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Carolyne zu Sayn-Wittgenstein (February 8, 1819 - March 9, 1887, Rome[1] was a Polish noblewoman who pursued a 40-year liaison/relationship with Franz Liszt.



Karolyna Elizabeth Iwanowska was born at Woronice, one of her parents' many estates in the Polish Ukraine, then a province of the Russian Empire.

On 26 April 1836, she married an officer in the Russian service, Prince Nikolaus zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Ludwigsburg (1812-1864; son of Peter Wittgenstein) a member of an ancient Baltic German noble house.[2] They had an only daughter, Marie Pauline Antoinette (1837-1920) who later married Prince Konstantin zu Hohenlohe-Waldenburg-Schillingsfürst.

The princess Sayn-Wittgenstein in 1847
Carolyne zu Sayn-Wittgenstein with her daughter Marie, about 1840

Princess Carolyne met Franz Liszt in 1845, during one of his musical tours in Russia. She had then been estranged from her husband for some time. She and Liszt began living together at Weimar from 1847.

The Roman Catholic Princess eventually wished to marry Liszt and regularise their situation, but since she was still married and her husband was still alive, she had to convince the Roman Catholic authorities that her marriage to him had been invalid. After an intricate process, she was temporarily successful (September 1860). It was planned that the couple would marry in Rome, on October 22, 1861, Liszt's 50th birthday. Liszt having arrived in Rome on October 21, 1861, the Princess was nevertheless unable to marry him. It appears that both her husband and the Czar of Russia had managed to quash permission for the marriage at the Vatican. The Russian government also impounded her several estates (she owned thousands of serfs), which made her later marriage to Liszt, or anybody, unfeasible. Furthermore, the scandal would have seriously harmed her daughter's marriageability—clearly the main reason why the Prince put an end to the scheduled marriage.

Subsequently, her relationship to Liszt became one of Platonic companionship, especially after he had received minor orders in the Catholic Church and become an abbé.

Princess Carolyne was an amateur journalist and essayist and it is conjectured that she did much of the actual writing of several of Liszt's publications, especially his Life of Chopin. She pursued an enormous correspondence with Liszt and many others which is of vital historical interest. She admired and encouraged Hector Berlioz, as is clear from their extensive correspondence. Berlioz dedicated Les Troyens to Princess Carolyne.

She was devastated by Liszt's death and survived him only a very few months.


Carolyne zu Sayn-Wittgenstein was a writer but her works were mostly privately printed: the chief of these was:

A posthumous publication was:

  • La vie chretienne au milieu du monde et en notre siècle. Entretiens pratiques recueillis et publiés par Henri Lasserre, Paris 1895 (French)


Further reading

  • Francesco Barberio, Liszt e la Principessa de Sayn-Wittgenstein, Roma: Unione Editrice 1912.
  • Hector Berlioz, Lettres à la princesse, Paris: L'Herne 2001 (correspondence with the princess Sayn-Wittgenstein) (French).
    • Briefe von Hector Berlioz an die Fürstin Caroline Sayn-Wittgenstein (hrsg. v. La Mara), Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel 1903.
    • Ideale Freundschaft und romantische Liebe. Briefe an die Fürstin Carolyne Sayn-Wittgenstein und Frau Estelle Fornier (hrsg. v. La Mara; = Literarische Werke, Bd. 5), a.d. Frz. v. Gertrud Savić, Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel 1903.
  • Marcel Herwegh, Au Soir des dieux ; Des derniers reflets Wagneriens à la mort de Liszt , Paris: Peyronnet 1933.
  • La Mara (i.e. Marie Lipsius, Hrsg.), Franz Liszt's Briefe an die Fürstin Carolyne Sayn-Wittgenstein, Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel 1899 (French)
  • La Mara (i.e. Marie Lipsius, Hrsg.), Aus der Glanzzeit der Weimarer Altenburg. Bilder und Briefe aus dem Leben dem Fürstin Carolyne Sayn-Wittgenstein, Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel 1906.
  • La Mara (i.e. Marie Lipsius, Hrsg.), An der Schwelle des Jenseits. Letzte Erinnerungen an die Fürstin Carolyne Sayn-Wittgenstein, die Freundin Liszts, Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel 1925.
  • Émile Ollivier, Correspondance. Emile Ollivier et Carolyne de Sayn-Wittgenstein, Paris: Presse univérsitaire 1984.
  • Sammlung von Handzeichnungen aus dem Besitze der Fürstin Carolyne Sayn-Wittgenstein (1819-1889), München: Emil Hirsch, Antiquariat, 1922.
  • Adelheid von Schorn (Hrsg.), Zwei Menschenalter. Erinnerungen und Briefe, Berlin: S. Fischer 1901.


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