Sandor Vay

Count Sándor Vay was born as the Countess Sarolta Vay in Hungary in about 1856. Her father was the Count Ladislav Vay de Vaya, Colonel-in-Chief of the Honved Hussar Regiment of Hungary.

Sándor's parents had married in about 1847 and for nine years did not have a child, an heir the Counts vast fortune and lands. The Countess, worried about her husbands reaction and ill health, told him that the baby was a boy and raised Sándor as a boy until the age of fourteen. Then a second child, an actual boy, was born and the truth about Sándor's gender was revealed. He was made to change his name back to Sarolta, dress as a girl and go to a girls school. She ran away, dressed in men's clothes and begged her father to allow to attend University as a boy. He refused.

When Sándor turned 21 he moved out on his own and lived a care-free and somewhat dangerous male life in Hungary and Austria. Over time he is said to have had married eight women. In 1900 there were supposedly six different women living in Vienna alone, going by the name of the divorced Countess de Vay.

I am still looking for additional information about Sándor.


Newspaper Articles:

The Salem Daily News (Salem, Ohio) - December 12, 1889


Singular Career of the Daughter of an Austrian Count.
Startling Eccentricities of a Girl Who Objects to Being a Woman - Her Extravagance and Dissipation the Talk of Two Kingdoms.

Count Ladislas Vay von Vaya is a Chamberlain of the Emperor and a nobleman of ancient lineage and vast landed possessions, whose name has within the last two years come somewhat frequently before the public in connection with the eccentricities of his daughter. The latter, who is a girl of about twenty-seven years, has been placed "under curatel," that is to say, she has been deprived of the right of contracting any legal debts or obligations, and her fortune has been placed in the hands of trustees. Her history, as told by a Vienna correspondent of the New York Tribune, is a strange one. It appears that during the first eight years of Count Vay's marriage no children were born to him, a fact which almost drove him to desperation when he remember that in default of issue his immense estates would pass to the crown and his name become extinct.

In the ninth year, however, it seemed that if his own prayers and those of the Countess were about to be granted, and when at length the Countess gave birth to a child he had so thoroughly accustomed himself to look for a boy that no one at the time ventured to undeceive him and tell him that the infant was a girl. The priest who baptized the child was won over to the more or less pardonable deceit practiced on the Count by his wife and her attendants, and, although the name given by the sponsors was that of Sandor, a boy's name, the name entered on the parish register was that of Sarolta, or Charlotte. Dressed and educated like a little boy, the little Countess bore the name of Sandor till her eleventh year, and was believed by all but the mother, the priest and a few confidential servants to belong to the male sex. She was taught to shoot and fish, and from the age of six rode astride of her pony dressed in a hussar uniform like a little Centaur.

Just about the time when the Count was beginning to consider the advisabilty of sending his daughter - or, as he thought, his son - to the nobles' academy at Pesth, his wife gave birth to a second child, which this time was a real boy. The necessity for keeping up the fraud with regard to the sex of Sandor - or Sarolta - had now disappeared, and steps were taken to make every body acquainted with the true facts of the case. It is not stated what steps were taken to undeceive the Count himself, but as he still lives happy with his charming and popular wife it may safely be taken for granted that she did not experience much difficulty in obtaining his forgiveness. The only person who seriously objected to the altered condition of things was the young Countess herself, who had become too much accustomed to regard herself as a boy, and was so strongly addicted to all boyish sports and games, that she could not reconcile herself to the role of a young lady. And instead of this feeling passing away as she grew older, it became stronger every year. She implored her father, of course without success, to permit her to enlist as a man in the Honved Hussar Regiment, of which he was the Colonel-in-Chief, or to allow her to visit the university as a male student. As soon, however, as she had reached the age of twenty-one and had become emancipated from the immediate control of her parents, she took the bridle between her teeth, metaphorically speaking, and, arrayed in men's clothes, entered upon a career of wild extravagance and dissipation.

Everywhere she gave her name of Count Sandor de Vay and even fought a couple of duels with men who had insulted her by casting her sex into her teeth. A number of articles signed "Sandor Vay" appeared in one of the leading Pesth newspapers, mostly on sporting matters, on which she is an authority, and for the purpose of keeping the illusion of her manhood she even went so far as to spend an immense amount of money on one of the most charming divas of the Hungarian stage, purchasing a house for her and horses, and carriage, besides loading her with jewels. Her latest eccentricity consists in having eloped and having gone through a marriage ceremony with the daughter of an army contractor at Laybach, in Austria proper, for the sole object of obtaining the young girl's large dowry, for Sandor or Sarolta has been in great straits for money since she was placed 'under curatel," and thereby deproved of the use of her fortune. It is reported that, exasperated beyond all measure by his daughter's mad freaks, the old Count is about to take steps for having her placed under restraint in a lunatic asylum.

Denton Journal (Denton, Maryland) - March 15, 1890

The Unique Career of Countess Sarolta Vay of Austria.

Lying ill in the house of a friend in Pesth is the Countess Sarolta Vay.

