An aristocrat of the third millennium
by Helene Walterskirchen
Prologue: He came to Rudolfshausen Castle in high summer 2020 – from Lake Starnberg, where he was staying to spend a family vacation. From there to our country castle near Landsberg am Lech it was virtually only a stone’s throw. He came without pomp and glory, neither with a luxury limousine nor a chauffeur, but with an inconspicuous middle-class car with Dresden license plate: DD. Small symbols, big impact: S.K.H. Alexander Prince of Saxony Duke of Saxony, who has held the title of Margrave of Meissen since he succeeded his grandfather Friedrich Christian and his son Maria Emanuel as head of the House of Wettin. Today, if the monarchy still existed, he would be King of Saxony and would continue the line of the Saxon Electors of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, who were elevated to kings by Napoleon in 1806.
This would integrate him into the series of his numerous ancestors, the most famous of whom was Friedrich August I, known as „August the Strong“ (1670 to 1733), Elector and Duke of Saxony, and from 1697 to 1706 and then from 1709 to 1733 as August II, King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania. The last King of Saxony before the monarchy was abolished in 1918 was his descendant Frederick August III (1865 to 1932). His son Friedrich Christian Prince of Saxony (1893 to 1968), who was married to Elisabeth Helene, Princess of Thurn und Taxis, continued the line. They were the maternal grandparents of Alexander Prince of Saxony Duke of Saxony, in the following briefly called Prince Alexander.
Prince Friedrich Christian and his wife Elizabeth Helene had five children, including Maria Emanuel, who succeeded his father as head of the Wettin family, and his younger sister Maria Anna, the mother of Prince Alexander.
Maria Anna Princess of Saxony was born on December 13, 1929 in Bad Wörishofen, Bavaria. She spent her early childhood in Bamberg. After completion of the Wachwitz Castle in 1936 by order of Margrave Friedrich Christian, she and her parents and siblings spent the years leading up to the tragic night of bombing on February 13, 1945 in Dresden and had to experience how the places of work of her ancestors fell victim to the sea of flames. From the balcony of the house, she saw how The Frauenkirche Dresden collapsed on February 14th at about 10 a.m.
After the expropriation of the family residence for defensive purposes by the Wehrmacht, the Wettin family had to leave their homeland on one of the last trains that left Dresden for the West. She attended a Catholic boarding school in Switzerland and was trained as a kindergarten teacher. In Munich she lived together with her older sister Maria Josefa. There she met her future husband Roberto Alexander Prince de Gessaphe, who came from a Christian family of today’s Lebanon. On May 1, 1952, the two married and planned to live in Paris, Prince Roberto’s center of life, but family circumstances led them to Mexico. Princess Maria Anna and Prince Roberto had three sons:
Alexander Prince of Saxony Duke of Saxony (*12 February 1953 in Munich), head of the House of Wettin since 2012, entrepreneur and management consultant
Friedrich Wilhelm Prince of Saxony–Gessaphe (* October 5, 1955 in Mexico City), interior designer, decorator and art expert
Karl August Prince of Saxony–Gessaphe (*1 January 1958 in Mexico City), University Professor of Jurisprudence
Even though Prince Alexander grew up in Mexico and has adopted as he says the Latin-like mentality, he was still brought up very traditionally in the family. Both mother and father attached great importance to first-class manners and cultivated demeanor. Prince Alexander remembers:
„Even as small children we had to follow certain rules. For example, when my mother came to the dining table, we had to pull the chair back for her, and when she sat down, we had to push the chair back to the table. We learned how to behave at the table, how to behave towards a Dame, etc. All this was inoculated to us in such a way that it became second nature to us. My father used to say, “Educate yourself in culture”, and so we read a lot and listened to classical music in our free time. We grew up with black and white images of Dresden’s buildings: the Hofkirche, the opera, the Zwinger, etc. That is how my parents, especially my mother, succeeded that we grew up up with Dresden in our hearts and to hold on to our homeland – which was not Mexico, but Dresden. Always with the awareness that once the wall falls and we are called, we will go there to actively participate in its set-up.
