Hello! Magazine

 

 

HELLO! #575

 

 

"REMEMBERING TUSCANY: H.I.R.H. SIGISMUND OF AUSTRIA AND ELISSA EDMONSTONE"

 
by Gaetana Enders
 

 


Sigismund and Elyssa with Elyssa's parents, Lord and Lady Edmonstone, outside Duntreath Castle, the family seat (pictured above) near Glasgow, which was granted to them in 1435 by the king of Scotland.

 

 

 

The young couple inside the magnificent villa belonging to the Pancrazi family at Bagnolo.

 

 

The magical beauty of Tuscany has inspired millions of people, from poets to prime ministers, and many visit and revisit it with the reverence of pilgrims. One of the region's most fervent admirers is His Imperial Royal Highness Sigismund of Austria, Grand Duke of Tuscany, who is shortly to marry a scion of one of Scotland's oldest families, Elyssa Edmonstone.

Sigismund became head of the Tuscan branch of the Habsburgs when his father Leopold abdicated in his favour six years ago, and he is dedicated to helping others through his position as Grand Master of the religious order of Saint Stephen, based in the region, even though he doesn't live there at present.

On September 11 the young Grand Duke is to marry Elyssa -- a direct descendant of Edward VII's mistress Alice Keppel -- in the magnificent surroundings of London's Brompton Oratory. Following a high mass ceremony and a reception at Claridge's the pair will slip away to a secret tropical island for their honeymoon.

Although the cosmopolitan couple will be setting up their home in Lausane, Switzerland, Elyssa shares her bridegroom's passion for Tuscany and has her future responsibilities as Grand Duchess of the region very much in mind, so it was appropriate that we photographed them in both Scotland and Tuscany.

Sigismund, 33, is proud of his ancestors, who took over sovereignty of Tuscany from the Medici in 1737 and ruled until 1860, when Italy was unified. Nowadays, Sigismund's family is still a very influential one: his French mother, Archduchess Laetitia of Austria, was born Marquise de Belsunce and d'Aremberg, and he himself holds several titles, including that of Prince of Hungary and Bohemia. Educated in computer science, he now works as a banker.

For Elyssa, 25, marrying him involves converting to Catholicism and learning foreign languages so as to share his life fully. As they prepared for their wedding, we asked each of them in turn how they saw their future together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elyssa, do you feel Scottish?

"Very much so. It is the one place I will always call home. There is so much freedom and space, it is an idyllic place to grow up."

So how do you feel about marrying into a very international environment?

"I just see Sigismund as the man I love. The only difference is that I travel a lot more and have the challenge of learning various languages. I left my job at the BBC in order to study French in Switzerland."

What work were you doing?

"I started off as a researcher on Crimewatch UK, then on a programme about child abuse and protection. Then, for almost two years, I worked on Esther Rantzen's talk show, which was extremely interesting, as I learnt a great deal and met many people from all walks of life. I researched a wide spectrum of topics, from relationships to refugees, from hostages to postnatal depression."

How do you feel about combining marriage and work?

"It's a very difficult balance and I greatly admire people who can do it. I look forward to working again, but I also hope to fulfill my role as Sigismund's wife by sharing his responsibilities."

How will you raise your children if you become a mother?

"I would like to bring my children up the same way I was brought up. Sigismund and I have agreed to let our children make their own decisions and just try to teach them to be responsible. You must always respect them as their own person."

How did you feel when you first met Sigmund and what qualities do you most like in him?

"There was definitely a strong chemistry. Right from the beginning we were on the same wavelength, we were soulmates. The qualities I like most in him are his strength and determination. He is very positive. I trust him, which to me is the most important foundation of a relationship. His love for me is unconditional: he loves me for who I am."

Why are you converting to Catholicism?

"For Sigismund it is very important that I should convert to Catholicism and that our children are brought up as Catholics.

"It is a shame that many people nowadays are turning away from religion, because there are many misconceptions. Receiving instruction from Father Ronald at the Brompton Oratory has been a valuable experience to me, because I saw how much strength faith could give a person."

Would you like to live in Tuscany?

"It would be lovely to have either a villa or vineyard in Tuscany and I want Tuscany to become a very important part of my life and that of our children."

What do you value most in life?

"Love: I never want to be emotionally unfulfilled."

Grand Duke, how did you meet Elyssa?

"It was quite funny, because a friend called me to ask me to visit him in Scotland and I thought, 'Oh, Scotland is so far north and it rains horribly.' But I went anyway and there she was: Elyssa was sitting beside me at dinner, and I fell in love with her at first sight."

What do you like most about her?

"Her openness and her sincerity. Lissy speaks from her heart but she is also very rational. She is extremely intelligent and very lovely looking. She is intuitive and reads my thoughts immediately. We complement one another very well."

Are you looking forward to starting your own family?

"As I love children, becoming a father has always been on my mind, and family for me is very important."

Have you thought about how you will bring up your children?

"To me, the most important element in educating children is not to squash them. I plan to help Lissy in everything: I love to cook and I will definitely enjoy sharing the care of our children. I don't believe much in nannies: it's very important to bond with your children and not to rely always on the nanny to do the parents' job!"

What are your ties with Tuscany?

"Tuscany is part of my family's history. As head of the Tuscan branch of the Habsburgs, I feel deeply not only about these historical ties, but also about the people and the beauty of Tuscany."

As Grand Master of the Order of Saint Stephen, you're in a position to help others: what are your priorities?

"I would like to concentrate my efforts especially towards helping children and old people who are abandoned or not properly loved or cared for -- ours can be an abusive society. Although I love science, the arts, etc., I treasure human beings above all."

Do you think that the aristocracy nowadays takes its responsibilities seriously?

"I think we should all take our responsibilities seriously, regardless of our position. As a member of the aristocracy I think you have a moral duty in the way you live."

Do you plan to live in Tuscany some day?

"I would like to own a villa at some point, and have a small production of wine and olive oil. Having a home in Tuscany would make Lissy and me even closer to the land."

Tell us what you value most in life.

"Honesty, being true to myself, and having an open mind. Most of all I value the people I love, because if you don't love, you miss out in life."


INTERVIEWS: GAETANA ENDERS

PHOTOS: SVEN ARNSTEIN

ALL PROCEEDS FROM THESE INTERVIEWS HAVE BEEN DONATED TO CHARITY THROUGH THE ORDER OF SAINT STEPHEN IN TUSCANY.

© HELLO!


Reprinted on the Internet with permission from
HELLO! Magazine.

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

  


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