Countess Michael Karolyi (1892-1985), née Countess Katalin Andrássy de Csik-Szent-Király et Kraszna-Horka, an aristocrat of the most blue-blooded strain in the world, was once considered the most beautiful woman in Hungary. She was the step-daughter of Count Julius Andrassy, last Foreign Minister of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and in her later years Hungarian political figure, salonniere, and memoirist.
Her life since the WWI had enough thrills and romantic adventures to furnish material for a dozen novels. Living as the first lady of the land one day and reduced to pawning her last necklace the next; trailed across Europe by a monarchist spy and living in constant fear that she and her famous husband would be assassinated; smugling gems across the Hungarian border so that she would not starve to death (she had one pearl necklace, and to get it out of the country, she had to swim across Danube with it and bury it in the sand, sending a friend to get it later); taking a turn at running a motor boat for tourist parties and learning to be a chauffeur so that she might earn her own living - these are a few facts that had marked her life since WWI ended in 1918.
On 7 November 1914 in Budapest, Countess Katalin Andrássy married Count Michael Karolyi (1875-1955), nearly 20 years her senior, who was from one of the oldest families in Hungary, with a pedigree reaching back over 900 years.
His uncle, Count Alexander, held the family estate, estimated at over $30,000.000, in entail, second only to that of the Prince Esterhazy. When he died the entail devolved to young Count Michael, who, in his youth, had been quite a wastrel.
From his adolescence he was known for a recklessness verging almost on madness. His stunts on horseback and at the motorwheel were the talk of a society where physical prowess is taken for granted. And his feats as a gambler attracted notice in millieu where 48-hour baccarat or poler battles with "pots" running into a quarter million dollars were not infrequent.
As Count Michael grew older, he became determined to devote himself to more serious pursuits.
Being still in his 20s, he advanced from comfortable and irresponsible state of a junior member of his clan to a position of unique splendour and responsibility as the second temporal peer of the Magyar realm. And who, a few years later, threw away his inhereted career and fortune.
In 1910, Károlyi was elected to Parliament. After the Aster Revolution of October 1918, Károlyi found himself much to his surprise leading the nation, and in March 1919, he already resigned and retired from active politics.
In July 1919, Károlyi went into exile in Czecho-Slovakia, then to Austria, and on to Italy, from where he was forced to go to Yugo-Slavia. The Budapest Supreme Court confiscated his lands, finding him guilty of high treason. He was fortunate -- his wife came from the same aristocratic milieu and shared his ideas and displayed at all times unquenchable courage.
By early 1920s, the Karolyi lived in their own villa in Deauville, France.
Throughout the Horthy era, Károlyi was in a state of official disgrace in his homeland.
In 1946, the Károlyis returned to Hungary, where some of Countess Karolyi's family property was restored to her; Michael Karolyi by that time had become a socialist, and from 1947-49 served as the Hungarian Ambassador to France. In 1949, he resigned in protest over the show trial and execution of László Rajk, Hungarian Communist.
Since then the family resided in Vence, near Antibes in the south of France.
Michael Karolyi died in 1955 in Vence, France. The countess survived her husband for 30 years and published her memoirs A Life Together (1966). She died aged ninety-three.
ITALY CAN'T FIND HAVEN FOR KAROLYIS;March 11, 1921, NY times
All Consuls Reject the Hungarian Family Expelled by Giolitti's Order.
All Consuls Reject the Hungarian Family Expelled by Giolitti's Order.
MILAN, March 10.--In pursuance of a peremptory Giollitian decree for expulsion from Italy, Count Karolyi, former President of the Hungarian Republic, has been arrested at Fiesole, together with his household. Since their arrival in November the Countess Stefania Turr, daughter of the famous Hungarian General who joined Garibaldi's army staff, has carried on a journalistic campain against Karolyi, whose loudly trumpeted sacrifice of his lands in favor of the peasantry is alleged to have been a fraud which enabled him to pocket 6 thousand pounds, whereas his estates were mortgaged well nigh to their total value. Then during the last five weeks Karolyi and still more so his beautiful and talented consort, Countess Catherine, has been publicly accused of Bolshevist propaganda and are suspected of having distributed lavish funds to the Florentine insurgents. On the very eve of the recent rising they quitted the city and entered into possession of a lovely villa in the above named suburb leased to them by the notorious Communist Councilor Dr. Gino Frascani. Notwithstanding Karolyi's wail about his straitened circomstances, the police search disclosed about $5,000 in cash, $40,000 worth of jewelry, also a mysterious pile of envelopes, each containing a 100-franc note.
Karolyi, who pleaded he had come to Italy in quest of a job, and his private secretary, Dr. Fazechas, who is said to have been Bela Kun's confidential agent, were both placed in irons. After a preliminary fit of sobbing, Countess Karolyi comforted herself with cigarettes. She and a Socialist governess in company with three children were gently driven forth from their paradise of pleasure by flaming uniformed Carabinieri and deposited in a separate wagon for conveyance to Police Headquartters.
But whither this sorry septet is to be sent is still in doubt. Every foreign Consul applied to has bluntly refused to visé their passports in their dilemma. The Italian authorities are conducting the whole party provisionally to Tarvis, as they must be got rid of somehow. IT is thought they may have to be dropped down over the Czeckoslovak frontier by airplane.
ROME, March 19.--Count Michael Karrolyyi, former President of the Hungarian National Council, who was recently expelled to Austria by the Italian authorities because of his connection with communists, was suddenly returned to the Italian police office in Tarvis, near the Italo-
austrian frontier, today by four Austrian gendarmes with the statement that the Austrian Goverment refused to allow him to reside in Austria.
Count Karolui asked to be sent to Czeckoslovakia, but the latter country has also declined to receive him. He then asked to be sent to Fiume or Switzerland, but the authorities declared Fiume to be out of question.
Time Magazine (Nov.3, 1924)
Countess Michael Karolyi, known in Hungary as "Red Catherine," arrived in Manhattan on the George Washington "to recoup her lost fortune" by giving lectures at $250 apiece on Hungarian affairs before and after the War.
The Countess and her husband were responsible for the establishment of the Hungarian Republic in 1918. Next year, so their enemies averred, they "sold the country to the Bolsheviki." Hence S. Stan wood Menken, President of the National Security League, was up in arms to prevent the landing in the U. S. of "Red Catherine." Said he :
"According to reports I received at first hand in Budapest last summer, the Countess is regarded as the most valuable ally the Bolsheviki have in Central Europe, because of her charming personality, her beauty and her ability as an actress to present in varying tones her cause and to make appeal to fashionable audiences. Her husband's record is history and there is no denial that she has been his constant ally..."
To the charge that she was a Bolshevik, the Countess retorted : "This is quite ridiculous. My husband and I are Socialists, but that does not mean that we are Communists."
"I am coming here to lecture for three months at the invitation of a committee of American women, and my subjects will be Hungary and European Peace, Why I am an Exile and the Last Three Hungarian Revolutions.
Immigration officials questioned the Countess for twelve minutes, bade her land.
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