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Why European Princes & Princesses Are Flocking to New York

By Delia Von Neuschatz | January 20, 2015 | Lifestyle

A new breed of titled European is coming to New York, where they discretely launch careers and enjoy a paparazzi-free life.

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Prince Lorenzo Borghese launched several businesses since coming to New York.

There wasn’t much about the wedding of Amedeo d’Aviano, a young analyst at Deloitte, and Lili Rosboch, a freelancer covering arts and lifestyle for Bloomberg News, that would have made it stand out for the editors of The New York Times wedding section in search of a great love story to feature that weekend. After all, in a city filled with Ivy League wu?nderkinds and the offspring of the city’s literati and glitterati, they were simply two more attractive 20-somethings about to tie the knot.

Of course, the marriage that same day of Prince Amedeo of Belgium, Archduke of Austria-Este, and Elisabetta Maria Rosboch von Wolkenstein was quite another matter. The groom is sixth in line to the throne of Belgium, and his uncle, Philippe, the current king, attended the nuptials; the couple was blessed by Pope Francis just prior to the announcement of their engagement. The bride’s lineage isn’t too shabby either: She is descended from a line of Italian princes who became publishing magnates in the 20th century; her aunt is Marella Agnelli, her relatives include aristocratic Italian film producers, and she’s the heiress to a pharmaceutical fortune. Little wonder that nobility from across Europe—and paparazzi to match—showed up to attend their wedding last July in Rome.

The twist? Amedeo d’Aviano and Lili Rosboch are their Imperial and Royal Highnesses, Prince Amedeo and Princess Elisabetta of Belgium.

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Princess Elisabetta and Prince Amedeo of Belgium, Archduchess and Archduke of Austria-Este, known professionally in New York as Lili Rosboch and Amedeo d’Aviano.

Welcome to the new world of royalty, 21st-century style—and to New York, which makes it possible for young nobles (even those in the direct line of succession to a still-existing throne) to lead remarkably normal, everyday lives. For some, like Amedeo of Belgium—who, with his bride, returned to his home country after the wedding—the experience may last only a few years. But while it did, it gave him a taste of something that most young royals have only recently begun to seek out and to savor, something they may still only find possible in a city like New York: anonymity.

“Overseas, in general, and especially in New York, I don’t think my name has had any influence on my work,” Amedeo told a Belgian magazine in 2011. What matters instead is getting the work done: Like his peers, he noted, his performance can be quantified and measured. “And I’m subject to the same rules as any of my colleagues in the office.” He recalled celebrating the day he won his first job, just like any other new hire. “I was so glad to have gotten a job in the middle of the economic crisis!”

The prince and his girlfriend, later his fiancée, lived their New York lives in a way that they couldn’t have done anywhere in Europe, where photographers would have dogged their footsteps. They spent their downtime doing just what most young New Yorkers like to do: going to the movies, visiting art galleries, trying out new restaurants, and cooking for friends. When Amedeo ran the New York Marathon in 2011, he was just another face in the crowd.

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The titled set goes to work: Princess Eugenie of York is on staff at Paddle8, the online auction site.

Amedeo d’Aviano and Lili Rosboch aren’t alone. Rather, they are part of a small but steadily growing number of young royals and the offspring of European aristocrats who are heading to New York, not to see and be seen as standard bearers for a glittering social life, but for precisely the opposite reason. They represent a new kind of titled European who views the city as a launching pad for a career; a place where they can build a reputation for what they can do rather than for their ancestors’ titles. You’re more likely to find them on LinkedIn than in the Social Register, and going for a stroll on the High Line or checking out the new Ethiopian restaurant in Queens than flitting from one ball or designer boutique to the next.

Part of the reason for this career-centric lifestyle is that royalty itself has undergone a sea change. “Once, they married for money,” says New York Social Diary’s David Patrick Columbia. “But that was a different time, and that’s gone. They come here [now] to make a living. They’re serious businesspeople.”

Consider the British royal family. Although Queen Elizabeth is generally considered to be one of the world’s richest individuals, the wealth doesn’t spread itself evenly throughout the family. Her second-born son, Andrew, Duke of York, receives an annual allowance of about $400,000 to cover his personal expenses and in recognition of his own official engagements. That may seem like a lot, but it isn’t enough to allow his two daughters, Princess Beatrice, 26, and Princess Eugenie, 24, to live in the lap of luxury, even if that’s what they wanted to do.

