Thursday, 21 July 2016

Esterhazy Connection

By Rosemary Jewers - updated August 2018

I listened to many family stories in my youth, or better to say, half listened. It's only as you grow older you realise it's too late to ask your elders for the full details. The research which follows is based on one such case. It's been a long and rather detailed journey; searching, confirming and translating all the information... but its been the only way I could tell the story.

My grandmother, Mary Eileen Brereton née Stokes would occasionally mention her cousin Nicky - or, that's the name I thought she said. I was intrigued to hear that her cousin was Prince Esterhazy of Hungary. All I knew from my grandmother was that her relative had married a Hungarian prince. Wow! I decided to try unravel this story and find who he was, and where his family lived.

In her youth, my grandmother studied music in Germany or Austria, or perhaps both. She was an accomplished singer, violinist and pianist. One of my sister's remembers hearing while Granny was abroad, she stayed with or visited her Hungarian relatives... and there was a hint that Granny might have considered marrying her Hungarian cousin, the prince.

It was only when I bought my first genealogy package I was able to find who cousin 'Nicky' or perhaps Mihály Esterhazy was.

Granny's father, John Whitley Stokes, owned an Irish shipping line with offices in Liverpool. In 1879 he married Mary Beach Coates in Leominster, Herefordshire.

I found the connection to the Esterhazy family was through the Coates line, Granny's mother's family. Granny's mother, was born in 1855, she had a number of siblings. Her elder sister, Mary Anne Coates was born in 1834, she married George Washington Charters.

They had children, their eldest daughter, Mary Evelyn Hamilton Charters was born in Belfast in 1859. At the time of her birth, her aunt, Mary Coates (Granny's mother) was four years old - almost making aunt and niece the same age.

Searching through the genealogy it transpired that Mary Charters (Granny's first cousin) married Count Károly Stephan Esterhazy of Galantha, at Stoke Park, Ipswich in 1882.

Károly Esterhazy had been born in Vienna on 30th Nov 1847, this was his second marriage. Károly and Mary had four children. Their first son, Mihály was born in London on 20th April 1884.

My Grandmother was born on the 4th January 1885, making her just under a year younger than 'Nicky' or Mihály, her 1st cousin once removed.

The research revealed that although this branch of the Esterhazy family were Counts, (Earls direct translation from the Hungarian) they were given the hereditary title of Prince, this confirmed my grandmother's story.

Having established who and how the Esterhazy family were related to Granny, I was in intrigued to know where they lived in Hungary. This turned out to be quite a task, because over the years and two world wars, borders changed and new countries were established. I started my first wild goose chase when I searched for the Esterhazy residence in Szant Abraham. This name had come up in records when I first started on this epic journey of discovery.

At first I was directed to St. Abraham, now known as Avramesti, Romania. St. Abraham or Avramesti had been part of Hungary, but after the treaty in 1920 it became part of Romania. I spent weeks studying maps, trying to locate where a substantial house or palace could have been in area. It eventually became obvious that I was not going to find anything to connect the Esterhazy family to this place, therefore I had to try another location.

I decided to check the area of Galantha because Galantha was part of the Esterhazy family name. Eventually, after more searching I homed in on a region north east of Bratislava. More maps were consulted before I finally located the small village of St. Abrahám, which is now in Slovakia. Galantha had been part of Hungary, then Czechoslovakia and finally Slovakia.

Unable to pinpoint any likely areas where a large house or estate could have been within the village, I looked for a likely site nearby. At that point I noticed a large green area some distance from the centre of the village. Zooming in, I could just make out a long twisty drive, trees and buildings.

Further searches revealed that in 1903 Károly Esterhazy de Galantha commissioned the famous Art Nouveau architect, Joseph Urban, to create an extension to his castle in St. Abrahám. Urban's architecture turned this new addition into a fantasy castle.

One final piece to add to the puzzle, in recent years we have been told that Granny's cousin, the Countess, proudly or perhaps defiantly, flew the Union flag from the top of the castle (and it could be seen from the river) all the way through the 'War', this must have been the First World War because she died in Vienna in 1932. The small river Dudváh skirts the castle site in Abrahám Park at St. Abrahám.

