László Széchenyi

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László Széchenyi
Count and Countess László Széchenyi.jpg
Countess and Count László Széchenyi, c. 1908.
Hungarian Minister to the United Kingdom
In office
MonarchMiklós Horthy
Prime MinisterRamsay MacDonald
Preceded byBaron Iván Rubido-Zichy
Succeeded bySzilárd Masirevich
Hungarian Minister to the United States
In office
MonarchMiklós Horthy
PresidentWarren G. Harding
Preceded byInaugural holder
Succeeded byJohn Pelenyi
Personal details
Count László Széchenyi de Sárvár-felsővidék

(1879-02-18)18 February 1879
Horpács, Hungary
Died5 July 1938(1938-07-05) (aged 59)
Budapest, Hungary
(m. 1908)
OccupationAustro Hungarian military officer, Imperial Chamberlain, diplomat, venture capitalist

Count László Széchenyi de Sárvár-Felsővidék (18 February 1879 – 5 July 1938) was an Austro Hungarian military officer, Imperial Chamberlain, diplomat and venture capitalist. His great-uncle was István Széchenyi. László Széchenyi married Gladys Vanderbilt, the youngest daughter of Alice Claypoole Gwynne and Cornelius Vanderbilt II.[1]

Early life[edit]

The Count was born Széchenyi László Jenő Mária Henrik Simon on February 18, 1879 in Horpács, then a part of Austria-Hungary, a dual monarchy established in 1867. He was a son of Countess Alexandra Sztaray-Szirmay et Nagy-Mihály and Count Imre Széchenyi de Sárvár-felsővidék, the former Austrian Minister at the Court of Berlin.[2] He was the youngest of four brothers, including: Count Dionys, who was Minister of the Austrian Embassy at Paris (he married Comtesse Marie de Caraman et Chimay), Peter Széchenyi, and István Széchenyi. All of the brothers were Reserve Lieutenants in the Imperial Hussars as well as Chamberlains at the Court.[3]

His father owned thousands of acres divided into scores of farms and forest preserves on which the Széchenyis grew wheat, Turkish pepper, tobacco, hemp, and grapes.[1]


His wife, Count Széchenyi, and Alice Roosevelt Longworth at the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial, 1922.

Count Széchenyi was the inventor of the submarine wireless telegraphy, for sending and receiving sound-wave vibrations underwater. The machine was successfully tested with then U.S. Secretary of the Navy George von Lengerke Meyer, in Newport, Rhode Island. Széchenyi, along with David C. Watts, formed the Submarine Wireless Company to produce it.[2]

By 1908, Count László Széchenyi de Sárvár-felsővidék was the most prominent member of his family, which was quite numerous. He possessed two great estates in Hungary, Oermezo Castle, which is about three hundred years old and 4,000 acres, in the County of Templen, and Lagoshara Pusbla, a Summer place of about 4,300 acres, in the County of Somogy. The Count also owned a one-story, ten room house at 14 Eotvoss-street in Budapest.[4][5][6]

Shortly before the War, Count László Széchenyi de Sárvár-felsővidék tried to become a financial Napoléon in Hungary and met his Waterloo very quickly. He is said to have lost $4,000,000 which is supposed to have come largely from his wife. He was a member of the ‘Magnates Group’ which speculated in mines, railroads and other enterprises. They failed to calculate the impact of the World War, and suffered a complete smash as a result of the fall in value of their shares.[4]

Diplomatic career[edit]

The Kingdom of Hungary and the United States signed a treaty establishing friendly relations on August 29, 1921.[7] On January 11, 1922, Count László Széchenyi presented his credentials as Hungary's first Minister to the United States. He served in that role until March 31, 1933. He was transferred to the same post at the Court of Saint James in England in 1933.[8]

Personal life[edit]

Portrait of his wife, Gladys Vanderbilt, two years before their marriage, by John Singer Sargent, 1906.

Count László was twenty-eight years old, when he met Gladys Vanderbilt (1886–1965), the seventh and youngest child of Alice Claypoole Gwynne and Cornelius Vanderbilt II, the president and chairman of the New York Central Railroad. Gladys grew up in the family home on Fifth Avenue in New York City, and their summer "cottage," The Breakers in Newport, Rhode Island.[9] They married on January 27, 1908, at her family home in New York City, after their meeting in Berlin near her twenty-first birthday in 1907.[10][11] Their early married life was spent in Hungary raising their five children.[12] Together, Count László Széchenyi and Gladys Moore Vanderbilt were the parents of five daughters:

Count László Szécheny died in Budapest on 5 July 1938.[8] His widow died on 29 January 1965 in Washington, D.C.[23]


Through his daughter Gladys, he was a grandfather of Christopher Denys Stormont Finch-Hatton, 16th Earl of Winchilsea (1936–1999), who is known for his work promoting of the interests of the displaced Sahrawi people.[24]


