I first met Norman Stone in London the late 1980s when he used to come down from Oxford to give talks on the collapse of Communism and likely regime change to the British Hungarian Fellowship. The talks were always highly entertaining and thought provoking, never ponderous and always sprinkled with witty stories and asides. They would often be followed by a drink or two (or three…) at a local pub and then, usually with my Spanish wife Charo, we would drive him to Marble Arch where he would catch a late bus back to Oxford. At this time Norman was not just professor of modern history at Oxford, adviser to Margaret Thatcher on European Affairs and her occasional speech writer, but also a media star making regular contributions to national newspapers and television. As he was fluent in many languages his media contributions were not limited to the UK. He also happened to be joint deputy president of Transylvania Direct with my father, Pál Odescalchi, which provided books, clothes and buses to Hungarian school children in Transylvania where Ceausescu was making it increasingly difficult to teach them. Woodrow Wyatt was the president- the only person I knew who spoke regularly on the phone to Mrs Thatcher at 2am! It was at this time that Norman heard that there was a young Hungarian student at Oxford, Viktor Orban. He invited him out to lunch to ask him what living in Hungary under the regime was like.
Norman moved to Turkey in the late 90s and we lost touch until by coincidence a friend told me that Norman was his next door neighbour in Istanbul. This was around 2010. A couple of years later Norman decided to sell his flat in Istanbul and bought one in Budapest. I asked him then if he would consider writing a biography of Gyula Andrássy as no serious attempt had been made since the massive 3 volume opus of Wertheimer in 1906. Norman replied that he had been commissioned to write a history of 20th Century Hungary and suggested a couple of alternatives. About a year later he contacted me.
“Mark have you found someone for the biography?” “No” “Would you mind if I did it after all?” “Don’t be silly, it was my suggestion in the first place” “Well good” “Why the change of heart?” “I have been trying to write a 20th century history of Hungary and it is so depressing I really need to escape…Andrássy would be a huge relief…”
Eventually Norman compromised. He wrote a history of Hungary which commenced in 1848 and finished in 1990. This was far more balanced as it incorporated the golden era of peace and prosperity from the Compromise with Austria in 1867 to WW1. This period could be described the Andrássy era. This book “Hungary A Short History” was published in January 2019. ( Hungarian translation by Banki Vera, to be published by Pallas Athene on 19th August, 2020) He had been working on the Andrássy biography in parallel and had completed the research (with help from AGyA) and readings and left about 100 pages of handwritten notes and the first chapter before he died in his sleep in June 2019. The biography will be completed but we will not know what Norman thought of Andrássy. His attitude towards him was positive. Norman loved Budapest, the product of the unification of Pest and Buda in 1873 largely the result of Andrássy’s planning. However, we will never benefit from Norman’s insights into Andrássy’s statesmanship. The biography project lives on but will be in the hands of an other historian.
Mark Odescalchi May 2020
The last work published by Norman Stone was an article on Budapest for the Oldie Magazine written jointly with Annabel Barber on 31st December 2019. This article can be read on this link.
A memorial to Norman was held in London on 23rd October 2019. A film of this event with magnificent contributions is attached below. (The music alone is worth listening to…) A list of the contributors in the order of their appearance is: 1 Philip Mansel 2 Daisy Goodwin 3 Michael Maclay 4 Michael Gove 5 Andrew Roberts 6 Jessica Douglas-Home 7 Robert Harris 8 Timothy Garton-Ash 9 Omer Koc 10 Marquess of Salisbury 11 Niall Ferguson 12 Rupert Stone
In March 2018 the Hungarian Government decided to acquire approx. 1.300m2 of the Andrássy palota from the 1st District Municipality and from the City of Budapest (decree 1087/2018 III 13) for the exclusive use of the Andrássy Memorial Museum to be run by the Hungarian National Museum with the co-operation of AGyA. The decision was strengthened by a further decree (1081/2018 XII 21) in December 2018 which confirmed deadlines by which the property must become available. The transfer of ownership took place 31st December 2018. The Budavári Művelődési Ház which occupies part of this space will move out by the end of 2020 to a magnificent building – the former Polgári Casino at Krisztina tér 1 – which is being completely re-built for them.
