Heiligenberg Jugenheim Foundation

Values Foundation

With the financial support of Sofia Municipality

Europe in the 19th century

From the politics of peace to the politics of war Napoleonic peace order, established at the Congress of Vienna in 1814-1815, was no longer in force. After a long period of peace, the major European powers once again went to war against each other.

Russia was defeated in the Crimean War of 1853-1856 because France and Great Britain intervened militarily on the side of the Ottoman Empire, and Austria tied down Russian forces with threats of expansion in the Balkans and on the Bosphorus.

In 1859, Austria and France fought for supremacy in northern Italy in the Sardinian War. The Habsburg Empire was defeated. Alexander’s father, Alexander Prince of Hesse and by Rhine, took part in this war in Austrian service. In 1866, Prussia and Austria fought each other for supremacy in the German Confederation. Prussia and its allies were victorious. In the German war, Alexander’s father was once again on the losing side. The Franco-Prussian War of 1870/71 ended with France’s capitulation. The newly created German Empire after the war was established as a constitutional monarchy. The defeat and the proclamation of the German Kaiser at Versailles were felt in France as a national disgrace.

Dates in the tablе

1815 ‒ Congress of Vienna. European postwar order.

1853-1856 ‒ Crimean War: Russia ‒ Ottoman Empire, France and Great Britain.

1859 ‒ Sardinian War: Austria ‒ France.

1866 ‒ German War: Prussia ‒ Austria.

1870-1871 ‒ War between Germany and France.

January 18, 1871 ‒ Creation of the Reich (Proclamation of German Kaiser Wilhelm).

Texts to the pictures and paintings

Alexander Prince of Hesse and by Rhine, Sandro’s father

The Congress of Vienna 1814-1815, coloured engraving after Jean-Baptiste Isabelle

Richard Simkin. The 93rd Sutherland Infantry Regiment at the Battle of Balaclava, 25 October 1854. The Thin Red Line, 1854, wetercolour on paper

The Sardinian War. Jean-Louis-Ernst Messonier (1815-1891). Napoleon III watching the Battle of Solferino, 1863, oil on canvas

Anton von Werner (1843-1915). The Proclamation of the German Reich, January 18, 1871, 1885, oil on canvas

Childhood and adolescence


Alexander Josef, Prince of Battenberg, called Sandro, was born on April 5, 1857 in Verona, the third child of Prince Alexander of Hesse and by Rhein and Julia Hauke. His godparents were his uncle, Tsar Alexander II, and Field Marshal Josef von Radetzky. Sandro's father was the son of the Grand Duke Ludwig II of Hesse and brother of Tsarina Maria. He went to Russia with his sister and there he met Julia. She wasn't his equal in terms of nobility. The two of them left Russia and entered into a morganatic marriage.

In 1851 Grand Duke Ludwig III granted Julia the name and title Julia Countess of Battenberg and made her a princess in 1858. Sandro and his siblings had to bear her title and were excluded from the grand-ducal line of succession.

Sandro's father was an Austrian officer. In 1862 the family returned to Hesse. In the winter they lived in Darmstadt and the rest of the year on Heiligenberg in Jugenheim, where Sandro's grandmother, Grand Duchess Wilhelmine, had a summer residence. Tsarina Maria often visited as it reminded her of her childhood.

From 1864 on she visited regularly with her husband and children. Crowned heads paid their respects to the tsar during his stay there, so Heiligenberg became a meeting place for the high nobility. Sandro grew up in this illustrious environment from the ages of five to thirteen. After his home-schooling, he attended the high school in Darmstadt. He then went to the Salzmannschule boarding school in Schnepfenthal near Gotha.

Dates in the tablе

April 05, 1857 Birth of Alexander Prince of Battenberg in Verona from 1862 The family lives in Darmstadt and on the Heiligenberg

1865 – 1869 home schooling by Dr. Heinrich Hager

1869 – 1870 High school in Darmstadt (today Ludwig-Georg-Gymnasium)

1870 – 1873 Until high school maturity exams: Salzmannschule Schnepfenthal, Thuringia

Texts to the pictures and paintings

The Battenberg family around 1870, standing from left to right: Marie, father Alexander Prince of Hesse and by the Rhine, Ludwig, Sandro; sitting: Franz Joseph, mother Julia von Battenberg, Heinrich

Sandro at school age

Heiligenberg Castle after the expansion in 1867

Dr Heinrich Hager, Sandro's tutor on the Heiligenberg

Sandro, about 5 years

Sandro, about 3 years

Sandro, about 4 years

Sandro, about 10 years

Military education

Officer’s career

Sandro finished his education at the Salzmann School. The reform school was founded in 1784 by Christian Gotthilf Salzmann. Important personalities such as the geographer Carl Ritter attended the school. In 1873, at the age of sixteen, Sandro began his two-year military training in the cadet corps in Dresden. In April 1875 he became a lieutenant in the 2nd Grand Ducal Hessian Dragoon Regiment No. 24. He spent a few months at the war school in Kassel before returning to Darmstadt. In 1877, with the permission of his regiment commander in Darmstadt and the German Kaiser Wilhelm I, his uncle, Tsar Alexander II, appointed Sandro to the staff of the Russian General Gurko at the Tsar's headquarters. Here he took part in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877/1878. After the end of the war, Sandro became a Major-General in the Royal Prussian Guards Cuirassiers Regiment in Potsdam.

Dates in the tablе

1873-1875 ‒ Military training in the Dresden Cadet Corps.

From April 1875 ‒ Lieutenant in the 24th Dragoon Regiment of the Second Grand Duke of Hesse.

1878 ‒ Major General in the Royal Prussian Guard Cuirassiers Regiment.

Texts to the pictures and paintings

Sandro as Lieutenant in the Second Dragoon Regiment of the Grand Duke of Hesse

The Salzmann School in Schnepfenthal, circa 1843.

The Cadet School, Dresden

Sandro as Major General in the Royal Prussian Guards Cuirassiers Regiment

Registration card from Kassel ‒ from 12 June to 12 November 1875.

The Balkans

A constant threat to the peace in Europe

During Alexander's childhood and adolescence, the balance of power in Europe shifted. With the German Empire, a new great power arose in the central part of the continent. Russia, Great Britain and France were vying for influence in the Eastern Mediterranean. Austria, pushed out by Germany and Italy, directed its interests to the Balkans, where it came into conflict with Russia.

Ottoman rule in south-eastern Europe, which had lasted for almost half a millennium, was crumbling. The "Sick Man of the Bosphorus" had fought against independence movements and waged wars against Russia, which wanted to be seen as the protector of Orthodox Christians and the Slavic peoples of the Balkan Peninsula, but was primarily pursuing its territorial interests and political influence in that region. On May 2 (April 20, 1876 according to the old style), the Bulgarians rose up against the Ottoman yoke. The Ottomans crushed the uprising with great brutality. Atrocities were committed against the civilian population. Military intervention was called for in Russia.

On April 24, 1877*, the Russian emperor declared war on the Ottoman Empire. The Russian army reached the vicinity of Istanbul, suffering heavy losses. A further advance would lead to conflict with Britain, whose Mediterranean fleet was ready to intervene and was already stationed nearby in the Sea of Marmara.

Sandro's brother Ludwig, who joined the British Navy at the age of 14, was serving on one of the warships. At the end of January 1878, the sultan had to ask Russia for an armistice.

