First National Real Estate’s highest achievers have been recognised at the General Excellence and Marketing Awards held at Singapore’s Flower Dome.

What is the coolest obscure historical fact you know?

Please do not be impatient – the following story is complicated but ultimately rewarding, especially for my friends from the British isles. It’s a family chronicle that you will not find anywhere else.

It starts at about 1715 when German Freiherr Georg Riedesel zu Eisenbach decided to leave his castle every now and then to visit a small Hessian town. There he enjoyed drinking in good company and spending the night with a certain young lady afterwards. He proceeded to do so for many years, and in the town they found nothing wrong with it, even though the noble lord had a wife and children. Because the lady with whom he so often spent the night, she led a business that was somehow disrespectful (it was a brothel allright) but neithertheless approved of by the local authorities. Then one day in 1718, his mistress got pregnant and she told Georg that he was the father. She must have been quite persuasive because Georg believed her. The baby was a girl, christened Maria Franziska, aka Franzi, and her suppossed father was of the opinion that she should not grow up in a brothel and so he brought her to foster parents wellknown to him in Mainz. Thus the girl was raised by the Stubenrauchs, who had no children of their own, and she received a good education, for Mr. Stubenrauch was legal assessor to the archbishop of Mainz.

Years passed and Franzi turned into a pretty young girl and began making plans for her own marriage. But there was a little problem: She had no birth certificate, not even a family name! (The Stubenrauchs had not adopted her, perhaps because the High Court assessor, being a cautious lawyer, thought it better not to release Franzi’s real father from all of his duties) But the foster father found a solution : In his office, there was a hard-working young man called Ignaz Hauck who craved for a promotion. He had a very humble background, and his parents and all siblings were already dead. He was the perfect candidate to marry Franzi without a family name or any documents. And so in 1736, clerk Hauck married Maria Franziska, not in church but in the office of the Stubenrauchs. A considerable donation for charity was given to an understanding cleric who turned a blind eye to the question of the bride’s identity. The young couple received a reasonable dowry, the groom got promoted to be the top secretary, and nobody asked unnecessary questions.

When one year later their first child Johann was born, the pastor registered neither the birth name nor the origin of the mother, and that was also the case with the eight other children of Ignaz and Franzi Hauck. But despite the huge and expensive efforts that were made in order to maintain the facade of middle-class respectability, most of the Hauck children went on in life in their own, rather unconventional ways. One daughter moved to Cologne where she pursued the same trade as her grandmother (whorehouse), but latereron she married a respectable landlord; a second daughter went to Naples and became the concubine of a monsignor.

Johann Hauck, the eldest son, also ran away and became a soldier, first in Sardinian, then in French service. Eventually, Count Hans Moritz von Brühl became his patron and appointed him his boot cleaner.

Count Moritz’s father had been Prime Minister of the Elector of Saxony, and during his tenure, he had increased the Saxon national debt by almost as many millions of taler as he increased his own fortune. Nasty rumours started circulating, which was the reason why his son, Count Hans Moritz von Brühl, preferred to go abroad and serve as an officer in foreign service, commanding German regiments which were rented to the King of France.

Johann Hauck made himself indispensable to his new master. He held the young Count’s clothing in order, served him at table, chased away annoying visitors, creditors in particular, took care of the correspondence etc. In 1771 Count Brühl married and resigned from military service and decided to return to the very last estate in Saxony that remained in his possession from the patrimony that was so cruelly confiscated.

He asked Johann to join him, and he agreed. The farm house that Count Brühl and his young wife wanted to move into was considerably damaged in the war and had to be rebuilt and furnished. In the spring of 1775, the renovations were completed, and Count Brühl sent his Johann and other staff members to the house for a thorough cleaning. Johann Hauck took charge of everything, especially of the pretty maid Maria, a Lutheran pastor’s daughter whose puritanical upbringing had borne little fruit. In autumn, the house was ready and Maria was pregnant. There was a hasty wedding and months later, Maria gave birth to a daughter. In the next three years more children were born to the couple, of whom only the second is of interest for this story: a son called Hans Moritz – so named in honour of Count Brühl.

When Hans Moritz was three years old, his parents moved with him and his siblings to Poland, where Johann Hauck administrated Counts Brühl’s possessions and changed his name to Hauke. His son attended a good school and at the age of 20 he was deployed as a lieutenant in the Polish Legion, which was deployed in Italy against the Austrians, and later by Napoleon to retake Haiti which is where they all found an early grave. All perished — except for lieutenant Hans Moritz, because he never went to Haiti in the first place. This man was not stupid.

Hans Moritz Hauke

Hans Moritz became the darling of an Italian countess who was also the mistress of a French general. And she saw to it that her sweetheart remained in Italy and later returned to Poland. There he became commander of the fortress Zamosc, which he defended in 1813 against the Russians with so much vigour and toughness that he was hailed a hero by the Polish patriots. But at that time, Poland’s demise was only a matter of weeks, and the freshly promoted colonel Hans Moritz Hauke had to make a tough choice: He deflected to the enemy, i.e. the Russians. As a reward for this betrayal, he was appointed imperial Russian Quartermaster General in annexed Poland in 1816, and after ten years of cruelly crushing all Polish uprisings, he was promoted Deputy Minister of War in Warsaw. And three years later, he became a Count himself. Count Hauke! What a triumph, way to go from the old family trade of prostitution. By the way, in 1807 Hans Moritz had married the seventeen year old chamber maid Sophie Lafontaine.

In 1830 the family met a heavy blow. In Warsaw, riots broke out and there was a raid on the headquarters of the hated Russian occupation army and the War Minister Count von Hauke was killed by Polish insurgents. He was riding on a horse beside the carriage of his wife and having met a group of Polish rebels who shouted “Be our leader, General!” Hauke reprimanded them and told them to go back to their quarters, whereupon they opened fire and killed him.

