Monday, 25 June 2007

Elisa Hensler, countess of Edla

Elisa Frederika Hensler – Countess of Edla, (1836-1929)

Famous soprano born in Switzerland of German origins, daughter of Jean Conrad Hensler and Josefa Hechelbacher who married, in 1869, as his second wife, Ferdinand (1816-1885), prince of Saxe-Courg-Gotha, widow of Queen D. Maria II of Portugal.

Elisa Hensler who lived in her youth in the USA was a highly cultivated woman with a keen interest in music, sculpture, ceramics, architecture and gardening.

She arrived to Portugal with her mother as a member of the Laneuville Opera Company in 1860, having sung at an Oporto Theater and then invited to sing at the Real Teatro de S. Carlos, in Lisbon. Ferdinand Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was enchanted by her voice and beauty and soon fell in love with her. He had a house built for her within the Pena Park, known as the Countess’ Chalet, which was completed in 1869, the year she married King Ferdinand.

By 1869, they married at the former Quinta of Gérard de Visme, at Benfica, near Lisbon. Before the morganatic marriage, Ferdinand's cousin - Ernest II, duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha had awarded Elisa Hensler the title of Countess of Edla.
Ferdinand a notable patron of the Arts who had bought the ruins of a convent in Sintra and had a Palace built there, known as the Pena Palace, left all his fortune to the Countess of Edla forcing the government to make a deal with her in order to acquire the Palace.

She had a valuable library and used the bookplate posted above, probably made by a German artist. Many of her books were bought by a Portuguese bibliophile and others were left to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

For a remarkable on-line photo gallery of Pena Palace see,

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