Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Polite Love and Secret Love

Empress Augusta clearly abhorred war. In 1864, she founded the National Women's Association, which looked after wounded and ill soldiers and she convened with Florence Nightingale for ideas. From the Empress' initiative, several hospital foundations still exist today, including the German Society For Surgery.

Romance of an Ex-Empress:
The Story of an Affair Remembered by Only a Few People

A Berlin letter has the following romance about the recently deceased Empress Augusta of Germany: A member of the suite of one of the best known among our Princes tells a romantic story concerning the dead Empress Augusta, and it is believed that it has never before been given to the public.

Augusta was a Princess in the petty court of Weimar, where she was hedged about with all the straitlaced etiquette the small German principalities affected. When she was seventeen she was a romantic girl and had learned by heart the stories of the previous half century's gallantries at the court of Louis XIV, and so well had she read that she was prepared to fall in love with any man who might first appeal to her sense of beauty; but the rigid surveillance of her ducal father and mother made male acquaintances almost impossible. 

Before this romantic spirit had lived long enough to die, a young French noble scion of a more or less long lineage stopped at the Court Weimar in the progress of a pleasure jaunt from Auvergne. He remained for some weeks at this place and became a favorite of the Duke. He was accomplished, handsome, and a dare devil. At a court ball, shortly following his arrival, the Frenchman met the Princess. They were permitted to become partners and indulged in mutual love at first night. 

This love soon developed into indiscretion, which took the form of secret meetings in the palace grounds. The only people aware of these trysts were the maid and valet of the principals who served as the medium through which the correspondence was carried on, and the meetings arranged. 

The maid, whether through carelessness or spite, lost one of the letters intrusted to her, and it was picked up by the Duchess, mother of Augusta, before the maid could recover it. The letter was impassionate and eloquent, burning with the love song of the smitten Parisian, and filled with all those pretty words that came in with the Grand Monarch. 

This was all very well, for the two were young, but it led up to the suggestion of an elopement. It implored flight, and pictured the ideal life of love on the pastoral lands of the new America. The Duke and Duchess were consumed with rage at this discovery, and poured their indignation in unstinted volume. So high did feeling run in court that the Ducal Chamberlain challenged the Frenchman to a duel, and the lover fell, mortally wounded. 

As he fell the Frenchman tore open his tunic, and there, pressed against his heart, was a handkerchief belonging to the Princess. Toward it his hand feebly moved, and he died at the moment he had seized the lace and was struggling to carry it to his lips. The Duchess was so affected by the incident that she silently placed the handkerchief on the breast of the young man as he lay in the coffin, and it was buried with him. His body was covered with roses, strewn upon him by the devoted Augusta, and she, from swoons and sobs, became hysterical and almost crazed. 

For weeks, the Princess sobbed about the palace, until her parents were convinced that her sorrow must have some relief or she would become insane. They suggested a marriage with Prince William of Prussia. and the Princess gave her indifferent consent, careless and thoughtless of what might become of her. 

With William it was a matter of equal unimportance, for he had first been crossed in a love affair, and he was heart broken as well. There was no misunderstanding between them on the subject of their marriage. It was an affair exclusively of the parents and of an obedient but disconsolate youth and maiden. 

During their lifetimes, the Emperor William and the Empress Augusta maintained toward each other a most perfect and severe politeness. They were friends, they respected each other, but that was all. They were not lovers, and they could not tear from their hearts the memories of their early love and their early disappointment. 

The Empress always preferred French books, ideas, dress, and sentiment, and it was her favorite language. The influence of that unhappy loss remained with her until the last moment, and she doubtless carried the sweet regrets to the grave. Years have effaced remembrance of the affair, and it is safe to say that less than a dozen great personages know of it to-day. —The Marin Journal, 1890

Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Moderator and Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia

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