Moritz was mourned by his elderly mother, his wife Sophie, and their youngest daughter Julia, who was five years old. Little Julia also lost her mother soon afterwards, but the Count crown which was embroidered in her handkerchief saved this orphan from social decline. When she became sixteen years old, she applied for a job as a lady-in-waiting for the Russian Czars in St. Petersburg. Actually, aspirants to such a post had to be much older and be able to produce sixteen noble ancestors on her father’s side and eight on the mother’s side. But since her father died a martyr for the Tsar, she got a job as a companion for a new member of the royal family: Tsarevich Alexander had married Marie, the daughter of the Grand Duke of Hesse in 1841. This Princess Marie, a shy girl, needed a lady of about the same age to speak German with, and Julia von Hauke was just the right thing.

Julia von Hauke

By the way, when Princess Marie (Julia’s new boss) came to Moscow, she was accompanied by her brother, Prince Alexander of Hesse. He liked Moscow so much that he stayed – for ten years. He was a real ladykiller who made one conquest after another at the Czar’s court. But he failed in achieving his main goal, which was marryinging the eldest daughter of the Czar, Grand Duchess Olga. And when he sought comfort elsewhere, without any serious intentions whatsoever, the experienced heartbreaker fell unexpectedly in a trap: The lovely lady with whom he spent some nights (Julia von Hauke, who else) turned to Alexander’s sister Mary, the future empress, and confessed to her that she was expecting Alexander’s child!

Prince Alexander of Hesse

This was a clever move, because Julia won a very influential ally for her plans. Marie turned to her husband, the heir to the throne, who talked sternly to the very surprised brother, after which Alexander had no other choice than propose marriage to the allegedly disgraced Countess Julia, which she accepted with delight. For reasons of secrecy, the couple traveled to Breslau where they married.

Since Prince Alexander of Hesse belonged to a ruling house, some things needed to be arranged beforehand: First, Julia had to convert to Protestantism, which was not very hard for her. Next was the approval of Alexander’s older brother Grand Duke Ludwig. Due to Julia’s lack of equality, it was a so-called morganatic marriage. The Grand Duke gave his consent, albeit reluctantly, for he preferred to have the sister of the future Czar of Russia in the family instead of a parvenu. And finally, the wife and certainly the child of imprudent Alexander had to receive a proper Hessian name, and court officials were instructed to come up with something suitable quickly. The very next day, it was clear how Julia and her child would be called in the future. They adopted the names, titles, and a coat of arms of a family that became extinct in the 14th Century who in turn took their name from a village in the district of Biedenkopf: Battenberg.

Julia and Alexander

Battenberg is now almost forgotten, as is Hauke and Hauck – but two centuries ago, that name meant a lot! Julia’s first child from her marriage to Prince Alexander of Hesse was born on 15 July 1852 in Geneva, which was fairly early, considering the date of the marriage (October 1851); however, it was extremely late, when you consider how much Julia pressed Alexander for marriage in the summer of last year. So she has not been pregnant at all when she pressured Alexander to marry her.

Julia had achieved a lot: now she was the sister-in-law of the future Czar and Czarina, and sister-in law of the Grand Duke of Hesse. And in 1858 she became Princess of Battenberg. She spent the rest of her life sussing out the optimum education and marriage options for her five children, a daughter and four sons.

Julia Hauke’s (or Julia von Battenberg’s) eldest son Prince Ludwig von Battenberg moved to England, became a British citizen, changed his name to Louis, married, joined the navy and was promoted (not least due to the fact that England’s Queen Victoria was the grandmother of his wife) within a short time to be admiral, commander of the Home Fleet (1911) and First Sea Lord (1913). As the premier consultant of Winston Churchill in naval questions, he prepared the British fleet for the First World War and initiated the mobilization in 1914. But he had to resign from his office after hostilities broke out, because public opinion could not tolerate that a German prince was in charge of the navy in a fight against the navy of the Kaiser.

Little did the British know of the enormous adaptability and versatility of the family Hauck, especially in times of war, and they had also forgotten that Kaiser Wilhelm II was actually a grandson of Queen Victoria himself and that, conversely, the English royal family, the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, had German ancestors exclusively. But what can you do. For consolation, Prince Louis of Battenberg became first Marquess of Milford-Haven, gained many more titles and a hereditary seat in the House of Lords.

Julia Hauke’s second son Alexander was, if only for seven years, reigning Prince of Bulgaria.

Julia Hauke’s third son, Prince Heinrich von Battenberg, followed the footsteps of his brother Louis. He moved to England, changed his name to Henry and even married a daughter of Queen Victoria of England and became a member of the royal family of Great Britain. (His daughter Ena married King Alfonso XIII. of Spain, and the last Spanish king Juan Carlos is her grandson).

And that’s not the end. Back to Prince Louis, Julia von Hauke’s eldest son, the former First Sea Lord who was fired for being German: his second eldest daughter married King Gustav VI. Adolf of Sweden in 1923.

His eldest daughter married Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark. The only son of this marriage is Prince Philip who was born in 1921 in Corfu. In 1947, Philip renounced his succession rights in Athens, dropped the title “Prince of Greece and Denmark” and re-took the name of that Hessian village, Battenberg, but in the Anglicized form of “Mountbatten”.

Prince Philip Mountbatten married Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain, was made Duke of Edinburgh, and their son Prince Charles, i.e. the grand-grandson of Julia Hauke, is the first British heir apparent and heir of the great wealth of his mother.

Truly a remarkable rise from the slums of small German towns, and it took place without brutality, mainly in beds and not on battlefields, with a few dirty tricks, occasional concealment and emotional blackmail. Long may they rule!