Franz von Goethe

It’s too good not to write about.
Some days ago I read an article written by Tom APPLETON from New Zealand. Among other things, like f.e. the annoying contact with a ruthless tv-producer, he describes his visit to the gathering of a Maori clan. This family claims to be descended from J. W. von GOETHE (Ger., Eng.). Their ancestor went to school with Otto von BISMARCK (Ger., Eng., video), immigrated to kiwiland, married a famous maori poetess, and here they are.
My first reaction was a mean smile, simply because it’s a bit much. As far as I knew when I read it, old GOETHE had only one son who survived infancy, August, who died before his father without leaving behind any children, legal or not. The part with “I went to school with Bismarck” smells a bit like name dropping – in short, I thought an immigrant had given his family history a little boost ; or someone in the family has found explanations for possible similarities of names.
But I was corrected by Mr. APPLETON, who had written a large article in the Süddeutsche Zeitung* already thirteen years ago (and even another one in the 1980s), I will shamelessly use it here.

The Gottys state that their ancestor is a certain Johann Franz von GOETHE, according to the death certificate born 1809 in Germany, died on the 30th of April 1893, 84 years of age. He was married to Elizabeth RANGIHIRAWEA, also known as PUHIWAHINE (ca. 1816 – 1906) (lexicon 1966 ; lexicon new). Franzens father is said to have been a cavalry officer in the Prussian army called Antonia [sic] von GOETHE, his mother Emma – her maiden name not given. On the “denisation document” from 1849 Franzens year of birth is 1816 – that would fit with the allegation in his obit that he went to school with BISMARCK. Otto was born 1815, he went into the Plamannsche Institut (Ger.) in Berlin and hated it with every fibre of his heart. Said institute was closed in the 1830s, no archival sources seem to have survived.
Further research brought to light a Johann Georg GOETTE in Australia, who came 1833 into the country, after having lived in London since 1829 ; by profession a blacksmith he run a hotel near Sidney and died there 1864. This could be a brother to our Franz.
Franzens father, “Antonia” on the death certificate of Franz, is according to the Gotty family saga the son of “Lili”, his father is Wolfgang GOETHE.
LILI is the nickname of Anna Elisabeth SCHÖNEMANN (Ger., bio deutsch). GOETHE and LILI met around the end of 1774, she was 16, he ten years older. They fell in love at first sight, at Easter 1775 – fast courtship, indecent quick – they engaged. The SCHÖNEMANN family did not like the idea of that low-life writer-poet in their nice family – and that was that.
Four years later they met again, on the 16th of September 1779 in Straßburg (Ger., Eng.; have a look). Meanwhile LILI was married to the banquier Bernhard Friedrich von TÜRCKHEIM (fr.) for three years and had given birth some months ago to a legal child from this marriage. He is now a best-selling author in Europe, friend of a real Großherzog, and his title  “Geheimrat” is so new it still squeaks a bit.
If they hopped into bed they could have produced “Antonia” or better : Antoine, who is said to be born in 1780. The TÜRCKHEIMs stayed in France, went down the social ladder a bit, and finally moved to Paris. The illegal son of GOETHE would in this scenario have either grown up in his mother’s family or would have been given into a foster family. We do not know if he even existed.
21 years later LILI writes a letter to GOETHE. On the 25th of February 1801 she asks whether he could help a young man of merit (“einem Jungen, Verdienstvollen Mann behülflich zu seyn”). If he does something, and if yes, what, is unknown.
1806 the French come to Berlin, perhaps a young cavalry officer Antoine de Goette among them ? He may have served later in Westphalia, the new kingdom (Ger., Eng.) of Napoleon’s brother Jerome. After its collapse 1813 he may have looked for a new job, possibly with the Prussian army – Why not go to Berlin ? Where his wife Emma gives birth to son Franz 1816 ; who goes to school together with Otto, who later founds das Deutsche Reich.
The so very nice thing about this story is that nothing falsifies it.

Many thanks to Mr. APPLETON for sending me a copy of his SZ-article. If something’s wrong in my post, it’s all my fault.

* Süddeutsche Zeitung, SZ am Wochenende, Feuilleton-Beilage der SZ, Samstag / Sonntag, 21. / 22.September 1991, Nr. 219: Auf der Suche nach Goethes Whakapapa

13 thoughts on “Franz von Goethe

  1. A son of Franz and Puhiwahine went to Europe to study, Oxford. He went on a visit to see “the grandparents” – August’s widow was still alive in the end 1860s. The visit did not go well, Eryl. Appleton says he finds it consolatory that the national German idol Goethe lives on in a clan of brown humans despite the racist hybris of some of the Goethe worshippers …

  2. Quod erat demonstrandum, Verdorbener LX.
    It IS brain melting. And possibly better than the 80s version. Just found the 1964 original.

    I have no clue, Schaum – ask Appleton, he was there. If no manic tv-producer works his muscle it might be a nice experience.
    Franzens wife PUHIWAHINE btw is a famous Maori poetess in her own right.

  3. No more ‘mean smiles’ then???
    {off-topic} I was watching Newsnight last night and there was an item about The Paradise Club… it reminded me of something Mr Lax will not speak of – ever!!
    Sx

  4. No mean smile or grin, dear MsScarlet – it is a good story and nothing speaks against it. As historian I would look for further evidence. This should be found on the Lili side I think, somewhere family papers of the TÜRCKHEIM family should have survived ; Bernhard after all was mayor of Strassbourg.
    In APPELTON’s German article names of some places in Westphalia are mentioned from original source material (I omitted this, because the research brought no results ; wonder whether they did it right btw.) – hence the idea that Franz could have served there in Jerome’s kingdom. And I have a very pale memory of sources regarding this kingdom – if Franz was there, in some archive could be a trace left.
    If someone would give me a contract please ?
    So basically I think the story is genuin – the Gottys never changed nothing for the last 180 years or so. My initial mean grin was mainly caused by the mention of BISMARCK. I think it’s a bit like when an Englishman would say “grandfather is the illegal son of Shakespeare and went to school with Churchill” – yeah, and invented a pump for hot air ; you get the idea.
    But again, the first impression is not always the correct one, nothing speaks against it, and further research may unearth additional proofs.

    “Paradise Club” ? Never heard of it.

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