Dates in the tablе

April 1876 ‒ The April Uprising.

April 24, 1877 - Russia declares war on the Ottoman Empire.

1877-1878 ‒ Participation of Sandro in the Russo-Turkish war.

Texts to the pictures and paintings

Sandro (seated, right) during the Russo-Turkish War in Gorna Studena (Veliko Tarnovo), 1877.

Sandro (third from the right) at General Gurko's tent, Gorna Studena (Veliko Tarnovo)

General Josef Gurko, Sandro's commander

Sandro during the Russo-Turkish war in Gorna Studena (Veliko Tarnovo), 1877.

1877-1878 ‒ Participation of Sandro in the Russo-Turkish war.

The Oriental Question

The San Stefano Peace is achieved

The Ottoman Empire arose in the 14th century in Asia Minor. By the end of the 15th century, the Ottomans managed to subjugate the entire Balkan Peninsula. The year 1683 marked the beginning of the end of their expansion to the West after the loss of the battle for Vienna. Other defeats followed and thus the empire was pushed out of Central Europe. Uprisings began in the provinces against Ottoman rule. This gave Russia the opportunity to expand its influence in Southeast Europe and thus gain access to the Mediterranean Sea.

To the delight of his uncle Emperor Alexander II, Sandro voluntarily took part in the Russo-Turkish War of Liberation (1877-1878). The young Alexander von Battenberg was shocked by the atrocities committed by both sides. He shared with his father about the poor state of the Russian army without foreseeing the consequences. The future emperor Alexander III was informed of this letter and took it as an insult to Russia. This may have been the beginning of his dislike for Sandro.

On March 3, 1878, at San Stefano, Russia dictated firm terms for peace to the Ottoman Empire. The Ottomans had to accept large territorial losses and agree to a Great Bulgaria under Russian rule from the Black Sea almost to the Aegean Sea. Such a large expansion of Russia's sphere of influence was unacceptable to England, France and Austria. There was a risk of a new war against Russia. It was decided to avoid the conflict through diplomatic means. Berlin was chosen as the location of the conference. Since the German Reich had no territorial interests in the Balkans, Chancellor Bismarck acted as an "honest mediator".

Dates in the tablе

The beginning of the 14th century - Creation of the Ottoman Empire.

The end of the 17th century - The greatest expansion of the Ottoman Empire in Southeastern Europe.

April 1876 ‒ The April Uprising against Ottoman rule.

1877-1878 ‒ The Russo-Turkish War.

March 3, 1878 - The Peace of San Stefano.

Texts to the pictures and paintings

Nikolai Dmitriev-Orenburgsky (1838-1898). "Presenting the captured Osman Pasha, commanding the Turkish troops in Pleven, to HM Emperor Alexander II on the day of the capture of Pleven, December 29, 1877", 1898.

The distribution of the Balkans according to the peace treaty of San Stefano.

The Signing of the Treaty of San Stefano, 1878, engraving

The Berlin Congress of 1878

The new political map of the Balkans

On June 13, 1878, diplomats from Germany, Russia, Great Britain, France, Austria, Italy, and the Ottoman Empire met in Berlin to decide on the distribution of territories and the organization of the states in the Balkans. Greece, Romania and Serbia had their representatives but no voting rights. The San Stefano Peace Treaty was revised to the detriment of Russia. Created by Russia after the Ottoman defeat, Great Bulgaria was fragmented, and its central territory was divided into the Principality of Bulgaria, forced to pay contributions to the Ottoman Empire, and the Ottoman province of Eastern Rumelia.

The result was disappointment for the Bulgarians and humiliation for the Russians. Bulgarians were denied national unity, and Russia - control over a Greater Bulgaria. Alexander II blamed Bismarck for this decision. Relations between Russia and Germany deteriorated significantly. The Treaty of Berlin ignored the aspirations of the Balkan peoples for national liberation and thus laid the foundations for future conflicts in Europe. The ruler of the new Principality of Bulgaria had to be elected by the People's Assembly of Bulgaria. The European Great Powers were forced to accept this condition, but imposed a ban on the future prince being a member of one of the ruling houses of the European great powers. Sandro's father offered to the Russian emperor Alexander II his son to be discussed for the position.

Dates in the tablе

June 13 – July 13, 1878 Congress of Berlin

Texts to the pictures and paintings

Berlin Congress in the Red City Hall 1878, painting by Anton von Werner

Shown (from left to right): von Haymerle, Károlyi, de Launay, Gortschakow (seated), Waddington, Disraeli, von Radowitz, zu Hohenlohe-Schillingsfürst, Corti, Count de Mouy (half-concealed ), d'Oubril (seated), de Saint-Vallier (concealed), Desprez, Andrássy, Bucher, Otto von Bismarck, von Holstein, Busch, Herbert von Bismarck, Schuwalow, Sadullah Bey, Russell, von Bülow, Salisbury, Carathéodori and Mehmed Ali Pasha

The Balkans with new borders after the Congress of Berlin in 1878, Bulgaria and Eastern Rumelia

Otto von Bismarck, German Chancellor

Benjamin Disraeli, British Prime Minister

William Henry Waddington, French Foreign Minister

Alexander Carathȅodory Pasha, Chief negotiator of the Ottomans

Alexander Mikhailovich Gorshakov, Russian Foreign Minister

Founding of the Principality of Bulgaria

On the way to the throne

A day after the Constitution of the Principality of Bulgaria was adopted in Veliko Tarnovo, on April 29, 1879, the Grand National Assembly elected Sandro as Prince. That was Emperor Alexander II’s choice, and the European powers had no objections. The news reached Sandro in Potsdam. In Darmstadt, he and his father discussed the Bulgarian constitution with court jurists. They came to the conclusion that the provisions laid down in it would make the country difficult to govern.

The extraordinarily liberal constitution had been drawn up by the Provisional Russian Government in Bulgaria. It deliberately restricted the powers of the prince. A Bulgarian monarch endowed with little power would be dependent on Russia. Despite his considerable misgivings, Sandro telegraphed to Bulgaria that he accepted the election.

He said goodbye to his family and travelled to Livadia, the summer residence of the Russian emperor in the Crimea. The tsar was furious at his nephew's reluctance to go to Bulgaria. Sandro was reminded to whom he owed his election as prince. He was ordered to go to his principality and represent Russian interests there. Sandro obeyed.

In Livadia, a Bulgarian delegation presented him with the act of election. He then made inaugural visits to Vienna, London and Berlin, where he also met Bismarck, who urged him to comply with the decisions of the Berlin Congress. After subsequent visits to Paris, London, Rome and Constantinople, Sandro set foot on Bulgarian soil on July 6, 1879.

In Varna he was received by the Russian Governor-General in Bulgaria, Prince Dondukov-Korsakov. The first destination on his journey to the new Bulgarian capital Sofia was Veliko Tărnovo, where Alexander von Battenberg took the oath on the Constitution before the Grand National Assembly on July 8, 1879.

The discussion on the new constitution had already definitively divided the National Assembly into two camps. Conservatives wanted the prince to be given greater powers, but could not stand up to the majority of liberals who were opposed to a strong executive.

Dates in the tablе

April 28, 1879 ‒ Constituent meeting. Adoption of the Constitution.

