A prince of a man
To say that Toronto resident Hermann Leiningen, Artsci'84, has an "interesting" family background is no mere understatement.
Hermann Leiningen, Artsci’84, goes about his day much as we all do. He takes public transit every morning to his job as Managing Director of RBC Global Asset and Management. He spends time with his family. He enjoys sports; he travels as much as he can, and he likes to keep up with the Toronto Maple Leafs. What makes his day different is this: every day, he can choose to take a minute and check his position in line to the British throne.
As it turns out, Hermann is properly His Serene Highness, Prince Hermann Friedrich Fernando Roland zu Leiningen (and at the time of this writing, 131st in line for the British throne). Through his mother, he is the great-grandson of King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy and King Louis Philippe I of France and through his father, Hermann is a direct descendant of Queen Victoria and Tzar Alexander II of Russia. An even more direct royal bloodline is through his late grandfather, King Boris III of Bulgaria who is famous for having helped to save the lives of his country’s 50,000 Jews from being killed in the Nazi Holocaust.
“My North American upbringing was similar to that of most children, with school, sports and friends being the big focus. We were always told not to advertise our background but to be proud of it, and only to talk about it if someone asked. We never thought it was important for people to know,” Hermann says. “In fact, there are many people I have known for many years that still don’t know.”
Reflecting on his royal heritage, Hermann says “I was very fortunate to be able to spend every summer of my life in Europe, visiting uncles, aunts and cousins with my brothers and sister and now with my own family.” He adds: “It just so happened that these relatives were members of the royal families of most countries in Europe including Bulgaria, Spain, Italy, Russia, Germany, England, Yugoslavia and Austria. When the summer was over, it was back to school in North America.”
Still, despite the lineage, Hermann says Queen Victoria did not influence his decision to come to Queen’s. “None of my friends at Queen’s had any idea of my family tree. Since then, I must admit, I have enjoyed knowing the influence Queen Victoria has had on Queen’s and Canada.”
Someone who may have had a greater influence on his experience at Queen’s is Hermann’s godfather, the Right Honourable Roland Michener. Michener was the 20th Governor General of Canada, and the Chancellor of Queen’s, 1973-1980.
While Hermann has many good memories of his time as a student, the biggest highlight was meeting his wife. “My wife Deborah (Cully), Artsci’84, and I met for the first time at a dance in Leonard Hall, just a few weeks into our frosh year.”
The family’s connection to the university doesn’t stop there. Hermann is a member of the Grant Hall Society (Limestone level), and daughters Tatiana and Nadia are both students of Queen’s. Tatiana is an Art History major who has studied at the Bader International Study Centre at Herstmonceux Castle, and is currently completing an International Studies Certificate. Her younger sister Nadia is a Drama major. “Our youngest daughter Alexa starts high school this year. There is clearly no pressure to have her attend the school that her parents and two sisters attended (and the school her great-great-great-grandmother established by Royal Charter in 1841).”
So what does a prince do in his spare time? “We enjoy spending our spare time with our children as we did on Canada Day when we watched Nadia and the Queen’s Barefoot Players perform in Centennial Park in Bath, Ontario.”