L. de Hegermann-Lindencrone.

The Sunny Side of Diplomatic Life, 1875-1912 online

. (page 20 of 22)
Online LibraryL. de Hegermann-LindencroneThe Sunny Side of Diplomatic Life, 1875-1912 → online text (page 20 of 22)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

glad that I saw him when he was here last year and had such a pleasant
afternoon with him.

Johan was one of the pall-bearers at the King's funeral at Roskilde. I
did not go on to Copenhagen. There was a funeral service here at the
Scandinavian chapel. We are to have mourning for six months.

BERLIN, _June 6, 1906_.

Dear L., - If I were going to be married and had to go through all the
ceremonies which attend the marriage of a German princess, I think I
would remain an old maid.

I will tell you what the wedding of the Princess Cecilia of
Mecklenburg was like. As it was the first royal wedding that I had
ever attended, my impressions are fresh, if not interesting. I have
seen royal silver and golden weddings, but never anything like this.

The day before yesterday, the hottest day of all the tropical days we
have been having, the Princess arrived in Berlin. The Emperor and the
Empress met her at the station and drove her to Bellevue Castle, where
there was a family lunch. She had numerous deputations and visits of
all sorts until five o'clock, when she made her public entrance into
Berlin, passing through Brandenburger Tor. All the streets where the
Princess was to pass were decorated _à l'outrance_ with flags and
flowers. Carpets were hung from the balconies.

The middle of the Unter den Linden, usually left to pedestrians, was
freshly strewn with red earth for the procession of the carriages. All
the public buildings were festooned with enormous paper roses as big
as cabbages. There were high poles holding gilded baskets filled with
flowers. In order that every one of the populace should have a
souvenir these flowers were soaked in a preparation of wax, which made
them quite hard, and they were warranted to last for some time.
Streamers of paper flowers, graduating from light yellow through the
whole gamut of rainbow colors and ending in dark blue, reached to the
ground from the tops of the houses. The Opera House outdid itself. It
was wise to cover it as much as possible - it is such an ugly building.

The French Ambassador invited us to see the _entrée_ from the balcony
of the Embassy in Pariser Platz. The little maidens, their heads
crowned with wreaths, had been waiting in the sun for hours with their
baskets filled with roses, which they were to throw before the
Princess as she passed.

It was a splendid procession, headed by the _Hofstalmeister_, followed
by a staff of officers spangled with orders and decorations, in the
most gorgeous uniforms. Then the blast of trumpets and a mounted
military band preceded the gala coach, only used for weddings, drawn
by six horses with huge white plumes on their heads. In the coach was
the Empress, and on her right the Princess Cecilia in a light-blue
dress, white hat, and long blue feathers.

The coach stopped in the Platz, and the Mayor of Berlin approached the
window and presented a huge bouquet and delivered an address to the
Princess, who bowed graciously and smiled.

The Empress looked very happy.

After this came all the other gala coaches, followed by the _garde du

There was a family dinner, and after that the gala performance at the
Opera. I have already told you about these gala performances, so this
will be only a repetition, except that there were more flowers and
more carpets. All around on the ledge of the balcony there were fresh
and real roses and carnations, so that every lady could take a bouquet
away with her. Garlands of paper flowers hung the entire distance from
the ceiling to the prompter's box. One wondered how they found hands
enough in Berlin to make all these thousands of flowers.

The parquet was a garden of uniforms. The Emperor entered with the
bride-elect on his arm, and the Empress with the Crown Prince. The
Crown Prince wore the white uniform of the Guards, and a silver
helmet. The other princes followed, all entering very quietly. Every
one in the theater bowed and courtesied, and save for the rustling of
dresses and the rattling of swords there was not a sound to be heard.
The Crown Prince and his _fiancée_ sat in the middle seats, the
Emperor to the right of his daughter.

The overture was a composition made for the occasion, and played while
all the lights were blazing, in order that every one could have a good
look at the Princess.