It seems clear that this isn’t what the York princesses had in mind, anyway. While Beatrice has chosen to work for Sony Pictures Television in London, Eugenie bolted for New York last summer and is happily living the life of a typical downtown 20-something. Working for the Paddle8 auction house in the NoHo district, she has been spotted soaking up the atmosphere at Knicks games, noshing on pizza slices while walking down the street, living in the Meatpacking District, and dining with one or the other of her visiting royal parents at hangouts like ABC Kitchen.

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Prince Philippos of Greece is an analyst at a hedge fund in Midtown.

While these young aristos may be independent financially, no one is going to mistake them for the huddled masses anytime soon. Like Eugenie, they come with gilded pedigrees (she’s seventh in line of succession to one of the oldest thrones in Europe) and sometime impressive academic credentials (Prince Amedeo graduated from the London School of Economics). Still, “Things are much more intense, much more competitive than they were in my parents’ generation,” says Chloe Crespi, the 37-year-old granddaughter of international fashion icons Count Rodolfo and Countess Consuelo Crespi. “A family name gets you the meeting, but it doesn’t get you the job,” much less guarantee success once you’re hired.

The family name may have landed Prince Philippos of Greece, 28—the youngest son of Greece’s last monarch, Constantine II—on any number of lists of “most eligible royal bachelors” alongside England’s Prince Harry and, until recently, Belgium’s Prince Amedeo. But on Wall Street, where Philippos works, it’s P&L and not pedigree that matters. Following in the footsteps of his older brother, Crown Prince Pavlos, Philippos has set out to forge a career in finance and works at a hedge fund in Midtown as an analyst. A golden contact list is certainly welcome, but it’s not going to shield him if he can’t pull his weight, generating investment ideas and protecting the fund’s assets.

Like anyone else around him, Philippos says, he has had to earn his Street cred. “Once people see that you’re working, they realize that there’s something more going on,” he says. “It’s not just for show.” He chose to live in New York for the chance to be “in the epicenter of the financial world” and sees no difference between himself and his hedge fund peers, in spite of the fact that his ancestors include Russian tsars, German emperors, Britain’s Queen Victoria, and the monarchs of Denmark. “I work for a living,” he says. “Everyone has to work, and in that sense I’m like everyone else.”

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Chloe Crespi chose photography as a career.

The love affair between New York City and European royals is nothing new, of course—it’s just taking on a new form. And it’s mutual: Their employers are happy to have them, since far from throwing their weight around or bragging about what their ancestor Charlemagne did centuries ago, they tend to be reserved and respectful. They “have impeccable manners and good social skills,” says Vanity Fair writer Bob Colacello. “They are respectful of authority. They’re not after their boss’s job six months after joining the company.”

In some cases, they’ll actually end up launching the company. The name “Borghese” may be more familiar in Rome, where visitors can see it carved on the façade of St. Peter’s Basilica (Camillo Borghese became Pope Paul V in 1605) or stroll through the Borghese Gardens. Prince Lorenzo Borghese brought the name to New York in 1997 at the age of 25. “If you really want to build your name, the best place is New York City,” he declares. “There is so much business here and so many connections.” It was while attending Fordham’s business school that the young aristo devised his idea for an upmarket brand of organic pet products, Royal Treatment, which he launched in 2002.

“People think we don’t work and we don’t care and all we do is go out for tea and polo and [think about] horses and where we’re going next,” says Lorenzo. While that might be true for a subset of affluent types, it isn’t for this young Borghese, or the others like him. “That type of lifestyle ended a long time ago; the free ride is over.” His grandmother, Princess Marcella Borghese, was aware of this, he says, and set out to launch a cosmetic brand. “The Italian nobility was furious with her.”

Lorenzo, emulating her rather than the Italian aristos who have stayed safely at home behind their palazzo walls, has since branched out in business, adding a clothing line, a beer, and some privatelabel cosmetic products; he’s now working on a disposable bird feeder. He also has set up a charity, Animal Aid USA, which he calculates rescues 150 dogs each month from high-kill shelters. There’s “nothing wrong with using your contacts and your background to try to get ahead, but you have to work and you have to give back,” he insists.

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Carolina von Humboldt, an interior designer, praises the city as a place “where you can learn something new from morning 'til night.”