The space acquired by the state of 390m2 approx. on the first floor accessed by a grand staircase comprises the main salons which will form the core of the permanent museum dedicated to Andrássy Gyula, Andrássy Tivadar his elder son, supporter of the Applied Arts Museum and patron of painter József Rippl-Rónai, and Andrássy Gyula his younger brother who was the last foreign minister of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy and a famous connoisseur and art collector. A replica of the unique secessionist Rippl-Rónai dining room commissioned by Andrássy Tivadar in 1897 will also be sited in this area containing the iconic tapestry of Andrássy Tivadar’s wife, Zichy Eleonóra, “ The lady in a red dress”.
This part of the museum will occupy about 30% of the total space. More than double this – approx. 800m2, the entire ground floor – will be occupied by the museum dedicated to temporary exhibitions and the sustainable support for this comprising offices for researchers and specialists working on the processing and digitisation of the Andrássy Archives, museum staff, exhibition hall of 110m2, visitor center and sponsors club and an office for AGyA. The business plan of the Memorial Museum incorporates regular temporary exhibitions which will be of interest to a contemporary visitor group in particular younger people familiar with digital and virtual reality technology and sponsored primarily by foreign entities.
As part of the ongoing renovation of
Kossuth Square, replicas of the monuments and statues which were in
place in the square prior to World War 2 will be returned to the
positions of the original statues. A replica of the equestrian statue of
Count Gyula Andrassy will be therefore be returned to its original
position south of the Parliament during 2014.
The original statue was commissioned by public order in 1890 upon the death of Andrassy. This memorial was awarded by competition which was won by sculptor Gyorgy Zala. Two photos displayed here illustrate the original work.
The statue in bronze, stood on a plinth 7
meters high with a bronze relief of the Coronation of 1867, the
culmination of the Compromise with Austria crafted by Deak and Andrassy,
on one side of the plinth. On the other side of the plinth was a bronze
relief of the Congress of Berlin of 1878 initiated by Andrassy at which
the balance of power in Europe was negotiated by the great powers.
Replicas of the original reliefs have been commissioned. The equestrian
statue which stood on the plinth was 6 meters high and was of rare
quality. It dominated the south side of the square and could be easily
identified from the Buda side of the Danube.
The original statue was melted down in 1948 under the orders of
Communist Party Secretary Comrade Matyas Rakosi to provide part of the
bronze required for the construction of the massive statue of Comrade
Stalin which in turn was destroyed during the Uprising against the
Soviet Union in 1956.
Prince Paul Odescalchi was an Hungarian noble who resisted the Nazis in Budapest but was branded a class enemy by the communists.
Prince Paul Odescalchi, who has died
aged 90, was one of the last surviving links with “old Hungary” – that was dominated
by a handful of great families, the Eszterházy, Andrássy, Apponyi, Széchenyi
and Odescalchi dynasties among them.
The power of this aristocracy, based
on the ownership of vast estates, was broken by Austria-Hungary’s defeat in the
First World War and the resulting Treaty of Trianon, which deprived Hungary of
two-thirds of her territory, including many noble estates which became part of
the successor states — Czechoslovakia, Romania and Yugoslavia.
Paul Otto Charles Odescalchi was
born in Budapest on September 28 1923. His family were comparative latecomers
to the ranks of the Hungarian aristocracy – although the Odescalchis had been
prominent in the nobility of northern Italy since the 11th century. Benedetto
Odescalchi, as Pope Innocent XI from 1676, inspired the formation of the Holy
League (consisting of Austria, Poland and Venice) which relieved the siege of
Vienna by the Turks in 1683 and expelled them from Buda three years later.
