Tag: history

Interesting Women : Sophie Dorothea, Prinzessin von Ahlden

I read about AURORA von Königsmarck (1662-1728) (Ger., Eng.), and somewhere in the back of my balding head a little bell was ringing. AURORA is one of the many lovers of FRIEDRICH AUGUST I. of Saxony (1670-1733) (Ger., Eng.) (called “The Strong”, der Starke) ; she even became his official maitresse, and gave birth to the Saxonian duke’s (and as AUGUSTUS II. Polish-Lithuanian king’s) illegal son MORITZ (1696-1750) (Ger., Eng.), who later became Maréchal Général des Camps et Armées du Roi, Marshal General of France.
As I read AURORA seemingly felt real affection to the crowned Lothario, and she even could build a relationship with FRIEDRICH AUGUST’s conniving wife CHRISTIANE EBERHARDINE of Brandenburg-Bayreuth (1671-1727) (Ger., Eng.). AURORA tactfully choose to move to Goslar (whc) and give birth there (MORITZ was born on the 28th of October 1696), while CHRISTIANE brought the only legal son of her husband to the world on the 17th of October 1696 in Dresden. When AURORA came back to Dresden she already had been replaced as the rambling ruler’s favourite. She received a position as abbess of Quedlinburg Abbey (Ger., Eng.). She used her remaining life to take care for said abbey, and had to see about the family inheritance matter that resulted from her brother’s disappearance.
And with this brother we finally approach the Interesting Woman of this post, SOPHIE DOROTHEA von Braunschweig und Lüneburg (1666-1726) (Ger., Eng.).
SOPHIE was the only daughter of the duke of Braunschweig-Lüneburg, and – and this was something unusual for the time – she came from a loving family. Her parents were devoted to each other, loved her only daughter, there was a real family life. SOPHIE received a good education, was open-minded, teachable – she grew up in a carefree environment in Celle castle.
PHILIPP CHRISTOPH von Königsmarck (1665-1694) (Ger., Eng.), AURORA’s younger brother, spent his childhood at the court of Celle (Ger., Eng.), and knew SOPHIE since their childhood days. He went to Oxford to study, finally choose a military career. After wandering & fighting through Europe he returned to Hanover in 1688, serving as colonel in the house guard of duke ERNST AUGUST of Hanover-Lüneburg, as Oberst der Leibgarde. This duke had a son called GEORG LUDWIG (1660-1727) (Ger., Eng.), who later was known as GEORGE I. of Great Britain, and who was, since 1682, married to our lovely SOPHIE.
SOPHIE did not want this marriage, the whole thing was a political & dynastic arrangement. In the beginning it seemed to shape up reasonably well, dutifully the pair produced two heirs (son GEORG AUGUST (1683-1760), later GEORGE II. of Great Britain, husband of this Interesting Woman, and a daughter SOPHIE DOROTHEA (1687-1757)). But after the birth of the second child the couple drifted apart.
GEORG LUDWIG openly favoured his maitresse MELUSINE von der Schulenburg, while SOPHIE rediscovered her inclination towards PHILIPP CHRISTOPH. This seemingly went unnoticed since 1691, became a serious liason in spring 1692, and finally resulted in a stout martial row : After a heated dispute with her husband, in spring 1694, SOPHIE grabbed some things and went back to her parents, back to Celle.
They sent her back. For political reasons, they needed Hanover’s help in an actual war against Denmark, so her father – again – put the interest of the “state” over the interest of his only daughter.
In summer 1694 SOPHIE and PHILIPP plotted an escape, they wanted to flee either to Wolfenbüttel or to Saxony. But, of course, the plan was disclosed to the court : The traitor was CLARA ELISABETH von Platen (an ancestor of our AUGUST), who had tried to convince PHILIPP CHRISTOPH that it would be a good idea to marry her daughter : PHILIPP refused, and CLARA ELISABETH took her revenge.
PHILIPP vanished on the 2nd of July 1694, after he had met SOPHIE for a last time in the old Leineschloß (Ger., Eng.). This is all what is known for sure about his fate. It is very likely that he was murdered, either on command of ERNST AUGUST or his son GEORGE LUDWIG. SOPHIE would never know what happened to her lover. Some years ago bones were found in the Leine castle, but DNA testing could establish that these are not PHILIPP’s remains.
SOPHIE had to take all the blame. She was divorced from her husband, and kept in a small castle in Ahlden (Ger., Eng.), effectively in solitary confinement, for the rest of her life – from 1694 to 1726, 32 years.
She spent the first years in a kind of apathy, only later she tried actively to change, to better, her situation, with no result. Visitors were basically not allowed, with the exception of her mother. After the latter’s death in 1722 SOPHIE was alone. The military detachment consisted of forty men, their only task was to guard one woman. In the beginning she was only allowed to move inside the castle, later she was allowed, of course under heavy guard, to walk in the grounds. After some years even riding in a coach was allowed. It is possible that they all became a little … strange there, over the years.
In early 1726 she suffered a stroke. Without regular exercise and movement she had become fat, but eating was seemingly her last joy. She had feverish colds, colics, and finally she went to bed in August 1726, and would not get up again. She refused any food consumption, any medical help, effectively starving herself to death. She died on the 13th of November 1726 at the age of sixty.
The autopsy provided evidence of gallstones and a liver failure. GEORGE forbid any public display of mourning in Hanover and London, and was furious when he heard that the court in Berlin wore black. The guards had no instructions for a burial, so they put her corpse in a lead coffin, put the thing in the cellar, and waited for orders.
These came in January 1727, and said basically “Heck, bury her in the yard without any fuss !” This was not possible for some weeks because of heavy rain, so the casket came back into the cellar and was covered with sand.
In May 1727, clandestinely, in the night, SOPHIE DOROTHEA, princess of Ahlden, was buried in St. Marien (Ger.) in Celle.
What a life.

