Princess Sophie of Hohenberg

Princess Sophie of Hohenberg (Sophie Marie Franziska Antonia Ignatia Alberta von Hohenberg; (1901-07-24)24 July 1901 (1990-10-27)27 October 1990) was the only daughter of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his morganatic wife Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg, both of whom were assassinated at Sarajevo on 28 June 1914. Their assassination triggered the First World War, thus Sophie and her two brothers are sometimes described as the first orphans of the First World War.[1]

Princess Sophie
Princess of Hohenberg
Princess Sophie as a young woman
Born(1901-07-24)24 July 1901
Konopischt, Kingdom of Bohemia, Austria-Hungary
Died27 October 1990(1990-10-27) (aged 89)
Thannhausen, Austria
Spouse(s)Count Friedrich von Nostitz-Rieneck
Count Erwein von Nostitz-Rieneck
Count Franz von Nostitz-Rieneck
Count Aloys von Nostitz-Rieneck
Countess Sophie von Nostitz-Rieneck
FatherArchduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria
MotherSophie, Duchess of Hohenberg
ReligionRoman Catholicism

Early life

Princess Sophie was born on 24 July 1901 at Konopiště chateau, in Austria-Hungary, (now the Czech Republic), fifty kilometres south-east of Prague. This chateau, situated in Bohemia, was the favourite home of the Archduke and his wife.[2] On 29 September 1902, the couple's first son, Maximilian, was born. A second son, Ernst, followed on 17 May 1904. In 1908, the Archduke's wife became pregnant again, but the fourth child, a boy, was stillborn on 7 November 1908.[3]

Since the Archduke had sworn an oath that any children he had with his morganatic wife could never succeed to the throne,[4] he envisaged a future for them that would be normal and tranquil. He wanted his sons to lead the uncomplicated life of a country squire, while he intended that his daughter, Sophie, would be happy at the side of a socially-suitable partner whom she loved. He hoped that his children would grow up to be private individuals who could enjoy life without material worries, while leading lives of anonymity. Sophie later said that she and her brothers were brought up to know they were nothing special. She stated that her father had been firm with his children, but never harsh or unjust.[5]

After assassination

After the assassination of her parents, Sophie and her two surviving brothers, Maximilian and Ernst, were taken in by their mother's brother-in-law and their father's close friend and shooting partner, Prince Jaroslav von Thun und Hohenstein.

In late 1918, their properties in Czechoslovakia, including Konopiště and Chlumec nad Cidlinou, were confiscated by the Czechoslovak government. The children moved to Vienna and Schloß Artstetten.

Marriage and issue

Sophie married on 8 September 1920 in Tetschen, Count Friedrich von Nostitz-Rieneck (1 November 1893 in Prague – 29 December 1973 in Graz), son of Count Erwein Felix von Nostitz-Rieneck and Countess Amalia Podstatzky-Lichtenstein. They had four children:

  • Count Erwein von Nostitz-Rieneck (29 June 1921 in Heinrichsgrün – 11 September 1949 in Vysokaye), died in a Soviet POW camp
  • Count Franz von Nostitz-Rieneck (2 February 1923 in Vienna – 23 February 1945 in Berent), killed on the Eastern Front
  • Count Aloys von Nostitz-Rieneck (12 August 1925 in Vienna – 22 April 2003 in Salzburg), married on 7 August 1962 in Leutkirch im Allgäu, Countess Theresia von Waldburg zu Zeil und Trauchburg (born 8 August 1931 in Leutkirch im Allgäu), daughter of Erich, Prince of Waldburg-Zeil and Trauchburg, and Princess Monika of Löwenstein-Wertheim-Rosenberg. They have four children:
    • Count Friedrich von Nostitz-Rieneck (born 19 July 1963), married on 19 October 2002 in Salzburg, Countess Stefanie von Calice (born 7 August 1965 in Vienna), daughter of Count Heinrich von Calice and Countess Marie Therese von Küenburg. They have three children:
      • Countess Ludmilla von Nostitz-Rieneck (born 21 January 2004 in Eisenerz)
      • Count Erwein von Nostitz-Rieneck (born 10 December 2006 in Vienna)
      • Countess Teresa von Nostitz-Rieneck (born 28 July 2008 in Vienna)
    • Countess Monika von Nostitz-Rieneck (born 15 April 1965 in Graz), married on 14 July 1985 in Eisenerz, Baron Friedrich Mayr von Melnhof (born 10 November 1952 in Salzburg), son of Baron Friedrich Mayr von Melnhof and Countess Maria Anna von Orsini und Rosenberg. They have four children:
      • Baron Friedrich Mayr von Melnhof (born 26 April 1986 in Salzburg), married on 10 September 2011, Countess Antonia Czernin von und zu Chudenitz (born 1 June 1988), daughter of Count Hubertus Czernin von und zu Chudenitz and Baroness Valeria von Baratta-Dragona. They have two children:
        • Baroness Philippa Mayr von Melnhof (born 2015)
        • Baron Friedrich Otto Mayr von Melnhof (born 2017)
      • Baron Matthäus Mayr von Melnhof (born 24 January 1988 in Salzburg), married in 2015, Baroness Anna Maria von Waechter. They have one son:
        • Baron Matthäus Mayr von Melnhof (born 2016)
      • Baroness Clarissa Mayr von Melnhof (born 18 January 1990 in Salzburg), married on 19 July 2014, Baron Leopold von Waechter (born 10 March 1982 in Salzburg or Vienna), son of Baron Franz von Waechter and Countess Marie-Christine zu Stolberg-Stolberg. They have two sons:
        • Baron Franz-Anton von Waechter (born 2015)
        • Baron Josef von Waechter (born 2017)
      • Baroness Franziska Mayr von Melnhof (born 7 July 1996 in Salzburg)
    • Countess Sophie-Bernadette von Nostitz-Rieneck (born 17 August 1967 in Graz), married on 3 September 1994 in Eisenerz, Count Christian von Seilern und Aspang (born 22 June 1949 in Litschau), son of Count Franz Joseph von Seilern und Aspang and Countess Aglaia von Waldstein. They have three children:
      • Countess Aglae von Seilern and Aspang (born 22 September 1995 in Oberndorf)
      • Count Ferdinand von Seilern und Aspang (born 4 September 1997 in Oberndorf)
      • Count Jakob von Seilern und Aspang (born 18 February 2000 in Oberndorf)
    • Count Franz-Erwein von Nostitz-Rieneck (born 4 May 1970 in Graz), married on 23 June 2001 in Salzburg, Countess Isabelle Josephine von Moy de Sons (born 15 June 1977 in Munich), daughter of Count Jakob von Moy de Sons and Countess Diane d'Ursel. They have four children:
      • Countess Theresita von Nostitz-Rieneck (born 11 July 2002 in Richterswil)
      • Countess Sophie von Nostitz-Rieneck (born 30 March 2004 in Richterswil)
      • Countess Helena von Nostitz-Rieneck (born 21 February 2008 in Wiener Neustadt)
      • Count Louis von Nostitz-Rieneck
  • Countess Sophie von Nostitz-Rieneck (born 4 June 1929 in Vienna), married on 18 August 1953 in Graz, Baron Ernst von Gudenus (26 March 1916 in Madrid – 7 December 1972 in Weiz), son of Baron Erwein von Gudenus and Baroness Sidonia von Morsey gennant Picard. They have four children:
    • Baroness Sophie von Gudenus (born 6 June 1954 in Graz), married on 2 July 1981 in Weiz, Count Thomas von Seilern und Aspang (born 6 June 1955 in Litschau), son of Count Franz Joseph von Seilern und Aspang and Countess Aglaia von Waldstein. They have four children:
      • Count Josef von Seilern und Aspang (born 10 September 1985 in Vienna)
      • Countess Sophie von Seilern and Aspang (born 9 July 1987 in Vienna) married in 2017, Baron Alexander von Seckendorff-Gutend (born 1985)
      • Countess Marie Magdalena von Seilern and Aspang (born 13 May 1989 in Vienna)
      • Countess Franziska von Seilern and Aspang (born 14 April 1992 in Vienna)
    • Baroness Sidonie von Gudenus (born 20 August 1955 in Graz), married on 17 July 1982 in Thannhausen, Count Alexander von Seilern und Aspang (born 11 March 1956 in Vienna), son of Count Karl Josef von Seilern und Aspang and Countess Henriette von Seilern und Aspang. They have four children:
      • Countess Antonia von Seilern and Aspang (born 24 May 1984 in New York City), married on 28 June 2014 in Litschau, Count Maximilian von Clary und Aldringen (born 6 June 1981 in Munich), son of Count Félix von Clary und Aldringen and Countess Franziska von Thurn und Valsassina-Como-Vercelli.
      • Countess Ilona Marie von Seilern and Aspang (born 18 May 1985 in Graz)
      • Count Mathias Ferdinand Marie von Seilern and Aspang (born 6 September 1988 in Graz)
      • Countess Olivia Hemma Maria Johanna von Seilern and Aspang (born 7 June 1991 in Vienna)
    • Baron Erwein von Gudenus (born 30 August 1958 in Thannhausen)
    • Baron Ferdinand von Gudenus (born 27 July 1960 in Thannhausen), married on 11 August 1987 in Vienna, Countess Caroline von Hoyos zu Stichsenstein (born 10 March 1962 in Vienna), daughter of Count Bernhard von Hoyos zu Stichsenstein and Countess Alexandra von Herberstein. They have two children:
      • Baron Anton von Gudenus (born 11 September 1990 in Vienna)
      • Baroness Lucy von Gudenus (born 2 October 1993 in Vienna)