Prince Alexander continues: „My grandfather signaled to me very early on that one day I should take over the succession of the House of Wettin in order to secure the male succession of the house, since his sons had no children. He took me from the Mexican Jesuit School I went to, and made sure that I was admitted as a 13-year-old to the Jesuit boarding school St. Blasien in the Black Forest, where many other children from aristocratic families also spent their schooldays until their final exams. He instructed my grandmother Elizabeth Helene that, should he die before her, she should provide for my further education as the future head of the House of Wettin. She transferred this task to her son Maria Emanuel, who then took me on through adoption to his son, so that the succession as head of the House of Wettin was secured by me after his death.
After graduating from high school, Prince Alexander studied business administration at the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich. Afterwards he took over his parents‘ company in Mexico. Today he is managing partner of the apycsa logistics, s.a. de c.v. Logistics Group. In 1994, he studied at the Top Management University „Instituto Panamericano de Alta Dirección de Empresa“ IPADE in Mexico City and then took over a honorary teaching position for five years at this institute.
Prince Alexander belongs to the founding circle of the association „Friends of the Green Vault“. He leads this circle as president. One of the aims of this association is the acquisition of art objects in order to make them available to the museum as permanent loans. He is the president and lord of “The St. Henry’s Badge of honour” and, as head of the House of Wettin, succeeding his uncle, awarding “The St. Henry’s Badge of honour” to selected personalities for special actions in the sense of sustainability, bravery, and preservation of values.
Prince Alexander was Honorary Consul of the Kingdom of Spain until 2013 and saw his work as an expansion of communication between Saxony / Thuringia / Germany and Spain, as well as all countries and regions of Central and Latin America, to which he is strongly connected through his personal history. He is a member of the Academie des Lettres et des Arts in Versailles, France, and Chevalier de la Confrérie de Tastevin, Beaune, Burgundy, France. In 2012, Archduke Karl, as sovereign of the Golden Fleece in Vienna, made him a knight and bearer of the Order of the Golden Fleece.
In 1987, Prince Alexander married Gisela Princess of Bavaria (born in 1964 in Leutstetten on Lake Starnberg) from the former ruling House of Bavaria. She is the daughter of Rasso Prince of Bavaria (1926-2011), who was married to Theresa, Archduchess of Austria Toscana (born 1931). Princess Gisela is a trained kindergarten teacher. Of her six siblings, one brother became a Benedictine monk. He assumes the name Father Florian and has been a missionary in Kenya since 1984, where he is particularly concerns himself with the welfare and education of nomadic children from poor families.
Princess Gisela has been chairwoman of the support committee of the State Foundation for Nature and Environment of the Free State of Saxony since 2001 and performs this function on an honorary basis. She was also Honorary Consul of the Republic of Ecuador for 10 years (from 2009). Private aid projects to support Mexican street children flanked this commitment.
The young couple’s honeymoon in 1987 did not take them to a luxury residence in Marbella or the Bahamas, but rather to the Himalayas in a very modest way: on a backpacking tour through the Himalayan countries of Ladakh, Kashmir (in Northern India), Nepal, and Sri Lanka. Prince Alexander tells:
„On this trip we forgot our tent at home, which was very annoying at first. Since we did not have the money for a new tent, we spent the night in the open air, only with our sleeping bags and that at altitude of 6.000 m. Once we woke up in the morning and lay under a half-meter thick blanket of snow, but thank God, nothing happened to us. We experienced and learned a lot on this journey. The people there live very simple and modest lives, we would say poor, and yet they are so positive and friendly with a traditional culture that has grown so much. We modern and spoiled people can learn a lot about humility and modesty. For three months, we travelled through the Himalayan Mountains, staying either outdoors or in monasteries, meditating and eating with the monks. We always wanted to be on the same level as the people there and completely immersed in the lives of the people there. We were able to experience that one can be happy even without comfort.
