Gloria the Dowager Princess of Thurn and Taxis, born Countess Gloria von Schönburg-Glauchau, is a German socialite, businesswoman, philanthropist, Catholic activist, and artist. Through her marriage to Johannes, 11th Prince of Thurn and Taxis, she became the Princess Consort of Thurn und Taxis.
23 February 1960
11th Prince of Thurn and Taxis
1 Princess Maria
Born 28 November 1980
2 Princess Elisabeth
Born 24 March 1982
3 Prince Albert
Born 14 December 1983
Mariae Gloria Ferdinanda Joachima Josephine Wilhelmine Huberta
Count von Schönburg-Glauchau
Countess Beatrix Széchenyi
Princess TNT, the dynamite socialite
The punk Princess
Gloria was born on 23 February 1960 in Stuttgart, West Germany. Her father, Joachim was the nominal head of the Glauchau branch of the German princely Schönburg family, a mediatised dynasty within the former Holy Roman Empire. When she was a child, Gloria and her family moved to Africa where her father worked as an author and a journalist.
Although a member of the German nobility, her family had little wealth as a result of Communism in Germany and Hungary.
Her family’s ancestral home, Rochsburg Castle, had been seized by the Soviet government. She moved back to Germany with her family in 1970 and was enrolled at the Konrad-Adenauer- Gymnasium in Meckenheim, later studying at a girl’s boarding school in a Benedictine convent. As a teenager she worked as a waitress at a ski resort in St Moritz, Switzerland.
In 1979 Gloria met Johannes, Hereditary Prince of Thurn and Taxis at a luncheon he was hosting. He was a high-flyer who threw avant-garde parties and, because he was bisexual, he was often seen in gay discos.
A few days later she ran into him while on her way to a Supertramp concert with friends. She decided to have dinner with him instead of attending the concert. They began a relationship soon after and she accompanied him on a trip to South America. On 31 May 1980 Gloria and Johannes married in a Catholic ceremony in Regensburg, Bavaria. She wore a Valentino dress and a diamond diadem that had belonged to Marie Antoinette at the wedding. She was 20 he 54.
At the time of their marriage Johannes whose family went back to 12th-century Lombardy and made its fortune by securing the postal monopoly of the Holy Roman Empire, was said to be worth £2 billion. The largest landowner in Germany he also owned a bank, breweries, metallurgical companies, 10 other palaces and castles, and extensive properties in Brazil.She and her husband are fourth cousins twice removed, both descending from Karl Alexander, 5th Prince of Thurn and Taxis. Upon their marriage she became the Hereditary Princess of Thurn and Taxis. When her father-in-law, Karl August, 10th Prince of Thurn and Taxis, died in 1982 her husband became the 11th Prince of Thurn and Taxis.
Gloria and her husband were known for their lavish lifestyle, becoming social and fashion icons in the 1980s. She became part of the European jet set and was referred to in the media as the “punk princess” and “Princess TNT”
Princess Maria Theresia was born 28 November 1980 Princess Elisabeth soon followed on 24 March 1982 and Prince Albert on 14 December 1983.
In 1986 for Johannes 60th-birthday she threw an eighteenth-century Don Giovanni costume ball. Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall were there, along with a full array of 1980s icons. The dress code was 18th -century, complete with powdered wigs, the cake decorated with 60 marzipan phalluses. Gloria, Wearing a $10,000 pale-pink dress a two-foot wig, and Marie Antoinette’s own pearl tiara dressed, descended into the high-level throng on a gilded cloud, and sang “Happy birthday, Johnny” in the style of Marlene Dietrich, accompanied by the Munich opera.
“I was a spoiled brat,” Gloria was to observe later. “My only responsibility was to entertain Johannes… and look after his children.” Her friend Countess Marina put it differently. “At a young age, Gloria found herself married to an overpowering figure. She moulded herself for Johannes. She had to be as outrageous as he was, because that was what he liked. Another young woman would have been crushed, but she wasn’t. She’s a more serious, bright, together person than she appeared to be” At the height of what she terms her “spoiled brat” period in the eighties, when no whim went ungratified, Gloria went on the road with another kind of royalty: rock royalty.she recalled “It was fabulous, because after Prince played a big venue, there was an after hours show in some club,
So we would all go back to the hotel around midnight to change clothes and have dinner. Around 3 in the morning, we’d then go out to a club where Prince would give another concert.”
The prince died in 1990, following two heart transplants just seven weeks apart. He left debts and inheritance tax totalling £400 million. Only months before his death Johannes had told a newspaper,
“It is very difficult for my wife to make decisions of a business nature because she has never learnt to do it.”
Insiders at the time described her as quiet, even “mousy”. Here, after all, was someone who hadn’t finished school. But gradually she took control and, through shrewd investing and divesting, spectacularly transformed debt into profit, thereby safeguarding her son’s inheritance, in whose interests she was acting. She acted as the trustee for Albert, taking over management of the family estate, Saint Emmeram’s Abbey. She went into isolation from society, studying finance, accounting, and estate management.
She sold off family property including jewelry, castles, cars, and land to preserve the family fortune.
“I never knew I could be a businesswoman,” she says. “My job was to be a mother, a wife, to entertain my husband and my guests. But it was not so difficult. Running an enterprise is like running a household. The family is a mini-business with lots of the same challenges.”
During this time she undertook a spiritual pilgrimage to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes in Lourdes, France, emerging as a sobered Roman Catholic activist and philanthropist. “I was a spoiled brat,” Gloria admits. “My biggest challenge was to get close to rock stars. But once I met them, the myth collapsed. With the Church, it was exactly the contrary. When I met Pope John Paul, he was even more than I thought he would be.” Gloria has no shortage of homes around the world—there’s an apartment in Rome, a beach compound in Kenya and a sprawling lake house in Bavaria—but she says…
“none of those locales offer anything close to the stimulation of New York”, where she finds herself choosing among a half dozen invitations and events each day.
As modern and free-spirited as Gloria can sometimes appear, when it comes to certain aspects of church doctrine, her values seem to come right out of a medieval cloister. For one thing, she’s against allowing women to help celebrate Mass—even as altar servers, a practice that the vast majority of bishops condone. She said “Who wants women on the altar? I don’t think it’s necessary,”. “It’s like the women are trying to get anywhere men are. To be honest, I think it’s tacky.” Gloria has become a successful artist, focusing mainly on portraits done with oil paint and pastel.
The Hotel Chelsea asked her to do a series of pastels— a gallery show which brought her much acclaim as a painter.
Gloria was severely criticized for stating on a talk show that the high rate of AIDS in African countries was due not to a lack of safe sex practices but “that Africans have a lot of sex because of Africa’s higher temperatures.”
A devout Catholic, Gloria serves 300 hot meals to the poor every day from a dedicated room in her home.
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