Podcast Episode 8: “Wrecked by Royals”

In this episode we examine the darker side of associating with royalty. Old world rulers get their brutal revenge on a political enemy, Persian princes are left out in the cold, and American Royalty, the Vanderbilts, drive an idealistic woman to a tragic demise.

By The Hands Of Royals

Stefan Stamolov, prime minister of Bulgaria.

Stefan Stamolov, prime minister of Bulgaria.

Princess Marie Louise and her husband had an arranged marriage and never warmed to each other despite having several children. The Prince, it was said, was completely disinterested in her. But they could agree on one thing: they disliked Stefan Stambuloff (spelled “Stambolov” now). Their dislike of him led to Stefan’s bloody end and his widow openly accusing the monarchy of murder. Stefan’s time in power, near those with absolute power, is what we’ll discuss in this story and his fate must be heard to be believed (warning: hands preserved in jars…).

*While searching for a photo of Stefan for this post, I stumbled across his deathbed photo. I won’t post it here because it is a bit graphic (his hands are next to him) but I will link in here. It isn’t terribly gory but it’s still a bit disturbing so this is my little warning if you are easily upset.


  1. Princess Ferdinand Dead”, New York Times, February 1, 1899.
  2. Public Men of To-Day: An International Series: M. Stambuloff”, by A. Hulme Beaman, New York, Frederick Warne & Co., 1895.
  3. Rome Will Spare Ferdinand”, New York Times, February 6, 1896.
  4. The Bulgarian Plot”, New York Times, July 9, 1892.
  5. M. Stambuloff’s Assassin?”, New York Times, December 8, 1901.
  6. Stambuloff Stabbed”, New York Times, July 16, 1895.
  7. “Stambuloff’s Assassins”, New York Times, July 17, 1895.
  8. Stambuloff’s Virtures and Vices”, New York Times, July 28, 1895.
  9. Mobbed at the Funeral”, New York Times, July 21, 1895.
  10. Ferdinand at Carlsbad”, New York Times, July 22, 1985.
  11. Slayer of Stambuloff to Die”, New York Times, October 25, 1902.

Florence & The Vanderbilts

Florence Schenk and Charlie Wilson in an old newspaper.

The photo the newspapers published when Florence accused Charlie of bigamy after he married a Boston heiress, source.

Florence Schenk thought Charlie Wilson, Alfred Vanderbilt’s horse whip, would give her the world she dreamed of. He mixed with the wealthiest family in America, traveled to Europe often and had a glittering social life. But in this story Florence finds out: “The primrose path only leads to the morgue”. We’ll discuss the scandalous hold Charlie had on his boss Mr. Vanderbilt and how it brought about Florence’s ruin.


  1. The Vanderbilts: How American Royalty Lost Their Crown Jewels” by Natalie Robehmend, Forbes, July 14, 2014.
  2. Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt: The Unlikely Hero of the Lusitania” by Steven H. Gittelman, Emily Gittelman, Hamilton Books, 2013.
  3. Ancestry.com. Virginia, Death Records, 1912-2014 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2015.
  4. The Path to Paris”, San Francisco Chronicle, 14 April 1912.
  5. “Girl Who Loves A Married Man” by Nixola Greeley-Smitg, The Scranton Truth, 1 October 1914.
  6. A.G. Vanderbilt Whip Wounded in ‘Plot” Row”, The New-York Tribune, 18 September 1914.

Newspaper Clippings

Unhappy Princess

Princess Louise with a child.

Princess Louise, source. Many of her jewels like this beautiful arrow broach were auctioned off in 1907 to pay off her considerable debts.

This story is only a glimpse of a moment in time for Princess Louise, there’s much more to her story. Prince Phillip of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, her husband, was a strict authoritarian while Louise was the opposite. In 1897 she caused quite the stir by leaving her husband for her lover Count Geza Mattachich. When she left the Prince she took her daughter Dorothea with her (who we mention in this newsreel).

In 1898 the Prince and Count fought a duel in Vienna as Emperor Franz Josef I commanded. Prince Phillip was injured but both men survived. It wasn’t until 1906 that the divorce between Prince Phillip and Princess Louise would be finalized.

Dorothea’s husband, the duke of Schleswig-Holstein, eventually encouraged his wife to distance herself from her scandalous mother. Dorothea complied. Louise turned to extravagant spending during her emotional turmoil and landed deeply in debt. The Count was arrested and sentenced to four years in jail for forgery when he forged Louise’s sister’s signature on promissory notes for large sums of money. Louise’s punishment was to be institutionalized for six years, which is where we find her in our newsreel story.

When the Count was released from jail he helped Louise escape from the asylum and they spent the rest of their lives together in Paris.

Source: Unhappy Princess,” The Independent (Honolulu, Hi.), 25 March 1903.

Persian Princes Down On Their Luck

Persian Cossak calvary group photo from 1909.

These aren’t the men in our story but here are some of their compatriots, the Persian Cossack Brigade in 1909. This calvary unit was modeled after the Imperial Russian Army, and until 1920, it was commanded by Russian officers. During much of their history they were the only functional, effective military unit of the Qajar Dynasty. Acting on occasion as kingmakers, this force played a pivotal role in modern Persian history during the Revolution of 1905–1911, the rise of Reza Shah, and the formation of the Pahlavi Dynasty, source.

Somebody must have broken a mirror because this group of Princes and Shahs had a rotten run of luck in 1909.

Source: Persian Princes’ Troubles,” The Washington Post (Washington, D.C.), 14 March 1909.

Princess In Trouble

Princess Fatima, her sons and Stanley, the con man, on the left in a Navy uniform.

Stanley, the con man, on the left in a Navy uniform, Princess Fatima and her three sons in the middle and her consort on the right, source.

Princess Fatima arrived in the U.S. from Afghanistan under much fanfare. But then she lost her money and with that her popularity and any influence. What’s most interesting about the Princess’ visit is that she was the victim of an ambitious and prolific conman.

In the newsreel we mention that the Princess managed to even meet the President. The way she did this was through Stanley Clifford Weyman.

Despite multiple arrests for fraud including impersonating a US consul representative to Morocco, a US Navy lieutenant and a US consul general for Romania, Stanley hadn’t learned his lesson. He noticed Princess Fatima in 1921 visiting the U.S. hoping to obtain an official recognition. The government had ignored her until Stanley visited her as a State Department Naval Liaison Officer. He promised her a meeting with the president.

He convinced Fatima to give him $10,000 so that he could bribe her way into the White House. Somehow, he did get an appointment with President Warren G. Harding (though not with bribes, he used that money for himself).

The press released pictures of the meeting, including the one above, and the Navy immediately knew that Stanely was a fraud. He was indicted and sentenced to two years in jail.

After his jail time Stanley continued to con. He was the Secretary of State when he met the Queen of Romania, Rudolph Valentino’s lover’s physician at Rudolph’s funeral, and a fake journalist to gain access to the United Nations. He also served seven more years in prison for helping draft dodgers during WWII avoid the draft.

By 1960 Stanley Weyman was working as a night porter in a New York hotel. He was shot and killed when he attempted to stop a robbery there. To learn even more about him, there’s an interesting article here.

Source: Princess in Trouble,” The Ada Weekly News (Ada, Okla.), 18 May 1922.

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