Then gradually the theater became dark, and the opera commenced. It
was "Orphée," by Glück. Madame Destinn sang the principal part. Her
voice is very beautiful, but she is so small, and somewhat dumpy, that
she did not look much like an Orphée. To make the opera shorter they
combined the first and second acts, and to allow Orphée to go from
hell to heaven without letting down the curtain they had invented a
sort of treadmill on which Orphée and Eurydice should walk while the
landscape behind them moved. It was a very ungraceful way of walking.
They looked as if they were struggling up a hill over rough and stony

We went into the foyer after the performance and were presented to the
Princess. I had known her as a young girl in Cannes, where her parents
lived, therefore we had something to talk about. She is very charming,
tall and willowy, and has a pleasant word and smile for every one.

The wedding-day dawned in a relentless haze. We were invited to be at
the chapel of the _Schloss_ at five o'clock. The regulations about our
court dress were the same as for the _Schleppenkur_, only we were
begged _not_ to wear _white_. My dress was yellow, with a yellow
_manteau de cour_. Frederikke wore a light-green _pailletted_ dress
with a light-green train. We were a little late in starting; our
_Schutzmann_ had waited patiently in the courtyard for a long time. We
drove through the crowded streets, lined with spectators. Each clock
we passed pointed in an exasperating way to the fact that we were
late. J.'s sword seemed always to be in the way; every time he spoke
out of the window to urge on the already goaded coachman the sword
would catch on something. The air was more than suffocating, and there
was evidently a storm brewing.

We arrived before the portal of the _Schloss_ at the last moment. Ours
was the last carriage to arrive. The pompous _Suisse_ pounded his mace
on the ground and said, warningly, "You must hurry; the Kaiser is just
behind you." And we _did_ hurry.

The staircase makes three turns for each flight, and the chapel is the
highest place in the palace, meaning seven turns for us. I grasped the
tail of my ball dress in one hand and my heavy court train in the
other and prepared to mount. On each turn I looked behind and could
just see the eagle on the top of the Emperor's silver helmet. We
hurried as I never hurried in my life, for if his Majesty had got
ahead of us on any of these turns where the two flights meet and part,
we would have been shut out from the chapel. As it was, one door was
already closed. They opened it for us, and we were the last to enter
before the princes. We crossed the chapel to reach the _estrade_ on
which stood the _Corps Diplomatique_. In my hurry I forgot to let down
my dress, and I don't dare to think how much stocking I must have
exhibited. When finally I did reach my place I was so out of breath it
took me a long time before I was in it again.


There was a general who stood before me with his plumed hat in his
hand, and the plumes waved about like palm-trees, so near were they to
my panting!

Then the Emperor appeared with his suite, and stood at the right of
the altar. He was a little ahead of time. There were about seventy-two
princes and princesses. Each of the princesses had a page or a young
lady to hold up her train.

The Empress then entered, followed by her suite. The youngest
_demoiselle d'honneur_ held her train, which was of red velvet covered
with heavy embossed gold embroidery.

After the Empress came the Crown Prince in his white _garde de corps_
uniform. He looked very young and slender and quite pale.

A moment after the bride came in. Six young ladies held her train,
which was light-blue velvet embroidered in silver, over a white-satin
gown covered with beautiful point lace. The train was carefully spread
on the floor.

The choir of boys high up in the dome sang psalms with many verses.
Then the clergyman commenced his exhortation, which was very long. The
heat was intense. Some ladies about me thought they were going to
faint, but happily they could not make up their minds.

Although the music was delicious, I longed to hear the organ.
Especially when the ceremony was finished I hoped that we should hear
Mendelssohn's March. But there was no organ in the chapel.

It took the royal persons a long time to leave the chapel, each
princess taking up a great deal of space with her train and her
train-bearer. The last princely couple were strangely contrasted. The
young Duchesse d'Aosta, who is unusually tall, walked with a tiny
Siamese prince. We followed down the steps to the _Weissesaal_, where
the members of the Diplomatic Corps defiled before the throne and made
our courtesy - _one only_ - before the Emperor. All the suites and court
gentlemen stood massed together opposite the throne. It was quite an
ordeal to walk under the fire of so many eyes, as the parquet was
without any carpet and very slippery, and the length of the room

After waiting what seemed an hour, the royalties, headed by the
Emperor and the Empress, walked past us.

The spectacle of these fifty princesses with their magnificent
dresses, blazing with jewels, made one gasp.

Besides all the royal people of Germany, representatives from other
countries were present. Prince Christian and his wife, who is the
sister to the bride, represented Denmark.

They all disappeared in the banqueting-hall at the end of the gallery.
We others sat down at tables each containing twelve people, and were
served a regular dinner.