Thirty-six years ago Gen. Count Ledislas Vay von Vaya took to himself a wife. He was rich and powerful. When year after year went by and his good wife failed to show her appreciation of the kindness he had done her in marrying her by furnishing him with an heir, the count was naturally annoyed. The though that his vast estates were likely to pass from the family to the crown finally affected his mind.

Just at this juncture a child was born. But, alas! the child was a girl. The countess was in despair. Finally she decided to rear and dress the infant as a boy and let the count (who was feeble and apparently traveling the downward slope of life) live and die happy in the delusino that the name and estates would be perpetuated by a son. The bogus boy was ostensibly christened Sandor, but her real name was registered as Sarolta.


For fourteen years the girl was carefully trained to be boyish. She was dressed in trousers; she was taught to enjoy those sports in which only men take part - hunting, fishing and the like. In short, she occupied in every way the position of a young Austrian noble, and moreover, no one suspected less than she that she was not what she seemed.

When she had passed her fourteenth birthday an event occurred which upset all the calculations of her mother. This event was no more nor less than the arrival of a real boy baby. The good old countess was nonplused. Finally she took the only course open to her and confessed to the count the deception which had been practiced on him. For the first time Sarolta learned that her proper sphere was in the drawing room and not in the saddle. The count took the news philosophically, but Sarolta was furious. She did not weep - she swore. For had she not been brough up as a young man? She was absolutely incorrigible. She would not put on skirts and become docile and ladylike; but fished more, hunted more, rode harder, gambled more recklessly, and, as she matured, took to drinking and smoking as readily as possible. When she became of age she formally renounced parental authority. Seeking the great cities of Europe she went about in high hat, tight trousers and cutaway coat, and plunged madly into dissipation of all sorts. She fought three duels with men who reproached her with her sex and contracted enormous debts.

In Pesth, in order to keep up the face, she affected to have become infatuated with an actress and gave her magnificent presents. This sort of life increased her liabilities so enormously that she had difficulty in keeping out of prison.

She finally decided that her only escape lay in an advantageous marriage. She found a beautiful young girl named Marie Engelhardt, the daughter of a rich army contracted named Laybach. Sarolta presented herself as Count Sandor Vay, and pretended to be a man so skillfully as to win the love Marie and the consent of her father. They were married and Sarolta pocketed the dowry of her quasi wife. Her sex was discovered and a great scandal was the result. In the meantime Marie's fortune was squandered. Sarolta was imprisoned and Marie was taken back to her father's home.

Something more than a month ago Sarolta was released from prison. Curiously enough, Fraulein Marie is full of admiration for Sarolta, speaks of her as the grandest of women and is anxious to be her companion through life.

Hornellsville Weekly Tribune (Hornellsville, New York) - April 17, 1891


The Man Countess Sarolta Vay Again Before the Public

An Inquiry Into Her Mental Condition by the ? - Some of the Queer Freaks Which Have Mader Her Notorious

The Austrian Countess Sarolta Vay is again before the continental public. She made her debut some ten years ago in Vienna in a cutaway coast, high hat and extravagantly pointed patent leather shoes. She represented herself to be Count Sandor Vay, and met on the field of honor every man who dared to question her word. It was learned shortly after her first appearance in the imperial city, says the New York Sun, that she was in fact a child of Count Sandor Vay, formerly an imperial chamberlain and colonel in the Austro-Hungarian army. She was his first born after many years of married life, and was passed off in her early years as a boy by her mother, who feared to disappoint the father by confessing that the only child and heir to the immene Vay estates was a girl.


When Sarolta came to years of understanding, with a boy's clothes on her stalwart young form and a boy's training permeating her mind, she revolted against the idea of becoming a properly constrained young woman, and took to the gay world of the Kaiserstadt in her habitual garb. Her life there was an open scandal. She drank, bet, fenced, fought, gambled, rode fast horses, and instituted intrigues with numerous women, mostly soubrettes. She spent all the money allowed her by her father, compelled him several times, for the sake of the family's honor, to settle for her obligations of thousands of dollars, and, finally, in desperate financial straits for money with which to continue her attentions to a Hungarian concert hall singer, forged a note for some $7,000. Then she disappeared. She turned up again at an Austrian summer resort, made love to young Marie Englehardt, daughter of a rich manufacturer from lower Austria, and, under the habitual pretense of being Count Sandor Vay, "married" her with tremendous pomp in the Roman Catholic church at Graz. Just a few days after the ceremony the detecitves in charge of the forgery case found and arrested her, but not before she had spent all of Marie's dowry and got possession of a large part of her private fortune. She was tried, adjudged irresponsible, placed under guardianship, and, with a shattered constitution, retired to the house of a friend in Prague. There for some time she remained quite secluded save for an occasional utterance to reporters to the effect that she would fight any one of them who dared to write of her as a woman.

