Louise - Queen of Prussia - George Upton




Louise As Crown-Princess Of Prussia

On the seventeenth of December, Louise and her sister left Darmstadt, which had become like home to them. Accompanied by their father and the widowed Landgravine, their grandmother, they travelled by way of Wurzburg, Hildburghausen, Weimar, Leipzig, and Wittenberg to Potsdam, where they arrived on the twenty-first of December. In the outskirts of this city of Frederick the Great, they were met by bands of citizens on horseback, carrying the Prussian and Mecklenburg colors, and there sixteen postilions gave them the first salute of welcome.

The Brandenburg arch in Potsdam had been furnished with a special gate of honor by the citizens. The street leading westward from this gateway was renamed in honor of the Princess, and the open square before it was called Louise Square. On their arrival, toward evening, all the windows were illuminated and the streets lighted with torches. The guild of butchers in Potsdam particularly distinguished itself. The masters, in brown coats with gold shoulder-straps, red, gold-bordered vests, and high, three-cornered hats with gold tassels, cockades, and red pompons, carried curved hussar sabres and bestrode horses decked with red trappings, and were preceded by three lusty trumpeters and the waving banner of their guild. In memory of this occasion, when (in 1804) the old banner was discarded, Queen Louise presented the honorable guild with a handsome new one.

The entry of the Princesses into Berlin took place on the twenty-second of December. Both Princes escorted their brides-to-be from Potsdam. The guilds and societies of Berlin assembled in the village of Schoneberg, an hour distant, in order to ride in front of the carriage of state. Six postal secretaries, at the head of forty trumpeters in new festal garments, led the torch-light procession from Schoneberg. Next to these came the company of carters in blue; next, the Berlin guild of butchers in blue; the sharpshooters in green with peach-colored trimmings; a company of Berlin citizens in old knightly costumes; the brewers and maltsters in blue; two companies of young clerks; and at the end, the merchants of the three guilds in red and blue. The streets were lined with soldiers of the royal guard and gentlemen of the court. Thus Louise, with her sister, was received and conducted to the capital, everything being done to honor and delight her. Poetical tributes were not lacking, and the tact and grace with which she received the homage, her wit, and the sincerity of her manner, laid the foundation for that profound reverence and love with which the people of the city always regarded her. At the gates and in the streets of Berlin, the entry became a veritable triumphal procession. Rows of the civil guard and countless masses of the populace lined the streets all the way to "the Linden" and the Crown-prince's palace, where an arch of honor had been erected, and thirty boys from the French colony and forty young maidens presented her with a festival poem, which ended with the verse:

"Forget what Thou hast lost;

This day of joy shall be the promise of a happier life;

Flail to Thee! mother of future monarchs,

A Queen and blissful wife!"

The young girl who presented a crown of blossoming myrtle and recited the poem with much taste and feeling was so lovely in dress and manner that Louise, yielding to the dictates of her heart, bent suddenly toward her, took her in her arms, and kissed her.

The Countess von Voss, a dignified courtier and Mistress of Ceremonies, standing just behind the Princess, was horrified at this unusual procedure and tried to put a stop to it. But she was too late! How dreadful that the future Crown-princess of Prussia should have embraced and kissed a child of the common people!

"Alas!" she sighed, "what has Your Royal Highness done! It is against all custom!

"What!" answered Louise, innocently, "can I no longer follow the dictates of my heart?"

Those who witnessed this scene were carried away by the sincerity and sweetness which the kiss and these words so spontaneously and naturally revealed. The procession passed on to the castle through rows of Berlin working-men, and it was not until three o'clock in the afternoon that the Princesses found themselves in the midst of the royal family and by the side of their betrothed.

Two days afterwards, on Christmas eve, 1793, the marriage of the Crown-prince and Louise took place in the White Hall of the castle. It was solemnized by the consistorial councillor, Dr. Sack, who had baptized and confirmed the Prince. In order to allow the citizens to participate as fully as possible in the ceremony the King had given orders that as many admission-cards should be issued as would fill the hall. Most of them fell to officials of the royal household, who crowded the apartments, wearing their gorgeous court uniforms. Out of patience on seeing how his wishes had been misinterpreted, the King said to the Master of Ceremonies: "Could you not gather enough embroidered collars about you? I wish to see the wedding garments of the citizens also; on the day after to-morrow no cards shall be issued, but all shall be admitted who have whole coats to their backs!" Therefore, on the twenty-sixth of December, at the wedding of Prince Louis and Frederika, the multitude which was admitted left so narrow a passage for the rather corpulent King, who was leading the widow of Frederick the Great, that he turned and, thrusting out his left elbow, called genially to his Berliners: "Do not mind, children! No one must expect to spread himself on such an occasion!

