The 98th Birthday of Maria von Hanau: A Hungarian Refugee to the US Who Became A Princess


Princess Maria.

Maria Madelaine (de) Kossaczky was born on 9 December 1924 at Budapest, Hungary, as the only child of Major General Árpád Vitéz Kossaczky (Szeleste, Austria-Hungary 9 April 1886-Miami, Florida 24 June 1967) and Ilona Wallner (Nagyszombat, Austria-Hungary 16 November 1891-Greenwich, Connecticut 3 December 1983). Árpád and Ilona were married on 10 November 1919 at Trnava, Czechoslovakia (now Slovakia). Their daughter Maria arrived five years later.

Major General Árpád Kossaczky fought in the Austro-Hungarian army during World War I. In the 1950s, he recalled his time in the military on the Russian front, with regards to the conditions of the Russian soldiers: “Some of them cannot read or write.” Kossaczky was firmly anti-Communist, and he founded a publishing and printing house in Budapest, which he ran until 1941. 

In Budapest, Maria attended Pázmány Péter Catholic University, and she then continued her studies at the University of Innsbruck (Leopold-Franzens-Universität Innsbruck), where she focused on art history. In November 1949, Maria came to the United States as a displaced person in thanks to sponsorship from the Pi Beta Phi sorority. After arriving in the States, Maria enrolled at the University of Texas (UT), where she studied languages – her original intention had been to study interior design. While at UT, Maria worked as a teaching fellow in the German language department. Maria received a master’s degree in German from the University of Texas. She went on to teach French, German, and European history at San Antonio College. 

Reunited: Maria with her mother and father in 1951.
Photo (c) Neal Douglass Photos.

Through the sponsorship of friends, Maria’s parents were able to immigrate to the United States in 1951. They had previously fled Hungary for Germany in 1945, and then relocated from Germany to Austria, where they lived in the French Zone. The Texan press covered the reunion of Maria and her parents when they arrived in April 1951. Maria’s mother Ilona remarked after seeing her daughter, who had adapted to being a college student, “poised and self-assured,” in Texas: “In disposition, she is the same, but when I look at her and hear her talk I must tell myself she is Maria.” 

Maria walks down the aisle with her father Major General Kossaczky.
Friedrich Wilhelm and Maria exchange wedding bands.

Princess Maria, pictured after throwing her bouquet, with Countess Rose Fugger von Babenhausen, a first cousin of Maria’s husband.

Maria and Friedrich Wilhelm drink from the Kossaczsky silver wine goblet and its smaller cup. 

On 5 June 1954, Maria Madelaine de Kossaczky married Prince Friedrich Wilhelm von Hanau, Count von Schaumburg, at 11:00am during a nuptial mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Austin, Texas. Princess Maria’s wedding outfit was thusly described by The Austin American of 8 June 1954: “She was attired in a gown of off-white peau de soie, designed with scooped neckline, Venetian point lace inlay, long pointed sleeves, Empire waistline, a bell-skirt with a long train… Her only jewelry was a pair of diamond earrings given her by her mother, which once were worn by her grandmother in Hungary.” The maid of honour was Countess Andrea Széchényi von Sárvár-Felsövidék; the bridesmaids were Miss Jane Markman Wray, Miss Eugenia Hill, Miss Jo Jo Oefinger, Miss Emily Ann Finch, and Countess Rose Fugger von Babenhausen. The bestman was Mayor Andrew Wessling of Alamo City; the groomsmen were Dr Rudoph Winkelbauer, Lieutenant George Price, Mr August Clemens, Mr Jack Hebdon, and Mr Robert Schupbach. The Reverend Andrew J. Mulreany officiated over the wedding, which was followed by a reception at the home of Mr and Mrs Robert B. Thrasher of Grove House. During the reception, which was attended by 150 guests, Prince Friedrich Wilhelm and Princess Maria von Hanau shared a toast from a silver goblet brought over by her parents. Her mother Ilona, who wore a mauve dress and a diamond pendant, explained, “My husband and I drank from it at our wedding also.” The couple then departed for a week’s honeymoon, after which they settled in an apartment in San Antonio.

Friedrich Wilhelm in 1953.

Born on 3 December 1927 at Horowitz, Czechoslovakia, Prince Friedrich Wilhelm Heinrich von Hanau was the fourth children and third son of Fürst Heinrich von Hanau (1900-1971) and Countess Maria Theresia Fugger von Babenhausen (1899-1994). In 1952, Friedrich Wilhelm came to the USA and settled in Texas. The prince took a job with the Southern Steel Company, and he was taking night classes at San Antonio College in geology. Friedrich Wilhelm went on to become the senior vice president of BMW North America. 

On 5 June 1956 (their second anniversary) at San Antonio, Prince Friedrich Wilhelm and Princess Maria welcomed the arrival of their only child, Prince Friedrich Wilhelm Heinrich Christoph von Hanau, Count of Schaumburg. Prince Christoph married Candace McDowell on 13 June 1987 at the Roman Catholic Church of St. Catherine of Siena in Riverside, Connecticut. Over time, Friedrich Wilhelm and Maria were blessed with two grandchildren, Princess Victoria (b.1990) and Prince Maximilian (b.1993).

Prince Friedrich Wilhelm von Hanau died on 4 June 2016 at his home in San Antonio. His wife Princess Maria and his son Prince Christoph were by his bedside. Princess Maria was left a widow after almost precisely sixty-two years of marriage.

Our best wishes to Princess Maria on her birthday!

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