The city’s crowded streets and the reluctance of New Yorkers to be impressed by much beyond what people achieve for themselves makes it easy for a royal to get lost in the crowd. “The city accepts anyone and everything,” says Prince Philippos. “You can be yourself.”

That’s true even if that “self” is still pursuing more traditional royal pastimes, like philanthropy. Consider Princess Madeleine of Sweden, fourth in line to that country’s throne, who moved to New York only a few years ago to work for the local offices of World Childhood Foundation, a nonprofit organization founded by her mother, Queen Silvia. With so many other people in the city, Madeleine has said, “I feel like I blend in. I can walk down the street and nobody is looking at me.” That did change, briefly, after Madeleine announced her engagement to New York financier Chris O’Neill, but since their wedding last year, the two have largely resumed living a quiet life in Manhattan. The birth of their daughter, Princess Leonore, at Weill Cornell Medical Center on February 20, 2014, may change that: To retain her position as fifth in line to the throne, baby Leonore will have to live in Sweden during her upbringing.

It couldn’t be more different from the New York of the 1970s and 1980s that royals sought out. “In the ’80s, people just wanted the good life,” says Marc de Gontaut Biron, a veteran New York City party promoter. Back then, the parties that Biron—himself a count and the descendant of an aristocratic French family—organized featured those more likely to show up in glossy magazines for being famous or for their titles than for their work: Princess Caroline of Monaco, for instance, or Gloria von Thurn und Taxis.

The royals who relocated here, too, were different. Prince Dimitri of Yugoslavia didn’t choose New York because it offered him an opportunity to create an identity and a career, but because in 1983, when he was 25 and left France, Europe was becoming socialist. “It was unbearable to me; my family on the Yugoslav side had lost everything because of communism and socialism,” he says. “I thought, no, I can’t deal with it.” His hobby—jewelry design, which he began while working at Sotheby’s—became his business, and his European social network extended as far as New York, he discovered. “My parents had lots of friends here already anyway.”

Archduke Géza von Hapsburg, curatorial director for Fabergé and great-grandson of Emperor Franz Joseph, who arrived here in 1998, says that his father and older brother weren’t brought up to earn a living, and despite his success in the art world, he “never planned on going into anything having to do with earning money.” Nonetheless, von Hapsburg has thrived as a highly regarded art historian and author. But he’s quick to point out, “Today a title doesn’t get you anywhere unless you have a gift that differentiates you from everybody else. It’s your achievements that matter.”

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Princess Madeleine of Sweden with her husband, New York financier Chris O’Neill.

Today’s younger royals and aristos are keen to make those achievements matter. Baron Otto von Bismarck, the Prussian statesman who welded together the country that today is Germany, might be taken aback at the decision of his descendant, Vanessa von Bismarck, to make her way in New York. But the latter, a graduate of the London School of Economics, now runs a successful public relations company specializing in fashion and luxury goods. The Belgian Countess Elisabeth de Kergorlay has launched a line of gourmet frozen foods, which she sells from a shop, Babeth’s Feast, she just opened on the Upper East Side.

And while Amedeo and Lili may be back in Belgium for now, it’s likely only a matter of time before their places are filled by other scions of Europe’s nobility, eager for a chance to prove that they are more than a name and a pedigree. “New York allows me to reinvent myself,” says Christophe von Hohenberg, a descendant of a titled German family, who did just that by becoming a photographer, shooting portraits of everyone from Brooke Shields to Helmut Newton. “It gives me a new way of expressing my talents and my focus, providing me with outlets to expose my adventures.” His fiancée, Carolina von Humboldt, also from an aristocratic family, works as an interior designer and says that in New York, “money means more than background,” and praises a city where “you can do and see and learn something new from morning ’til night.”

And why wouldn’t one of today’s young royals, restless and eager to experience the world, knowing life behind palace walls is no fairy tale, find that just as tantalizing a prospect as any of the rest of us?

Photography by:

PhotograPhy by Patrick van katwijk/dPa/corbis (rosboch); gregg delman (borghese); Stuart C. WilSon/getty imageS (PrinCeSS eugenie); © SPlaSh neWS/CorbiS (PrinCe PhiliPPoS); niCole hantaS (CreSPi); Julian parker/uk press via getty images (princess madeleine); gregg delman (humboldt)