In recognition of Benedetto’s role,
Leopold I, as Holy Roman Emperor, honoured the Odescalchi family by making the
Pope’s brother, Livio, a Prince of the Empire and Duke of Szeremség, a title
which carried with it huge estates in northern Croatia, then part of Hungary.
His descendant and namesake, Prince Livio Odescalchi, who was Empress Maria
Theresa’s Marshal of Court, took over these estates in the late 18th century
and married a Hungarian heiress, thus founding the Hungarian branch of the
Odescalchi family which held a distinguished place in Hungarian society until
Paul Odescalchi’s mother, Princess Klara (Kaja) Odescalchi, was the youngest granddaughter of Count Gyula Andrássy, a celebrated Foreign Minister of the Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary from 1871 to 1879 and chief architect of the 1879 Dual Alliance with Germany – a defensive alliance against Russia.
More importantly, perhaps, Paul Odescalchi was also
the last surviving link with the small but heroic anti-Nazi resistance movement
in Hungary during the Second World War. When the Trianon Treaty swept away the
family estates, Paul’s father, Károly (“Carlo”) Odescalchi took up a career in
business, becoming in 1935 a member of the board of Ganz, Hungary’s largest
In 1940, in return for Adolf Hitler’s assistance in
recovering a large slice of Slovakian territory, Hungary joined Germany, Italy
and Japan in the Tripartite Pact and was thereby committed to the Axis cause.
The board and management of Ganz was, with the sole
exception of Carlo Odescalchi, entirely Jewish and consequently vulnerable.
When, in 1941, Hungary entered the Second World War by sending 40,000 troops to
join German forces in the invasion of the Soviet Union, the Ministry of War
planted agents in all defence-related enterprises, including Ganz, to weed out
“unreliable elements” and assign them to duties at, or just behind, the front
line, in which their life expectancies would be short.
When the agent assigned to Ganz demanded the removal
of a Jewish engineer, a decorated veteran of the First World War who had been
overheard making anti-German remarks, Carlo Odescalchi protested strongly and
announced that he was himself no friend of Germany. Although threatened with
arrest, he mobilised personal contacts to secure the intervention of the
Hungarian “Regent” Mikos Horthy, who ordered the transfer of the Ministry’s
agent to another enterprise.
After the German occupation of Hungary in March 1944, Carlo found that his name was at the top of a Nazi blacklist; he consequently kept a low profile, working from home and moving frequently, until the war was over.
He and Princess Klara had divorced before the war. But
she too had become involved in helping enemies of Nazism. In particular she
aided refugees who had fled to Hungary after Hitler’s invasion of Poland in
1939 but before Hungary entered the war on the side of Germany. Polish soldiers
who wished to continue the fight were allowed to make their way to western
Europe; by 1941, nearly 50,000 had done so. Poles who elected to remain in
Hungary were well cared for and Princess Klara served as Vice-President of the
Hungarian-Polish Committee for Refugee Care. She gave the Committee office
space in her home and supplied the British Ambassador of the time, Owen
O’Malley, with valuable political intelligence.
When, in 1941, Hungary’s entry into the war caused the
rupture of British-Hungarian relations and a surge of Nazi influence in Budapest,
O’Malley warned Princess Klara that she was in imminent danger of arrest. Armed
with an exit permit signed personally by Horthy, she was driven by the British
Naval Attaché to Dubrovnik.
The plan was that the Royal Navy would arrange her
onward journey to Greece by submarine and thence to Cairo. She never made it,
being killed in Dubrovnik by an Italian bombing raid on the port – the only
such raid of the war.
