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Stephan von Habsburg-Lothringen

Archduke Stephan Franz Victor von Habsburg-Lothringen, one of the most famous of all Austro-Hungarian mineral collectors, was born in Ofen (Buda) on September 14, 1817, the son of the Hungarian Palatine, Archduke Joseph Anton von Habsburg-Lothringen, and his wife Hermine von Anhalt-Bernburg-Schaumburg-Hoym. His mother died in childbirth, his father remarried, and Stephan was brought up by his stepmother, Maria Dorothea von Württemberg. Stephan first became interested in minerals at the age of five, and collected them all his life.

Stephan received a princely education from tutors in Buda and at the family farm in Alscut. He spoke five languages (German, Hungarian, French, Italian and Latin) and was proficient in fencing, ballroom dancing, music and horsemanship as well as military science. At the age of 22 he moved to Vienna and spent three years there in the Royal Court in order to further his political education, then took an extended trip around the empire (today we might call it a fact-finding tour) on behalf of the Emperor. Along the way he took the opportunity to visit famous museums and mineral localities where he could see and acquire mineral specimens.

In 1843 Stephan was appointed governor of Bohemia by Emperor Ferdinand I. He moved to the capital city of Prague and took his duties seriously, working to improve the welfare of the people while also pursuing his personal interests in science and nature. His pursuit of mineralogy was recognized in 1845, when the mineralogist Wilhelm Haidinger named the new mineral stephanite in his honor. His father died in 1847, and Stephan was appointed to take his place as Palatine of Hungary. Unfortunately for Stephan, a revolutionary fervor was spreading across Europe with disruptive effects. Torn between his allegiance to his Imperial family and his Hungarian homeland, he soon found his position untenable and abdicated in 1848. This pleased neither side, and he was forced to retire to Schaumberg Castle, a German estate which he had inherited from his mother.

Having been banished from politics, Stephan raised money by selling one of his valuable properties, the Holzappel silver mine, and lived on his own (ample) means for the next 20 years. He worked primarily on the renovation of his castle and the building of his library and mineral collection, sometimes purchasing entire collections to merge with his own. His mineral collection eventually reached 20,000 specimens valued at the enormous sum of 300,000 marks. It rivaled all other European collections, and was admired by numerous visiting scientists. The collection was arranged in the castle's custom-built exhibition hall according to the system of Mohs by his personal curator, Georg Siemang, who numbered and labeled thousands of his specimens. Siemang became ill in 1859, and other curators took over the work, including Albrecht Schrauf.

Archduke Stephan died on February 19, 1867, willing his castle and his mineral collection to the House of Oldenburg. They employed their own curator and continued acquiring specimens until 1888, when the collection was sold to the entrepreneur Carl Rumpff, a Member of Parliament. Rumpff died a year later, and the collection was transferred to the Natural History Museum in Berlin, where much of it remains today.

GÖTTER, H.-D., KIRNBAUER, T., SCHWENZER, S.P., and SICK, B. (2003) Who's who in mineral names? Archduke Stephan Franz Victor of Habsburg-Lorraine (1817-1867). Rocks & Minerals, 78 (6), 408-411.
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