Napoleon and the Queen of Prussia
On display in Charlottenburg Palace in Berlin are the crown jewels of Frederick the Great and his successors. If you look closely, you'll see that there are no actual jewels in the crowns. It's not clear what happened to them. It reminds me of the fact that, when George IV was crowned, he had to rent the jewels for his regalia, and send them back after the coronation. There's no hint, though, that the Prussian royals were that hard up when these crowns were made, so the jewels probably went missing much later.
|Crown Jewels of Frederick the Great of Prussia|
The only jewels that do survive in Charlottenburg are these diamond earrings, dated to about 1800, which belonged to Queen Luise, the consort of King Frederick William III, the king who was so closely involved in the Napoleonic Wars. Queen Luise was much loved by her people, partly because she did not maintain a separate court, but stayed at her husband's side. She also produced nine live children, even though she died at the age of only 34.
|Diamond earrings of Queen Luise of Prussia c 1800|
Of course, Prussia's battles against the French were not often successful! So perhaps there were sensible grounds for the Prussian King's caution. However, encouraged by his wife, he did take part in the campaign against the French from 1806. His army was crushed at the Battle of Jena in 1806 and the royal family had to flee. They took refuge at Königsberg under the protection of Tsar Alexander of Russia, who was rumoured to be enamoured of Luise. But then Alexander, too, was defeated by Napoleon.
Napoleon made peace with the two rulers at Tilsit in 1807. His terms for Prussia were particularly harsh. Luise tried to intercede with Napoleon during the Peace of Tilsit. It is said she fell on her knees and begged for more lenient terms for Prussia. She certainly tried to intercede with him. Napoleon was reputed to have said that she was "the only real man in Prussia" – but he didn't give her better terms. Perhaps because he was worried about what Josephine might say?
|Tilsit: Napoleon, Tsar Alexander, Queen Luise of Prussia, Frederick William III of Prussia|
Frederick William III was very much the junior partner against the French, but he was eventually victorious over Napoleon, in alliance with Austria, Russia and Britain. But by then his beloved queen was long dead and he did not remarry for over a decade after he lost her. He wasn't short of heirs – seven of their nine children lived to adulthood – so there was no great pressure. Eventually, in 1824, Frederick William III married his mistress, Auguste von Harrach, but she was not made queen as she was not of royal blood. They remained married until his death in 1840. Though she nursed him through his final illness, the establishment clearly did not approve; she was not allowed to attend her husband's funeral. Very sad.
|Crown Princess Elizabeth|
|Fabulous Curls even in 1824|
Hairdressers must have been very skilful in those days, considering there was no hairspray to keep those gorgeous curls in place.
That's the last of my stories about Berlin and the royals from Charlottenburg. Next month? The Royal Rat Catcher and other stories...