what unites Braunfels and Finland
Ebba Charlotta Louisa Lavonius was born in 1850 in Helsinki. As a child she caused a stir. She was gifted, smart – and pretty. Her eyes were unforgettably blue.
She spent her childhood in Northern Finland Oulu, the capital of the largest county of the then Russian Grand Duchy of Finland. Her father Alexander Lavonius was initially Russian main consul in the Swedish capital Stockholm and then became governor of that province Oulu. Her mother Rosina (nee Hartmann) also came from a respected family.
By a twist of fate Ebba came to Wiesbaden in spring of 1889, where Prince Albrecht of Solms-Braunfels was staying at that time. One glance at the steps of a local spa hotel, and it had happened to both. The marriage took place in the autumn of the same year. From what we know, it was a real love match between these two mature people. The honeymoon led the two to sunny Italy, where the mother of Prince owned a villa.
However, the situation for the couple changed soon, as Albrechts older brother, Prince George, suddenly died in 1891. Since his son Georg Friedrich was just born, Prince Albrecht had to assume the task to manage the Braunfels property as a trustee. Albrecht was dedicated to this task until his death in 1901. During that time Braunfels evolved into a health resort and also for the Solms country it was a successful decade.
But Ebba and Albrecht still had another destination. In 1899 the Russian Tsar and Grand Duke of Finland, Nicholas II., under pressure of the Pan-Slavism (the Russian-imperialistic movement) published the so-called “February Manifesto”, which largely restricted the rights of the formerly autonomous Finland. These rights had been reaffirmed without exception by all former regents since the connection of Finland to Russia in 1809.
The storm of protest in the country and the international outrage was fierce. In that situation Ebba exerted influence for the benefit of her country and quickly won favor for her goals among many European leaders and regents – especially with Kaiser Wilhelm II.
Also the other side noticed that. In the Russian press the “german Princess” was violently attaced; they took revenge on her relatives in Finland with expulsions and terror.
Nevertheless Ebbas diplomatic efforts flanked Finnish independence movement and probably promoted the happy end for Finland: After a general strike the Tsar took back some of the most drastic restrictions in 1905. Later, after the Russian Revolution of February in 1917, Ebbas fatherland gained the full independence.
After Albrecht’s death Ebba lived in Germany and Sweden for some time and also in Finland. But more and more she liked it to be in Italy, especially in Rome, where she converted to Catholicism. The First World War meant a personal tragedy also for her, and after Italy and Germany had become enemies Ebbas home in Rome was confiscated with all furniture and she never got it back. In 1922 the princess returned, after several years of residence in Sweden, to Rome. This time for ever.
Ebba lived modestly, surrounded by some true friends and relatives. She was a regular and honored guest at receptions and festivities in the embassy of the again independent Finland. Whenever possible she tried to get in touch with the north.
On the last day in June of 1927 Ebba died at the age of 77 years in Frascati near Rome. She is entombed in the family tomb in the church of Altenberg beside her husband Albrecht.
In the » Castle Church the beautiful middle window reminds us of Princess Ebba, she donated it in 1904.