Strange Story of the Princess Troubetzkoy,
Born a Polish Serf.
Special to the Sunday Call.
On the 10th of the present month there appeared small three-line notice in our daily papers. No doubt its very insignificance caused it to pass unnoticed, or at least to inspire merely a transient thought or two of curiosity. It was as follows:
BERLIN, Oct. 9. Princess Troubetzkoy, under arrest here on extradition demanded by Italy for forging documents, committed suicide in the police station in which she was detained."
Among the many tender or tragic life histories of noble life in Europe, that lie locked up in letters, in trifling newspaper notices or in the bosoms that are never prompted to permit them to escape, few perhaps can prove as interesting as that of the soi-disant Princess Troubetzkoy. It is the story of a beautiful princess revenge for very substantial wrongs done her.
Maria Robolska was born of Polish serfs in Russian Poland. The hut in which she first saw the light was on the estate of a grand lord of the land, the Prince Pignatelli, and her parents were bound serfs of this nobleman. Never could a thought or hope have entered her little head in those days that her fate was to be other that what was destined for her girlish playmates. She was taught that the aim of her life was merely to be the Joan of some industrious, work-scarred Darby of her own station in the world.
Beautiful she was, with that delicate, flower-like beauty seen sometimes among the lower women of that wintry land. As a child she was the fame of the village; as a maiden she became the belle of the countryside. Her romantic companions often told her that such loveliness as hers was given by God to those only who were to wear a crown.
When about 18 years old her many housewifery talents gained her a position in the chateau of the Prince, who was already a man of about the middle age. She was blessed with a wondrous versatility and she became almost indispensable in the Princes household. Moreover, her comeliness made her the rarest treasure that the castle ever knew within its old gray walls. She was frequently noticed and talked of by the many nobles that now and again gathered at the chateau to spend portions of the summertime in those festivities for which the Prince was famous.
The little housekeeper, fired by that secret ambition which every girlish heart well knows, began to dream of better things than what her humble birth could promise her.
Before she had passed her twentieth year Marias beauty had made captive a prize even she could hardly imagine within her siren powers to entrap. Her master, the Prince, insensibly had fallen into the most passionate love for her. He was, although a man in his prime, as yet unmarried, and Maria could therefore hope for the best.
Before the expiration of another year Pignatelli, despite the vigorous protests of his haughty relatives, wedded his humble born servant. This step changed her whole life, and from that time she became a subject of public interest. The marriage was brief and childless. The Prince died after three years of extremely happy life, and left Maria a widow just in the blossom of beautiful womanhood. According to his will his immense estates and his fortune were bequeathed to his wife.
Hardly had the Prince been entombed, however, before the relatives of his blood, angered to think that a peasant stranger should hold the ancestral estates, instituted proceedings to set aside the will.
Alone and Unadvised, Maria made but poor resistance to her all-powerful foes, and she soon saw herself dispossessed of the fortune which was rightly hers and with nothing in the world save her title of "Princess Pignatelli."
Then she made a fatal step. Burning with revenge, she resolved to bring dishonor on that name and all who bore it. She hastened across the borders to Berlin.
In that city she studied for the stage and soon appeared as soubrette on the stage of the Friedrich Wilhelmstaedtisches and the Adolph Ernest theaters. Her name and title being blazoned on the programmes, she created an immense furor. Unhappily, due, no doubt, to the unwholesome environment of the stage, the Princess life began to assume such an immoral aspect that propriety became offended. This, together with the fact that the resentment of her late husbands relatives began to make itself strongly felt in official circles, produced her banishment. One day the princess was ordered by the police to leave the empire. But her desire to become an actress was whetted and she determined to stick to the footlights.
Next she appeared at Paris in the Theatre Folies Bergeres, where her success was repeated. To conceal her identity so as to divert all suspicion by the police, she assumed the name and title of Princess Dolgorouki.
