Saxe-Gessaphe is the name of a family descended in the female line from former kings of Saxony, a member of which has been recognized by the pretender to that throne as eventual heir to the deposed dynasty's rights. The claim is contested by an agnatic descendant of the former royal house, and both claims are clouded by conflicting interpretations of the dynastic laws which governed the succession to the throne of Saxony, and by familial dispute.

Dynastic background

The family descends from Princess Anna of Saxony, (born 13 December 1929), and her late husband Roberto de Afif, (1916 - 1978). Anna is a sister of Maria Emanuel, Margrave of Meissen, the childless current head of the ex-royal House of Saxony and, as such, titular King of Saxony. Of the five children of the late Prince Friedrich Christian, (1893 - 1968), son and heir of Saxony's last king Friedrich August III (who was obliged to abdicate in 1918 coincident with Germany's surrender in World War I), Anna is the only one who has living, legitimate children.[1]

Succession to Saxony's throne was semi-Salic: only if all male dynasts were to become extinct, would the female dynast nearest in kinship to the last male, or her descendants, have inherited the throne. Both male and female dynasts, however, were required to "marry equally" (to a member of a reigning, formerly reigning, or noble family of at least reichsgrafliche rank) in order to transmit dynastic rights to their own descendants. Thus the eligibility of the Saxe-Gessaphe line for the royal Saxon legacy would depend on the dynasticity of their mother's marriage.[2]

Lebanese heritage

Afif belonged paternally to an ancient princely Maronite Catholic family in what is now Lebanon.[3] Afif, emir in Keserwan and grandson of the Lebanese emir Mansur 'Asaf bin Hassan (1522-1580), is said to be the ancestor of the Christianised dynasty of the sheikhs of Bkassine, from which Roberto descends.[4]

According to the royal genealogical book series, L'Allemagne dynastique, Princess Anna maintains that her husband's family descend from Suleiman, who was granted the province of Keserwan, north of Beirut, in 1306 by the Mamluks. She further avers that Roberto's father, Alexander Afif (1883-1971), a lifelong resident of Beirut, was a knight of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre and was Prince of "Assaph (Afif)" or Gessaphe in Lebanon.[5]

Roberto emigrated to Mexico, obtained a law degree, and made his living as a businessman. The family associated with some of the most prominent Mexican families. Although not as wealthy as they used to be, the family lives a modest, upper middle class life in one of Mexico City's better neighbourhoods, Polanco.

Roberto's sister, Alexandra Afif, born in Beirut in 1919, morganatically married Prince Karl Anton of Hohenzollern (born 1922), in Rome in 1951.[6] Prince Karl Anton was a nephew of Prince Friedrich Christian of Saxony, and is thus a first cousin of Margrave Maria Emanuel and Princess Anna.

Designated heir

Prince Johannes of Saxe-Coburg-Kohary (1969-1987), of the Ernestine branch of the House of Wettin, was killed in a mountain climbing accident while still a youth, leaving his maternal uncle, Margrave Maria Emanuel, without a dynastic heir in the next generation of Wettins. However the eldest son of his sister Anna, Alexander Afif (b. Munich 12 February 1954), had married Princess Gisela of Bavaria (b. 10 September 1964) in 1987. In May 1997 the Margrave, who has upheld the dynasty's marital standards despite its deposition and exile, recognized Alexander Afif as his heir. By formally adopting him two years later, the Margrave conferred upon Alexander the legal surname of "Prinz von Sachsen" (literally, Prince of Saxony). Thus was created the family of Saxe-Gessaphe, a cognatic offshoot of the royal House of Wettin: With the approval of the Margrave, Alexander, his sons, and his brothers are also known as Princes of Saxe-Gessaphe.[7]

In the spring of 1997 it was announced that the surviving male dynasts of the royal House (presumably Princes Albert, Dedo, and Gero {1925 - 2003}) had met and consented to the designation of Alexander as dynastic heir in the event that none of them leave sons by dynastically valid marriages.[8][9]


However the Margrave's brother, Prince Albert, subsequently stated that he does not accept that decision as binding. He prefers that Rüdiger Prinz von Sachsen, the son of his first cousin the late Prince Timo of Saxony (1923 - 1982) (and Rüdiger's three sons) succeed to the royal Saxon claim.[10] Since Rüdiger's mother was a commoner, that would require retroactive "de-morganatization" of the late Timo's marriage, an act the remaining agnates of the royal House have yet to agree upon. In some circumstances, German princely law (Fürstenrecht) did allow a consensus of dynasts - or the last surviving male dynast - to "dynasticize" the issue of a morganatic marriage through unanimous and irrevocable action.[11] Albert was the youngest dynastic male remaining in the family as of 23 July 2017. Thus, the fate of the dynasty's claim may depend upon who will be the last surviving male dynast, Maria Emanuel or his brother, Albert.