April 29, 1879 ‒ First Grand National Assembly. Sandro's election as prince.

July 6, 1879 - Sandro's arrival in Bulgaria.

July 8, 1879 - Sandro's oath on the Bulgarian constitution.

Texts to the pictures and paintings

Bulgaria and Eastern Rumelia after the Berlin Congress

The city of Veliko Tarnovo in 1885.

The Great National Assembly in Veliko Tarnovo, 1879.

The Guide to the Governing Liberals, 1879.

Prince Alexander Dondukov-Korsakov, Russian Imperial Commissioner in Bulgaria

The Bulgarian Constitution

The new principality became a constitutional monarchy

Bulgaria had the most progressive constitution in Europe. The Belgian law of 1831 served as its basis. The supreme body of the state was the National Assembly. Its members were elected by the people. All men over the age of 21 were entitled to vote, regardless of their ethnicity or religion. Anyone over the age of thirty and able to read and write could be elected. The Grand National Assembly had the powers to decide on constitutional amendments and the election of the Prince. The Prince and his government were accountable to Parliament. The Prince’s powers were limited to the supreme command of the army, the granting of amnesties, the right to return laws to the National Assembly for revision, as well as to dissolve the parliament and call new elections. The Constitution guaranteed citizens fundamental rights that were exceptionally democratic for their time: equality before the law, right to a judicial process, inviolability of property, freedom of assembly, as well as freedom of the press and speech. All titles and status privileges from the Ottoman period were abolished.

A few paragraphs from the constitution are quoted below, some abridged:

  • All Bulgarians are equal before the law.
  • Property is inviolable.
  • Every Bulgarian, without exception, has to pay the taxes stipulated by law.
  • Nobody can be punished without a decision of the competent court.
  • Private correspondence is confidential and inviolable.
  • Primary education is free and compulsory for all Bulgarians.
  • The press is free. Authors, printers and publishers are not subject to censorship.
  • Bulgarian citizens have the right to unite in societies.
  • The People's Assembly is composed of deputies elected by direct vote. Every Bulgarian citizen over the age of 21 is entitled to vote.

Dates in the tablе

1831 Belgian constitution: It served as a template for the Bulgarian constitution

February 23, 1879 A meeting is called to consider the draft constitution

April 28, 1879 Bulgarian National Assembly: Adoption of the Constitution

Texts to the pictures and paintings

The Bulgarian Constitution of 1879

Anthim I, Head of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church First Speaker of the Bulgarian Parliament

The Constitution of Veliko Tarnovo 1879 – text excerpt (Russian, Bulgarian)

A Stranger in his new homeland

Arrival in Sofia

The Protestant Sandro arrived as a Bulgarian prince in a country that had been shaped by oriental customs for centuries with a predominantly Orthodox Christian population, about whose history and present he knew little.

In the short time between his election and his arrival, he was only able to get brief information about the situation in Bulgaria. He was dependent on an interpreter, had to learn the Bulgarian language and the Cyrillic alphabet as quickly as possible, familiarize himself with government business and get to know the country and its people. Sandro arrived in Bulgaria with a small entourage - mostly from Hessen. Among them was Alexander Menges, whose father also worked for the Battenberg family. Sandro's brother, Franz Josef von Battenberg, also followed him to Bulgaria. The young prince assigned managerial functions to his closest confidants. For the military he had Russian and Bulgarian officers at his disposal. His personal secretary was doctor Konstantin Stoilov, who had studied in Heidelberg and accompanied the prince from Heiligenberg to Sofia.

The new Bulgarian capital at that time was a small village with a little over 10,000 inhabitants. Here, Sandro first moved into the former Ottoman administration building, which was in a dilapidated state. The young prince commissioned the Viennese architect Victor Rumpelmeier to transform the place into a stately palace. In 1880, construction works began. The building was gutted, rebuilt and expanded. Only some parts of the facade were preserved. During the construction work, Sandro lived in a modest residence. On December 26, 1882, the new palace was officially inaugurated. The prince's sister, Marie Caroline, who was visiting her brother in Bulgaria, described it as large, with a magnificent entrance hall and a beautifully landscaped garden. Today, the building houses the National Art Gallery and the National Ethnographic Museum.

Dates in the tablе

July 13, 1879 Sandro enters Sofia to applause from the population

July 15, 1879 Appointment of the first Bulgarian ministers

1880 – 1882 Construction of the new Prince's Palace in Sofia

September – October 1884 Sandro's sister Marie on a visit to Bulgaria

Texts to the pictures and paintings

The Prince's Palace in Sofia

Sandro's study in the new palace

Sandro's sister, Marie Karoline Princess of Battenberg, Princess zu Erbach-Schönberg, visiting Sofia (seated in the front right) together with her husband Prince Gustav Ernst zu Erbach-Schönberg (standing on the far left). Sandro in white uniform (sitting).

Dr Konstantin Stoilov (1853 – 1901), Sandro's longtime companion and later Minister of Bulgaria

Hristo Karagiozov, Sandro's bodyguard

Alexander Menges, Sandro's companion and secretary in Bulgaria, with his wife Emilie

The first years of the prince

A difficult beginning

At the very beginning of his reign, Sandro was faced with almost insurmountable problems. Bulgaria suffered economically from the consequences of the suppression of the April Uprising in 1876 and the Russo-Turkish War (1877-1878). A major financial burden was the obligation to pay contributions to the Ottoman Empire and the compensation to Russia for the administration of the country and its military presence. In regions with a predominantly Muslim population, riots broke out after the Bulgarians took power.

In domestic political terms, the principality was unstable. The irreconcilable antagonism between liberals and conservatives was blocking the country. Chaos prevailed in the National Assembly. Sandro's attempt to form a coalition government composed of Liberals and Conservatives failed. His decision form a cabinet of conservatives antagonized the representatives of the liberals.

The government, like subsequent governments, was incompetent, nepotistic and corrupt. The Russian officers and officials in the country were only formally subordinate to the prince, but followed the instructions they received from St. Petersburg.

Also, the state administration was staffed by corrupt officials who had bought their posts in the civil service. Ultimately, Sandro lost his support in Russia too. His aunt, Tsarina Maria died on June 3, 1880, then on March 13, 1881 his uncle, Tsar Alexander II, was assassinated.

Dates in the tablе

June 3, 1880 - Death of Empress Maria.

March 13, 1881 - Death of Emperor Alexander II.

Texts to the pictures and paintings

Empress Maria and Emperor Alexander II

Emperor Alexander II

G. Broling. "The Fatal Assassination of Alexander II on March 13, 1881," drawing

Sandro and Emperor Alexander III

The Beginning of alienation

Sandro travelled to Saint Petersburg for the funeral of Emperor Alexander II on March 27, 1881. During his visit, he informed the heir to the throne, as he had reported to his father before, of the insurmountable obstacles and his powerlessness in Bulgaria due to the liberal constitution. Emperor Alexander II had forbidden Sandro to organize a coup d'état. The new Russian ruler did not take a firm stand against such a drastic measure. Sandro left Russia under the impression that his cousin had no objections.

Back in Bulgaria, Sandro dismissed the liberal government and convened the Grand National Assembly. It was supposed to grant him the right to govern the country with full powers, for seven years, with the suspension of the constitution. Otherwise, he was determined to abdicate and leave Bulgaria. In liberal circles, this proclamation caused a storm of indignation. A demand was made for the prince to abdicate or even be overthrown in a coup. The Russian emperor advised Sandro to exercise moderation.

