Mina “Jerry” McDonald

Schloss K, Austro-Hungarian Empire

Schloss K, Austro-Hungarian Empire

There were days of tension after the ultimatum went to Serbia. The press was very restrained but clearly uneasy, and did not attempt to justify the extravagant tone of the ultimatum. General opinion as to whether the Serbs would fight or not was not very divided, and there were few who did not agree that Serbia was never intended to fight. She was simply to behave herself in future and Austria was to see that she did it. General T was indignant at the ultimatum.

“Berchtold again! Soft-headed fool pooh! There are so many ways of getting what one wants he must just choose this one! This way may really lead to war, and we are not prepared no money, no munitions nothing, nothing! Ach, it’s an awful business! Perhaps Serbia won’t dare to fight … if the Russians back her she will!”

” You surely can scarcely imagine that any country could take such an ultimatum lying down?” I suggested.

” Pooh,” he replied, ” you can’t deny that they’ve always been a thorn in our flesh. But my country is mad mad! Nobody seems to realise what this can lead to. The Serbs are good fighters too. If Russia backs them we’re done for. Na, I must get back to Vienna now, for Walther will have to go if there’s war. Pooh they’re all crazy everywhere.”

Even the Man of Art grew mournful among his rose bushes. He was Croatian and bitterly anti-Austrian.

” Ach, Friiulein ! There are sad days coming, for that wasn’t an ultimatum that went to Serbia it was a declaration of war. The Serbs will fight, Fraulein. I know the race ; they are brave men such as we have in Croatia. Of course they’ll fight. They are real soldiers and have real officers old General Putnik that’s a man ! They’ll beat us, Fraulein, and I’ll have to go and fight against them too against my own race. Bah ! we’re slaves here in Austria.”

” No,” I said, encouragingly, ” I don’t think you’ll have to go. You’re too old.”

” Na, the old ones will have to go too unless I can perhaps get out of it some way. The doctor may not find me fit.”

” I shouldn’t put much hope in that,” I said, as I doubtfully surveyed the large and healthy Man of Art, ” but perhaps your eyesight is defective. It’s a pity for you to go and fight the Serbs when every person thinks that the murder of the Archduke was such a good thing for Austria.”

“Fraulein, you don’t understand, the Archduke was really no friend to Germany that’s why they don’t like him. This country is done it has no life in itself and looks to Germany to save it if ever it’s in trouble. I tell you they’re glad actually glad to have the poor Archduke out of the way. Who knows if Serbia really was behind that murder ! Na, one doesn’t say those things. …”

“And the new Tronfolger ? ”

“He is young and dashing and Germanophile. He’s no favourite with the Slavs.”

Mina “Jerry” McDonald

Schloss K, Austro-Hungarian Empire

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

Mina “Jerry” McDonald – Introduction

Troops at Schloss K

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).

schlossk_002The 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.