st-wenceslaus-church

Stefan Habsburg-Lothringen & Leelanau's Bohemian Heritage

Over at the Traverse City Convention & Visitor’s Bureau, Mike Norton has an interesting feature titled Bohemian Rhapsody: A Fall Trip to Gill’s Pier that begins:

St. Wenceslaus ChurchHigh on a lofty ridge, about a half-hour’s drive from Traverse City, the cemetery of St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church may have one of the best views in Michigan – a wide vista of Lake Michigan and the distant Manitou Islands framed by lush orchards and vineyards.

But it’s a modest cemetery, and equally modest is the headstone beside the plain steps that lead up from the parking lot. Only the inscription is startling — at least to anyone even remotely familiar with world history:

Stefan Habsburg-Lothringen
Aug 15, 1932 – Nov 12, 1998
B. Archduke of Austria, Vienna Austria U.S. Citizen 1961

Technically, the full title should be “His Imperial and Royal Highness Archduke and Prince Stefan of Austria; Prince Stefan of Hungary, Bohemia, and Tuscany.” Scion of an ancient and powerful family whose empire included more than half of Europe — and for a brief time even Mexico – until it was dissolved in 1918. A man who lived almost his entire life in exile (including five years in Transylvania as a resident of Castle Bran, the one built by Count Dracula) and finally found rest here on Michigan’s scenic Leelanau Peninsula, beside a church dedicated to a saint who was himself a Duke of Bohemia.

Prince Stefan’s fate is only the most dramatic chapter in a little-known saga: the story of Traverse City’s Bohemians. Beginning in the middle of the 19th century, these industrious Central European immigrants (not the garret-dwelling artists celebrated in Puccini’s La Boheme, but inhabitants of what’s now the Czech Republic) helped turn this region from a raw lumber settlement into the thriving resort area it is today…

Read the rest of the article for more about Leelanau & Traverse City’s Bohemian heritage and learn more about at Archduke Stefan of Austria on Wikipedia (including the fact that he established a division for advanced research at General Motors in Detroit).

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