However, Sandro's announcement that he would make structural and personnel changes in the corrupt state administration and that positions would only be filled by qualified and patriotic officials, was welcomed by the Bulgarian population. He called on the Bulgarian patriots to support him in his endeavour. On July 13, 1881, the Grand Assembly voted in favour of his motion.

In Russia, Sandro's own powerful actions and his appeal to Bulgarian patriotism were seen as an intention to free Bulgaria from its dependence on Russia. His reform of civil service appointments was undoubtedly aimed at disloyal Russian officers and officials. Their fear of losing their privileges prompted them to stir up anti-prince sentiments in the general public.

Dates in the tablе

March 27, 1881 - The funeral of Tsar Alexander II.

May 20, 1881 ‒ Sandro insists on suspending the Constitution.

July 13, 1881 - The National Assembly accepts Sandro's proposal.

Texts to the pictures and paintings

Emperor Alexander III

Grand Duke Alexander Romanov, ca. 1860. He had known Sandro since his time in Heiligenberg

Emperor Alexander III

Sandro in the 1880s.

The Prince’s Reign with Full Powers

The break with Russia

With the decision of the Grand National Assembly of July 13, 1881, Sandro began a two-year authoritarian reign in Bulgaria. To appease Emperor Alexander III, he appointed the Russian generals Leonid Sobolev and Alexander von Kaulbars as the most important ministers in his cabinet. Sobolev became Prime Minister and Minister of Internal Affairs, and Von Kaulbars became Minister of War. Both ruthlessly pushed through Russian interests in the country and gradually took over all the power. Despite the protests of the Bulgarians, Sandro did not dare to take any action against them. On May 27, 1883, Emperor Alexander III was crowned in Moscow. Sandro used the opportunity to ask for the release of Sobolev and Von Kaulbars, because this was the request of the Bulgarian people

Emperor Alexander III refused Sandro’s request and treated him with contempt making the prince’s situation extremely unpleasant. Sandro’s attempt to reform the state with full powers failed. Russia treated the prince as a puppet, and Bulgaria as its province. With his passive behaviour towards the Russian rule, Battenberg lost the support of the Bulgarian population. He came to the conclusion that he had to oppose Russian ambitions for power in order to preserve the Bulgarian throne. Sandro fired Sobolev and Von Kaulbars, as well as all the Russian officials in his entourage. The conflict deepened more and more. Sandro became an enemy of Russia. The emperor detested him. The prince had to abdicate or be overthrown in a coup.

Dates in the tablе

July 13, 1881 ‒ Sandro's reign with powers begins.

May 27, 1883 - Sandro in Moscow. The Coronation of Alexander III.

September 16, 1883 ‒ The dismissal of Sobolev and Von Kaulbars.

Texts to the pictures and paintings

Leonid Sobolev

Alexander von Kaulbars

Emperor Alexander III

Georges Becker (ca. 1845‒1909). "The Coronation of Emperor Alexander III", 1888, oil on canvas

Sandro and the Bulgarians

Relations under Russian domination

Initially, Sandro was seen by the Bulgarian population as a willing henchman of Russia. The fact that he now rebelled against Russia and the Tsar and took action against Russian military presence, was duly appreciated by the Bulgarians. The arrogance with which Russia exercised its rule over Bulgaria hurt the national pride of the Bulgarians.

The resistance of their prince against the Russian foreign rule united the liberal and conservative forces in the National Assembly. After Sandro agreed to reinstate the Veliko Tarnovo Constitution, a coalition government led by a conservative prime minister was formed. Sandro's two-year sole rule with powers came to an end. Even if the new government was not to last long, Russia's influence was waning in Bulgaria. The Russian generals Von Kaulbars and Sobolev were expelled from the government and left the country in protest.

In response, Russia withdrew from Bulgaria Russian officers loyal to Sandro. In order to damage the reputation of the Bulgarian prince at home and abroad, Russia began to spread rumours about him. He was accused of leading a lavish immoral lifestyle and accumulating debts. The fact that since he took office Bulgaria's economic situation had steadily improved, imports had doubled, exports had increased two and a half times and the state budget had increased by ten percent per year, faded into the background in the face of this campaign as the rumours were gaining ground among the population.

Dates in the tablе

September 16, 1883 - Sandro restores the Constitution.

October 24, 1883 - Alexander III withdraws Russian officers loyal to Sandro.

Texts to the pictures and paintings

Sandro with his most trusted people in Bulgaria

The building of the National Assembly, April 6, 1885.

Sandro as a General of the Princely Bulgarian First Infantry Regiment and Commander in chief

The Battenberg Affair

Sandro’s Engagement

In 1883 Alexander von Battenberg became engaged to Princess Victoria of Prussia, with the nickname “Moretta”. Victoria's parents were the German Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia and Victoria, the eldest daughter of the British Queen. The Prince had no idea what kind of tremors their relationship which is known as the “Battenberg Affair” in historiography, was to cause. The engagement, which had to be kept a secret at first, caused a serious scandal in the Kaiser's family after word got out about it.

Moreta's father was open to this relationship and her mother was trying to speed it up. To the imperial couple and Victoria's brother ‒ Prince Wilhelm of Prussia (later Kaiser Wilhelm II), Sandro was an intruder trying to infiltrate the imperial family. A descendant of a morganatic marriage was not entitled to be one of them. Prince Wilhelm openly defied his parents.

Reich Chancellor Bismarck supported Wilhelm and his grandparents' bias towards Sandro. In fact, he didn't care about class restrictions but believed that this engagement threatened his European system of alliances. Sandro ‘s association with the Kaiser's family would have been a provocation to Emperor Alexander III and would have damaged the already strained relations between Russia and Germany after the Congress of Berlin. In addition, having an Imperial princess of the Kingdom of Prussia as a Bulgarian princess, also harboured the risk that the German Reich would be drawn into the controversy between the Russian Tsar and Sandro.

Despite all the resistance, Crown Princess Victoria went so far as to decide to turn the engagement into a wedding although Sandro had already given her to understand that he wished to break off the engagement. When her father ascended the throne as Kaiser Friedrich III in 1888, she expected her husband to succeed him.

Ultimately, Victoria's plan failed. Frederick III died only ninety-nine days after his accession to the throne. Her brother was proclaimed Kaiser of the German Empire as Wilhelm II. At his insistence, in 1888, Sandro renounced his relationship with Moretta in writing.

Dates in the tablе

1883 ‒ Sandro got engaged to Victoria Prussia (Moretta).

March 9, 1888 - Death of Kaiser Wilhelm I.

June 15, 1888 - Death of Kaiser Friedrich III. Kaiser Wilhelm II takes power.

June 1888 ‒ Termination of engagement.

Texts to the pictures and paintings

Princess Victoria of Prussia (Moretta)

Kaiser Friedrich III, Moretta's father

Empress Victoria, Moretta's mother

Kaiser Wilhelm I, Moretta's grandfather

Kaiser Wilhelm II, brother of Moretta

Reich Chancellor Otto von Bismarck

Eastern Rumelia insists on unification

Sandro and the movement for national unification

As a result of the Berlin Congress, the European powers did not allow a Greater Bulgaria. The Principality of Bulgaria and south of it the Ottoman province of Eastern Rumelia were contractually agreed. According to the Berlin treaties, Eastern Rumelia was administered by a Governor General who was appointed by the Sublime Porte for five years at a time.