Prince Alexander and Princess Gisela have four children:
- Georg Philipp Antonius Prince of Saxony Duke of Saxony (born 1988)
- Mauricio Gabriel Roberto Prince of Saxony Duke of Saxony (born 1989)
- Paul Clemens Bernard Mansur Prince of Saxony Duke of Saxony (born 1993)
- Maria Teresita Anna Luise Caroline Lucardis Princess of Saxony Duchess of Saxony (born 1999)
In addition to his entrepreneurial activities in Mexico, Prince Alexander is also active in Germany as a consultant in the area of the settlement of German companies in Central and Latin America. Furthermore, he supports market expansion and development of German and European companies in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Guatemala, and Mexico. From 2003 to 2008, he was advisor for international, diplomatic, and cultural affairs of the Prime Minister of the Free State of Saxony, Prof. Dr. Georg Milbradt, in the Saxon State Chancellery.
On May 18, 1997, the childless Margrave of Meissen, Maria Emanuel, officially appointed Prince Alexander, the son of his sister Princess Maria Anna, as his successor in office as head of the House of Wettin and adopted him on May 26, 1999. All members of the House of Wettin agreed to this decision, personally or effectively represented. It corresponds to the guidelines of the statutes of the House of Wettin Albertine Line Association of 1922, which effectively replaced the former House Act of 1837. Thus, the succession regulation is in accordance with both the former German princely law and the current Civil Code of the Federal Republic of Germany (see the role of the margrave as head of the house). With the death of Margrave Maria Emanuel von Meissen in 2012, Prince Alexander took office as head of the House of Wettin and henceforth carried the title of Margrave of Meissen.
How does it feel to be „a man of many countries“, I ask Prince Alexander and add that I feel myself to be Bavarian, since I was born and raised in Bavaria and, moreover, have spent my whole life in Bavaria.
Prince Alexander smiles and says: „Well, of course I feel like a Saxon through the maternal line and because I have lived in Dresden for several years while working for Prime Minister Milbradt. I also feel as a Mexican because I have spent most of my life in this country. Furthermore, I feel like a Bavarian as I was born in Munich and studied there. In addition, my wife is from Lake Starnberg and so we come there every year to visit her mother and siblings. Last but not least, I have a connection to Lebanon, the country of my ancestors on my father’s side. Spain, for which I served as honorary consul for 10 years, is also very close to me, as is France, whose way of life, culture, and language I love. So I am here and there and feel at home everywhere. Of course, all this is only possible if you have mastered the national languages and I speak German, Spanish, French, and English fluently, and I can also communicate well in Italian.
However, if I am honest, I do not feel like a German, a Mexican, or a Lebanese, but I have a very strong connection to the earth in general. In ancient Greek, which I learned at school, there is the term „Gaia“, the globe. This globe is for me a being to which I feel very close, for which I also feel responsible and accountable. Like this I am also open to all countries and all cultures in the world.”
During our conversation, my „image“ of Prince Alexander is gradually forming. It takes on shapes and colors, shows a cosmopolitan and open-minded person, who is able like a chameleon to accept almost every culture and to act in it as if it were his daily bread. This is how I imagine a state president, who can represent a country all over the world. My „picture“ has many bright and friendly colors, but every picture also has dark spots, because life has ups and downs. What are the downs of life and people for him, I ask him.
Prince Alexander sees a big problem in the arrogance of many people, especially in politics. He speaks of light-figures as role models and guiding principles, that people need and which are so rare especially in politics. True leaders in politics must set an example to the people of the nation as to what a responsible, respectful and high-quality life and behavior must be like, which is not geared to pursuing one’s own interests but the interests of the country and the people. „The interests of most of today’s politicians, however, lie mainly in being re-elected every four years if possible.”