The countess, however, had no idea of thus retiring permanently from the gayeties of the life which she had found so sweet. Unknown to the friends and guardian who watched her, she sent a letter to her Marie - "adored Marie," as she called the manufacturer's daughter. Marie was in the proper state of mind ot be aroused by the countess' appealing communication, for, curiously enough, this hoodwinked and abused young woman was still full of devotion to the dissolute countess, called her "husband," and would not be consoled for the loss of her. She therefore at once got legal counsel and had an appeal filed against the order that had placed the countess under guardianship. The result of the appeal was prolonged court proceedings, and eventually, two or three months ago, an order for the examination of Countess Sarolta Vay as to her sanity by the Vienna medical faculty.

The examination was made three weeks ago. Prof. Dr. Meinert, of the Vienna madical faculty, reported that the "countess, with her excesses, social recklessness, falsehood and drunkenness, constituted and example of what is known as moral derangement." The evidences of the countess' "moral derangement" are described, moreover, as her "fickleness in her intrigues with women, her utter lack of foresight in the use of many," her bitterness against Father Engelhardt for his "ingratitute in protesting against the abuse of Marie's confidence," and her present expectation that her father and mother will allow her to continue her former life in men's attire. In short the Vienna medical faculty consider the countess irresponsible. Against this decision Marie and her attorney urge that, at the age of eighteen or twenty, when no one ever doubted for an instant that she was sane, the countess had the same peculiar conception of life and her life duties that she still has. Marie is, moreover, about to try a new line of legal proceedings with a view to rescuing from virtual imprisonment the individual whom she has promised to "love, honor and obey."

The Daily Herald (Delphos, Ohio) - February 17, 1900

Starting Career of a Hungarian Countess Who Had Nine Wives

The instances where women have donned male attire and acted the part of the sterner sex are many. One of the most remarkable of these is that of the so-called Count Sandor Vay, of Hungary. In August, 1897, this individual married a teacher at Klegenfurt. The newly married couple lived for a time with the girl's father, an inspector of forests in that village. But the father-in-law found himself constantly fleeced by the alleged count; the references he gave were all bogus and the inspector, convinced his son-in-law was a swindler, put detectives on his track.

Then a series of extraordinary revelations were made. The count was no count, but a countess, the daughter of the late Count Ladislas Vay, a general and imperial chamberlain. Her name was Sarolta Vay. She was born in 1856. Her mother, married for nine years without other issue, knew that Count Ladislas had waited long and anxiously for an heir, and she feared to tell him that his first born was only a girl. With the aid of nurse she concealed from his the sex of the child, and as time passed took all necessary precautions to continue the deception. Sarolta went into knockerbockers and roundabouts at the age 5, played boys' games and received a boy's education. When she was 14 her father decided to send her to a military school. To prevent this her mother was forced to confess the truth. The count, after a storm, swallowed his chagrin, put the girl into dresses and sent her to a female school. Sarolta refused to be transformed. She stole into trousers whenever she got a chance, she ran away from school, she begged her father to let her enter the honored hussar regiment.

When he refused she swore to astonish the country as soon as she reached her majority. And she kept her word. The day she was 21 she resumed her male attire and swung into the vortex of dissipation in Vienna, Pesth and Prague. She associated with young men, who were not in the secret, in all manly amusements. She smoked, drank, gambled, fought duels, got into debt and to extricate herself embezzled, stole and forged on a grand scale. She likewise contracted no less than nine mock marriages. All of her "wives" have seemed to catch the contagion of her own hallucination. Six of them live in Vienna as divorced Countesses Vay.

Manitoba Morning Free Press (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada) - April 11, 1905
[Note: this is Sandor's brother]


Mgr. Vay De Vaya of Hungary, Looking Into Colonies in Canada

Ottawa, April 10 - There is a distinguished guest at the archbishop's palace at present, in the person of Right Rev. Mgr. Count Vay de Vaya, who is visiting in this country investigating the conditions of the Catholic Hungarian immigrants. He is a son of the Hungarian lord chamberlain and is a prothonotary apostolic.

Mgr. Vay de Vaya has just come from New York, where, under his guidance, a large number of his countrymen in that city have formed themselves into a society to be known as the Hungarian Catholic club, the chief object of which will be to render assistance to needy Hungarians through out the country. It is intended to build in connection with it an orphan asylum, a home for the poor and aged, and to establish an employment bureau. Although the membership of the club will be restricted to Catholics, its philanthropy will be bestowed upon Hungarians of every creed.

Manitoba Morning Free Press (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada) - April 15, 1905


Monsignor Vay de Vaya, Hungarian Count, to Visit Colonies in Canada

Monsignor Vay de Vaya, a distinguished Hungarian nobleman, is expected to reach the city to-day or to-morrow. The count arrived in America about the first of the month, his mission to this side of the water being to visit Hungarian colonies and settlements and to report to his government on their condition. He has already visited fellow countrymen in the eastern and middle states, and this week spent several days in Ottawa. While in the west he will visit districts where Hungarians have settled and will also be received by Rev. Father Woodcutter, and Hungarian parishioners of Winnipeg. Count Vay de Vaya was one of the papal delegates to the queen's jubilee in London in 1897 and ranks high in diplomatic circles of his own country. The distinguished tourist wired yesterday that he would call upon Archbishop Langevin at the palace at St. Boniface, on Sunday.

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