At an evening hosted by the countess Zichy-Ferraris in Vienna, in 1808, was to be found, among several elegant women of the high society, the charming Princess Schwarzenburg, born to the House of Aremburg. Prince Louis de Rohan was playing with his deck of cards; he believed himself to possess a great talent for fortune telling. It was almost midnight.
Princess Schwarzenburg, joking and with an air of indifference, told him to read his horoscope. The Prince, charmed by the honour of such a worthy task, began shuffling his cards: he ordered, then reordered them, before, becoming impatient, he began the whole process once more. This scene eventually drew the attention of the princess who, caught up in an interesting conversation, had completely forgotten her request: “it seems that I am causing you quite some trouble; Prince, what do you see in my destiny?”
- I see nothing but fire, he said, throwing down his cards
- Start again! She ordered him.
He started his occult practice once more, yet the result was unchanged. He rose and walked towards the fireplace.
Everyone knows the tragic end which befell the Princess Schwarzenburg, sister-in-law of the Marshal Prince Schwarzenberg, the Austrian ambassador in Paris at the time of Napoleon’s wedding.
The princess was in attendance at the magnificant ball given by the prince to mark the occasion. She had managed to escape the burning room, safe in the assurance that her two oldest daughters, who were also attending the marriage, had been saved, as indeed was the case; yet, upon finding that they were apparently absent from the garden where she called to them with cries of anguish, she believed that she had been misinformed.
She ran back into the blazing fire to look for them and was crushed, it is said, by a chandelier which fell from the ceiling, leaving her body to burn as the flames blazed around her. She was identified only by a few remains: a charred part of her breastbone into which, in the heat of the fire, a part of her diamonds had become embedded.
What followed is even more surprising: whilst away attending the wedding, the princess had left her youngest children in Vienna, in the care of her sister-in-law, Princess Eleanor. A young governess watched over the young princesses in their room as they slept.
On the very same night as that on which the tragedy struck, the chamber was lit up by a night-lantern, which gave off a strange light. The governess saw the door open and the princess creep quietly into the room, peek through the curtains behind which lay her children, look over them with tenderness, then leave just as silently as she had entered. The young governess was not asleep, neither was she afraid by what she saw: she thought it possible that the princess had returned from Paris that evening, that she not wanted to sleep before having seen her children but that she had not wanted to speak for fear of waking the governess who she may have thought to be asleep.
The following day, her first thought was to tell everyone what she had seen and to celebrate the return of the princess with her children. There was great surprise at the news.
Princess Eleanor assured her that she must have been dreaming yet she maintained the contrary; she had been perfectly awake the whole time.