Once upon a time there was an imperial palace perched at the edge of the Wienerwald. Now, it’s a hotel of the four star variety nestled among the best mansions in Vienna. What happened toward the end of the 19th century is the important part of this story, because it involves love, jealousy, and my favorite topic: dysfunctional family shenanigans.
In 1780 Prince Dmitri Mikhailovich Galitzin, the Russian ambassador in Vienna, acquired forested real estate from Count Franz Moritz von Lacy. He ordered a small Jagdschloss erected which soon became famous for its social events. By 1824, when the building was already in disrepair, ownership of the estate had passed on to Duke Julius de Montléart (of French nobility) and his wife Maria Christine. Now, if you know anything about this time period, you know that France and Austria were not always buddy-buddy, however, they shared a love of hunting and rich food.
When Julius’ son, Duke Moritz de Montléart, acquired the property after considerable legal battles (read: jealous family members) he gave it to his wife Wilhelmine, and named the castle “Wilhelminenberg,” hoping that the whole town would also be named after his beloved wife, but the townspeople were used to living in a town called Galitzinberg, so they put the kibosh to that plan. As you know, the Viennese are not big on change.
Upon the death of the Duke and his Frau in 1887 and 1895 respectively, both were interred in a small mausoleum which was built in the same “neo-gothic” style as the Schloss, and was erected close to the castle. Because of her generosity towards the poor, Wilhelmine Montléart was ultimately remembered as the “Angel of Wilhelminenberg,” but it took awhile.
If for no other reason, you should visit this castle to learn more about Wilhelmine. She was a good egg.
And, speaking of eggs, if you visit Vienna these days, you can stay here as a guest! Though it’s a bit on the pricey side and currently booked until next fall, I hear that the breakfasts of sausage, duck eggs and veal cutlets (taken under fancy crystal chandeliers and eaten with heirloom cutlery) alone are worth it. Shoot them an email and see if you can get in. Tell them Sisi sent you.