On the evening of the Crown-prince's wedding-day the citizens had planned a beautiful illumination of the city. While expressing his thanks on hearing of the plan, the Crown-prince said: "It would give me far more pleasure if those who have something to spare would give the money which the lights would cost, to the widows and orphans of those who have fallen in battle." No sooner said than done. The King, the Princes and Princesses contributed large sums, so that the joy of this Christmas and marriage festival was reflected in many a careworn face and many a humble home. The next morning, on Christmas Day, the newly married pair, with their attendants, drove from the castle to the cathedral. After attending the services, and thus having consecrated the first day of their married life, they drove to their own palace.

This was, and still is, an unostentatious building and furnished in exceedingly plain style. But it pleased the Crown-prince, who was simple in his tastes by nature and education; and it also satisfied Louise, who was not at all fond of show. When, after the King's death, Frederick William the Third might and should have removed to the castle, he preferred to remain in the simpler dwelling as long as he lived. When his children became dissatisfied, he would say to them: "You wish to make a show in the world, forgetting how it was with me at your age. On my birthday I received a pot of heliotrope worth three-pence, and when my tutor wished to give me an unusual teat, he would take me to a coffee-garden and order two-pence worth of cherries." To a newly married son, whose house he had fitted up in princely style, he remarked: "I had no such splendors when I married your mother. I can only wish that you may live as happily and contentedly as we have done."

In marked contrast to the usual brilliant, vain, superficial court life of the period, a new life now began in the Crown-prince's palace. A simple, old-fashioned household was established, a shining example of German family life, of simplicity, love, and faithfulness. Both husband and wife avoided as much as possible any contact with the unsavory persons who frequented the court of Frederick William the Second as satellites of the celebrated Countess Lichtenau.

The young couple ignored the French custom of formal address and used the more intimate "thou." The King noticed this with displeasure and called them to account with the words: "I hear that you call the Crown-princess 'Thou'!"

But the Crown-prince answered: "For very good reasons." And on being asked what these reasons were, replied: "With 'Thou' one always knows where one stands, but with 'you' all is uncertainty."

In his exalted station he had, at best, but little freedom, and even when King he "wished to enjoy in his home life some of the independence that belongs to every private citizen." He was not so much in his element at court as at home "with his wife." When she had laid aside the necessary trappings of fashion and stood before him in her plain gown and ordinary attire, he would look at her as upon a pearl newly restored to its pristine purity; then he would grasp her hand with a radiant expression and exclaim: "Thank God! that you are my wife once more!"

And when she would laughingly ask: "How, am I not always your wife?" he would reply, sighing jocosely:

"Ah no! All too often you are obliged to be the Crown-princess."

The unfortunate Mistress of Ceremonies had her troubles in consequence of this disregard of court etiquette. Once she read the Prince a French lecture on the influence of etiquette in the history of the world. With a very chastened air, he said: "Very well, I will submit myself. Announce me to my consort and inquire whether I may have the honor of waiting upon Her Royal Highness, the Crown-princess. Say that I should like to present my compliments and hope that she will graciously receive me." Highly delighted with such a result of her sermon, the good lady went ceremoniously to the Crown-princess to beg an audience in the name of His Royal Highness. But what a surprise was in store for her! As she entered the room she found the Crown-prince, who had hurriedly preceded her by another passageway, already "with his wife "; and laughingly he calls to the crestfallen lady: "You see, dear Voss, my wife and I meet as often as we like unannounced. This is a good Christian custom, I believe. However, you are a splendid Mistress of Ceremonies, and henceforth shall be called 'Madame Etiquette'!" The good lady had a similar experience afterwards at a festal procession of the Court. The order of ceremonies read that "Their Royal Highnesses must appear in the state carriage drawn by six horses, with two coachmen and three royal riflemen in uniform." The Crown-prince allowed the Mistress of Ceremonies to make all the arrangements according to precedent. Punctually the grand coach drew up before the palace, the Crown-prince appeared with his consort, but instead of entering it with her, he gently pushed the Mistress of Ceremonies inside, closed the door, and ordered the coachman to drive on with the prisoner. With his Louise, he then seated himself in an ordinary carriage with only two horses and drove to the castle, where, according to orders, the coachman drew up behind the state coach, from which at the same moment "Madame Etiquette" was alighting.

Louise, brought up in comparative freedom and in the sunshine of love, was in complete sympathy with this spirit of fun, which was a token of domestic happiness. She had the most fortunate influence over this husband, who was generally silent, reserved, harsh, and often seemingly morose, because of his strict and severe education, which she, with her frank and innocent nature, most happily supplemented.

When she celebrated her first birthday in Berlin, March 10, 1794., the King, who was very fond of her, presented her with the pleasure palace "Oranienburg" and a splendid park on the river Havel. Ladies and gentlemen of the court appeared before her in the costume of Oranienburg and, as it were, in the name of the inhabitants, presented the keys of the castle to its new mistress. Louise was full of

joy and gratitude, but she could not keep it all for herself. On the King's inquiring if she had any other desire, she could only wish for a handful of gold, so that the poor of Berlin might share her good fortune. Smilingly the King remarked that it only depended on how large she imagined the handful of gold to be. Never at a loss for an answer, she quickly replied: "The handful of gold should be just as large as the heart of the kindest of kings." So the poor of the capital received a share of the royal largess, and the birthday joy of the noble woman was complete. As an after celebration she, with her sister, gave a banquet for the servants, each of whom was allowed to bring several guests. The next day, on hearing that there had been eighty at table, Louise scolded them good-naturedly for not having made the number a full hundred.

