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The telegram Alexander sent to his cousin - Tsar Alexander III (1845-1894) cost Alexander his Crown.  The Tsar could not believe his good fortune, Alexander had given him what he had wanted for years. The Tsar acted quickly and published Alexander's telegram and his reply - "I have received Your Highness's telegram.  I cannot countenance your return to Bulgaria as I foresee the disastrous results it entails for that sorely tried country"  which of course sealed Alexander's fate.  On 3rd September 1886, Alexander confirmed his abdication and left Bulgaria forever on 8th September and headed to Darmstadt. Following his abdication he claimed the title of Prince of Tornovo.  He retired from public life but the Great Powers found it difficult to find an independent successor and for the next two years a series of delegations asked Alexander to return to Bulgaria - which he refused.  During this time Alexander was subjected to a 'smear campaign of lies' about his private life, even suggesting that he remained unmarried due to having a venereal disease.  


Upon his return to Darmstadt, at a performance of the opera "Der Waffenschmied" (given in his honour) he was given a rousing welcome and at hailed the 'hero of Slivnica'.  It was at this performance that he met a young Hungarian born actress and soprano opera singer - Johanna Marie Louise Loisinger (1865-1951), the daughter of Johann Loisinger (d.1887), the secretary to an Austro-Hungarian General, and fell in love.  Johanna was born in Pressburg (today known as Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia) where she studied music, and moved to Prague in 1883 where she performed at concerts to great success.  She soon took on roles in operas and in 1885 she made her official debut in Leipzig, Germany, before moving to the  Darmstadt Court Theatre.  Despite being still technically 'promised' to Princess Viktoria of Prussia (1866-1929), the second daughter of Kasier Frederick III of Germany (1831-1888) and Empress Victoria, The Princess Royal (1840-1901), the eldest child of Queen Victoria (1819(1837-1901) a secret romance flourished.  Eventually - after a great deal of political and diplomatic discussion and several arguments within the family, Alexander became free to marry whoever he wished.  

Alexander's wife - Johanna Loisinger,  The Countess VON Hartenau

Johanna, Countess VON Hartenau


The tiara worn by
Johanna, Countess
VON Hartenau
in the photograph above was sold
in auction by Sotheby's
in November 2021
for 113,400 CHF Francs (nearly £91,000)


Alexander's arms as Count VON Hartenau ​

The Arms of Alexander
as Count 
VON Hartenau


Following the death of his father in December 1888, Alexander secretly persuaded his cousin - Grand Duke Louis IV of Hesse & By the Rhine (1837-1892) to grant him a title and on 11th January 1889, he created Alexander - Count VON Hartenau. Alexander and Johanna made plans to elope - she gave up the theatre and left for Mentone, on the French Riviera and Alexander headed to Venice and subsequently moved into the same hotel where she was residing. They pretended not to know each other and met in secret to reduce the chance of further scandal.  On 6th February 1889, Alexander married Johanna privately in Mentone and the happy couple lived in Milan, Italy.  Ironically his mother - Julia, The Princess of Battenberg (who herself was deemed an unsatisfactory suitor to a Prince) refused to accept the marriage of her son to an actress.  Despite the scandal, in October 1890, he was appointed a Second Colonel in the Austro-Hungarian Army (and soon became a Major-General) and was stationed in Graz, Austria - where his parents had once lived.

Alexander and Johanna had 2 children

  • Assène Louis Alexander, 2nd Count VON Hartenau (1890-1965).  He studied Law at the University of Graz and joined the Diplomatic Service and was a representative of Austria at the Reparation Commission 1922-1928 in Paris, established following World War I at the Treaty of Versailles.  In 1934, he married in Vienna - Bertha VON Riedenau (née Hussa) (1892-1971) and adopted her son from her first marriage in 1939.  He died in Vienna, Austria.

  • Dr Wilhelm Hartenau (formerly Polaczek) (1915-1991).  In 1941, he married in Vienna - Baroness Maria 'Marillis' VON Wisenberg (1919-d.?) and had issue -


  • Alexander Assène Franz Hartenau (1942-2014)​.  He died in Vienna, Austria

  • Elizabeth Franziska Maria Hartenau (b.1945)​

  • Franziska Vera Maria Hartenau (b.1948)

  • Countess (Marie Therese Vera) Zwetana VON Hartenau (1893-1935). In 1924, she married in New York, USA - Charles Boissevain (1893-1946). The marriage was dissolved in 1927.  She died without issue in Bavaria.