Eastern Rumelia was mostly inhabited by Bulgarians. Muslims were a minority. Secret committees were created among the Bulgarian population demanding separation from the Ottoman Empire and unification with Bulgaria.

Sandro promised the Russian foreign minister not to support the unification movement. This put him in a difficult situation. Had he supported the unification of Eastern Rumelia with Bulgaria, this would have been the final break with the Russian tsar. The treaty of the Berlin Congress would have been violated, and Ottoman intervention would have been conceivable.

Dates in the tablе

From 1878 - Bulgarians in Eastern Rumelia insisted on unification with the Principality of Bulgaria.

February 1885 ‒ Foundation of the Bulgarian Secret Central Revolutionary Committee in Eastern Rumelia (BSCRC).

Texts to the pictures and paintings

Zahari Stoyanov, freedom fighter and co-founder of the Bulgarian Secret Central Revolutionary Committee.

Committee members.

Konstantin Atanasov (Kosta) Panitsa, freedom fighter and co-founder of the committee, major in the Bulgarian army.

Sandro's decision

The unification of Bulgaria in 1885

In September 1885, riots coordinated by the BSCRC broke out in Eastern Rumelia against the government appointed by the Sublime Porte. The participants in the uprising took over power and called on Prince Alexander to support the unification as the Prince of Eastern Rumelia as well.

Sandro took a big risk. He entered the capital of Eastern Rumelia - Plovdiv, leading a cavalry unit, to the cheers of the local Bulgarian population.

On September 23, 1885, the National Assembly in an extraordinary session approved the measures of the government appointed by the Prince to mobilize the army and send the available troops to support the militia in southern Bulgaria. Alexander I declared himself the prince of a unified Bulgaria. The Russian tsar reacted angrily. He had all Russian officials and officers withdrawn from Bulgaria. As a result, the Bulgarian army lost part of its officers and leadership and was significantly weakened.

The territorial expansion of the Principality of Bulgaria changed the political situation in the Balkans. Bulgaria was of geostrategic importance due to its location between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea, and was a transit country between Western Europe and the Ottoman Empire. As a result of the Unification, Bulgaria and its Prince had gained greater political weight in the region.

In the neighbouring countries, where ethnic Bulgarians lived who also wanted to join Bulgaria, the developments were followed with suspicion.

Dates in the tablе

September 1885 ‒ Uprising in Eastern Rumelia against the Ottomans. The insurgents take power.

September 18, 1885 - Eastern Rumelia announced its unification with Bulgaria.

September 21, 1885 - Sandro was greeted with jubilation by the population in Plovdiv.

September 23, 1885 - At an extraordinary meeting, the National Assembly voted measures in support of the unification of the Principality of Bulgaria and Eastern Rumelia.

Texts to the pictures and paintings

Nikolay Pavlovich (1835-1894) - "Union of Northern and Southern Bulgaria in 1885", lithography, 1886.

Telegram from Prince Alexander I to Prime Minister Mr. Karavelov, September 18, 1885.

Proclamation on the Union with Bulgaria of September 18, 1885.

Bulgaria and Eastern Rumelia

Pietro Montani (1829-1887) - "Welcoming Prince Alexander I at Jumayata Square in Plovdiv on September 9, 1885", 1886, oil on canvas

The Serbian-Bulgarian war

Sandro's big victory

After the national unification of Bulgaria, a military confrontation with the Ottoman Empire was more than expected. Therefore, Sandro ordered a large part of the Bulgarian army to be deployed on the southern border.

However, it was not the Ottomans but the Serbs that declared war on November 13, 1885 and advanced to Bulgaria. Their king ‒ Milan I, had the consent of Austria. He saw an advantageous situation to expand his country at the expense of Bulgarian territories.

Prince Alexander, as commander-in-chief, resisted the attackers with a small army. Sandro's brother Franz Joseph also commanded a Bulgarian unit. The troops stationed in Eastern Rumelia reached the front quickly. Unlike the Serbs, the Bulgarians did not have enough officers due to the withdrawal of the Russian military. Weapons, clothing, provisions and horses were also in short supply.

Nevertheless, from November 17th to 19th, 1885, the Serbs were decisively defeated a few kilometres from Sofia in the Battle of Slivnica. They had to withdraw and were pursued by the Bulgarian troops as far as Serbian territory. Austria's threat to enter the war on the side of Serbia stopped the hostilities.

An armistice was agreed on December 21, 1885 and a peace treaty was signed in Bucharest on March 3, 1886. Bulgaria had to recognize the pre-war situation. As a commander, Sandro had shown great strategic skill. He was hailed as the "Hero of Slivnica". His position at the head of the Bulgarian state seemed secure.

On April 5, 1886, On April 5, 1886, the Tophanen Act was signed - an agreement between the Ottoman Empire and the ambassadors of the Great Powers, by which the Unification of Bulgaria was internationally recognized.

Dates in the tablе

November 13, 1885 - Serbia declares war on Bulgaria.

17 ‒ 19 November 1885 ‒ The decisive battle at Slivnitsa. The victory of the Bulgarians.

December 21, 1885 ‒ Cessation of hostilities.

March 3, 1886 ‒ The Bucharest Peace Treaty.

April 5, 1886 ‒ The Tophanen Act - international recognition of the Union. To Bulgaria

Texts to the pictures and paintings

Milan I, King of Serbia

Dimitar Gyudzhenov (1891-1979) - "Prince Alexander I of Battenberg observes the battle at Dragoman", 1937, oil on canvas.

Prince Alexander I as commander-in-chief of the Bulgarian army

In front of the Sveti Kral Church in Sofia

Reception of His Highness Prince Alexander I after the victory over the Serbs, 1885.

The coup against Sandro


Regardless of the victory over the Serbs under the supreme command of Prince Alexander I, the enthusiasm with which the Bulgarian population had treated him, quickly faded. The Bulgarian army had to withdraw from Serbia, otherwise there would have been a war with Austria. Under pressure from the European powers, Bulgaria had to cede Eastern Rumelian territories to the Ottoman Empire and assume Eastern Rumelia's tribute payments to the Sublime Porte. Sandro was blamed for the fact that no territorial gains were made after the victory over the Serbs and that concessions were made to the Ottoman Empire.

Emperor Alexander III did not recognize Sandro as the Prince of a unified Bulgaria and continued to insist on him being overthrown. On the night of August 20-21, 1886, pro-Russian officers unexpectedly stormed the prince’s palace in Sofia, arrested Battenberg and took him out of the country. Due to poor planning and lack of popular support, the coup failed after a few days. Prime Minister Stambolov insisted that Alexander I returned to the throne. On August 30, 1886, after a ten-day odyssey, Sandro returned to Sofia as monarch. In a telegram he asked Alexander III for reconciliation. The emperor refused and did not support Sandro's restoration to the throne. His rejection was in the interest of Austria and Germany as well.

