Princess, style icon, actress: Ira von Fürstenberg marks the end of the great era of the European jet set

In 2012, Princess Ira von Fürstenberg stood at the side of her youngest son, somewhat perplexed, at a common fate: in front of the property in Mexico City where she had briefly lived together as a family in 1960 with her husband Alfonso zu Hohenlohe-Langeburg and their two sons.

Princess, style icon, actress: Ira von Fürstenberg marks the end of the great era of the European jet set

In 2012, Princess Ira von Fürstenberg stood at the side of her youngest son, somewhat perplexed, at a common fate: in front of the property in Mexico City where she had briefly lived together as a family in 1960 with her husband Alfonso zu Hohenlohe-Langeburg and their two sons. And from where the young, life-hungry woman finally fled.

At the age of 53, Hubertus Hohenlohe, the illustrious pop artist, photo artist, musician, ski racer and showmaster, asked his mother to do a kind of family constellation in front of the camera as part of his travel report "Hubertusjagd". But this time too she was left with a modest realization about her momentous decision. The then 72-year-old explained with a shrug that she was young, not cut out for a secluded life with small children and Mexican staff.

Too young - that's what she really was - and, as she said, "probably experienced too much and too quickly." The wedding of the then underage princess to the entrepreneur twice her age in May 1955 became a world sensation - and had previously required special papal permission. The groom: a godson of the Spanish King Alfonso The bride: Virginia Carolina Theresa Pancrazia Galdina Princess of Fürstenberg, called Ira, child of divorce from the highest circles. During the Second World War she lived in Switzerland, later in Italy and Austria, attended boarding school in England and already worked for the designer Emilio Pucci.

The then 30-year-old bon vivant had 200 ceremoniously decorated gondolas brought up the Grand Canal in Venice; the celebration is said to have lasted over two weeks with more than 400 guests. Already here are names on the guest list that should make the European jet set shine: Bismarcks, Hanovers, Agnellis, Onassis, Thyssens and Rothschilds. Ira herself is the daughter of a brilliant connection between the Italian Fiat dynasty and the dazzling noble house of Fürstenberg. To this day, the people of this talented clan – from Diane von Fürstenberg to Hubertus Hohenlohe to Lapo Elkann – continue to shape the style in many ways.

“Our wedding in Venice was unique,” ​​Ira was later quoted as saying, but shortly afterwards she missed that splendor. At the time, Alfonso was busy developing a fishing village on Spain's Costa del Sol into a luxurious home for international high society with an attached clubhouse and golf course: the legendary Marbella Club. At the same time, he had built up the German car manufacturer Volkswagen's business there through a strong family connection to Mexico and brought the VW Beetle to South America. As part of a brilliant marketing stunt, he sent seven of them into the infamous Carrera Panamericana race, and he drove one of them himself. As successful as the Mexican adventure was to be in terms of business, it had a tragic effect on the young family.

After only five years of marriage and family life, a highly dramatic separation took place - including annulment of the marriage, a dispute over custody, and a spectacular kidnapping. Then the next less successful marriage – to Playboy “Baby” Pignatari. At just 23, Ira  was divorced for a second time. Life is “like a bouquet of roses with thorns,” she commented many years later in an interview with “Bunte.”

After these turbulent years, Fürstenberg was assured of the full and sustained attention of the international tabloid press. It is said to have been the legendary Italian film producer Dino de Laurentiis who suggested Ira a film career and in whose James Bond parody "Matchless" she made her debut. There should be a total of 28 films, including Klaus Lemke's wild film "Negresco****" and "Hello - Goodbye" alongside Curd Jürgens. Ira had rejected acting lessons, like her probably most important role offer: "Barbarella" (1968) by Roger Vadim. Jane Fonda was supposed to achieve global success in her place. The princess's career took a different direction after another offer was rejected due to overly revealing scenes - something she would later sometimes regret. Fürstenberg returned to the fashion industry, where her brother Egon von Fürstenberg and his wife Diane were already successful in New York. In 1976 she became "President" of the Italian branch of the cosmetics company Germaine Montell, and in 1978 she took on the more representative position of General Director of the Roman fashion house Valentino. She later designed her own jewelry collection under the title "Objets Uniques" and got her own show on German private television.

Meanwhile, there was also a lot of speculation in the international press about who the glamorous princess was with in private. The most persistent rumor over the decades was that Prince Rainier of Monaco longed for a new princess named Ira after Grace Kelly's tragic accidental death in 1982 - which she always denied when asked, although not too vehemently.

Now what kind of woman was that? In his portrait of Queen Marie Antoinette, the writer Stefan Zweig coined the term "a medium character" who does not long for the great adventures of world history, but rather for "moderate temperatures of fate." That's why, says Zweig, "when an invisible hand shocks him, he flees (...) he doesn't seek suffering, but rather it is forced upon him." Was Ira von Fürstenberg someone like that? In 2006, Ira von Fürstenberg probably suffered the worst blow of fate of her life when her eldest son Christoph died under dramatic circumstances in a Thai prison at the age of 49. Unlike the younger Hubertus, who had actively decided early on to distance himself from the family's jet-set world and instead start a career as an athlete as a ski racer, "Kiko" Hohenlohe had found it more difficult to find his own role.

Fürstenberg took the opportunity to once again prove herself as a strong mother. Together with Hubertus she rushed to Thailand, where Kiko had committed a ridiculous visa violation but was now interned in a mass prison under the most adverse and disgusting circumstances. Equipped with Sprite and a chocolate bar, she had to meet her son behind bulletproof glass. And found out that he was stuck in a single room with 43 other prisoners in 45 degree heat during the rainy season. She fought, but it was too late, a few days later Kiko died after an infection and complications from his diabetes. "Hands down the worst moment of my life," she said later in the interview. She doesn't understand "that such a tragedy could happen. I think I will never be able to get over the fact that Kiko is no longer with us."

Perhaps this is the constant in the eventful life of Ira Princess von Fürstenberg: She was a woman who traveled after the sunny side of life, but unusually often ended up in stormy climes. As if higher powers had come up with some kind of parable, her big 70th birthday party in Sarajevo in April 2010 was scheduled to coincide with the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano. Around 100 glamorous people gathered in the castles of the Crown Prince of Yugoslavia and celebrated like old times, while a thick cloud of ash settled over Europe and the "jet set" lost its eponymous core: no jet in the sky, more than half of them Invited people had to stay away.

Just on the 5th anniversary of the death of her close friend Karl Lagerfeld, Ira von Fürstenberg left Rome to write the great story that was her life - and that would also be suitable as opera material. You can literally imagine the aria that a Giacomo Puccini would have composed for her - perhaps with one of her most succinct sentences as the title: "Solo gli idioti sono semper felici - Only idiots are always happy."