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Queen Elizabeth II, Whose Great-Great-Grandmother was Hungarian, Celebrates 95th Birthday

Zsófia Nagy-Vargha 2021.04.21.

Queen of Great Britain, Elizabeth II, is now 95 years old. It is not well-known that she also has Hungarian blood: her great-great-grandmother was Klaudia Rhédey, a countess born in Transylvania. Her husband, the recently deceased Prince Philip, also had a special relationship with Hungary, and visited the country several times. “Hungarian links” are still present in family life today: Prince Charles has been visiting Transylvania regularly since 1988, and owns a country house in the village of Zalánpatak.

According to contemporary reports, Transylvanian Countess Klaudia Rhédey was a beautiful woman. But her fame is more based on the fact that her descendants wear the English crown. Her son, Prince Teck, married an English princess, whose child Princess Maria, became the wife of King George V. And now it is her granddaughter, Elizabeth II, who sits on the British throne.

Klaudia Rhédey was baptized as Zsuzsanna Clodina on September 21, 1812 in the Reformed Church of Erdőszentgyörgy in Transylvania. Her father, Count László Rhédey (1775-1835), was a landowner and diplomat; her mother was Baroness Ágnes Inczédy from Nagyvárad (Oradea). The beautiful countess Klaudia met her future husband, Prince Alexander von Württemberg, at a carnival ball in Vienna. According to the legend, they fell in love at first sight. However, the marriage still had to wait. Her strict father refused the marriage proposal because the prince could not speak Hungarian. It took the man in love five years to learn the Hungarian language, and so they were finally able to get married on May 2, 1835. Klaudia got the title “Countess von Hohenstein.”

The cheerful, lovable woman could only live in a happy marriage for six years when she died unexpectedly in a horse accident. Her husband could never forget her. According to his will, Klaudia was buried in the grave of the Rhédey family in the Reformed church in Erdőszentgyörgy. In her memory, a memorial plaque was erected in 1905 by the wife of the heir to the throne, who later became King George V.

The relationship with Hungary and Transylvania remained strongest with Elizabeth’s son, Prince Charles. He has been visiting Transylvania regularly since 1988, and even owns a home in the village of Zalánpatak, where the Prince spends a few days every year. The British heir to the throne visits Transylvania almost every year and is also the patron of several projects that are committed to the preservation of nature, traditional agriculture, and the architecture of Transylvania.

Charles, Prince of Wales drinks pálinka in Sepsikőröspatak in Transylvania, 2018, Photo: Edit Kátai/MTI

Prince Charles also brought a little piece of “Hungary” to Great Britain when the Hungarian folk group “Szalonna és bandája” played in Buckingham Palace on his 70th birthday. The leader of the band, István Pál “Szalonna,” also confirmed after the celebration that the royal family appreciates Hungarian folk music so much that his band had been invited to Great Britain many times since.

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Queen Elizabeth also visited Hungary several times, the last time in 1993. The Queen and her husband, Prince Philip, arrived in Budapest on May 4, 1993, where they were received by then President of Hungary, Árpád Göncz.  They not only visited the capital, but also Kecskemét and Bugac. They were greeted with Hungarian music and pálinka. According to reports, Prince Philip was very impressed by the latter.

The recently deceased husband of the Queen, Prince Philip, was also enthusiastic about Hungary: He had visited the country more often, with his love of horses being one of the prime reasons, among others. In 1973, he visited Bábolna, where he took part in the famous horse-riding demonstrations. Five years later he took part in the four-man world championships in Kecskemét, but he fell over at an obstacle. He returned to Hungary for the 1984 World Cup and a state visit in 1993 with the Queen.

Prince Philip in Hungary, 1973. Photo via Fortepan / Sándor Bojár

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Some descendants of Klaudia Rhédey are said to have lived in Miskolc in northern Hungary for a long time, but unfortunately very little information is available about them.

Featured photo by Neil Hall/EPA/MTI