Sandro had opposed Russian dominance in Bulgaria. He had successfully defended Bulgaria against Serbia, thereby preventing an expansion of Austrian influence in the Balkans. For the German Reich, he had become a burden on German-Russian foreign relations. He could expect no support from France and Great Britain. Domestically, he was still threatened with political chaos. Sandro recognized his hopeless situation and abdicated on September 7, 1886 and left Bulgaria having earned the sympathy of the population.

Ferdinand of Sachsen-Coburg and Gotha became his successor as Prince Ferdinand I.

Dates in the tablе

August 20, 1886 ‒ The coup against Sandro and his abduction out of the country.

27 August 1886 ‒ Sandro and his brother Franz Josef in Austria (Lemberg).

August 30, 1886 - Enthusiastic welcome for Sandro upon his return to Sofia.

September 1, 1886 - The Russian emperor rejects the Bulgarian prince's last attempt at reconciliation.

September 7, 1886 - Prince Alexander I abdicated and left Bulgaria.

Texts to the pictures and paintings

Stefan Stambolov

Franz Joseph Prince von Battenberg, Sandro's brother

Joseph Kepler (1838-1894) - "The Triple Alliance, 1886, Austria, Russia, Germany kicks out the abdicated prince from Bulgaria", cartoon, "Puck" magazine, 1886.

Ferdinand I, Prince of Bulgaria

Life after Bulgaria

Withdrawal from politics

After his forced abdication in 1886, Sandro returned to Darmstadt. His cousin Grand Duke Ludwig IV provided him with an apartment in the Old Palace. In the Court Theatre of the Grand Duke, the audience welcomed the hero from Slivnitsa.

Sandro retired to Heiligenberg to rest. His future was unclear. In Darmstadt, he had met his future wife, the Austrian Johanna Loisinger, who was an opera singer - soprano at the Grand Duke's Theatre. A deep affection arose from an initially hesitant exchange of letters. In 1888 he became secretly engaged to Johanna, unbeknownst to his parents. His mother was strongly opposed to this unequal relationship. Julia von Battenberg knew from personal experience the humiliation a morganatic marriage could lead to. She had hoped that her son would marry Moretta (Princess Victoria of Prussia). After the secret of Sandro and Johanna's engagement was revealed, relations with his mother were severed. When he died tragically young, she was neither at his bedside nor at his funeral.

Dates in the tablе

September 10, 1886 ‒ Sandro's return to Darmstadt.

July 6, 1888 - Last request to Sandro to return to Bulgaria.

December 1888 ‒ Engagement to the singer Johanna Loisinger.

15 December 1888 ‒ Death of Sandro's father Alexander von Hessen and by Rhine.

Texts to the pictures and paintings

Sandro civilian

Johanna Loisinger

Johanna Loisinger in a theatre costume, circa 1880.

Johanna Loisinger in theatre costume, circa 1880.

Sandro as a civilian

The secret marriage

Count Von Hartenau

Sandro wanted to join the Austrian army. His wish was denied. The appointment of the former Bulgarian prince, who had fallen out of favour with the Russian emperor, would intensify the Austrian-Russian antagonism. On February 6, 1889, Sandro and the opera singer Johanna Loisinger were secretly married in Castellard, a small suburb of Menton, southern France. After the wedding, Alexander renounced the title Prince of Bulgaria, as well as his aristocratic name Prince Von Battenberg. With the consent of Grand Duke Ludwig IV in 1889, he adopted the surname Count Von Hartenau ‒ after an estate located near Heiligenberg. Having witnessed the fate of his parents, who also entered into a morganatic marriage, his intention must have been for his wife and children to bear the same names. Since the counts were not counted among the high aristocracy, by accepting to become Von Hartenau, this became possible. The name change was announced in Appendix 6 of the State Gazette of the Grand Duchy of Hesse on March 28, 1889. Sandro rejected Bulgaria's expressed desire to return as Prince. He wrote to Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm that he was glad that he no longer had anything to do with politics.

Dates in the tablе

11 January 1889 ‒ Sandro revoked his title of Prince Von Battenberg and assumed a new title ‒ Count Von Hartenau.

January 1889 - Sandro travelled to Vienna. A futile attempt to be accepted into the Austrian army.

6 February 1889 ‒ Sandro married Johanna Loisinger, page 72, annex no. 6 of the State Gazette of the Grand Duchy of Hesse of 28 March 1889.

Texts to the pictures and paintings

Marriage registration in Castellard, France 1889.

The Morning News, Savannah, February 26, 1889.

Le Figaro, March 5, 1889.

La Republique Francaise, March 6, 1889.

Düsseldorfer Volksblatt, March 14, 1889.

Düsseldorfer Volksblatt, March 22, 1889.

Moving to Austria

Graz - the new homeland

After the wedding, Sandro and Johanna went to Milan where they spent a few weeks. In August they moved to Graz where Alexander's father was once a garrison commander. Kaiser Franz-Joseph appointed von Battenberg as an honorary colonel of Graz while he was still a Bulgarian prince.

In Russia they were already aware that Sandro had no intention to return to Bulgaria. Austria was ready to appoint him to the army. In October 1890, by decree of the Kaiser he was given the military rank of colonel, much to his dismay. He later became a major general.

Alexander Count von Hartenau and his wife Johanna lived in Graz at 20 Leechgasse. Their stately home became the centre of public life.

On January 6, 1890, their son Asen was born, named after the Bulgarian kings of the 12th and 13th centuries. The Bulgarian state surprisingly started paying Sandro an annual allowance for his services.

On October 24, 1893, their daughter Tsvetana was born. By all accounts, Sandro could lead a cloudless life away from political events. At the end of 1893, however, he began to complain of stomach pains.

Dates in the tablе

February-March 1889 - Stay in Milan.

August 1889 - The couple moved to Graz.

January 16, 1890 ‒ The son Asen was born.

Texts to the pictures and paintings

October 1890 ‒ On Austrian military service.

October 24, 1893 - Daughter Tsvetana was born.

Registration in Graz, 1889.

Family Count Von Hartenau with their son Assen

Registration of Villa Hartenau in Graz on February 20, 1892.

Villa Hartenau, Leechgasse 20

Villa Hartenau, interior

Villa Hartenau, garden view

Villa Hartenau, chandelier

Unexpected demise

Death and transfer of mortal remains to Sofia

On November 17, 1893, Sandro died at the age of 36 from an intestinal disease. A few months before his death, he met with his sister Marie in Florence. He asked her, in case he died, to be buried in Sofia, if the Bulgarians accepted his remains. Marie fulfilled this wish and telegraphed it to the Bulgarian Prime Minister at the time, Stefan Stambolov, who immediately replied: "Bulgaria wants the Prince."

On November 26, 1893, Alexander's remains were transported by a special train to Sofia, where he was buried with state honours. In the beginning, the sarcophagus was placed in the church "St. George", and on January 15, 1897, he was ceremoniously moved to the mausoleum built for him.

After Sandro's death, his family moved to Vienna. The writer Petko Slaveykov, one of the founders of the Liberal Party, advocated in the National Assembly that Sandro's widow and his children receive lifelong financial support from the Bulgarian state.

Alexander von Battenberg's wife, the opera singer Johanna Countess von Hartenau, was involved in the development of musical life in Graz and Vienna, supported the Vienna Philharmonic, the Mozarteum in Salzburg and was briefly on the board of the Vienna Academic Mozart Society.

To this day, descendants of the Hartenau family live in Vienna.

