Mary Ludlow Selden,
Baroness von Zollikofer Altenklingen
1st Alley West, Lot 8
(1826 – 1907)
Mary Ludlow Selden, Baroness von Zollikofer Altenklingen was born in Norfolk and raised by an uncle. Her parents passed away when she was very young. She married her childhood sweetheart, Dr. Henry Selden, when she was 23 years old. They had three children, two of whom died with their father, during the yellow fever epidemic of 1855 and the third, Henry Selden, Jr. passed away in 1861. When Norfolk was occupied by Union troops during the Civil War, Mary was put on a train to Washington, D.C. for being “a thorn in the side of Union soldiers.” There she married a colleague of her former husband, Dr. William Zollikofer of Baltimore, Maryland.
While traveling with her husband in Europe, Mary learned of his great uncle, the Baron von Zollikofer of Austria-Hungary who was aged and had no children. The title was to pass to Dr. Zollikofer when the old Baron passed away. Dr. Zollikofer was not interested in claiming the title but he died before he could document his wishes. Following his death in 1882, Mary Ludlow Selden Zollikofer accepted the title and became the new Baroness Zollikofer-Altenklingen of Austria Hungary.
The Baroness was quickly accepted into European royal circles and entertained the likes of the Pope, cardinals, dukes, the Czar and princes at her palace in Rome. She met Queen Victoria, Kaiser Wilhelm II, and Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria Hungary. It is said that when she met with Franz Joseph he said to her, “I understand, Baroness, you are an American.” To which she quickly replied, “No, sire, I am a Virginian.” The Emperor was very amused by her response.
Mary never returned to America but her body was returned home to Norfolk when she passed away in 1907 to be buried with her first husband and children in Elmwood Cemetery. In her will, she set aside funds to start the Mary Ludlow Home for homeless Norfolk women which opened in 1918. Trustees closed the home in 1963 and the monies from the sale were given to The Norfolk Foundation, today known as The Hampton Roads Foundation, who in turn provided funding to many organizations, including those that assist the homeless in Hampton Roads to this day.*
More information on the Selden family can be accessed by clicking on the Dr. William Selden Family link.
*The Sargeant’s Chronicle, Volume I, Number 4, Summer 2007. Article entitled Mary Ludlow, Baroness von Zollikofer Altenklingen by Robert Hitchings.
Biographical information provided by Norfolk Bureau of Cemeteries.
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