What’s a one-time resident of a Transylvania castle and Austrian archduke doing buried in a small Michigan Cemetery? He is resting eternally next to his wife Mary in the St. Wenceslaus Cemetery, about a half-hour’s drive from Traverse City. Imperial Archduke Stefan of Austria, Prince of Tuscany was a member of the House of Habsburg , which once ruled Europe through its kings, princes, and Holy Roman Emperors. But war, exile, and the appeal of a General Motors career brought him to Michigan.
Born in 1932 outside of Vienna, Austria, Archduke Stefan Habsburg-Lothringen was the eldest son of Archduke Anton of Austria and his wife Princess Ileana of Romania. Stefan’s father served as a pilot for Nazi-Germany, which would seem to make the son’s decision to become a U.S. citizen a curious event. After leaving the military, Anton brought his family to his wife’s homeland of Romania. Princess Ileana had every bit as much royal lineage has her husband, being the great granddaughter of Queen Victoria and Tsar Alexander II.
In Romania, the family lived for a time in Bran Castle, known to the world as “Dracula’s Castle.” The family’s stay in Romania was short-lived; Communists took over the country and threatened to throw the family out of the country or imprison them. In 1947, they fled to Switzerland and later to Argentina. Eventually, they took refuge in the United States.
Thus, young Archduke Stefan grew up outside of his ancestral homelands. He became a student of Malvern Preparatory School of Pennsylvania and, upon reaching adulthood, chose to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He adopted the name Stefan Habsburg and settled into a career with General Motors, which brought him to Michigan and its considerable Bohemian community.
At some point, he met and married Mary Jerrine Soper, and they went on to have five children. His marriage appears to have prevented him from conferring any titles or royal privileges to his offspring. According to the research, the family led a quiet life in Michigan, far from the upheaval he experienced growing up in postwar Europe. While at General Motors, he developed an advanced research division.
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Archduke Stefan died in 1998. You can visit his gravesite in Leeland County Michigan at the small cemetery where he and his wife are buried. Much of his family continues to reside in Michigan today. Of course, Archduke Stefan was not the only royal to choose an American life. Lord Frederick Windsor works as a financial analyst in Los Angeles. Prince Dmitri of the former state of Yugoslavia fled war to settle in New York City as a jeweler, and Prince Yoel of Ethiopia married an American and settled in Washington DC. If you’re interested in further reading about the Hapsburg Dynasty—its intrigues, inbreeding, and immigration stories—check out these sources outlined by The Guardian.