Prince Alexander I, Exhibition at Schloss Heiligenberg, Germany

After three years of research in archives and family collections, the Heiligenberg Jugenheim Foundation has opened a historical exhibition about the first Prince of Bulgaria, Alexander I (1879–1886). It is titled ‘Sandro—A European Castaway’, because the young aristocrat spent his childhood and teenage years at the Heiligenberg estate of the Battenberg family in the town of Seeheim-Jugenheim.


It was there, at the official opening on 15 September 2022, that over a hundred guests gathered, among them the heirs of noble families from Germany, Austria and the United Kingdom; the Deputy Minister-President of the Hessen State Parliament; former and current mayors; Bulgarian diplomats; and Slava Ivanova, Executive Director of the ‘13 Centuries of Bulgaria’ National Endowment Fund.


A delegation from the twin town of Karlovo was also invited, but its mayor, Dr Emil Kabaivanov, declined the trip due to the floods in the villages of Karlovo Municipality. He instead sent an original print on canvas portraying the young prince.


In his speech of welcome, Dr Joachim Horn, the German foundation’s chairperson, underlined the strong attachment of Sandro, as his relatives referred to Alexander of Battenberg, to the Bulgarian people and Bulgaria, a sentiment retained even after his abdication and until the end of his life, and handed down to today’s residents of Jugenheim.


The Bulgarian Ambassador to Germany, Elena Shekerletova, greeted the exhibition organisers and the assembled guests.


Dr Sigrun Comati, President of the German-Bulgarian Society for the Promotion of Relations and Friendship with Bulgaria, emphasised the meticulous professional work of the team that prepared the exhibition, discovering valuable facts and documents from Sandro’s childhood and military training, from his office at the Palace in Sofia, which is now the National Gallery, as well as from his final years of service as Major General in the Austro-Hungarian Army.


‘Bulgarians not only welcomed with bread and salt their first prince, elected in 1879 by the Grand National Assembly in Veliko Tarnovo, but they were grateful to him for laying the foundations of statehood, for establishing institutions in education, military affairs, justice, as well as for his dedication to the cause of the young state, restored on the map of Europe after five centuries of Ottoman rule,’ explained Milena Dimitrova from the Bulgarian President’s Administration.


Also in Heiligenberg, another exposition of photographs was on display: portraits from the royal courts of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, collected and presented by Tosho Peykov, former MP and mandate-holder of the National Movement for Stability and Progress, Executive Director of NEF ‘13 Centuries of Bulgaria’ (2005–10), and photographer.