In the age of DNA tests and finding lost family members, stories of “second families” are more and more common. However, for those who have that bittersweet realization, it is rarely followed up with a “third” or “fourth” family discovery. Ever the over-achiever, Charles “Lucky” Lindbergh did just that and his many affairs burst at the seams in 2003 when it was revealed he had not one, but 4 families!
Once considered an American hero and aviation icon, Lindbergh and his wife Anne Morrow had what was believed to be a perfect family. Their status as sympathetic icons in the American conscious was solidified when their first son, Charles “little Lindy” was kidnapped and murdered in 1932 at the young age of 20 months. The papers covered the incident and named it “The Crime of the Century.” From that point on, biographers of Lindbergh have suggested the trauma of that loss forever changed the aviator, creating a strict man who kept lists of all his children’s’ bad habits or things they did wrong. Lindbergh also had a penchant for cruel pranks such as filling the water bottles of his fellow aviators with kerosene and simply laughing as they were carted off to the hospital.
In 1957, nearly 25 years after the height of his fame, Lindbergh found himself in Germany serving the interests of President Eisenhower. On that trip, he met a beautiful German hatmaker, Brigitte Hesshaimer, in Munich. She was nearly 25 years younger than the tall, aging celebrity, but he recited a cheesy pick up line and Brigitte fell in love. Their affair would last nearly 17 years, until Lindbergh’s death in 1974. The couple had 3 children (Dyrk, Astrid, and David) who stepped forward in 2003 to reveal their relation to Lindbergh and proved that claim with a DNA test. They waited, respectfully, until after the death of their mother and Lindbergh’s wife, Anne. It is widely believed by biographers that Anne Morrow never knew about her husband’s German family.
However, the story does not stop there! In fact, it seems Lucky Lindy had a “type” and, at some point, began a romantic relationship with Brigitte’s older sister, Marietta who lived near Frankfurt and worked as a painter. That affair produced two sons who have not yet come forward to be identified. In addition, Lindbergh began an affair with his “extremely beautiful and blonde” German translator and private secretary, known only as Valeska. She is believed to be a member of the aristocracy, explaining in part her success and appointments to international celebrities in her professional capacity. That affair produced 2 more children, a son and daughter who have also decided to remain anonymous.
For the final 14 years of his life, Lindbergh flew to Germany and drove something of a “family circuit” starting in Frankfurt where he’d visit Marietta Hesshaimer and her two boys, then a stop to see Valeska, then he’d continue to Munich to visit Brigitte Hesshaimer and their three children. According to Brigitte’s children, he made this “circuit” 4-5 times a year and, in some letters between Charles and Brigitte, it was revealed that all of his mistresses knew about each other and while he was always happy to learn of a new pregnancy, he knew it would make the others jealous. Biographer Rudolf Schrock calls Lindbergh’s love life a “menage a quatre” being careful to include Lindbergh’s three mistresses as well as his wife.
While Lindbergh’s reputation with his American children was that of a strict, but loving man, the Hesshaimer children provide a different perspective. They describe their father as quiet (he didn’t speak German), but he was always happy to see them. In their biography account, they describe that he would make them large American breakfasts with pancakes and take them to the park. According to them, their mother Brigitte saved over 100 letters from Lindbergh, some being love letters, others just general correspondence.
To keep his families a secret from the press, Lindbergh used a fake name and his German families knew him as Careu Kent (maybe a nod to Superman?) and they believed he was a writer. The children also recall that he drove a blue Volkswagen Beetle, which they called “The Love Bug,” a name we can no longer consider ironic. It wasn’t until his highly publicized death in 1974, that the children finally put all the puzzle pieces together and realized their father was, in fact, the great Charles Lindbergh.
Brigitte Hesshaimer passed away in 2001, but the current living status of Marietta Hesshaimer and Valeska is unknown.
Christine Morgan for History Lair
Rudolf Schrock: The Double Life of Charles Lindbergh
Minnesota Historical Society: https://www.mnhs.org/lindbergh/learn/family/double-life
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