Each table in our room had a superb _surtout de table_ in silver, and
silver drinking-cups worthy of a museum. The _ménus_ and bonbons were
trimmed with white-satin frills and had the photographs of the Crown
Prince and Princess, and were laid by each plate. A dinner for three
thousand people! The young ladies and officers had their dinner at a
standing buffet.

We went back to the ballroom after the royalties had passed us again.
The clouds outside were very oppressive.

Then the traditional _Fackeltanz_ commenced. The _Corps Diplomatique_
had a platform to itself, fenced in with cords. We were so crowded
that had it not been for the cord which held us in our places we would
have tumbled out.

The ladies of the nobility also had a platform. The herald, dressed in
a short medieval, red-velvet costume, with the embroidered coat of
arms of Germany on his breast, advanced, trumpet in hand, and
announced that the _Fackeltanz_ was about to begin. The orchestra
played a gavotte; and the Crown Prince, giving his hand to the
Empress, and the Crown Princess giving hers to the Emperor, preceded
by eight pages with torches and by Prince Fürstenberg, walked around
the room. When they arrived before the throne they made the most
reverential of bows before parting with their Majesties, who took
their places on the throne. The Princess's train was carried by four
young ladies, and by her side walked Countess Harrach, one of the
_dames de palais_. After this the Princess walked with every prince
according to his rank, sometimes with two, one on each side, and the
Prince walked with two ladies. Each tour of the _salon_ they made they
stopped in front of the Emperor and bowed and received their next
partner. Fancy what fatigue!

The storm which we had expected now really burst upon us. Peals of
thunder mingled with the strains of the orchestra, and almost shook
the ground.

At eleven o'clock the Princess had danced with every one and had made
hundreds of courtesies, and on the signal given by their Majesties
retired with her suite. We went down the _Hölletreppe_ (in English,
_hell-stairs_), a rather diabolical name, but I hope it was paved with
better intentions than the _Wendeltreppe_, where we went up. My
intention was, _bed_.

We found our carriages and drenched coachman and dragged our trains
home to their resting-places.

We had been eight hours under arms.

Every one received a white ribbon with a little gold fringe on the
end, bearing the monogram of the married couple. It was a _honi soit
qui mal y pense_ remembrance of the royal wedding.

Prince Wilhelm Hohenzollern,[2] cousin of the Emperor, is a great
philatelist, and brought his magnificent collection of albums (eight
or ten large ones) to show me, and a pile of duplicates. His victoria
was quite filled when he drove up to our door, and his _chasseur_ had
to make two trips to bring them all up. Collectors of postage-stamps
make a brotherhood in themselves. He knew each stamp in his books, and
explained all to us.

[2] Father of the princess who married the young ex-King
of Portugal, Manuel, in 1913.

He has twelve thousand! I brought out my little collection very
shyly - it was so insignificant beside his. We passed two hours going
through the two collections. He left six thousand duplicates with me
to look over and chose from, so my collection was enriched by one
thousand new specimens. He told me he had inherited a whole collection
from his uncle, the King of Rumania. He came to drink with us, and was
always most amiable. He does not play cards, nor is he musical in any
way, therefore conversation was our only resource. I brought in all my
animals and put them through their tricks; the parrot played up
wonderfully. He followed me about the room, sat on my shoulder, sang,
and whistled. What amused people most was, when I sang "Medje," a very
sentimental song, he imitated a _rire-fou_ which seemed so
inappropriate that every one was convulsed with laughter. Then I
showed my doves, which were pronounced "perfect darlings." My seven
dogs did their best to amuse us. The parrot ran after them and bit
their tails, which the dogs did not resent in the least.

Prince Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia also dined with us - a very formal
dinner. He is rather serious for such a young man. He is tall and
thin, and in his high, buttoned-to-the-chin uniform he looks even
taller than he really is. He is very musical, and brought his violin
and several books of music. He only approves of Bach, Beethoven, and
Mozart in his severer moods. He likes Bach best of all. He plays very
correctly, one might say without a fault, but I have heard violinists
who play with more _brio_. He listened with kindness to a young Danish
girl who executed a dashing solo by Brahms divinely, and nodded his
head in approval when she had finished. The Prince was begged to play
several times, and he went through the entire _répertoire_ of sonatas
he had brought with him. The guests were immensely pleased, and the
_soirée_ was very successful.

