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News from a wargamer with a special interest in the military history of the Balkans. It mainly covers my current reading and wargaming projects. For more detail you can visit the web sites I edit - Balkan Military History and Glasgow & District Wargaming Society. Or follow me on Twitter @Balkan_Dave
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Friday 20 September 2019

Prince Lajos Windischgraetz

Prince Lajos Windischgraetz was a Hungarian magnate who witnessed many of the great events in the Habsburg Monarchy before and during the First World War and the early years of the inter-war Hungarian state. His memoirs offer a fascinating first-hand account of his involvement in those events.

He was born in 1882, in the Polish city of Cracow, which was then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. His father was Inspector-General of the army and his grandfather played a key role in the 1848 revolution. Unsurprisingly, the young Prince studied at the Military Academy at Vienna and was commissioned into the artillery. His description of the multi-race and language unit he was assigned to gives a clear impression of the challenges the army faced.

He was attached to the army's official observer at the Russo-Japanese War and en-route met the infamous Chinese Empress Dowager. He managed to get attached to a Russian cavalry corps and was 'captured' by the Japanese after Mukden. He was presented to the Mikado on the way home as well as President Roosevelt in the USA and then Edward VII at Windsor. At this stage I had to check that this was not fiction!

Back home in 1906, he transferred to the 16th Hussars, and by a quirk of the legislation, was also able to be a Deputy in the Hungarian Parliament. He championed army reform and describes the efforts to modernise the army prior to WW1.

My 28mm Austro-Hungarian Hussars
His honeymoon involved a safari in the Sudan where he met Slatin Pasha and Winston Churchill. On his return to duty, as you do, he did a bit of spying in Serbia. Then he was attached to the Bulgarian army in the Balkan Wars, operating in the Maritza Valley.

During WW1 he was a staff officer, serving in the Serbian and Galician campaigns. Later he did a bit more undercover work in Romania, prior to that campaign. He met Mustapha Kemal at Gallipoli and then was off to Dalmatia to liaise with Achmed Bey Zog, who was subsequently to become King of Albania. As the war drew to a conclusion he was the Hungarian Minister of Food and he describes to collapse of the dual monarchy in 1918.

All of that is just Part One of his memoirs, and frankly the best part. In Part 2 he largely covers his involvement in the forgery of French Francs by the new Hungarian state, for which he was imprisoned, albeit a very comfortable prison regime!

The final part jumps to WW2, during which he had some vague role in Hungarian affairs. He was present in Budapest when the Germans arrived to beef up the defences against the advancing Russians.

After the war he worked for the Argentine Government and when that contract collapsed he worked as a labourer in the Buenos Aires docks, aged 66. That was his final adventure before returning to his daughter's home in Geneva. Although he worked as a consultant to the French steel industry in the 1950's and then retired to Vienna when his wife managed to leave Hungary. He completed his memoirs in 1962.

You would have to say he lived an eventful life! The translation into English condenses his three volume memoirs into one, and I suspect they are all the better for that. You do need a bit of knowledge of the historical events to plug the gaps, but it is still a very good read.


  1. You know, they should've worked this guy into the movie "The Grand Budapest Hotel." I'm going to have to get a copy.

    1. As they say, history is often more interesting than fiction. You can pick up a copy second hand quite cheaply.

    2. As they say, history is often more interesting than fiction. You can pick up a copy second hand quite cheaply.

  2. My father was on the ship that took Lajos Windischgraetz to Buenos Aires in 1947(my father stayed, and eventually passed away there, but Prince Windischgraetz returned to Vienna several years later. According to my father, Prince Windischgraetz berated my father for getting drunk on the ship w/a young lass, saying, "a gentleman never does that."

    1. Nice one! Given the prince's life story, I am not sure he was in a position to lecture others!