Dates in the tablе

November 17, 1893 - Death of Alexander von Battenberg.

November 26, 1893 ‒ The transportation of Sandro's remains to Sofia.

Until 1897 - Sandro's sarcophagus in the Church of Saint George in Sofia.

January 15, 1897 - Transfer of the remains to the tomb-mausoleum built for Sandro.

For many years Countess Johanna von Hartenau contributed to the enrichment of musical life in Vienna.

July 20, 1951 ‒ Death of Countess Johanna von Hartenau.

Texts to the pictures and paintings

Sandro lying in state in Sofia

Front page of Sport & Salon Illustrierte magazine, 25.2.1911 Johanna with her daughter Tsvetana.

Sandro's children - Asen and Tsvetana, 1897.

Assen, 1900

Tsvetana, 1901

Tsvetana and Asen, 1910.

Tsvetana and Asen, 1910.

In conclusion

Life and destiny

In September 2007, at the initiative of the Jugenheim Association for the Development of Tourism of the municipality and its surroundings, a plaque made by Christiane von Kessel was placed at the entrance to Heiligenberg Castle. It reads that Prince Alexander von Battenberg spent his youth there. The opening ceremony of the memorial plaque was attended by the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Bulgaria in Germany and representatives of the German-Bulgarian Society from Darmstadt for Promotion of Relations and Friendship with Bulgaria. The importance of Prince Alexander von Battenberg in the Bulgarian history of the 19th century may not have been known to many of the German participants in the ceremony.

In Bulgaria, Sandro is closely connected with the construction of the foundations of the new state. Only 22 years old, he became the head of a country that had been under Ottoman rule for almost 500 years, which then fell under the dictate of Russia. As a representative of the aristocratic echelon of the officer corps, Von Battenberg was raised in a strict code of norms that demanded obedience. He selflessly tried to follow the instructions of St. Petersburg. At great personal risk and at the cost of being forced to abdicate, the prince then dared to oppose Russian interference in the government. With his support Bulgaria united and under his leadership the country victoriously repelled the military attack of Serbia. During the reign of Alexander I, the country also made progress in the fields of agriculture, technology, education and culture.

Sandro came from a small, elitist social stratum which, through appropriately arranged marriages, is connected to all the monarchies in Europe. His father was in Russian, Austrian and Hessen service. His marriage to Sandro’s mother, Countess Julia Hauke, was morganatic..

The children were born in France, Austria and Italy and grew up in a multilingual environment. The family is related to the ruling aristocratic families of Russia, Great Britain and Hessen. The fact that Sandro, despite his origin, developed a Bulgarian national consciousness, dared to oppose his cousin, the Russian Tsar, and eventually renounced his high noble title and entered into a morganatic marriage with a woman who did not have an aristocratic background, makes his personality and life so extraordinary.

Streets and squares in Bulgaria are named after Alexander von Battenberg.

His tomb in the centre of Sofia, built in the period 1895-1897 and designed by the architect Herman Mayer, was restored in 2005 and is managed by Sofia History Museum.

Alexander is the connection that led to the twinning of the cities of Seeheim-Jugenheim and Karlovo.

The installation of the memorial plaque in his honour at Heiligenberg Castle in Jugenheim is also the occasion to honour the historical importance of this impressive historic figure with an exhibition.

After his forced abdication, Prince Sandro must have struggled with his destiny. He dreamed of Bulgaria becoming a sovereign, European-oriented country.

“For him and his tragic fate, good was hardly near or far. But he fulfilled his duty as a pioneer in the East.”

Marie, Princess of Erbach-Schönberg. Memoirs 1852–1923

Texts to the pictures and paintings

Heiligenberg Castle in Jugenheim

The commemorative plaque at the entrance to Heiligenberg Castle

Memorial stone in Heiligenberg Castle for Sandro's horse Dušek

Alexander I School in Plovdiv today (courtesy of M. Schnitter and S. Shivachev, University of Plovdiv)

The former palace on Prince Alexander I, Battenberg Square, today the National Gallery

The tomb of Alexander von Battenberg in Sofia

The bronze plaque in the memorial chapel in the Kreuzgarten in Heiligenberg, Jugenheim

The European family tree

Alexander Joseph Prince von Battenberg

1st row from above

Princess Julia von Battenberg

Alexander Prince von Hesse und bei Rhein (1823-1888)

Marie von Hesse und by Rhein, Empress of Russia (1824-1880)

2nd middle row

The Battenberg family

The wife of the Russian Emperor Alexander II

3 row

Marie Caroline Princess von Battenberg, Princess zu Erbach-Schönberg

Ludwig Prince von Battenberg, from 1917 Louis Mountbatten

Alexander Joseph (Sandro) Prince von Battenberg, Prince of Bulgaria (1857 Verona – 1893 Graz)

Johanna Loisinger Countess von Hartenau (1865-1951)

Heinrich Moritz (Lico) Prince von Battenberg

Franz Joseph Prince von Battenberg (1861-1924)

4 imiddle row

The wife of Prince Gustav Ernst zu Erbach-Schönberg

Husband of Princess Victoria von Hesse und by Rhein

Husband of the British Princess Beatrice, son-in-law of Queen Victoria

Husband of Princess Anna von Montenegro

5 row

Alice von Battenberg, Princess of Greece (1885-1969)

Louise von Battenberg, Queen of Sweden (1889-1965)

Count von Hartenau

Victoria Eugenie (Ena) von Battenberg, Queen of Spain (1887-1969)

6 middle row

Wife of Prince Andreas of Greece

The wife of King Gustav VI Adolf of Sweden

Wife of King Alfonso XIII of Spain

7 row

Philip of Greece, Duke of Edinburgh (1921-2021)

Assen Count von Hartenau (1890-1965)

Tsvetana Countess von Hartenau (1893-1935)

8 row

Prince Philip Mountbatten, the husband of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II

The Notes of a Darmstadt Lady

A family chronicle from Bulgaria

After the proclamation of Alexander von Battenberg as Prince of Bulgaria, many of his fellow citizens from Hesse left for Sofia to build a new life there. Among them was Georg Johann Momberger with his daughter Elisabeth Strauch, who compiled an interesting family narrative for the period 1882 to 1898. Her granddaughter Heide Freemann, who now lives in Seeheim, kindly provided us with these notes for the exhibition.

Georg Johann Momberger

Born 12/31/1852 in Kelsterbach

Died 14.3.1912 in Darmstadt

At the age of 17, he took part as a volunteer in the campaign of 1870-1871. After his years as a rookie in Vienna and taking the master's exam, he started working as a plumber and fitter and opened a shop. On 9.7.1876, he married Anna Rockel in Darmstadt. In 1882, he abandoned the business and left for Sofia with many other inhabitants of Hessen after the inauguration of Alexander von Battenberg as Prince of Bulgaria. There he entered service as a machinist and was responsible for the lighting in the Prince’s palace. He stayed in Sofia for 18 years. At the time he left for Bulgaria, his son Georg was 5 years old and his daughter Elizabeth was 6 months old. There was also one deceased boy - Friedrich, between the two children. The following were born in Sofia: Paula, Eugen, Antoinette. (There was another deceased child – Karl.) In 1900 he returned to his homeland. He died on 14.3.1912 and was buried at the Waldfriedhof cemetery. The family survived the Serbo-Bulgarian war of 1885 in Sofia. When in 1886 Prince Alexander had to abdicate, the situation worsened and the situation became uncertain, the mother with the four children returned to Darmstadt.