His brother, Prince Joachim Albrecht, is also a very good musician,
but differs radically from Prince Wilhelm. He plays the violoncello
very well, and favors modern music. He composes ballads, and leads his
own regimental orchestra. He is as jolly and unconventional as his
brother is reserved and grave. When he dines with us he brings his
violoncello, and I accompany him on my piano. He composed two very
pretty and successful ballets, both given for charity. The first one
was danced by Frederikke and two other girls and three young officers.
It was called "_La Leçon de Danse_." On the top of the program,
instead of the English device, "_Honi soit qui mal y pense_," I put
"_Honi soit qui mal y danse_" in the same shield. Hardly any one in
the German audience saw the joke - nothing more than that it was a
_druckfehler_ (printer's error). The rehearsals were in my _salon_,
and we had great amusement over them. The second ballet was more
pretentious, and was danced in one of the largest theaters in Berlin.
It was called the "Enchanted Castle." A parvenu buys an ancestral
castle, and on his arrival there falls asleep in the great hall,
filled with the portraits of ancestors and knights in armor. The
ladies, in their old-fashioned dresses, step out from their frames,
and with the knights in armor move in a stately quadrille. After they
return to their frames, thirty young couples dance a ballet, and when
they finish, the parvenu wakes up. It was very pretty and brought in a
lot of money, and there was a question of its being repeated for the
Emperor, but this was not done.

_February, 1908._

Dear L., - The Crown Prince and the Crown Princess gave a small
_bal-costume_. It was their first entertainment of any importance,
though there were very few people invited. As Frederikke is a dancing
young person, we were invited, enabling me to take many girls under my
protecting wing. The Emperor was dressed as the Grand Elector of
Brandenburg. The Empress had copied an old family portrait at San
Souci. She had a voluminous blond peruke and a flowing blue dress. She
looked very handsome. The Princes were generally dressed as their
ancestors and looked very familiar, as almost all of them stand in the
_Sièges Allée_. I learned much of German history that evening. The
Emperor was very kind and gave me a spirited and concise history of
those whom his six sons represented. No one except the Kaiser would
ever have had the persistency to stay booted and spurred during the
whole evening without a murmur, though he must have suffered from the
heat and been uncomfortable to a great degree. He had thick, brown
curls which hung close about his ears; thick, high, and hot leather
boots; and heavy leather gloves which he conscientiously kept on till
the very end.

The Kaiser is a wonderful personality. The more I see him the more I
admire him. He impresses you as having a great sense of power and true
and sound judgment. And then he is kind and good. I do not think him
capable of doing a mean or small action.

Mrs. Vanderbilt drove me out to Potsdam in her motor, and, going
through the forest, we passed in our hurried flight an automobile
which we did not have time to remark upon. That evening there was a
ball at court. When the Emperor spoke to me he said: "You flew by the
Empress and me like lightning this afternoon when we were walking in
the forest."

"Was that your Majesty's motor?" I asked. "We went so fast that I did
little else than hold on to my seat. It must have seemed ill-mannered
to have flown by like that."

There is to-night a _Gesinde Ball_ to which we are going. I know that
you have no idea as to what a _Gesinde Ball_ is, so I will tell you
that it is a ball given at some kind house by a kind lady. People
dress themselves up as servants. It is our wildest dream, and we are
never so happy as when we are gotten up to look like ladies' maids. I
can tell you how some of them will look - self-made and to the manner
born. I am going, since commands from superior quarters make it
imperative, as a giddy old housekeeper or a care (worn) taker who has
taken a smart gown from her mistress's wardrobe on the sly.

Several evenings later I heard your _prima donna_ with patience
(because you sent her), but not with enthusiasm. She is like a hundred
other would-be _prima donnas_ who cannot sing now and never can. These
flock to Berlin, study with all their might for two or three years,
and sing worse each year. Then they give a concert, for which they
give away the tickets. They say they must have the Berlin criticism.
In the mean time their families are eating dry bread and their friends
are squeezed like lemons. They get their criticism in some paper, cut
it out, stick it on a nice piece of paper, and send it to their
countrymen, who are out of pocket for a thousand marks or so. Then
they go back to their homesteads, discouraged and unhappy, and sing
for nothing in the village choir for the rest of their lives.