Count Károly Esterhazy died in 1919 at Cseklész, Hungary (Slovakia) now named Bernolákovo. Over the years the name Cseklész/Ceklis/Bernolákovo, changed many times. Berolákovo is now a suburb or small village not far from Bratislava. The massive castle/mansion is still unoccupied but the grounds have been made into a large golf course. I have to assume that the Bernolákovo mansion was also their family home and it is quite possible they may have had more, but at this stage I think researching that part of the story is a step too far.

In 2018 I discovered the Esterhazy Palace in Bratislava, this former Esterhazy home also overlooks the Danube where the flag could have flown! The building is still known as the Esterhazy Palace but its now the National Gallery of Slovakia.

Additional information

From photos and satellite images of the St. Abrahám Castle area shows that it may have been almost entirely demolished. Later a childrens' home occupied the site, photos of the home show that the front had a 1930's facade. The home had either been built onto or occupied part of the original castle. What is left of the building has been stripped and is in ruins.
Links to photos and video below.

Link to castle website

Link to Bernolakovo and alternative names for Pozsony

Photo of the castle at Berolakovo:

I had always wondered how Mary Evelyn Hamilton Charters and the Count met. I read one account that the Charters family had been in a boat when it capsized. Károly Esterházy was nearby and helped in the rescue. I quote from Newspapers. Library of Wales.

"A ROMANTIC ATTACHMENT. A romantic marriage was celebrated at Ipswich on Wednesday, the bride being Miss Mary Charters, only daughter of Mr G. Charters, of Stoke Park, Ipswich, and the bridegroom Count Carl Esterhazy, of Presburg, Hungary. In the summer of last year Mr and Mrs Charters, with their daughter, were cruising on the river Nile, when their boat was upset. Count Esterhazy was passing in his yacht at the time, and gallantly rescued the party. The acquaintance formed…"

Mihály Károly Stephan Georg, Grof Esterhazy de Galantha the first son of Count Esterhazy and Mary Charters was born in London on 20th April 1884.

Mary's and some of her children's wills were proved in Northern Ireland. They appeared not to leave huge amounts of money. I'm assuming that these wills dealt with money which was held in UK or Northern Ireland banks.

Taken from Wills Belfast records Northern Island.

Full account :
Esterhazy Mary of Sz. Abraham Diosek Bratislava Zupa Czechoslovakia dowager countess died 16 January 1932 at Vienna in Sanatorium Anersberg Administration (with Will) (limited) Belfast 9 July to Thomas James Elliot and Ivan Burke Elliot solicitors. Effects £282 13s. 7d.

Full account:
Esterhazy count Michael (Mihály) of Ceklis, Czechoslovakia died 25 December 1933 Administration (with Will) (limited) Belfast 19 February to Randle Fynes Wilson Holme and Maurice Suckling Ward solicitors. Effects £1423 15s. 2d. Ceklis is now called Bernolákovo near Bratislava. It appears that Mihály may have died at the huge mansion with the golf course.

Full account :
Count Karl Anton Franz Ernst Esterhazy of Tirolerhof Austria and Sz. Abraham Dissek Bratislava Zupa Czechoslovakia died 3 July 1931 at Sanatorium Rudolfinerheim Vienna Administration (with Will) (limited) Belfast 15 October to Randel Fynes Wilson Holme and Maurice Suckling Ward solicitors. Effects Nil.

Hungarian Mihály
Meaning & History
Hungarian form of MICHAEL sometimes Anglicised to Nicholas (perhaps this is why Granny called him Nicky)

Meaning & History
Hungarian form of KARL

Hungarian name
Meaning & History
Hungarian form of Antonius (see ANTHONY).

I have added some links to what had been original photos of the exterior and interior. Contained within this first link are watercolour images of the Urban's exterior and interiors of the St. Abrahám Castle.
Scroll down to see the images.

Art Nouveau architect Joseph Urban (1872-1933 Károly become aware of the young architect, Joseph Urban and I quote from the Flagler Museum website. "He designed buildings throughout the world from Esterhazy Castle in Hungary to the Ziegfeld Theatre in New York. Urban’s legacy in Palm Beach are his iconic buildings, Mar-A-Lago, the Paramount Theater, and the Bath and Tennis Club."

1891 the Charters family were living at Stoke Park Ipswich. The Census shows they had a large number of servants.

Rosemary Jewers © 14th March 2016 and August 2018