Diane von Furstenberg Said a New York Magazine Article "Destroyed" Her Marriage to Prince Egon von Fürstenberg
"I didn’t want to be a European Park Avenue princess with a pretend decadent life.”
Who: Fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg (née Halfin), 73, and the late Prince Edouard Egon von und zu Fürstenberg, who died in 2004 at the age of 57.
How They Met: Diane and Egon met in 1965, at a birthday party in Lausanne, Switzerland while both of them were attending the University of Geneva. They came from wildly different backgrounds — Diane the daughter of a Holocaust survivor who gave birth to her just 18 months after escaping Auschwitz, and Egon, the son of a German prince and a member of the Fiat family.
Diane has written in her memoirs that she was initially unimpressed by the young royal. “I wasn’t particularly attracted to this handsome blond young man,” she wrote in Diane: A Signature Life. Feelings developed when Diane and Egon went on a ski trip and their car got stuck in the snow. “It turned out to be very easy to get the car out,” Diane wrote, “but I was charmed by Egon’s helplessness.”
They split for a brief period, as Diane, determined to “create my own life,” moved to Paris to become an assistant to a photographer and filmmaker’s agent. Later, Egon sought Diane out and asked her to join him in New York; she accepted.
In 1969, as Diane traveled to Italy for an apprenticeship, Egon proposed. “He gave me a ring, but I didn’t really believe he was serious,” Diane wrote. “nor was I in a terrible hurry to get married.” Soon after, Diane learned she was pregnant. "I remember telling him I would give him a son. I meant it to be seductive; instead, it turned out to be prophetic,” Diane later wrote in a Vogue essay, describing the night of their engagement.
“Marriage had not been the only option,” Diane wrote of her pregnancy, explaining that she considered getting an abortion. Egon ruled out the option, telling her via telegram “Marriage will occur the 15th of July. Organize it as rapidly as possible.”
Diane was three-months pregnant with her and Egon’s son, Prince Alexander von Fürstenberg, when the wedding took place. Egon’s father, under pressure from a family patriarch who did not approve of Egon marrying a Jewish woman, skipped the reception. “That was a bit of a cloud over the wedding,” Diane said in an interview with Over the Moon.
Why We Loved Them: For decades following their separation, until Egon’s death in 2004, the exes remained remarkably close. After their split Egon would send Diane a gift every year on their would-be wedding anniversary and they continued to spend every Christmas together with their children.
“We grew up together,” Egon told People in regard to his and Diane’s amicable split, “and we were friends before we fell in love.” Diane echoed that sentiment: “Egon believed in me before I believed in myself,” she said in 1995. “In some ways, I still think I’m his wife.”
Following their separation, Egon and Diane even worked near one another. “Diane and I can see each other from our offices,” Egon told People in 1981.
“Our friendship is forever,” Egon said. “Diane calls me in the middle of the night and asks, ‘Do you love me?’ I tell her, ‘Of course I do. Now go to sleep.’”
Diane even credits the split for jumpstarting her career. “Usually the fairy tale ends with the girl marrying the prince,” she told W in 2012. “But mine started as soon as the marriage was over.” In her 1998 memoir, Diane acknowledged Egon’s role in her ultimate success, writing, “Not only had Egon given me the children, the name, the and the contacts that had opened so many doors but he had always supported my work and encouraged me.
When They Peaked: On paper, Diane and Egon were the embodiment of living well (well, as it pertains to N.Y.C. in the early ’70s at least). They were young, royal, wealthy, famous, and knew how to party. “There was hardly a party or opening that we didn’t go to,” Diane wrote in her 1976 book Diane Von Furstenberg’s Book of Beauty.
“Back in the Seventies, we would hold parties in our Park Avenue apartment for people like Yves Saint Laurent and Bernardo Bertolucci,” Diane reminisced during an interview with AnOther Magazine. “All the Europeans would come; journalists, designers, Andy Warhol and his entourage of the moment.”
And the high-profile fêtes weren’t exclusive to their time in New York, of course. Egon, who was related to the Monegasque royal family, introduced Diane to Prince Rainier III and Princess Grace Kelly (whom Diane found “a bit cold”) ahead of a ball in Monaco. Diane thought the Prince’s Palace “a little disappointing,” and likened it to the Cloisters in N.Y.C., though “once the party got going, it lived up to all expectations.”
The Breakup: In 1973, Diane and Egon were profiled by New York Magazine in a story titled “The Couple That Has Everything. Is Everything Enough?” By Linda Francke (who now goes by Linda Bird Francke). The article painted the couple as both promiscuous and passion-devoid. “The only way for a relationship to survive, I think, is to have no sex at all,” Diane is quoted saying, while Egon discussed his penchant for sexual experimentation, noting that the couple “tried it with another woman.”
Editor's Note: In this same interview, Diane expresses some troubling beliefs about homosexuality, and lesbian women in particular, which we have chosen not to reprint here.
Diane has pointed to the article’s publication as the driving force behind her and Egon’s separation. “The result was shocking and it destroyed our marriage,” Diane wrote of the piece in her 2014 memoir The Woman I Wanted to Be. “Reading the magazine and seeing our lives exposed under a magnifying glass, I realized that that couple was not who I was. I didn’t want to be a European Park Avenue princess with a pretend decadent life.”
Of course, the article (and the truths it laid bare) was not the only factor in their split. Diane wrote in A Signature Life that Egon had “admitted publicly to having affairs with other people,” which inspired her to have an affair of her own. “It was my recognition of the loss of intimacy between us, the picture of superficiality that emerged from the story, that forced me to come to terms with the fact that our three-and-a-half-year marriage was over,” she wrote.
Diane has also pointed to her burgeoning career success as a source of tension. “My success was so big and I was so young, and I think it was tough for him,” she told Post Magazine in 2015. “But then he had other issues,” she went on. “He was very promiscuous.”
Nearly a decade later, Egon commented on the reputation he and Diane shared. “We were a bit of the social history of the time,” he said. “We said what most people then were afraid to admit about marriage — that it is boring.”
Interestingly, the writer of the New York Magazine article that marked the end of Diane’s marriage would come to collaborate with the fashion designer on two of her books: Diane: A Signature Life and The Woman I Wanted to Be.
Though Diane and Egon separated in 1973, they didn’t make their divorce official until 1983.
Where They Are Now:
Diane wed IAC Chairman Barry Diller in 2001, decades after they’d initially met at an N.Y.C. party in the ‘70s.
Egon went on to marry Lynn Marshall after he and Diane finalized their divorce.
Diane was at Egon’s side when he passed away from cirrhosis of the liver in Rome in June of 2004.
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