Lasting connections

View from the Lobkowicz Palace in Prague Castle

I was recently on holiday in London and Prague, and in the latter city I had a rather serendipitous encounter, as it seemed – but perhaps was not! While touring the Lobkowicz Palace at Prague Castle – an impressive structure in its own right, but only a small part of the Castle, which looms over the city – I walked up to a portrait of Princess Leopoldine Lobkowicz (1867–1936) by her contemporary Philip de László (1869–1937). As I was on a tour being led by Leopoldine’s great-great-great-nephew, and as I was about to meet the artist’s great-grandson for dinner in London, this coincidence seemed rather propitious.

John Steward by Philip de László 1910. Private Collection; photo by Ellen McDermott 2016 (c) de Laszlo Foundation

Of course, the Steward family already had a connection to the Czech Republic, and to Philip de László. My great-great-uncle John Steward (1847–1923) was painted by the artist a decade after he painted Leopoldine (Princess Egon von Ratibor); in time, as Uncle John had no children, his portrait passed to my branch of the family.

As I’ve written elsewhere, Uncle John Steward and his wife, the former Cordelia Schermerhorn Jones (1849–1920), were like characters out of a novel by Cordelia’s cousin Edith Wharton, traveling tirelessly between New York and various European capitals and spas. In April 1912, on board the Mauretania, they missed the iceberg field in which the Titanic sank,[1] while in August 1914 they were spending the summer at Carlsbad, Bohemia [today’s Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic] when war was declared: it took three weeks to get news of their safety to friends in New York.[2]

Aunt Cordelia in 1893

Uncle John and Aunt Cordelia spent the war years in Vienna, Carlsbad, Geneva, Frankfurt am Main, Lausanne, and Lucerne – as well as in Holland; their movements can be traced through their passport applications in cities in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Switzerland, and Germany. A final passport, acquired after the end of the war, noted that Cordelia Steward had been living in Lucerne since February 1917, and that she desired a passport for Switzerland and for Bohemia (“to take cure”).[3] She died at Carlsbad in 1920.

John Steward died far from his late wife, on a train from New York to California: his death is registered in Rawlins, Wyoming. The Stewards remained close to their families, in spite of the European setting for much of their marriage, and Uncle John was planning to spend the winter of 1923 in California with his brother (my great-grandfather Campbell Steward), sister-in-law (Daisy Beeckman Steward), and her sisters (Katharine Lorillard, Helen Lyman, and Mattie French).

Nearly a century later, on a summer’s day in Prague, connections between the families of these nineteenth-century protagonists were briefly renewed.


[1] The New York Times, 20 April 1912, 9.

[2] The New York Times, 26 August 1914, 5.

[3] U.S. Passport Applications, 1906–1925, M1490_882, 27–28.

About Scott C. Steward

Scott C. Steward was the founding editor at Vita Brevis; he served as NEHGS Editor-in-Chief 2013-2022. He is the author, co-author, or editor of genealogies of the Ayer, Le Roy, Lowell, Saltonstall, Thorndike, and Winthrop families. His articles have appeared in The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, NEXUS, New England Ancestors, American Ancestors, and The Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine, and he has written book reviews for the Register, The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, and the National Genealogical Society Quarterly.

3 thoughts on “Lasting connections

  1. The name Lobkowicz is interesting to music lovers. It seems that Princess Leopoldine was a great granddaughter of Prince Franz Joseph Lobkowitz, for whom Beethoven and Haydn composed.

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