Sunday, July 10, 2016

Uncovering Uniontown Part 1: A Princess In Uniontown


   This post is Part One of a planned series on Uniontown, the county seat of Fayette County, Pennsylvania. 

   Instead of accessing and addressing the large volume of information and much of the routine, though meaningful material tirelessly researched, and then adding my own insights on various aspects of the old city, we will be examining what I feel are the more fascinating historical subjects in reasonably sized installments. Hopefully this will be appropriate in avoiding overly large articles with many chunks of data stretching endlessly to the bottom of the page and help hold the visitor's interest more easily.

   A Princess In Uniontown, really?

   Yes, indeed there was... once upon a time.

   Read on for this exciting true story:

   Princess Lida of Thurn and Taxis, as she became known, was not born a princess. Her life spanned the years 1875-1965. She was an American heiress and socialite and was later considered a bit on the controversial side, especially when it came to lawsuits and the actions as well as some of the personal dealings of her sons.

   Her husband was Prince Victor, 1976-1928, whom she married on November 1, or as some accounts have it, on Nov. 2nd in the year 1911. (These facts are verified partly according to the New York Times, Feb. 16, 1914 and other articles).

    Through her first marriage she became Mrs. Gerald Fitzgerald, but her birth name was Lida Eleanor Nichols of Uniontown, in Fayette County, Pennsylvania. Her first husband was Gerald Percival Fitzgerald of Ireland whom she met in 1899. When he moved to Fayette County he set up the small town of Shamrock, near New Salem in Menallen Township. They later divorced in 1906 with Lida receiving a large alimony settlement from Parliament to make the arrangements of the final separation legal.  In her rather humbler beginnings, this lady was the daughter of a grocer, John Nichols, and his wife Lenora.

     Lida Eleanor Nichols, later to become the illustrious Princess Lida, was the niece of Joseph V. Thompson, a big banker and coal operator of his time.

     Her second husband's full name was, according to the new princess, 'Victor Theodore Maximilian Egon Maria Lamoral.'  This was the identifying name she showed proof of in court when she went to London to sue Josephine Moffat, a New York showgirl pretending to royalty as "Her Royal Highness Josephine", who wrongly claimed the title of Princess of Thurn and Taxis. These kinds of happenings were great fodder in the heady days of the early twentieth century, and all the more so since this woman was a phony, pure and simple, losing the injunction to the real Princess with a penalty of $500.


    The region of Thurn and Taxis actually has a board game named after it! The princely coat of arms shows two red dragons and two castles; this certainly makes plenty of sense in representing two cities; it also show an animal, possibly a badger, in the middle. Sorry, no armorial lingo is being included here.

   Some Historical Background on Thurn and Taxis

     The capital of the district was the once Imperial city Regensberg of Bavaria, once a sovereign principality before 1806 and losing its noble status after the fall of the German Empire in 1918. They were also Knights of the Order of the Golden Fleece, a Catholic order of chivalry founded in 1430. The order still exists in two branches, Spanish and Austrian. It appears the historic style of the title for the prince is "His Serene Highness." Quite impressive. Would this mean Lida's title was "Her Serene Highness"?

   Except for a minimal amount of time for the most part, she moved to the Austrian Republic to be with her husband in Europe and only returned for a while when Prince Victor became an officer of the Austro-Hungarian Army at the start of World War One and headed back to Europe by 1920. Following the death of Prince Victor in Vienna, she spent her time alternating between her residences in New York City, Uniontown and in Europe.


   While residing in Uniontown her home, shown above, was at the corner of South Mount Vernon Avenue and West Main Street. She died in New York at the age of 90 on December 6, 1965. Most of her art, antiques and valuables were sold at auction in 1966.

    I'll be back soon with another post on our amazing, and sometimes, illustrious history.

1 comment:

  1. Hi--I am trying to find images of Lida Eleanor Niccolls and her home in Uniontown. Do you know where I might find any? Thanks, Jane Ammeson


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