Our winters are very much alike - always the same routine. The season
commences with the reception of the _grande maîtresse_, then comes the
_Schleppenkur_, the _Ordensfest_, and after that the Emperor's
birthday, with a gala opera in the evening; then the first, second,
and third balls at court, and the gala performances at the Opera when
any sovereign comes to Berlin on a visit. In Lent there is always one
entertainment at court. After Easter every one disappears and all the
blinds are pulled down. Those who remain in Berlin pretend they are

The Emperor speaks French and English with equal ease, but he likes
best to speak English. He can be very lively at times, and then the
next moment just as serious again. While talking to you he never takes
his eyes off your face. He is seemingly all attention. Sometimes when
the diplomatic ladies stand side by side he glances to the next lady,
evidently making up his mind about what he will talk with her. His
voice is singularly clear, and what he says is straight to the point.
He has the rare gift of making the person to whom he is talking appear
at his very best. The life in Potsdam is, I have been told, very
home-like and cozy. The Emperor often spends the evening reading
aloud, while the Empress sits near with her knitting. They love to be
in the Neues Palais and stay there until after Christmas. Their
Christmas festivities must be worth seeing. Each prince has a
Christmas tree and a table of his own, makes his own choice of
presents, and ties up his own packages - as it were - and lights the
Christmas candles. These festivals are held in the mussel-room, on the
ground floor, original if not pretty - a combination of shells,
mother-of-pearl, and glass stone, which must be very effective in the
brilliantly lighted room.

The Empress is very fond of riding, but often drives a little
pony-carriage with two English "high-steppers." Once when the Shah of
Persia was spending the day at Potsdam the Empress offered to take him
out for a drive in the park. Half-way to their destination the lively
pace of the horses alarmed the Shah. He put his hand over hers, which
held the reins, and said in his pigeon-French, "_Vous-mourir seule_"
and got out and walked back.

The Emperor said to me, "Do you know Mr. Carnegie?"

I said that I did not.

"He is a clever gentleman," continued the Emperor. "Can you guess what
he said to me?"

I shook my head.

The Emperor then quoted Mr. Carnegie: "You and Mr. Roosevelt would
make a nice tandem."

"That shows tact and discrimination," I remarked.

The Emperor laughed. "I asked him which he thought would be the

"What did he answer to that?" said I.

"I am afraid Mr. Carnegie did not find anything to answer just then.
He has not your talent for repartee."

"In this case," I assured his Majesty, "I should not have answered at
all, for I have no idea what a wheel-horse is. If it is the horse
which makes all the wheels turn, then it must be your Majesty."

"You see!" said the Emperor, shaking his finger and laughing.

We had the great pleasure of welcoming Prince Hans (King Christian's
brother). Johan was with him in Greece many years ago and has never
ceased to love him. He is the most polite gentleman I ever saw; he
almost begs your pardon for being kind to you. He dined with us
yesterday. We invited to meet him Prince Albert Schleswig-Holstein
(his nephew) and Prince and Princess Wied[3]. This young couple are
delightfully charming. The Prince has the most catching smile. It is
impossible not to be in good spirits when you are with him. We sat out
on the balcony after dinner and took our coffee and looked out into
the brilliantly lighted square of Brandenburger Tor with its network
of trams. I think our apartment is the most beautifully situated in
all Berlin.

[3] Now King and Queen of Albania.

_March, 1908._

Dear L., - The King of Spain is in Berlin now on a visit of a few days
to the Emperor. We only saw him at the gala performance at the Opera.
The Kaiser had chosen "The Huguenots." It was beautifully put on.
Madame Hempel sang the part of Marguerite de Valois, and Madame
Destinn sang Valentine. The house was decorated in the usual manner,
with carpets hanging from the balconies and flowers in great profusion
everywhere. The King of Spain sat between the Kaiser and the Kaiserin.
He looks very young and very manly. After the first act, when we all
met in the foyer, the Emperor stood by him, and sometimes would take
him by the arm and walk about in order to present people to him. I was
presented to him, but I did not get more than a smile and a shake of

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 20 22

Online LibraryL. de Hegermann-LindencroneThe Sunny Side of Diplomatic Life, 1875-1912 → online text (page 20 of 22)