In the following May, the King and the Crown-prince were obliged to take the field against the Poles. When the news came that at the storming of Wola the Crown-prince had led the company next after the King's against the entrenchments, she said: "I tremble for the dangers to which my husband is exposed; but I feel that as he is next to the throne, he should also be close to the King in the field." Soon after his return, October 7, 1794, she gave birth to a stillborn daughter in Oranienburg. This was in consequence of a fright and fall on the stairs. She was all the happier, when, a year later at the same place, she bore a son who became Frederick William the Fourth.

In spite of the many agreeable features of the castle and the town on the Havel, the young pair did not feel quite at home there. It was too magnificent for them, and the surroundings were too noisy. They longed for a quieter, more retired summer residence, where they could live with fewer restraints, although they often went driving in the forest in an ordinary farm wagon and without any servants, in spite of the protests of the Mistress of Ceremonies, who could never be induced to accompany them. Therefore, when the Prince learned that the estate of Paretz, pleasantly situated among the fields two miles from Potsdam, was for sale, he purchased it together with the village which belonged to it, for thirty thousand thalers, which the King paid for him. The old residence was torn down and a new one built in plain country style. "Keep in mind that you are building for an ordinary country gentleman," he instructed the architect. It was to be merely comfortable and homelike, without any costly furnishings, embroidered carpets and tapestries, silken covers, or velvet hangings; and afterwards when King, he said that while there he wished to be regarded only as "the squire of Paretz." His wife, too, on being questioned by a visiting princess as to whether Her Majesty was not bored to death by being immured for weeks at a time in this hermitage, answered: "No, indeed, I am perfectly happy as the mistress of Paretz."

The happy pair now enjoyed all the pleasures of country life hunting and boating, the forests and gardens, harvest festival and country dance. Even as Queen, the lovely, highborn dame often forgot her exalted station and joined the ranks of the peasants and their girls and gayly danced among them. Even "her excellency "Madame von Voss, the Mistress of Ceremonies, led out by the "master of Paretz," was obliged to take part in a dance. Another of the Queen's pleasures was to buy a basketful of cakes at the annual fair of Paretz and to distribute them among young and old. The children who joyfully cried out, "Madame Queen, Madame Queen, give me some too!" she led to the toy booths, where honey cakes and peppermints were raffled off, bought them tickets, and rejoiced with them over their sweet winnings. In the year 1802 she clothed all the children in the village in new garments for the harvest-home; and when the girls and boys leading the procession entered the castle to tender their thanks to the royal giver, she was as happy as any of them. Turning to the King, she quoted: "Ye shall become as little children."

This love and appreciation of nature and child-life always remained characteristic of her. With so many duties and demands upon her, she was obliged to take a few hours' rest daily to refresh her spirit and renew her strength. This repose she found most readily in the solitude and beauty of nature. "If I neglect this hour for collecting my forces," she once remarked, "I am out of sorts and cannot endure the confusion of the world. Oh, what a blessing it is to be able to commune with our souls!

It is evident that one of such deep emotional nature, at such times did not merely lose herself in dreams or ponder idly on her own affairs. She had been accustomed from childhood to collect and assimilate the best that human art and science have to offer. In proof of this, we have her essays, journals, and letters. The works of the great poets, Herder, Schiller, Goethe, and others, were her companions and the springs of her spiritual and mental refreshment, next to music, which she loved to cultivate. She interpreted the songs of her country with a voice full of feeling. But alas! there were hours in store for her, when all that genius has to offer could not still the suffering of her heart!

The first hour of trial came when her brother-in-law, Prince Louis, died of typhoid fever, December 28, 1796, leaving her sister Frederika an eighteen-year-old widow. She was married a second time, in 1798, to Prince Frederick William of Braunfels; and after he died, in 1814, she became the bride of the English Prince Ernst August, Duke of Cumberland, and as such, Queen of Hanover, in 1837. A fortnight after Prince Louis's death (January 13, 1797) the widow of Frederick the Great, the unhappy Queen Elizabeth Christine, whom Louise had regarded with tender and filial reverence, passed away in her eighty-second year. "It will be my turn next," said the King, on receiving the news of her death. Two months after this, on the twenty-second of March, 1797, Louise bore her second son, Prince William, and on the sixteenth of November of the same year, the King's prophecy was fulfilled. Frederick William the Second died; his eldest son ascended the throne, and Louise was Queen of Prussia. What a change in so short a time!