  1. ^ a b "Cash For Coronets: A 'Ruritanian' Coupling The Likes of Anthony Hope, Vanderbilt & Széchenyi". theesotericcuriosa.blogspot.com. The Esoteric Curiosa. Retrieved 28 March 2016.
  2. ^ a b "SZECHENYI COMPANY USES HIS INVENTION - The Count's Submarine Wireless Tried Out by Torpedo Boat at Newport" (PDF). The New York Times. August 28, 1912. Retrieved 25 October 2019.
  3. ^ "The Esoteric Curiosa: Cash For Coronets: A 'Ruritanian' Coupling The Likes of Anthony Hope, Vanderbilt & Széchenyi". theesotericcuriosa.blogspot.com. Retrieved 2014-10-24.
  4. ^ a b "The Esoteric Curiosa". theesotericcuriosa.blogspot.com. Retrieved 2014-10-24.
  5. ^ "Count Szechenyi's Summer Seat - Oermezo, is a Picturesque Village of About 1,000 Inhabitants in Upper Hungary. Miss Gladys Vanderbilt's Future Neighbors. - View Article - NYTimes.com" (PDF). query.nytimes.com. Retrieved 2014-10-24.
  6. ^ "The Washington bee. volume (Washington, D.C.) 1884-1922, January 04, 1908, Image 3 « Chronicling America « Library of Congress". chroniclingamerica.loc.gov. 4 January 1908. Retrieved 2014-10-24.
  7. ^ "SZECHENYI TO BE ENVOY.; Gladys Vanderbilt's Husband Will Represent Hungary Here" (PDF). The New York Times. 24 December 1921. Retrieved 25 October 2019.
  8. ^ a b "A Guide to the United States' History of Recognition, Diplomatic, and Consular Relations, by Country, since 1776: Hungary". Office of the Historian, Foreign Service Institute United States Department of State. Retrieved 2014-10-24.
  9. ^ Vanderbilt, Arthur T., II (1989). Fortune's Children: The Fall of the House of Vanderbilt. New York: Morrow. ISBN 0-688-07279-8.
  10. ^ "THE HOUSE OF SZECHENYI IN MAGYAR ANNALS. Long and Illustrious Record of the Ancient Hungarian Family Into Which Miss Gladys Vanderbilt will be Married To-morrow" (PDF). The New York Times. January 26, 1908. Retrieved 25 October 2019.
  11. ^ "MISS VANDERBILT NOW A COUNTESS She Becomes the Bride of Count Laszlo Szechnyi, Chamberlain to Austrian Emperor CEREMONY A SIMPLE ONE Bridal Pair Elude Camera Squad and Make Their Escape in a Speeding Motor Car" (PDF). The New York Times. January 28, 1908. Retrieved 25 October 2019.
  12. ^ Newport Art Museum (R.I.) (2000). Newportraits. University Press of New England. p. 177. ISBN 9781584650188. Retrieved 2014-10-24.
  13. ^ Times, Special Cable To The New York (28 October 1908). "DAUGHTER TO SZECHENYIS.; Former Miss Gladys Vanderbilt Becomes a Mother at Her Castle". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 April 2017.
  14. ^ "MISS SZECHENYI ENGAGED TO WED; Daughter of the Hungarian Minister to London and E. B. Roberts to Marry" (PDF). The New York Times. 13 June 1933. Retrieved 25 October 2019.
  15. ^ "SZECHENYI'S SECOND CHILD.; Daughter Born to Him and the Countess -- Son to Viscountess Maidstone". The New York Times. 5 August 1911. Retrieved 28 April 2017.
  16. ^ "Countess Hadik, 63; Was a Descendant Of the Vanderbilts" (PDF). The New York Times. 27 February 1974. Retrieved 25 October 2019.
  17. ^ "Count Bela Nadik, a Dog Breeder, 66" (PDF). The New York Times. 20 February 1971. Retrieved 3 September 2019.
  18. ^ Times, Marconi Transatlantic Wireless Telegraph To The New York (16 August 1913). "DAUGHTER TO SZECHENYIS.; She Was Born at Her Parents' English Home on Thursday". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 April 2017.
  19. ^ "LORD WINCHILSEA, DREXEL KIN, WEDS: 15th Earl Marries in London Mary A. Conroy, Daughter of Fruit Merchant". The New York Times. June 18, 1946. Retrieved 10 August 2016.
  20. ^ "Paid Notice: Deaths COLWELL, PHOEBE ANN TALBOT PETERSON". The New York Times. October 14, 2012. Retrieved 25 October 2019.
  21. ^ Arts, United States Commission of Fine (1973). Massachusetts Avenue Architecture. U.S. Government Printing Office. p. 186. Retrieved 25 October 2019.
  22. ^ "Hungarian National Museum enriched with an invaluable collection". mnm.hu. Hungarian National Museum. 19 December 2017. Retrieved 25 October 2019.
  23. ^ Times, Special To The New York (23 September 1947). "Countess Szechenyi a Citizen". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 April 2017.
  24. ^ Philip, A B (8 Jul 1999). "Obituary: The Earl of Winchilsea and Nottingham". The Independent. Retrieved 29 March 2013.

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