Last week my wife and I were saddened by the news of the death of Queen Elizabeth II in the UK. Since the news broke, we’ve watched coverage of all the state events happening in the UK on the BBC. It is certainly a monumental moment in world history that occurred over 70 years ago.
There aren’t many people who personally remember when the queen became monarch, so that’s a big deal. Reflecting on our feelings made me wonder why this is something I, an American, would be concerned about. I never met her, no one in her family or I ever crossed the pond to her country. Only a very small part of my family tree goes back to England, having moved there about 280 years or more ago. However, his disappearance still inspires us with sorrow.
For me personally, it is the loss of a person who has lived through so many stories. It has witnessed the depressions of the 1930s, World War II, the prosperity of the 1950s, the social revolutions of the 1960s, the challenges of the 1970s and 1980s, the technological changes of the 1990s and 2000s and, finally, of a global pandemic. She has met world leaders, popes and presidents during her 70 years on the throne. She was truly a larger than life personality and it seemed the 96-year-old would always be around to play a part in world events in eternity, adding to her experience, knowledge and influence. Unfortunately, that’s not the human condition. Every beginning has an end, and its story is now coming to an end.
I have tried in every way to connect Queen Elizabeth to our area. I can’t say I managed to find one, although I’m sure someone somewhere has one. Granted, the Queen has never visited Weirton or Steubenville, but we have a few royal connections throughout our history that are worth mentioning.
The most recent connections are due to the Franciscan University of Steubenville, of which Princess Alexandra of Luxembourg and her younger brother, Prince Sébastien of Luxembourg, are alumni. These siblings are sixth and seventh in line to the Luxembourg throne.
Going back a little further in the past, another link with royalty in our region occurred with the marriage of Rainier III, Prince of Monaco, and Grace Kelly. Carolyn Shaffer, of Steubenville, served as one of Kelly’s bridesmaids. Carolyn worked at the Hub and my grandmother, Lois Carpini, worked with her in children’s services just after World War II. She remembers Carolyn being very nice and having a few conversations together. At Steubenville’s 150th anniversary in 1947, Carolyn was crowned queen of the festivities.
According to an article written in the Herald-Star in 2019, in November 1947 she moved to New York, settling in the Barbizon Hotel and became a Ford model, and it was there that she met Grace Kelly. They have become close friends. When Kelly was going to marry Prince Rainier, Carolyn was included in the wedding party. Carolyn’s daughter, Nyna Giles, wrote a book called “The Bridesmaid’s Daughter” which explores his relationship with his mother and his subsequent mental health issues. The book debuted in 2018 and is definitely worth reading.
Another royal connection from our region dates back to the 1880s, when a native of Steubenville became a fixture in the court of King Karl of Württemberg. Richard Manse Jackson was born near East Springfield in 1846. His father is said to have been the cousin of Confederate General Thomas Stonewall Jackson, and is reported to have died just as his son was born. When he was 12 years old, in 1858, his family moved to Steubenville.
Jackson was a very gifted musician and taught at Reverend Charles Beatty’s women’s seminary. According to historian Joseph Doyle in his 1910 work on the history of Steubenville and Jefferson County, Jackson was a regular pianist and organist at St. Paul’s and Hamline churches in Steubenville. In 1873, he was encouraged to travel to Europe to continue his studies. He traveled with other Steubenville musicians and artists, including singer and later opera star, William MacDonald, singer Miss Lizzie Brosi, and well-known Steubenville entertainer, Eliphalet Andrews.
Jackson was to study at the Stuttgart Conservatory of Music in Germany, but he permanently injured his arm and was forced to give up music. To make ends meet, Jackson was hired in 1876 as assistant to the American consul in Stuttgart and it was there that he met King Karl I of Württemberg in a public park.
King Karl took an interest in this American from Ohio and named him Reader to the King, which, according to an article in the Detroit Free Press in November 1888, meant that he became “the king’s companion, the one he can meet in ordinary human relations without formalities, just as he cannot, of course, meet the nobility. Yet no hint of subservience attaches to the “reader”, nor is he expected to treat the king with the slightest degree of obsequiousness. It is a place of great trust and honor.
Due to his high place in the king’s court, Jackson received the title of Baron Von Jackson once he renounced his American citizenship. Baron Von Jackson became a Privy Councilor to Her Majesty and received gifts including rare paintings and a large income. Due to his position, he had audiences with major European kingdoms and personalities, including the Kings of Holland and Saxony, the Emperor of Austria, the Tsar of Russia, and Pope Leo XIII. He fell in love with the king’s niece, Grand Duchess Vera Konstantinovna of Russia, first cousin of Tsar Alexander III of Russia, but her position in the king’s court was too low to marry a grand duchess.
Due to Jackson’s position in the king’s court, rumors surfaced accusing King Karl of having an intimate relationship with Jackson. In any case, there was a good dose of mistrust around Jackson since he was American and had the ear of the king. Despite the scandals, Jackson held on and retained his position on the court.
In 1891, King Karl died, but he offered a pension to his friend. A few years later, Baron von Jackson left Württemberg and Europe and returned to Steubenville for a time, eventually moving with a sister to Ohio. His story ends as quietly as it began.
So our region has some ties to royalty. They may not be as well known as the late Queen Elizabeth, but they still play a noble and important role in our history.