Prince Alexander looks back: „I take my great-grandfather Friedrich August III of Saxony as a good example. He was folksy and amiable. He was a master of Saxon and spoke Saxon. He sometimes would dress up at night, go out to the people, to the inn, to play cards and talk with people, and in this way learn what moves them, what annoys them about politics, etc. Then he passed on what he had experienced to his ministers and instructed them to change this and that. It was not that he necessarily enjoyed mingling and playing cards, but that he wanted to get to know ‚vox populi‘.
I learned from my parents that as aristocrats from formerly ruling houses we have to be there for everyone. That was already the case with my ancestors. All princes have learned and had to learn this. They were brought up accordingly from birth on. Every prince was involved in a network of obligations during his upbringing: He had to learn not only the dialect of his people, but also foreign languages; he had to learn to communicate with all people, even simple ones, he had to be culturally skilled and religiously educated. The goal of such a princely education was to form the „Homo Universalis“.
Prince Alexander pleads for long-term political leadership and planning. „Politics should and must be planned and made in the long term, as for example in Japan“, and he also brings a practical example from his tenure of office in Dresden: „We were once on a state visit to Japan in Nagoya, the Saxon Minister of Economics, a group of Saxon entrepreneurs and I was also part of the delegation. I can still see it in front of me: We were sitting at a long table – the Japanese on one side and us on the other. Then the Mayor of Nagoya stood up, bowed, and said to our Minister of Economics, ”It is a great honor to present you with the planning of our region for the next 50 years”. Our Minister of Economics visibly lost his face and stuttered, sitting down, “Oh, thank you. … We in our democracy … only have three years to plan”. Then the Japanese mayor was embarrassed and just muttered, „Oh, … very nice!”. It should be clear to everyone that with such short-term planning we have no chance against such long-term planning as the Japanese or Chinese, for example!
That we in Germany have a lot to change in terms of politics is completely clear to both of us. The same applies to Europe and the EU. Instead of delving deeper into politics, I swerve to what Prince Alexander told me before the interview: He is going to a Benedictine monastery in South Tyrol tomorrow to retreat there for a week. Why is he doing that?
Prince Alexander: „Very simple: I am Catholic and the Christian faith means a lot to me. However, in the struggle of everyday life, it is very easy to lose touch with it. Therefore, from time to time you need an contemplation where you can find God again and connect with him. I want to internalize myself this week. In addition, I want to participate in monastic life, in the community with monks who live according to Christian standards. I have done something like this several times in my life; I have been to Buddhist monasteries or Indian ashrams. I want to get down, I want to let go of everything that upsets me and does not let me sleep, to become free of it and come back to inner peace and serenity in order to find God again. I call this purification in the mind and subconscious and regaining to humility. From my own experience, I can say, such a stay in a monastery works true miracles. Afterwards I am again prepared for the near future and can fight on with new strength, out in the jungle of life.”
My „picture“ of Prince Alexander is painted, or rather; it is a first draft, because I do not presume to have grasped his entire essence after two conversations with a person. It shows a person who can be described as extremely likeable, surrounded by an aura of friendliness, magnanimity, and trustworthiness. He is a brilliant narrator and his stories from the life of the big wide world, in which he has been moving for many years, sometimes cheerful, sometimes thought provoking. The world of today’s high aristocrats is a different one than it was 150 or more years ago. Prince Alexander can therefore be called the „aristocrat of the third millennium“ – a mixture of traditional and progressive, casual and cultivated, diplomatic and strict – rooted in Christian tradition and in the spirit of his ancestors of the royal house of Saxony. A man of the future who is open to stand up for Saxony, the home of his ancestors, and who, according to my quintessence from my encounters with him, is absolutely predestined for this.
This portrait was first published in “Kultur-Magazin Schloss Rudolfshausen”, Edition October 2020
© Copyright of the article is with Helene Walterskirchen www.helene-walterskirchen.de