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If You Write It, They Will Read It

Now let’s imagine you are a nobleman, living at the beginning of the 16th century in Middle Europe. You hang around the court of the Emperor and help to administer the Reich.
Your ruler decides to promote you and sent you as ambassador to the Czar.
What do you do ?
Certainly you turn to your database – that is the library – and look for a tome, manuscript or print, that describes what you need to know, like where to go, how to travel, whom to bribe.
Shock Hubbub, Panick & Confusion – no such book : You have to write it yourself !
Enter Sigmund von HERBERSTEIN (1486-1566) (Ger., Eng.).
Sigmund was a third son, so his chances to inherit a lot were pretty small. But his father took care to give his son a good education, and – what is even more important – this education fell on a good soil : Sigmund was interested in nearly everything, and very curious.
From 1514 on he lives at the court of Emperor Maximilian I. (1459-1519) (Ger., Eng.), he stays in service until 1553, for nearly forty years.
At the beginning of the 16th century existed only few permanent representations, usually a ruler choose one person for a special commission, a special envoy. HERBERSTEIN carried out 69 such missions, 30 saw him visiting Hungary, 15 took him to Poland and two into the Moscow State.
The first major journey was not successful. He was sent to Denmark in 1516 : Isabella (1501-1526) von Habsburg was married to king Christian II. of Denmark, who had earlier met an Netherlandish girl, taken her to Copenhagen and lived openly with her. The girl’s mother, an innkeeper called Willems, seemingly run the state. The king not only deeply insulted his wife, but also the house of Habsburg in toto, and there was no successor in sight due to a lack of consummation. Within a few years this remarkably dumb sovereign had insulted all rulers in the neighbourhood, was forced to flee the country and take asylum in The Netherlands where his legal wife died.
HERBERSTEIN should admonish the crowned ass, what he did to no avail, but in such a way that the king was not upset (and not cancelled his connection to the House of Habsburg). Interestingly Sigmund’s last mission in 1553 was to accompany another young Habsburgian princess, Catherine, to Cracow, right into another unhappy marriage.
Also Sigmund’s second mission in 1517 was not successful, when he was sent to Moscow to broker an armistice between Poland and the Moscow State. Nevertheless he showed great diplomatic skill in this mission – and he stayed in business. He reported to the Emperor personally, and old Maximilian seemingly was fascinated by the stories about this strange land & country in the East. So when a second mission to Moscow was necessary in 1526, now under the emperors Charles V. and Ferdinand I., it was only natural to have Sigmund take part in it – even Madrid (Charles V.) proposed his name. HERBERSTEIN was not only sent over in diplomaticis, but Ferdinand told him to collect any information about the country, the society, and put special emphasis on the religious situation. In the end Sigmund von HERBERSTEIN was sent to write the first regional and cultural study about unknown Russia.
He returned back to the Emperor’s court at the 13th of February 1527, and shortly afterwards presented his report. Sadly we know nothing about this report’s fate. In the 1530s Sigmund was looking for a humanist to work on his text, to have it stylistically improved, but we do not know what came out of this. It is not clear if the text that was finally printed 22 years later – in 1549 : Instant success, 20 more imprints until 1600 – is identical or, if not, how close related to the first version.
HERBERSTEIN lived on to see the success of his book, and in his autobiographical writings, which are also very instructive, he mentions that knowing the Slovenian language was very helpful for him. Sigmund was born in Wippach in Slovenia, and he put a lot of effort in learning the language of his peasants as a youth. So knowing a Slavonic language was very helpful for him on his travels in the East, less perhaps in Poland where the nobility was fluid in Latin and Italian, two other languages Sigmund verifiably spoke.
His text * is an interesting read, still after five hundred years.

