It might be said that there are two types of people in this world: those who know the number of rooms in their homes and those who don’t. Princess Gloria von Thurn und Taxis, whose main residence is the enormous Schloss St. Emmeram, in the German city of Regensburg, falls into the latter category. The ancestral palace—which adjoins a former Benedictine monastery dating from the eighth century and is said to be one of the largest private homes in Europe—has 150,000 square feet of parquet floors, an 18th-century rococo ballroom with 23-foot ceilings, and 400 clocks. The number of rooms is estimated at 500, though it’s hard to pin down an exact figure. “Nobody has ever really counted,” Gloria says with a shrug.
But at her new loft in New York’s Chelsea, where her neighbors include an outpost of the fast-food chain Chipotle and the gay bar Splash, the number of rooms is easier to ascertain. There are five: a large kitchen/dining/living area, three bedrooms and an office. The place seems even smaller, the Princess claims, because of the open layout. “It feels like a one-bedroom,” says Gloria, who’s sipping coffee in the apartment and wearing a pair of bright orange slacks, a purple cashmere sweater and a strand of pearls. “If there are other people here, you have no privacy.” When her sister, Maya Schoenburg, and her family stayed over recently, Gloria found it hard to get much done. “Family life in a loft is, I think, a disaster,” she says.
Not that she has any intention of giving up the place. A widow and the mother of three grown children, Gloria, 50, usually lives alone during her New York sojourns, and she says she prefers it that way. She likes running her own errands—you might find her shopping for groceries at Garden of Eden on 14th Street—and has considered buying a motorcycle, like the one she has in Regensburg, for zooming solo around the city.
“What I like about New York is I’m totally independent,” Gloria says. “Life at the castle is wonderful, and it’s wonderful to have staff, but I also like the way it is here. I am not an old lady yet. I like to be free.”
Freedom is a surprisingly new concept in the life of Princess Gloria, despite her well-known past as a madcap socialite. Married at age 20 to a distant cousin—the decadent, 53-year-old Prince Johannes, scion of the family that founded Europe’s postal system in the 15th century—Gloria spent much of the Eighties playing the frivolous, globe-trotting party girl, though many believe she was mostly living up to Johannes’s rather peculiar idea of how a wife should behave. It was during this time that Gloria earned the nickname Princess TNT, with her multicolored hair, wacky couture outfits and outrageous antics, such as her barking-dog imitation, which she once performed on Late Night With David Letterman. But after Johannes’s death in 1990, Gloria unexpectedly retreated to Regensburg and transformed herself into a disciplined hausfrau and estate manager, raising her three children and shoring up the family’s billion-dollar fortune through astute sales of land, silver and other holdings. Her next surprise: becoming a devout Catholic and living part-time in Rome, where she could be closer to her friend Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI.