Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Pope Benedict XVI's friend, the "Punk" Princess

I have never posted on one my favorite ladies, Princess Gloria Von Thurn und Taxis, the so-called "Punk Princess" of the 1980s, also known as "Princess TNT, the dynamite socialite." In her eighties heyday she was on David Letterman, stayed out parting all night with Prince (the rock star), and was arrested at the Munich airport for hashish possession. She hung out with all the "cool" people, throwing, to quote the Eagles song, "Life in the Fastlane," outrageous parties (her husband's 60th birthday featured "a birthday cake decorated with 60 marzipan phalluses," and paying "heavenly bills." At the end of the party, costumed as Marie Antoinette, she "descended on a gilded cloud at the end of a scene from Don Giovanni—performed by the Munich Opera—and sang 'Happy birthday, Johnny" to her husband.

When her husband, Prince Johannes von Thurn und Taxis, who was 34 years her senior, died at age 64 in 1990, she inherited a vast international business empire. However, it was an empire that was teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. After Johannes' death, Princess Gloria spent most of the decade of the 1990s raising the three children she bore Prince Johannes and receiving private tutoring in business and economics, using her education to turn the family's fortunes around. A task at which she has succeeded magnificently.

Princess Gloria von Thurn und Taxis in 1980s


She was once again catapulted to international prominence, though far less than in her wild days, when Josef Ratzinger, her friend, someone to whom she is a benefactor, became pope. Their connection is Regensburg, Germany. Located in Bavaria, Regensburg is home of the House of Thurn und Taxis, where their ancestral estate, Schloss St. Emmeram, is located. It is also where Professor Ratzinger taught theology from 1969 until 1977, when Pope Paul VI named him Archbishop of Munich and Freising. In an interview she gave to Vanity Fair- "The Conversion of Gloria TNT," she recalled her first encounter with then-Cardinal Ratzinger. It happened in 1983, when Gloria was just 23, and roughly three years into her marriage to Johannes, who was an outrageous figure himself, being quite publicly bi-sexual, to give but one indication. At that time she was well into her career as the Punk Princess. The occasion was a Mass celebrated by then-Cardinal Ratzinger, who by then had been called to Rome by Bl. Pope John Paul II to serve as Prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, which happened in 1981.
"Cardinal Ratzinger came to Regensburg on Saint Wolfgang's Day—Wolfgang was the bishop who reformed the diocese in the 900s—and I heard him preach. I came home and told Johannes, 'That's the first time in my life that I heard somebody speak who was lit up by the Holy Spirit.' Johannes said, 'But he's famous. I've known him for years
This was not the occasion of her definitive conversion, however. It wasn't until after the death of her husband, beginning in 1991, that she turned to the faith with full fervor. Of her twenties and the early days of her marriage, Gloria said, "I was a spoiled brat. My only responsibility was to entertain Johannes and his guests and look after my children My biggest challenge was to get close to rock stars. But once I met them, the myth collapsed. With the Church, it was exactly the contrary. When I met Pope John Paul, he was even more than I thought he would be." She related in the interview that when she heard Cardinal Ratzinger "preach that day I knew that this guy was a saint." After the death of her husband, she was able to have Cardinal Ratzinger celebrate Mass in the chapel on the family estate every year.

It was not until she moved with her children to Rome after Johannes' death, at the insistence of her friend, another fervent Catholic revert and former flamboyant Italian socialite, Alessandra Borghesea, that their friendship began in earnest: "When I moved to Rome, I was already friendly with the cardinal's secretary, Monsignor Josef Clemens. The children and I had made a trip to Israel with him that year at Eastertime." It was as a result of her relationship with Clemens that she first had dinner with then-Cardinal Ratzinger, who, she says, showed great sympathy for her beloved Institute of Christ the King, society dedicated to the Latin Mass, fully in communion with Rome. "He understood that the Second Vatican Council had gone too far and that now we had a happy-clappy situation with guitars and drums and people gathering around the altar and yelling. The cardinal felt that people who believed in the old traditions needed to have an existence in the Church, too."


Her Serene Highness, Princess Gloria von Thurn und Taxis, with her children, the Princesses Elisabeth and Theresia, and Prince Albert today


On the blog The Whole Pretty, I found a really interesting post-"Sister Heiresses The Von Thurn Und Taxis" (from whence I poached the family photo)- one that I think Princess Gloria would probably appreciate for its charming snarkiness.

Having dedicated her life to her family and her faith, Princess Gloria has not remarried.

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