Schloss K, Austro-Hungarian Empire
The Schloss is an old white building full of beauty and interest, built on the hill below the village, in the midst of a park where Maria Therese used to hunt. Though very old the house has happily suffered little through imprudent restoring, and despite constant improvements its beauty has not been impaired, as has so often happened with old Hungarian houses. The gardens which surround the Schloss are so beautifully laid out and so ornamented with fountains and statues that K is known to Hungarians as the Miniature Versailles ; the head gardener being a person of such serious importance in K that even the Herrschaft at the Schloss speak of and treat him not as an ordinary gardener but as a Man of Art.
Indoors, too, the house confirms its reputation of being a small Versailles, for the collection of pictures and antiquities, begun centuries ago, is pursued by the Prince of to-day with vigour, and carping guests have been heard to remark that though there wasn’t a chair in the Schloss but had a history and a value that made ordinary mortals’ hair stand on end, there also wasn’t one that offered any ease or comfort except in the Prince’s den where all was modern but sacred to the Prince. Continue reading
Troops and possibly the author / photographer at Schloss K.
Mina McDonald was an English companion to the two daughters of a Hungarian magnate living near Bratislava (then known as Pressburg). Information about her is sparse and the account of her time in Hungary appears to be her only published work
In the 1911 UK census there are two Wilhelmina McDonalds who might fit the description. A 23 year old from West Derby – which by 1914 might make her too old for this account – and a 17 year old from Sunderland which would put her at roughly the same age as the Prince’s daughters (21 and 18).
The description of the Schloss (château) where she was staying in Hungary as a ‘Miniature Versailles’, plus its location near Bratislava, would seem to indicate it might have been Esterháza. This would make Prince Nikolaus IV & Princess Margrit her employers, though the biographical information at hand doesn’t quite match with Princess Margrit having died in 1910. Additionally at one point in the account the Princess is referred to as ‘Helene’.
This doesn’t rule out other members of the House of Esterházy being depicted in this account but until other information is discovered the exact identity of Mina’s location and Hungarian hosts are uncertain.
For the purposes of this blog her location will be in the the general area of Esterháza. Some of the dates are approximate and this will be indicated on those particular entries.
Please get in touch if you have any information about Mina McDonald and her Hungarian host family.