Saturday, June 20, 2015

{34} RD600 Additions: Agnes Maria (née von Rechberg) Risom & Jeff Risom

Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor (1578-1637)
While entering into my database the German descendants of Katherine Mary Howard, wife of Count Ernst von Rechberg of Elkofen Castle, and daughter of the diplomat Sir Henry Francis Howard, scion of the Corby Castle branch of the family, I came across her granddaughter, another fascinating immigrant to the United States, who would make a nice addition to Gary Boyd Roberts's Royal Descents of 600 Immigrants series, especially as she descends from the 17th-century Hapsburg Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II, in addition to the medieval Plantagenet kings of England.

Countess Agnes Frida Katharina Maria Gabriele Josepha von Rechberg was born 10 October 1921 at  Schräbsdorf Castle in Bobolice, Poland, the seat of her mother's family, the Counts Strachwitz von Gross-Zauche ind Camminetz. But she grew up in Bavaria, at Elkofen Castle, which her father Count Wolfgang von Rechberg had inherited from his childless elder brother in 1925. The von Rechberg family were devout Catholics and dismayed by the rise of Nazi Germany. At the end of World War II, Agnes went to work in Munich as a translator for the Arts and Monuments division of the U.S. Army, whose responsibility was to mitigate combat damage, primarily to structures—churches, museums, and other important monuments—as well as to locate movable works of art and other cultural items stolen or otherwise missing. Last year's movie  The Monuments Men by George Clooney, was based on the activities of this division.
Schräbsdorf Castle in Poland, birthplace of Agnes Risom
While serving as a translator for this division, Agnes met and fell in love with Ole Christian Risom, who had served in the Army's ski patrol during the War, and was now a driver for the Monuments Men. Born in Copenhagen, the younger son of architect Sven Risom, Ole moved to Stockholm in the 1930s to learn the publishing business at Bonniers, the Swedish publisher. In 1940, he decided to immigrate to New York, where his elder brother Jens was beginning his career as a furniture designer (Jens Risom would go on to become one of the most influential designers of the mid-20th-century). He was granted permission to travel through occupied Denmark, where he saw his parents, and then went on to Lisbon to board a freighter. After being detained by the British in Trinidad for several weeks he finally reached New York. Ole joined the United States Army after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. In love with Agnes von Rechberg, Ole remained in Bavaria after his discharge from the U.S. Army, and the couple wed at Elkofen Castle in 1947. They returned to New York together soon after, first living in Manhattan, then eventually moving out to Long Island. Their three children were all born in the U.S. - Christopher Henry 'Chris' Risom in 1948, Camilla Elisabeth Risom in 1952, and Charles Nicholas 'Nick' Risom in 1962.
Elkofen Castle in Bavaria, the seat of the Counts von Rechberg
Any American who grew up in the 1950s, 60s and 70s is very familiar with the Little Golden Books series of children's books. Ole Risom was the creative force behind that series, serving as vice president and art director of that series from 1952 to 1972. Over the years, Ole was closely associated with Richard Scarry, the author and illustrator whose books have sold more than 100 million copies around the world. They worked together on dozens of books, including 'I Am a Bunny' in 1963,
Little Golden Books
which Ole wrote and Scarry illustrated. Ole also worked with other leading artists in the children's book field, including Dr. Seuss, Jim Henson and Sesame Street books, Stan and Jan Berenstain, Leo Lionni, Laurent de Brunhoff, Charles M. Schulz and Marc Brown. Agnes Risom became a U.S. citizen in 1950, and started up an independent bookstore in Locust Valley, Long Island, called Book Ends Cottage. The couple eventually settled in Roslyn Harbor, which is where they were living when Ole Risom died at age 80 in August 2000. Agnes survived as his widow for nine years, and died 19 May 2009 at Stamford, Connecticut, near the home of her youngest child Nick Risom.

All three of Ole and Agnes Risom's children have children of their own today, and the eldest grandchild, Jeffrey Lee 'Jeff' Risom is an architect with the acclaimed Danish firm Gehl Architects. He focuses on projects in San Francisco and New York, lectures worldwide, and lives with his wife and two young children in
Jeff Risom, architect, grandson of
Ole and Agnes (von Rechberg)  Risom
Copenhagen, bringing the Risom family line full circle, back to its roots, and carrying Agnes von Rechberg Risom's descendants into the next generation.

The most recent monarch in Agnes Risom's ancestry is John III Sobieski, King of Poland (1629-1696), but as that monarch is not descended from Edward III, we'll start with the most recent one who is - Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor. In the style of RD600, the line would appear as so:

1. Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor = Maria Anna of Bavaria
2. Maria Anna of Austria = Maximilian I, Elector of Bavaria
3. Ferdinand Maria, Elector of Bavaria = Henriette Adelaide of Savoy
4. Maximilian II Emanuel, Elector of Bavaria = Teresa Sobieska of Poland
5. Duke Ferdinand Maria Innocenz of Bavaria = Maria Adelheid Fortunata Spaur-Flavon
6. Count Joseph Ferdinand von Salern (illegit.) = Maria Josepha Basselet de La Rosée
7. Countess Adelheid Maria Josepha von Salern = Karl Eligius von Strommer
8. Baroness Anna Maria von Strommer = Johann Adam von Aretin
9. Baron Peter Karl von Aretin = Franziska Antonia Maria Eva von Gumppenberg
10. Baroness Franziska Maria von Aretin = Maximilian Maria von Soden-Fraunhofen
11. Countess Frida Maria von Soden-Fraunhofen = Friedrich Strachwitz von Gross-Zauche und Camminetz
12. Countess Maria Franziska Strachwitz von Gross-Zauche und Camminetz = Wolfgang Franz von Rechberg
13. Countess Agnes Maria von Rechberg (1921-2009), immigrated to New York 1947 = Ole Christian Risom (1919-2000), children's book publisher[*]
14. Christopher Henry Risom (b. 1948) = Celeste S. Farhar
15. Jeffrey Lee Risom (b. 1978), architect, global lecturer

[*] Most online royal genealogy databases do not indicate any issue for Agnes von Rechberg and Ole Risom. Noble Circles by MacGregor Sadolin is the only one I've found that does. Noble Circles does not, however, include Martha Bush-Brown, the wife of Agnes and Ole's younger son Nicholas Risom. She is descended from the renowned Harvard University English literature professor George Lyman Kittredge (1860-1941).

My next post will look in more detail at the von Aretin family, and at Count Joseph Ferdinand von Salern, the illegitimate grandson of the Elector of Bavaria.

Cheers,                              -----Brad

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