She usually appeared in light-tinted tights, and the faultless figure of the beautiful Pole soon won the hearts of the frequenters of that ultra pleasure house. It was said at the time that several gilded gallants, through unrequited love, were driven to suicide by her siren eyes.
Her Parisian experiences, however, made her so notorious that it was not long before the history of her life became revealed. Again she was forced by the authorities to change her residence.
Thereupon she repaired to London, where she introduced herself as the Princess Troubetzkoy. It was by this title that she was usually known afterward. Her life in London was somewhat more retired, although the name she assumed figures prominently in several scandals of that time.
Tiring of the quiet life that circumstances necessitated in the English capital, the Princess was next seen at Rome. Her old life as an actress and cantatrice was continued. Such delicate blonde beauty as the Princess possessed was somewhat novel on the Italian stage, and her notoriety became unbounded. While in the Eternal City she met with a class quite new to her. Of all cities for resourceful and noble adventurers Rome perhaps should take precedence. It was among this strange gentry that she first received instruction in the arts that gave her name its present pre-eminence. That she was ambitious to be queen of all adventuresses very soon became apparent.
Having evolved a plan for the betterment of her fortune she once more assumed an alias, terming herself Archduchess of Austria-Este, and re-entered Berlin on a tidal wave of success.
She rented a mansion in the highly aristocratic West End of the city and furnished it most sumptuously. A lady of most distinguished manner posed as her mother and lend to every festivity a certain dignity which warded off all suspicion of Maria being a counterfeit Archduchess. Moreover, the guests were as rule of the younger set of the nobility, and young nobility does not ask many questions if it is enjoying itself.
Several suave and handsome gentlemen were employed by the designing lady to act as promoters of her well laid scheme. The duty of these gentlemen, all of most sociable character, was to suggest after the dances a little game, usually rouge et noir. By their astute manipulation of the cards they made the tide of luck run deep and strong in favor of their fair employer.
Months slipped by and Marias mansion became a favorite resort for the young noblesse who desired to spend a few hours at a private gaming table. Fate was literally showering gold on the beautiful adventuress.
Among the guests at her house one evening was a certain young gentleman by the name of Carl Ritter. He was the son of an eminent professor at the Royal University, who had amassed considerable riches and had retired from active life. His son was a handsome man, universally liked not alone for the money which he lavished on all around him but also for his genial ways and splendid talents.
No sooner had Carl let his eyes fall on his radiant hostess than he fell hopelessly in love with her. So persevering was he in his attention to her that Maria, ever alert, quickly discovered the state of his feelings for her.
She encouraged young Ritter in his attentions and appeared on her part to reciprocate the affection he felt for her.
She made private disclosures of a fictitious character, which deeply impressed the youth with the nobility and the greatness of his beloved. She had several interviews with Ritters father, during which she made him also a victim of her fascinating personality. He gave full credence to her alluring story. Once a week at least the pair of supposed lovers were seen in their carriage on the Unter der Linden, and everywhere it began to be whispered that young Ritter was surely most fortunate in being the favored one of the beautiful Archduchess.
Finally, when matters had progressed to a fairly favorable point, Maria induced her fond dupe to advance various sums, supposedly to assist her in fighting for her rights in an Austrian court. She had divulged the facts of her early life, merely transposing names and places. If her lover ever proved reluctant when a fresh demand for money was made she always gained her point by holding out the tempting bait of a speedy marriage upon conclusion of the litigation.
At last, when their fortunes were ruined, the Ritters discovered the bitter truth. The attempted to obtain redress through the courts, but their efforts proved futile. Before revenge of another character could be taken the wily "Archduchess" had hastened to foreign fields.
The Princess then became one of those noble nomads which are met with in Europe, ever on the watch for an opportunity to accomplish their evil aims.
Her suicide cannot be a matter of surprise to those who have heard of her strange life.
The San Francisco Call, Sunday, October 23, 189, p. 19:1