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100 going on 17

(Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Who was Agathe von Trapp? You might know her better as Liesl.

Agathe von Trapp would have turned 100 years old on March 12, 2013. Who was Agathe von Trapp? You might know her better as Liesl, the eldest daughter of the family immortalized in The Sound of Music. In our minds, she will always be 16 going on 17.

In reality, Agathe von Trapp was 25 when the family fled from the Nazis in 1938. By the time the family departed Austria, Agathe and her siblings were already well-known singers who had performed on the radio, for the Austrian chancellor and across Europe. While her singing had begun as a hobby, since the stock market crash of 1929, Agathe’s musical career had been a major source of financial support for the family. And though it’s possible Agathe had a beau who became a Nazi, the real-life von Trapp daughter seems a far cry from love-struck teenager Liesl, played by Charmian Carr in the film.

There are certainly some differences between The Sound of Music and the experiences of the real von Trapps, but there is no doubt that Agathe and her family opposed the Nazis. After the Nazis invaded Austria on the eve of Agathe’s 25th birthday, she sewed black aprons for the family to wear in mourning for their beloved homeland. Fortunately for the von Trapps – and the rest of the world who would later fall in love with the singing family – the devoted Austrians were technically citizens of Italy (thanks to some border redistricting following World War I), making it relatively easy for them to “escape” – unlike the film’s dramatic nighttime flight and Alpine trek, the von Trapps simply rented their house and boarded a train to Italy.

After leaving Europe, the von Trapps settled in the U.S. and continued performing together. Agathe sang with the Trapp Family Singers until their last concert in 1956. In later years, she helped keep the family legend alive, publishing Agathe von Trapp: Memories Before and After The Sound of Music.

Agathe von Trapp died Dec. 28, 2010 at the age of 97. She is survived by her sister Maria Franziska (the film’s Louisa) and half siblings Rosemarie, Eleonore and Johannes – and she is remembered by Sound of Music fans the world over.

Written by Linnea Crowther and Jessica Campbell