1893 Zwetana.jpg

ABOVE: (left to right) Countess Zwetana VON Hartenau; Johanna, Countess VON Hartenau;
Assène, 2nd Count VON Hartenau


In the Sobranje (the Bulgarian State Assembly) in December 1891, the Assembly's President made a speech suggesting that a State Pension of £2,000 a year for Alexander, which was met with wild applause and unanimous agreement.  The pension had been instigated by Prince (later King) Ferdinand I of Bulgaria, formerly Prince Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg & Gotha (1861-1948), who was a first cousin to Queen Victoria (1819(1837-1901) and who had been offered the Princely Throne of Bulgaria in July 1887, became King (Tsar) in 1908 and later abdicated in 1918.   Even five years after his abdication, Alexander was still considered with high regard by the people of Bulgaria, but Alexander had made it clear that as a serving Austrian officer, he was unable to accept any allowance from the country he formerly ruled over.  However, it was reported in 1891 that Alexander was discovered by his wife in the company of a lady, who was a former mistress of King Milan I of Serbia (1854-1901) and that Alexander had tried to commit suicide in an effort to seek reconciliation with his wife Johanna.  Alexander was subsequently nursed back to health by Johanna and they were eventually fully reconciled. 

In November 1893, Alexander became ill with appendicitis. He became delirious and in severe pain and died of peritonitis on 17th November 1893, aged 36yrs at Graz, Austria.  He had made it clear that he wished to be buried in Sofia, Bulgaria and within days of his sudden death, the Bulgarian Government started to make plans for a State Funeral - he was "their beloved first Prince" and was revered in death much more than he was alive.  His two children were granted an annual State Pension of 50,000 Lev.  Initially Alexander's coffin was laid in the Church of St George in Sofia, but his remains were removed to a specially designed mausoleum with full State honours on 3rd January 1898.  The ceremony was attended by his widow - Johanna and leading the official tributes was Prince (later King) Ferdinand I, The Prince of Bulgaria, formerly Prince Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg & Gotha (1861-1948).  At the funeral, Prince Ferdinand said - "As the Ruler of Bulgaria and Chief of the Bulgarian Army, I receive the remains of the first Prince of Bulgaria, and entrust them to this soil, which he defended and protected to bravely.  May his self-denial and energy be a holy example for us.  I promise in the name of the Bulgarian nation that his memory will be sacred to us for ever."  Alexander's body was buried under the floor slab with a symbolic sarcophagus of polished Carara marble above. The mausoleum was open to the public until 1946, when it was closed.  In the 1980s it was restored and opened once again to visitors in 1991. 

The Battenberg Mausoleum, Sofia, Bulgaria
The sarcophagus within the Battenberg Mausoleum above Alexander's final resting place

ABOVE: The sarcophagus of
Alexander, Count 
VON Hartenau,
formerly The Prince of Bulgaria

LEFT: The Battenberg Mausoleum,
Sofia, Bulgaria,
- the final resting place of
Alexander, Count 
VON Hartenau
formerly The Prince of Bulgaria


The grave of Johanna, Countess VON Hartenau and their daughter Zwetana in Graz, Austria ​

The joint grave of Johanna, Countess VON Hartenau
and their daughter Zwetana,
at St Leonhard's Cemetery, Graz, Austria


After Alexander's death, Johanna (who also received a pension from the Bulgarian Government) moved to Vienna and was active in Viennese musical life and was involved in the building of the Academy Mozarteum in Mozart’s birthplace, Salzburg, Austria and served as President of the Vienna Mozart Society, the Vienna Concert Association, and the Vienna Symphony Orchestra.  She became known as an accomplished pianist and worked with the composers Anton Bruckner (1824-1896) and Gustav Mahler (1860-1911).   Johanna died on 20th July 1951, aged 86yrs. She was buried at St Leonhard's Cemetery in Graz, Austria, where Zwetana - their only daughter was buried.   

Johanna, Countess VON Hartenau in later life ​

Johanna, Countess VON Hartenau in later life

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