Philipp Ferdinand of Limburg-Stirum
Philipp Ferdinand von Limburg Stirum (born 1734, died 1794), Count of Limburg, lord of Styrum, was the fourth reigning count from the branch Limburg-Styrum-Styrum. He was also heir of Wilhermsdorf in Franconia and of the sovereign Lordship of Oberstein.
He is known for his very extravagant and fastuous lifestyle, which caused his bankruptcy, and for having been the lover of princess Tarakanova.
Philipp Ferdinand was born on August 21, 1734 in Schillingsfürst. He was the fifth son of Christian Otto count of Limburg Stirum and his wife, née Carolina Juliana princess of Hohenlohe-Waldenburg-Schillingsfürst.
After the death of his mother in 1758, he inherited the herrschaft of Wilhermsdorf. Philipp Ferdinand was megalomaniac, and led a fastuous life in his palace of Wilhermsdorf, inspired by the court of Versailles. He had his own court theatre, music chapel and even an own corps of hussar. In 1760, after his elder brother's death, he inherited Styrum.
Because of his very extravagant life, he soon had huge debts and was forced to sell Wilhermsdorf in 1769, he then moved to his possessions of Oberstein. Despite of selling lots of his goods (tens of farms and castles), his debt kept rising. He also gave money to the Jesuits to create a Catholic school and a Catholic parish in Protestant Mülheim. The emperor Joseph II was trying to control the Church and didn't approve of these actions. When he heard about the enormous debts of the count, he sent a fiscalist to Styrum to take action in order to avoid future problems.
Despite of this reprimand, Philipp Ferdinand kept on living a very extravagant life. In order to raise money he created two orders of chivalry (the Order of St Philip of the Lion of Limburg and the Order of the Four Emperors), which he gave to prominent figures, but usually against a fee. He also tried to claim territories, like the herrschaft of Pinneberg in the County of Holstein or the immediate lordship of Oberstein, that should have become his possession through heritage. This involved him in huge and expensive trials. He finally recovered in 1773 two third of the territory of Oberstein. He also claimed the title of Duke of Schleswig-Holstein, which Joseph II refused to recognize.
In 1766 he was made prince by the French parliament, but in 1789 Joseph II forbid him to wear this title.
In 1770 Philipp Ferdinand was put into prison for not paying his debts. A letter of his brother Ernst Maria to the emperor, in which he insisted on all the services the House of Limburg-Stirum had given to the Empire, was enough to have Philipp Ferdinand released.
In 1772 princess Tarakanova, who had left Paris after a scandal, settled in Frankfurt am Main. The court marshal of Philipp Ferdinand, count de Rochefort-Valcourt, told him about this woman who pretended to be the daughter of Elizabeth I of Russia and granddaughter of Peter the Great. Philipp Ferdinand invited her and immediately fell in love with her. She promised to marry him, if he could be surety for all her debts which she had accumulated in Paris. He accepted everything his mistress asked. But in 1774, she left Oberstein for Venice. Despite his own difficult financial situation, Philipp Ferdinand gave her a great sum of money for her trip and also gave her the right to wear the title princess of Limburg Stirum after his death.
Philipp Ferdinand had two natural children (a son and a daughter) from his relationship with Marie Therese Satori. These children were illegitimate and couldn't inherit his rights and possessions.
- De takken Gemen en Styrum van het geslacht van Limburg Stirum; Dr. A.J. Bonke; Stichting van Limburg Stirum; 's-Gravenhage, 2007
- Iconografie van het Geslacht van Limburg Stirum; C.J. Graaf van Limburg Stirum; Walburg Instituut, Amsterdam, 1994
- A. Giraud, M. Huberty, F. et B. Magdelaine, "L'Allemagne Dynastique, Tome VII"