When it became clear that the next Prince of Bulgaria would be Prince Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, George kept his place in the palace and called his family back to Sofia. Among the memorabilia of the events of that time are children's drawings, school certificates and relics stored in a box. I, Elizabeth Strauch, born Momberger, except for a four-month break, lived for 16 years in Sofia. I attended the Deutsche Schule until my confirmation in 1895. We studied written and spoken German, French and Bulgarian. For some time, I worked as a sworn translator from Bulgarian in Darmstadt.

By the way, in addition to various certificates and documents, I also translated the exam work of a Bulgarian student at the Higher Technical School. It is also in this box. The time of my stay in Bulgaria was from 1882 to 1898.

This is for my children and grandchildren.

Elizabeth Strauch, née Momberger.

Texts to the pictures and paintings

The Prince’s palace in Sofia

Georg Johann Momberger

Surname Momberger

The era of Battenberg in modern Bulgarian history education

Curriculum for 6th grade

The years before and during the reign of Alexander I, Prince of Bulgaria

The history curriculum in Bulgarian schools follows the following principles: The historical facts of individual eras are described with their economic, social and political characteristics, with a special emphasis on the spiritual and cultural achievements resulting from them, as well as on historical figures.

The time from the middle of the 19th century to about 1880.

Chronologically constructed descriptions examine the situation in Bulgaria, which at that time was part of the Ottoman Empire, and only from 1879, not least with the help of Alexander Prince von Battenberg, set off on the road to Europe, with many difficulties.

What are the important historical moments

In many regions and cities in the Bulgarian part of the Ottoman Empire, with population growth economy strengthened and led to the development of trade in the country and abroad:

  • - Wealthy merchant families created multilateral connections with foreign countries. Often their heirs studied in Russian or European universities, absorbing the progressive ideas of the time and caring about the independence and national liberation of Bulgaria.
  • - The awakening and strengthening of national awareness, which is reflected in the Bulgarian national revival, led to the construction of a modern school and educational system.
  • - The Bulgarian clergy demanded independency of the church. The Sultan gave consent to this demand with a Decree of 1870. Deacon Vasil Levski (1837-1873), called the Apostle of Freedom, played a special role at that time. He organized and mobilised the Bulgarian people in a rebellion against the Ottoman rule.
  • - The growing discontent of the Bulgarian population against the Ottoman oppression was also manifested in the broad support of the movement for freedom.
  • - The April Uprising in 1876 in Klisura, Batak, Plovdiv and Karlovo was suppressed with unprecedented cruelty, which caught the attention of the world. The brightest European writers and politicians sided with the peaceful Bulgarian population against the Ottoman Empire. The indignation and denial in Russia and Western Europe became the reason for the Russo-Turkish war.
  • - The resistance against the intervention of the great powers in the affairs of Bulgaria after its liberation grew in the following years and thus cleared the way for an independent Bulgarian policy.

The school of Alexander I in Plovdiv before and now

Today, October 20, 1885, the solemn consecration of the building of the State Alexander High School in Plovdiv was completed, in the presence of His Highness the Prince of North and South Bulgaria Alexander I, His Eminence Bishop Gervasius, the Minister of Justice V. Radoslavov, of Prince’s Commissioner Dr. Stranski, his Assistants P.P. Slaveykov and Gruev, the Chairman of the National Assembly Mr. Stambolov, many citizens and officers, the manager of the High School D. Agura and the entire teachers’ staff.

Entry in the honorary book of the Alexander I high school in Plovdiv, 1885.

The images are provided courtesy of the city archive of Plovdiv and with the support of Prof. Dr. Maria Schnitter and Dr. of Philological Sciences Samuil Shivachev from Plovdiv University "Paisii Hilendarski".

Texts to the pictures and paintings

Signed "Alexander", second line, upper right

Historical card ‒ view with the large school buildings, right, top

The interior of today's school

Old view of the "Alexander I" high school for boys in Plovdiv

The school's historic flag

The hall of today's school

The Battenberg era in modern Bulgarian history education

Sandro. An excerpt from a Bulgarian textbook.

Alexander I, Prince of Bulgaria, ruled from June 26, 1879 to August 26, 1886.

After the decisions of the Congress of Berlin and the election of the 22-year-old Prince Alexander von Battenberg as Prince of Bulgaria, his rule began, which, however, was not under a lucky star. His political views were conservative, contrary to the liberal provisions of the adopted constitution. The government appointed by Sandro with Prime Minister Todor Burmov logically consisted mainly of members of the conservative party. Politicians close to Dr. Konstantin Stoilov were also of the opinion that the young principality could be built and organized in a faster and more efficient manner if the monarch had greater constitutional rights, at the expense of those of the parliament.

On the other hand, the Liberal Party led by Petko Karavelov and Stefan Stambolov, insisted on limiting the rights of the prince and on supremacy of the parliament. The liberals managed to impose the “sacred and inviolable Tarnovo constitution”, and in 1880 they won the elections for the National Assembly.

After about a year, Sandro succeeded in overthrowing the liberal government. For a period of two years (1881-1883) the so-called proxy regime followed with Russia's support. However, this form of government met with resistance from the liberals as well as from some of the citizens, so Sandro was forced to withdraw his powers. In this way, democratic government was restored. In the 1884 elections, the Liberal Party won a majority. The Tarnovo constitution was restored.

The union of the Principality of Bulgaria with Eastern Rumelia in 1886 was a great success for Sandro, but at the same time a further step towards his final estrangement from the Russian emperor, who was convinced that Sandro was the real reason for the weakening of Russia's influence in Bulgaria. These deteriorating relations lead to major disagreements between the political forces in Bulgaria. On the one hand, there were the nationalists with the motto “Without Battenberg there is no Bulgaria”, and on the other - the pro-Russian politicians with the slogan “We cannot continue without Russia”.

During the organized coup d'état, Sandro was kidnapped by a group of officers and forced to leave Bulgaria. Stefan Stambolov arranged for the Prince's return to the country a few days later. In order to protect the state from internal and external shocks, Prince Alexander von Battenberg announced his abdication on August 26, 1886 and left Bulgaria forever.


Prince Alexander von Battenberg

This Exhibition

is courtesy of the Heiligenberg-Jugenheim Foundation

Showcased in Bulgaria by the Values Foundation

Antonina Stoyanova, Chair


Project Manager - Slava Ivanova

Expert, International Communications - Milena Dimitrova

Media Expert – Magdalena Gigova

Organizer - Rumyana Djorgova

Designer – Ivelina Velinova

Translation - Karamfila Bakalova

Translation - Sacha Livesey

With the financial support of Sofia Municipality

We thank

Heiligenberg-Jugenheim Foundation

Sofia Municipality

The Curators of the exhibition:

Dr. Sigrun Comati

Johnny Glover

Olaf Kühn

Prof. Karl Friedrich Listner

Vanessa Novak and Thomas Bröning

Design: Prof. Dr. Nicole Kruse

The institutions and persons who generously granted the right to reproduce materials:

Heirs of the Hartenau family estate

Paisii Hilendarski University of Plovdiv

University of Southampton

University and State Library, Darmstadt

Hessen State Archives, Darmstadt