Family History - Bajna

Family History

The Sándors became lords of Bajna through one of the members of the Both family, Erzsébet Balogh de Nebojsza. Tamás Kaszai Benchich, the ancestor who earned the title of nobility, obtained the estate of Szlavnica (present-day Slavnica in Slovakia) in the Trenčín Region and the title linked with it, for his bravery from Ladislaus the Posthumous, in 1456. Tamás’ son was Sándor Benchich, whose child called himself Márton Sándor after his father’s first name, from which the family’s surname was derived.

Márton’s grandson, László Sándor and Erzsébet Tökésújfalussy’s secondborn son, László, inherited almost nothing from the family’s ancient estates; however, part of the inheritance of the Both family of Bajna, who earned great wealth and fame during the time of Matthias Corvinus, was passed down to him as the dowry of his wife, Erzsébet Balogh de Nebojsza. Thus László and his sons became the founders of the Bajna branch of the Sándor family of Szlavnica.

Menyhért Sándor redeemed the Bajna estate complex, which had been pledged during the Turkish wars as his grandmother’s dowry, and it became his property in 1696. The county assembly elected him to the role of sheriff in 1696. As a result, Menyhért was given the title of baron in 1716, and he was entrusted with the actual management of the county. In 1727, the king made his son, Mihály, a Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece and appointed him as one of his counsellors. After the death of his father, Mihály Sándor was the head of the Bajna estate until 1773, and the organisation of the estate is mostly connected with his name. Mihály thus set out to grow his money. The centre of the estate, which already comprised three counties, became Bajna, where work on restoring the manor house, which had been devastated during Turkish rule, began in 1743.

After Mihály Sándor died, his only son, Antal Sándor, who was over forty years old at the time, took over the estate management.

Count Antal was favoured mostly because of his generosity; he and his family spent much of their time in Bajna, where his four children Vince, Josepha, Anna, and Eszter were born. Vince, his only son, attended the Theresianum in Vác, which was run by the Piarist fathers.

When Antal Sándor died in 1801, Vince, who was already an imperial-royal chamberlain, became the heir. With his wife, Anna Szapáry, he had three children: two sons and a daughter. Vince delegated estate management to his clerks, renting and later selling his home in Esztergom, and relocating to Budapest. In 1803 architect Mihály Pollack constructed him a palace in Buda, near the royal palace. Subsequently, he spent the rest of his time here.

Since her husband developed serious pneumonia in 1819 and died shortly after, the mother, Anna Szapáry, was alone responsible for the raising of the children in the Sándor household. Móric, who had not been taught anything until he was seventeen years old, was thus the next in line for the titles and the estate. He began his studies in a self-taught manner after the death of his brother and subsequently his father, and in a short time he mastered Italian and French, learnt to play the piano and the zither, and occasionally even composed Styrian songs. His father’s rigid upbringing had made an impression on him, and he had an aloof demeanour.

He was obsessed with horses and spent most of his time around them. Vince’s father, who had created the foundations of the colonial stud, built a stable behind the Bajna estate in 1802, and spent a fortune on the Buda royal stable, had already had a passion for horses.

Móric Sándor, however, was only allowed to ride a horse after his father died. The count’s tutor refused to let him near the horses, claiming that anyone who had not been trained how to ride was incapable of doing so. “He who has to learn how to ride will never be able to do so,” – Móric responded. Then he mounted a horse and leapt over a pole numerous times before discarding the saddle and leaping over an obstacle.

His talent turned into a passion, and he gave up everything to pursue it. He sold his grandmother’s dowry, the Ráró estate in Győr County, and the Sándor Palace in Buda built by his father, to the Italian Pallavicini family in 1831. 

In England, where he broke a particularly wild horse, people stated, “He is not human, he is a devil.” His hair-raising equestrian achievements reverberated throughout Budapest and Vienna. In the British Isles, he established several world records.

The count married Princess Leontine, the daughter of Austrian chancellor Metternich on 8 February 1835, in Vienna.

Móric reconstructed his mansion in Bajna for Leontine’s sake, where they spent their joyful marital years.

They had two children, Leo and Pauline, but the only male heir died suddenly when he was seven years old.

Móric Sándor’s lifelong obsession with horses led to his demise. He fell out of his coach during a jump in Linz in 1850 and smashed his head on an iron lattice. He went into a trance-like state and trashed a casino in Vienna a few days later. He was then transferred to a mental facility in Prague. He spent the rest of his life on his estate, surrounded by his equestrian relics, and his final years at the mental hospital in Döbling. He died in Vienna on 23 February 1878. 

With his death, the Bajna branch of the Sándor family of Szlavnica became extinct. The heir Countess Pauline Sándor de Szlavnica married her uncle, i.e. her mother’s step-brother, Richard 2nd Prince of Metternich-Winneburg zu Beilstein. The prince served as a diplomat for the House of Habsburg, and he and his family travelled extensively. The couple’s first two daughters were thus born in Dresden, while Clementina, the youngest, was born in Bougival, near Paris. After the death of her husband in 1895, the count’s daughter, who had spent much time in Bajna, moved permanently to the estate and became an active participant in the life of the village.

Source: Péter Balázs, István Balsay, Péter Buza, Domokos Kosáry, Géza Pálffy, Rudolf Virág, Gábor Zupkó: Száz Magyar Falu- Az Ördöglovas kastélyában (A Hundred Hungarian Villages – In the Mansion of the Devil’s Horseman),

Pauline gave birth to three girl-children. Sophie, her eldest daughter, married Prince Albrecht de Oettingen-Spielberg but was widowed young and had no children. Pascalina Antoinette, the second daughter, married Prince Victor Augustinus de Ratibor, whom she blessed with several children. Klementina Maria, the youngest girl, remained single her entire life with the utmost religiosity on her Bajna estate, which she inherited from her mother.

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