However, Saxony's constitution and house law explicitly required that descendants of the royal house had to be born of "equal marriage" in order to succeed to the throne. Moreover, Fürstenrecht, derived from German legal customs, was considered subordinate in applicability to enacted law.[12] Under such circumstances, if Alexander's father and Rüdiger's mother would not have qualified as "equal in birth" (ebenbürtig) for purposes of the succession, neither of them might be deemed eligible to become the next pretender to the Saxon royal throne. If, however, the Afif heritage is deemed to have been "princely", Alexander, at least, may qualify as a dynast without resort to an act of "de-morganatization".

The line of succession within the Saxony-Gessaphe line would be:

  1. Prince Alexander of Saxe-Gessaphe (b. 1954)
  2. Prince Georg Philipp of Saxe-Gessaphe (b. 1988), hereditary prince
  3. Prince Moritz of Saxe-Gessaphe (b. 1989)
  4. Prince Paul of Saxe-Gessaphe (b. 1993)

The three last are Alexander's sons with Gisela. They also have a daughter, Princess Maria Teresita.

The name Saxe-Gessaphe is used also by Alexander's brothers (younger sons of Princess Anna) and nieces (although none of them has yet been officially adopted into the family):

  • Friedrich Wilhelm Memo Prinz von Sachsen-Gessaphe (b. 1955), a Jesuit priest
  • Karl August Prinz von Sachsen-Gessaphe (b. 1958), professor at the FernUniversität at Hagen, Dr. iur. habil.; and his two daughters:
    • Maria Antonia (b. 1994)
    • Maria Fernanda Desirée (b. 1999)

In the event that Princess Anna's marriage with Roberto Afif is not deemed dynastically acceptable, the next cognatic heir born of dynastic marriage (and thus potentially a rival to Alexander) might be found in Frederick William, Prince of Hohenzollern (b. 1924), as the son of Princess Margaret of Saxony (1900-1962), the eldest aunt of Maria Emanuel.


  1. Willis, Daniel (1999). "The Ducal Family of Parma". The Descendants of Louis XIII. Baltimore: Clearfield. pp. 327–328, 766. ISBN 0-8063-4942-5. 
  2. Velde, François. "Laws of the Kingdom of Saxony". Retrieved 2008-04-18. 
  3. Willis, Daniel (1999). "The Ducal Family of Parma". The Descendants of Louis XIII. Baltimore: Clearfield. pp. 327–328, 766. ISBN 0-8063-4942-5. 
  4. Cannuyer, Christian (1989). "Saxe" (in French). Les maisons royales et souveraines d'Europe. Tournhout, Belgium: Editions Brepols. p. 207. ISBN 2-503-50017-X. "Descendant au ligne directe de l’Emir Mansur ‘Asaf bin Hassan, prince du Liban (1522-1580), dont le petit-fils Afif, Emir en Kisrowan, fut l’ancetre de la lignee des Sheikhs de Bkessin qui se convertirent au christianisme et dont l’epoux de la Princesse Marie-Anne est issu." 
  5. Huberty, Michel; Alain Giraud, F. and B. Magdelaine (1991). "Familles Nobles Alliées" (in French). L'Allemagne Dynastique Tome VI Bade/Mecklembourg. France. pp. 475–476. ISBN 2-901138-06-3. 
  6. Huberty, Michel; Alain Giraud, F. and B. Magdelaine (1988) (in French). L'Allemagne Dynastique Tome V Hohenzollern-Waldeck. France. p. 267. ISBN 2-901138-05-5. 
  7. Willis, Daniel (1999). "The Ducal Family of Parma". The Descendants of Louis XIII. Baltimore: Clearfield. pp. 327–328, 766. ISBN 0-8063-4942-5. 
  8. Velde, François. "Laws of the Kingdom of Saxony". Retrieved 2008-04-18. 
  9. Die Welt, 20 May 1997
  10. Velde, François. "Laws of the Kingdom of Saxony". Retrieved 2008-04-18. 
  11. Velde, François. "Reading Notes on Family Law in German Ruling Families of the 19th c.". Retrieved 2008-04-18. 
  12. Velde, François. "Reading Notes on Family Law in German Ruling Families of the 19th c.". Retrieved 2008-04-18. 

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