It’s that time of year when the parcels arrive in brown paper packages, tied up with strings and yes I’m sorry I cannot help but fill in “these are a few of my favourite things” such is the embedding of “The Sound of Music” in my psyche having raised a family that love musicals and Julie Andrews in particular!
I was struck by something I saw online – “Is there anything more saccharine than The Sound of Music”. Red flag, hold the phone, don’t overreact! I know musicals aren’t to everyone’s liking, and yes, it’s not Tolstoy, it is the Hollywood version of a true story, so some sugar and spice (or lack of) are part of the package. I didn’t think it was quite “fair”. This is after all, a story about the repressed being oppressed and finding a way to liberate themselves in more ways than simply crossing the alps to Switzerland, but perhaps I should try to see the other point of view.
It did get me thinking about the actual story, which is a little more real-life gritty. So perhaps a bit more background is necessary. Firstly, Georg Von Trapp (31) married his first wife Agathe Whitehead (20) on 14 January 1911. Agathe was the daughter of Robert Whitehead a highly successful engineer who designed the Whitehead torpedo. Her mother was part of the Austro-Hungarian nobility and the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and outbreak of war resulted in the family assets being frozen and forbidden from leaving the country. Georg was a naval officer having followed his family vocation that had resulted in elevation through the social ranks to nobility. He became an early submariner commanding the SM U-5 and was decorated for the sinking of various British, French, Italian and Greek vessels. Their first child Rupert was born in November 1911, over the next 10 years they had six further children. As we live with covid, 100 years ago scarlet fever was much more common and in Christmas 1921 five of the children suffered from scarlet fever during an epidemic, including Agathe who eventually died as a result at the age of just 31 in 1922.
HOW DO YOU SOLVE A PROBLEM LIKE MARIA?
In 1926 Von Trapp hired a novice from the local Abbey in Salzburg, Maria Kutschera. Maria’s own mother died when she was 2 and her father left her with his cousin to care for her whilst he travelled the world to manage his grief and died when she was 9. Despite a difficult childhood she completed school with good grades and eventually received a scholarship to the State Teacher’s College in Vienna from which she graduated in 1923. At age 19 she entered Nonnberg Abbey intending to become a nun.
Within a few months of her position at the von Trapp home, Georg asked her to marry him and according to Maria she returned to the Abbey to seek advice from the abbess. They married in November 2027, Georg being 25 years older unlike Julie Andrews who was just 6 years younger than Christopher Plummer (unusual for Hollywood). Maria wrote that she was really marrying the children, that she wanted to be a nun, she liked Georg but did not love him. They had their first of three children in 1929.
The Whitehead family wealth was largely held in England, but by 1935 with growing tensions in the now land-locked Austria from a hostile Germany, Georg transferred the savings into an Austrian Bank which unfortunately collapsed, resulting in the loss of most of the family fortune. The family had to discharge most of their servants and lived on the top floor of their home whilst renting rooms to others.
One tenant was a newly graduated young catholic priest, Franz Wasner who taught the children music. German soprano Lotte Lehmann heard them sing and suggested they perform paid concerts with Wasner as musical Director. Germany took over Austria in 1938 and Georg was offered a commission in the German Navy, he declined and it is also alleged that he declined an invitation for the family to sing at Hitler’s birthday. Later that year the family left Austria by train initially to Italy and headed for the US via London. They returned for a singing tour of Europe in 1939 avoiding the Third Reich but by September made their way back to the safety of the US, where they lived for the remainder of their lives. Georg died in May 1947 from lung cancer. Maria eventually died in March 1987.
On reflection, perhaps The Sound of Music is rather saccharine, by comparison to the difficulties that the von Trapp family experienced. The basic skeleton of story is there, but many of the traumatic, life shaping experiences are glossed over. What is interesting from a financial planning perspective is how quickly fortunes can alter. Within no more than two decades the Von Trapp’s had lost their wealth, their status, their home, their country. They took on a new vocation, touring as a family singing group.
CLIMB EVERY MOUNTAIN
Unlike the Von Trapp family, with good financial planning, assuming that your lifestyle doesn’t become significantly more elaborate than it is, we work together to ensure that funds survive you and that you provide a legacy for those you wish to. Whilst we can never know the future (fortunately) we can prepare for it as well as possible, doing our best.
One of the main advantages of a global stock market is the ability to diversify assets around the world, reducing risk of permanent loss considerably. Your portfolio now has between 16,000 and 30,000 securities – that’s an enormous amount of diversification around the world.
Anyway, as the year draws to a close, perhaps Julie Andrews will be on screen again. Wherever you are this Christmastime I do hope that you receive some packages, some perhaps in brown paper tied up with string.
You can read more articles about Pensions, Wealth Management, Retirement, Investments, Financial Planning and Estate Planning on my blog which gets updated every week. If you would like to talk to me about your personal wealth planning and how we can make you stay wealthier for longer then please get in touch by calling 08000 736 273 or email email@example.com
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