On The Avenue

Another Hilton Hits the Euro-jackpot

by Michael Gross Photographed by Madison McGaw/BFA.com
Wednesday, December 6, 2017
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Barron Hilton and Tessa Gräfin von Walderdorff  announced their engagement on Instagram early this fall.  Hilton is the 28-year-old brother of Paris Hilton and Nicky Hilton Rothschild, and eldest son of Kathy and Rick Hilton. Von Walderdorff is  a Bard graduate and aspiring writer. Her post called young Hilton “my best friend, my soul mate, the love of my life.”


Young Hilton has made news before, notably in 2011, when he was ordered to pay $4.9 million to a former gas station attendant he struck with his Mercedes-Benz, and again in 2013, when he was allegedly beaten up by a pal of tabloid queen Lindsay Lohan at a party in Miami. But what’s most interesting about the couple, who plan to marry next year, is that their relationship echoes the sort of love matches that characterized and entertained the rabble of the Gilded Age, as wealthy young Americans headed to the old world to marry noble, titled, even royal, but sometimes impecunious, foreigners, many of whom needed fresh coin to pay the upkeep on their castles, and the continuance of their privileged lifestyles. 


Frequently, these were Cinderella stories, matchups between female American upstarts and male European aristocrats.  But they were not always transactional.


Among the most famous of these commoner-to-ruling-class combinations were the hookup of Jennie Jerome and Lord Randolph Churchill, son of the seventh Duke of Marlborough; Consuelo Vanderbilt Balsan’s betrothal to Charles Spencer-Churchill, the ninth Duke of Marlborough, and the Baltimore double-divorcée Wallis Simpson’s scandalous romance with England’s King Edward VIII (begun when he was Prince of Wales), who provoked a national crisis and was forced to abdicate his throne after his proposal to his then still-married lover.  They became, famously, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.  


While the Hiltons have had more than their share of scandals (Barron has been called one of the better-behaved members of their brood), they have not, to this point, had a family member with a title, though Barron’s grandfather Conrad Nicholson Hilton was a king in the hotel business, and young Hilton’s sister is married to a wealthy banking heir.  But assuming their wedding day actually comes, Barron will become a German count when he formally joins his wife’s aristocratic family.  While she will be known as Tessa Hilton in America, in Germany, she will keep her last name.  With good reason.  It stands for more than a chain of hotels, reality television shows and a porn video.


According to a family source intimate with her background, Tessa’s great-grandmother was the princess of Lowenstein and married a Count Ballestrem. They had Tessa’s grandmother Sepha Countess Ballestrem who married  Hugo von Walderdorff, making her countess, daughter of Count Franz Philipp von Walderdorff, and a cousin of Gloria von Thurn und Taxis.  


Hugo Graf von Walderdorff, once the head of Deutsche Bank Frankfurt, was born at Kürn, a small castle in Bavaria, and died in 2008.  He’d left Germany during World War II, Tessa says, to escape forced recruitment into Hitler Youth.  His wife, Marie-Josepha Gräfin von Walderdorff (née Ballestrem) was from Bratislava, and now lives in Schloss Höfling outside of Regensburg, near Schloss Kürn and Schloss Hauyenstein, homes to Hugo’s family.  Marie-Josepha’s mother was born Therese, Princess zu Löwenstein-Wertheim-Rosenberg. 


The  Löwenstein-Wertheim-Rosenbergs were related to the King of Bayern, though that connection was obscured after one of Tessa’s ancestors married into the ‘wrong family’ and had to leave the  royal court .  But the king gave them a large castle with land and the name Löwenstein-Wertheim-Rosenberg, making Tessa’s  great-grandmother Therese, Princess zu Löwenstein-Wertheim-Rosenberg instead of the Princess of Bayern.  Through the Bayern family, Tessa also descends from Franz, Duke of Bavaria, head of the House of Wittelsbach, the former ruling family of the Kingdom of Bavaria. His great-grandfather King Ludwig III was the last ruling monarch of Bavaria until he was deposed in 1918. 


Best of all, Marie Antoinette, the last Queen of France before that country’s Revolution, was Tessa’s great-great-great aunt.  Let them eat wedding cake!


 


 


 


 





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