At the time of his mother’s death Paul was 17 years
old and a pupil at the Ferenc Jozsef Catholic gymnasium in Budapest. From there
he enrolled in the city’s Jozsef Nádor Technical University to study
Engineering Science. After the German invasion, however, he became increasingly
impatient to do something, as he put it “to stop us from being Hitler’s last
His search for kindred spirits brought him into
contact with two young Hungarian Army officers, Jeno de Thassy and Guido
Görgey, who had evaded service at the front and were involved in sporadic acts
Despite their youthful enthusiasm, the anti-fascist
resistance movement in occupied Hungary was too small and too divided to make
much of a dent in Nazi and Arrow Cross (Hungarian fascist) power. Two of the
movement’s most effective leaders, the radical democrat Endre Bajcsy-Zsilinszky
and the Communist László Rajk, attempted to unite its various factions under a
“Committee of Liberation”; but the Committee was betrayed almost as soon as it
had been formed and its members – with the exception of Rajk – were hunted down
and shot or hanged.
Odescalchi, as well as carrying out useful work as a
courier between resistance groups and in arranging the transfer of Jews and
other potential victims of the Gestapo from one safe house to another, was involved
in several ill-conceived schemes that were doomed to failure.
He did, however, play a leading role in one successful
resistance operation. Having gravitated to a resistance group led by a Staff
Captain László Sólyom, he set off, disguised as a workman and carrying
explosives in a toolbox. Having made his way to the Gellért Hill, he
successfully destroyed four German military trucks in their parking place.
When the siege and bombardment of Budapest began in
December 1944, Odescalchi, with de Thassy and Görgey, joined many other members
of the capital’s former haut monde in taking refuge in the cellars of the
Wagons Lits building on Vörösmarty Square. He remained there, chafing at the
enforced inactivity, until, in mid-January 1945, Russian troops burst in and
ordered the inhabitants to clear the rubble and debris from the square outside
while they, the “liberators”, looted the building.
Word reached Odescalchi and his two colleagues that
they should meet László Sólyom who, at the Budapest Committee of the Hungarian
Communist Party (HCP), introduced them to János Kádár, who was to be installed
as leader of communist Hungary in the wake of the 1956 uprising. Kádár offered
his aristocratic guests the opportunity to join the HCP, with the distinction
of low membership numbers, in recognition of their resistance activities.
Odescalchi rejected the offer outright; de Thassy and
Görgey temporised. Sólyom then offered them the opportunity of serving under
him in the newly-formed police force; Odescalchi again declined, “gently but
firmly” as de Thassy later recalled, although his comrades accepted the offer.
On leaving the building, however, all three were arrested by Soviet soldiers
and incarcerated in a nearby cellar. De Thassy and Görgey eventually succeeded in
escaping from the cellar, leaving Odescalchi to his fate.
This turned out to be imprisonment, as a “class
enemy”, in a Soviet concentration camp near Gödöllö, outside Budapest. Typhus
was endemic in the camp and the majority of its inmates died as a result.
Odescalchi contracted the disease but survived; he was released in 1946, though
he was so physically diminished that his father failed to recognise him.
In 1947 Odescalchi succeeded in securing an exit
permit and fled to England, where he read Engineering at Liverpool University
and, in 1948, married Zsuzsanna Tamassy, who had followed him from Budapest. He
transferred from Liverpool to Bristol University in order to read Psychology
After graduating, he pursued a career in industrial
psychology, working, first, for IBM, for whom he ran a training centre in the
Netherlands, and then in Cheltenham, as a consultant. He had in the meantime
divorced Zsuzsanna and in 1963 remarried, to Antonina Horne.
In retirement Odescalchi actively supported several
charities related to Hungary and Transylvania, work which continued after his
second divorce in 1995, and his move to Arles, in southern France, where he
lived in partnership with Anne-Charlotte DuChastel.
He was a regular visitor to Budapest and to the
village of Tiszadob, where the Andrássy family had owned an estate. As deputy
president of Transylvania Direct, he helped to provide transport for
Magyar-speaking children in Transylvania so that they could be bussed to
Magyar-speaking schools. In 2005 he founded the Gyula Andrassy Foundation to
promote the legacy of his great-grandfather.
Paul Odescalchi is survived by a son from his first
marriage and by a daughter from his second.
Odescalchi, born September 28 1923, died April 17 2014