Dwight J. Partello, Part III by Philip E. Margolis
(continued from Part II)
The Duke of Edinburgh was the second son of Queen Victoria and had married Maria Alexandrovna, the second daughter of Alexander II, Emperor of Russia. From the very beginning of the marriage, there was a good deal of friction between the Russian Duchess and British Royalty, especially over who should have precedence, Marie or the Princess of Wales, who was married to the Duke’s older brother, Albert Edward. Marie felt that she should have precedence since she was the daughter of the Emperor of Russia whereas the Princess of Wales was merely daughter of the Danish king. But Queen Victoria didn’t see it that way and there was quite a brouhaha over whether Marie should be referred to as Her Royal Highness, Her Royal & Imperial Highness, or Her Imperial & Royal Highness. The entire royal family was relieved when the Duke and Duchess took over the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in 1891, thus removing them from London.
Duke of Saxe-Coburg, courtesy of Wikipedia
The Duke of Saxe-Coburg was by this time 49 years old and had served honorably in the Royal Navy, achieving the rank of Admiral. As a child the Duke had secretly learned to play the violin as a surprise for his mother. She rewarded his efforts by buying him a ¾-size violin by Jacob Stainer. Being self-taught, he was by his own admission not a particularly good violinist, but he loved to play and always brought a violin with him on his voyages around the world. He was also quite active in helping to found the Royal College of Music in London. Though he did not actively collect violins, he had nevertheless accumulated a small but fine collection of stringed instruments, some of which he had inherited from his uncle, the Duke of Cambridge.
1893 was also the year than Dwight J. Partello managed to change his consulate post from Dusseldorf to Sonneneburg, which included coverage of the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg, which was just 10 kilometers from Sonneneburg. This was very convenient as he could be close to both his daughters – Carita, who lived in Coburg, and Adeline who was still unmarried and lived with her parents. But Partello was in Sonneneburg for just two years before he got himself into a bit of hot water. On a trip back to the U.S. in 1895, Partello remarked that many companies in Sonneneburg were undervaluing their wares to avoid paying the full import duties in America, and that he intended to stop this practice upon his return. These remarks were published in a New York newspaper, and the business community of Sonneneburg reacted angrily, demanding that Partello either retract his charges or name the offending companies.
The incident proved rather embarrassing for the State Department, which was responsible for the consulates, and Partello was eventually removed from his post. Wishing to remain in Germany, Partello was able to secure a position as Special Treasury Agent with the U. S. Treasury Department in Berlin, a part of the government more attuned to his crusade against tax cheaters. He served in that capacity from 1898-1907, after which he returned to Washington, D. C.
Adeline lived with her father in Berlin, taking over the domestic duties of her mother, who had passed away during their stay in Sonneneburg. According to Ernest Doring, their apartment in Berlin was a magnet for the musical community, with many famous violinists visiting them for a chance to play one of Partello’s instruments. And the Partellos themselves also enjoyed participating in these chamber music evenings. “Partello and his daughter Adeline played the violin,” writes Doring, “and another daughter—the Baroness Carità von Horst, was the pianist, visiting players taking other parts as required.” Partello was, however, quite possessive of his collection and there is no evidence that he ever loaned his instruments to musicians for extended periods.
In 1900, the Duke of Saxe-Coburg died and it was left to Duchess Maria to manage the sizable accumulation of valuable objects he had acquired. This included a large collection of glass and ceramic ware, valued at half a million marks, which the Duchess donated to the Veste Coburg, and a collection of seven fine Italian stringed instruments. The Duchess offered the collection to Partello at what was probably a “friendly” price and the transaction was quickly executed.
Among the instruments that Partello purchased from the Duchess was a fine cello by David Tecchler that had been given to the Duke by the Commonwealth of Australia as a wedding gift, which is now the concert instrument of Anthony Elliott. There was also the small Stainer violin that Queen Victoria had given the Duke when he was still a boy and just learning to play. And there were two violins by Stradivari, both of which the Duke had received from his uncle, the Duke of Cambridge. The first was an instrument normally dated 1722, though it sometimes appears as 1723 or 1725, and the second was the famous ‘Spanish Strad’ of 1723, once owned by the Governor General of Cadiz.
(to be continued
. . .)
As one of the main links between the English, German and Russian empires in what turned out to be a very turbulent era, Marie’s life seemed destined to be rocked by tragedy. In 1881, her father was assassinated. In 1899, her only son committed suicide, shooting himself at the Duke and Duchess’s twenty-fifth anniversary celebrations. Her brother, Duke Sergei Alexandrowich of Russia, was assassinated in 1905. Her nephew, Csar Nicholas II of Russia was assassinated in 1918. And another brother, Grand Duke Paul Alexandrowich of Russia, was shot in Saint Peterburg in 1919. The Duchess herself died in Zurich in 1920, a year after the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg had voted in a referendum to dissolve the Duchy and join Bavaria.