Later life

In 1938, following the Anschluss (the union of Austria and Germany under Adolf Hitler), her brothers Maximilian and Ernst were arrested by the Gestapo as a result of making anti-Nazi statements and deported to Dachau concentration camp. Their properties in Austria were confiscated by Nazi authorities.[6] They both survived their imprisonment in Dachau.

Sophie's husband died in 1973,[7] after which she led a quiet life in Austria, accompanied at times by her grandchildren. In 1981, she visited Konopiště for the first time in sixty years. During this visit, she talked of how happy her family life had been there.[8]

Sophie lived to be 89 years old, dying in October 1990 at Thannhausen, Austria. She was laid to rest beside the body of her husband in the family crypt of her son-in-law, Baron Ernst Gudenus, at nearby Weizberg.[9] She had outlived both of her younger siblings by many years.

Letter to Nedeljko Čabrinović

During the trial of the men accused of murdering Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, the only defendant to express remorse was Nedeljko Čabrinović, who expressed his regrets for what he had done and apologized to the children of the victims. Princess Sophie and her brothers were told about Cabrinovic's apology and wrote a letter to him. In the letter, they said they had heard about his apology and stated that his conscience could be at peace because they forgave him for his role in the murder of their parents. Sophie and Max signed the letter, but Ernst refused. The letter was delivered personally to Cabrinovic in his cell at Theresienstadt, in Bohemia, by the Jesuit Father Anton Puntigam, who had given the last rites to Franz Ferdinand and his wife. On 23 January 1916, Princess Sophie and her brothers were informed that Cabrinovic had died.[10]

Fictional appearances

A fictional version of Princess Sophie, played by Danish actress Amalie Ihle Alstrup, appeared in "Vienna, November 1908", an episode of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles later re-edited to form half of The Perils of Cupid. Young Indy falls in love with the princess and shares his first kiss with her, but is forbidden from seeing her further. Several times during the series, he is shown wearing a locket that contains her picture, which she gave to him.



  1. The Assassination of the Archduke, Greg King, Sue Woolmans (Macmillan) 2013, p.XXXIV ISBN 978-1-447-24521-6
  2. The Assassination of the Archduke, p.120
  3. The Assassination of the Archduke, p.119
  4. The Assassination of the Archduke, p.58
  5. The Assassination of the Archduke, p.107
  6. Sophie Hohenberg Site
  7. The Assassination of the Archduke, p.273
  8. The Assassination of the Archduke, p.273
  9. The Assassination of the Archduke, p.273
  10. The Assassination of the Archduke, p.246

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