I got to know my great aunt some months before getting married. She was a tall and very cultivated lady. It was also hard to be indifferent to her, as she was a lady of strong, though usually, well-informed opinions. I for one became very fond of her and very much enjoyed listening to her stories.
She was born in Madeira Island on August 14, on the eve of the Feast of “Senhora do Monte”. Aunt A once told me that as a child she thought that the firework on that day was displayed in her honour!
|Otto (2nd from the right) with his family in Quinta Rocha Machado, Monte|
She also recalled playing and picking up violets with Otto von Habsburg (1912- 2011), the eldest son of the Emperor of Austria (1887-1922), who went to Madeira in exile and is buried in the Monte Church.
The house where she lived until her mother died still exists. It has become a sort of convent – at least it was so, in 2006, in the only time I visited it. The gates still have the initials of her British father (EF), Ernest Francis.
When Aunt A turned 12, she went to England and attended the boarding school: Our Lady’s Convent School in Loughborough (http://www.olcs.leics.sch.uk/main/about_the_school.asp).
Later, when Aunt A returned to Madeira she met her future husband, of whom she had many happy, beautiful and lasting memories
Rua das Hortas is where she lived with her husband and daughter, my friend G.
Quintas das Tílias, Monte is where she often spent the summer.
This tree used to be a small shrub.
The old Savoy hotel was also frequently referenced in her stories.
as well as Golden Gate Cafe
The cultural center of Santa Clara - Universo das Memorias João Carlos de Abreu on Calçada do Pico - is installed in an elegant mansion of the late nineteenth century. It had once belonged to her great grandfather, Francisco Simão, the bastard son of the Calçada Countess’s father.
Once becoming aware of his situation, Francisco Simão decided to emigrate to British Guyana, looking for wealth to eventually build in Madeira a sumptuous house similar to that of his own family, who had rejected him.
In 2002 Helena Marques wrote a novel based on Aunt A’s life: Os Íbis Vermelhos da Guiana. It is split into two parts: one about Francisco Simão who went to Guyana; and another fictionalized version of Aunt A, who Helena Marques named Anne. I have never visited Guyana but my own Granny used to tell me stories about Demerara, now Georgetown, to where many people from Madeira emigrated. I hope to visit it very soon!
Aunt A. on her 90th birthday