Princess Lida of Uniontown

When I was a boy an overgrown and shuttered mansion that dominated Uniontown's major intersection was said to be the former home of a European aristocrat, the Princess of Taxes.

I didn't believe it.

Thirty years ago I was looking at a sixteenth-century tapestry at the Met that, according to the plaque, showed the Emperor Maximilian's stirrup held by the Count of Taxis.

Uhh. . .what? 

A backbreaking thirty-second Google search revealed that in 1908 Lida Eleanor Niccolls, born Brownsville PA, married Prince Viktor von Thurn und Taxis in a Uniontown ceremony, after which the happy couple left for the Continent, where they no doubt met Christopher Isherwood at the Kit Kat Klub.  After his death in 1928 she divided her time among Europe, New York--and Uniontown.  She was buried there in 1965 not a hundred yards from my father's house.

But wait.  There's more.

I was telling this story to polymath John Crowley, who said oh yeah--Thurn and Taxis.  They're in The Crying of Lot 49.  I hadn't read it; like many people John assumes I'm much better read than I am.  So it turns out the Thurn und Taxis family were the hereditary postmasters of the Holy Roman Empire.   A major plot point in the Pynchon book concerns a shadowy underground mail service that grew up over centuries to compete with the official Imperial post office.

So buried a hundred yards from where my mailman father lives, in a declining coalfield town, is an Austrian princess whose family owned the Hapsburg postal service and features in a major early postmodern novel. 

I'm going to buy a lottery ticket.  Watch this space.