* I used : HERBERSTEIN, Sigmund von : Das alte Rußland. In Anlehung an die älteste deutsche Ausgabe aus dem Lateinischen übertragen von Wolfram von den STEINEN. Mit einem Nachwort von Walter LEITSCH. Unter herausgeberischer Mitarbeit von Paul KÖNIG. 2. Auflage Zürich 1985 (Manesse Bibliothek der Weltgeschichte) (Rerum Moscoviticarum commentarii).
LEITSCH (1926-2010) was an Austrian professor of history at the university of Vienna, I used his Nachwort / postface.

Ich Will Silvaner

I had to look into the diary to be sure that it was only one week ago when we gathered in the Lorenzkirche (Ger., Eng.) in Nuremberg to say farewell to our friend M.B. The pastor said she had expected perhaps 25 souls to turn up, in the end there were more than sixty people in the church and at the following get-together – that of course took place at her favourite spot, the Kaffehaus in the local library (Ger.), her second living-room. I came home late, a bit tipsy.
On Monday the festivities for the Tag der deutschen Einheit, or German Unity Day (Ger., Eng.) took place in Dresden. And of course the “concerned citizens” showed up in all their brutal stupidity, this time top brass could not ignore them. Only one reporter described that the “concerned citizens” not only yelled and hollered at the main political figures of Germany, chancellor, federal president and head of parliament, but also made very tasteful “Affengeräusche”, imitations of ape-sounds (“Ugh ugh ugh !”) when people of colour went over the red carpet towards the main events – GOd, who cares about them nigger ambassadors ?
Nevertheless the Ministerpräsident of Saxony, the host of this event and head honcho of the uncivilised masses over there, later described  the whole ceremony as “well done” & “gelungen”, successful. Maybe he’s glad that Merkel was not hit with a bottle.
One has to accept that racism and neo-nazism has reached a certain part of the German society. I think around 20 percent of the population is more or less openly racist and fascist – that is the average : There are areas in the East of Germany that are nowadays totally brown. Notably in Mecklenburg and Saxony.
This is depressing – I never thought that it would come back. But I am a product of the old Western Germany, a state and a society that do not exist anymore, I was socialised and educated there. Those who yell, march and bomb are young, mostly of East-German origin and today stand in a tradition : They continue what their parents started 25 years ago when they burned houses of refugees, of course with the “niggers” and “Fidschis” still inside.
Today it is the “Arabic” migrant – it is absolutely pointless to start to argument and explain that these humans are not necessarily of Arabic origin or of Muslim faith – for them it’s all the same : Simple explanations rule ! The people of Turkish origin I know do look a bit concerned. It is only a question of time until the first mosque is burned down.
All this nonsense is depressing : the brutality ; the stupidity ; the sheer impertinence of those liars & manipulators who gain political capital from the idiocy of stupid people ; the Verbrechervisagen who all of a sudden show up in German parliaments, from local to the federal level. Of course we see a new nationalism in the whole of Europe, a very dangerous development. BTW those states of the “Vishegrad Group” (Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic & notorious Hungary, Ger., Eng.) came up with a new word for cherry picking – they now speak of “flexible Solidarität”, flexible solidarity, what means nothing else but that they take what they like (mostly cash) and refute what they dislike, for example refugees. Because they have “principles” you know, like “holy” “nation” “first” or such crap.
But it cost you only three hundred thousand Euro to become a Hungarian citizen, of the “holy” “nation” : If you invest in this shithole of a country they throw their lousy passport at you. So much for “principles” …
This is not very uplifting, all in all.
I drove my kids around, at least some useful activity, and it pays the rent. Other things happened over the last ten days, mostly nice and positive. But I could not drag meself together and come up with a Sunday Music – the first time since … don’t know when I started this, and I am sorry for this breach or disruption of a long run. I like continuity.
Right now I should do some household chores, but frankly can’t be arsed to do this, Monday’s another day, eh ?!
I find it consoling or comforting to see beauty in the wounderful autumn lights early in the morning, when I drive into the rising sun, and in the late afternoon, when I drive West. All the human stupidity, all the brutality will one day be gone, done away with, there is a chance for development towards the ideal, the enlightened humane human being. And all the beauty I see reminds me of the limitedness of my own existence, the mortality of everything that is. It is autumn, and everything has a blue edge.
Rory GALLAGHER, I’m Not Awake Yet, just so.

