The prince died in 1990, following two heart transplants just seven weeks apart, nailing the coffin shut, as it were, on the eighties and leaving the princess $576 million in debt, a result of her husband’s poor investments and a recessionary climate. When death duties were added to the arrears, the princess learned the meaning of austerity, giving up 24 of her 27 cars. She also refashioned herself as a businesswoman in pearls and wrist-length gloves, studying corporate law and managing the vast family holdings with a perspicacity even detractors admired.
Von Thurn und Taxis insists she would not do anything differently: “As Charles Aznavour sang, ‘Non! Rien de rien/Non! Je ne regrette rien.’ I think it’s the privilege of youth to be curious, fun-loving, even wild. I also think that every age has its own behavior. You don’t want to behave like you’re 70 when you’re in your 20s. And vice versa.”
In recent years, she has found God, leading her to become a major contributor to the Catholic church and an intimate of Pope Benedict XVI’s; she dines privately with His Holiness when she is in Rome, where she owns a “small” palazzo. (Von Thurn und Taxis also has homes in Manhattan, Paris, and Kenya.) Now that her children, Albert, Maria, and Elisabeth Theresia, are all adults, she has more time for collecting art and for personal projects, like penning an etiquette guide. Von Thurn und Taxis neither confirms nor denies that she and her co-author, Princess Alessandra Borghese, have become a couple, as many have speculated.
But oh, for the eighties. “The Gloria on horseback was just as happy as the Gloria all pimped up as a cowgirl in a ballroom,” von Thurn und Taxis says. “Still, I think I was always a multiple personality. Not in the pathological sense, of course.”