva in, you guessed it, Hanover. Local, national and even international media have been covering the lead-up to the wedding, with a very special article popping up over the weekend: Handelsblatt writes that the groom's father, the even more (in)famous Prince Ernst-August of Hanover, has set his son an ultimatum for Friday of this week to give back several family possessions he received in 2004. Otherwise Ernst-August (the father) will, in his capacity as head of the House of Guelph, deny his son consent to his marriage.

So, what happened? It has long been an open secret that the relationship between the two Ernst-Augusts is quite rocky to non-existent. Many have speculated that Ernst-August Senior will actually not be among the guests for Ernst-August Junior's wedding. Back when their relationship was still better, in 2004 to be exact, the elder Ernst-August gifted his son the German possessions of the family, most famously Schloss Marienburg near Hanover. 

After a pretty well-publicised auction not without its fair share of criticism back then initiated by Ernst-August Junior and his brother Christian, Ernst-August Junior did pretty well for himself in and around Hanover. While living in London, he often spent time in northern Germany in the past five years and attended all kinds of events in the region. It was also under his reign (for lack of a better word) that Schloss Marienburg broke even for the first time and they even made a small profit in the years around the "Path to the Crown" exhibition.

However in the meantime, the relationship between father and son turned sour. Having been exiled in 1866, the Guelph family also owns large estates in Austria. These possessions are held by the Herzog-von-Cumberland-Stiftung (Duke of Cumeberland Foundation). Since 1987, Ernst-August Senior had been head of the foundation. While matters of the foundation are private ones, it is said that in 2012 Ernst-August Junior took over his father's position - against the will of Ernst-August Senior. Nobody (apart from those involved, obviously) knows what exactly went on though some say that the move would only have been possible if Ernst-August Senior would have been incapable of contracting. Another option is that the Guelphs probably have a family council like other noble families and that there may have been a vote. However it went on, a case about the removal of Ernst-August Senior from the board of trustees is currently pending in front of Liechtenstein courts.

In the past few years, Ernst-August Senior has been avoiding the spotlight but still regularly made headlines about his health issues, hospital stays and young mistresses while living apart from his second wife, Princess Caroline of Monaco. Why he felt so inclined to publicise the family feud despite having made his distaste for the media quite vocal and [insert here however you call it if someone beats a journalist up with an umbrella] over the years? Who knows. He is only quoted in the Handelsblatt article as saying that "this step hasn't been easy for me, especially because it is about my son [...] However, I feel impelled to do so to preserve the interests of the House of Hanover". He also says that he feels "major ingratitude" by his son who allegedly unilaterally changed the gifting agreement to take out a clause that included Ernst-August Senior getting back possession of the estates if his son dies without heirs. That would mean that Ernst-August's future wife or someone he mentions in his will, e.g. is younger brother, would inherit the estate. Thus Ernst-August Senior wants all the German possessions back (whether he would actually have a legal claim is a totally different discussion) or otherwise denies his son consent to his marriage (which would mean that he ceases to be the Hereditary Prince).

And Ernst-August Junior? He declines to make a comment. Just as he has been doing over the past few years. You see, his father is one of the best known royals in Germany and naturally Ernst-August Junior has been asked about him more than a few times. But the (still) Hereditary Prince has never publicly spoken an ill word about his father but always insisted that their relationship is a private matter. Something his father should also live by! We obviously don't know what goes on behind closed doors and things usually aren't black or white. There may have been some things going on that should have gone on another way, but if you care about your son, your family or the House of Hanover, as you say, you don't come up with this stuff in the week prior to a wedding and splash it over the media's front pages. I can only imagine how much fun that other family wedding of Prince Hermann zu Leiningen, son of Ernst-August Senior's sister Alexandra, over the past weekend must have been...

Note: This post has been changed since its publication to include more information on the matter.

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