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Dis’n Dat / Diss unn’ Dat

What is time ?

“Sed quid tempus est ? cuius cum nihil unquam sit, omnia tamen in illo sunt et semper omnibus assistit. Illud idem omnia generat et occidit, auctor vitae ac mortis. Vtque ilius exspectatio longissima, ita semper memoria brevissima. Cumque nos semper comitetur, nunquam ipsum tamen agnoscimus. Nec cum eius tanta sit copia, reparatio tamen ulla conceditur : unde fit, ut nullius alterius rei iactura sit maior et vilior.”

But what is time ? Nothing is immanent in it (“nichts ist ihr zu eigen”), but all things are in it and it is always with all things. It creates all and kills, it is the author of life and death. And as its expectation is the longest, so is its memory the shortest. And if it is always in our company, we will never learn to know it. And if there is so much of it, any moment is irrecoverable, so the loss of time is more important and more common than any other loss that can incur.

I cite Mr CARDANUS (Ger., Eng.), from his work De Subtilitate, (see here, page 523 = image 553, the paragraph starts with Contraria ratione tempus in somno contrahitur …) as I found it in the biography of this Renaissance disciple written by Mr Anthony GRAFTON (Ger., Eng.) on page 9, note 1 – ha ! CARDANUS btw is the first who mentions the trick called “Blow Book” (Eng.), for all you book lovers. And GRAFTON wrote a history of the footnote, doubt that he got the Pour le Mérite (Ger., Eng.) for this, but who knows.
CARDAN, as far as I understand, also has no real answer. He describes his subject, tempus, but the innermost nature of it is for him as unreachable as it is for any other human being.
The wonder for me is that time “makes things big” and small. Looking back one often wonders how things actually went, were bearable, were good – how it concurred. The best thing about time is that we can not look ahead. I, at least, am grateful that there is no ability to look ahead ; to know that some things would happen, would have made me stumble, fall and give up. Things that burst into one’s life, come by surprise, as shocking as it may be, need & request urgent and immediate action, thus creating at least the illusion of non-passivity, non-subjection.
This was started by the very Mistress’ book report for July & August, in which she mentions But What If We’re Wrong ? Thinking About The Present As If It Were the Past by “Chuck” KLOSTERMANN (link, Ger., Eng.) (astoundingly boyish looks for a forty-something, seemingly a Berufsjugendlicher – yes, the “end of knowledge”-thing still bugs me), nevertheless an interesting point of view on life & all, on history.
I should be writing a text right now. But feel hungry. So it is time to go and pre-heat the oven for the pizza Diavolo I bought yesterday. Yes, let’s do this devilish thing now. This is NOT “procrastination”. Just a little dawdling, maybe.