Authors: Jean Plaidy
‘I must talk to you…’
‘My dear, you will only distress yourself. This is something I cannot give you. Please put this idea out of your mind. Either find another husband for the girl or let her remain unmarried. But she shall not marry our son.’
She knew that for the first time in their married life it would be useless to attempt to persuade him.
It was shortly after this when Sophia Charlotte, clearly a little agitated, asked Caroline to walk in the gardens with her that they might talk in privacy.
She led her to a summer house and as they sat there together took her hand and said: ‘Caroline, this was bound to happen sooner or later. You are not a child any more and it was inevitable that sooner or later someone would ask for your hand in marriage.’
Caroline grew pale and Sophia Charlotte hurried on: ‘It is a great honour, of course.’
‘Who?’ asked Caroline faintly.
‘It is the Archduke Charles whom they call King of Spain. Of course he has yet to win that title but… you will understand it would be a very good match for you.’
‘The King of Spain!’
‘In name only at the time. Louis is determined to put his grandson on the throne but we and our allies will not allow that, of course. Yes, it would be a very brilliant marriage.’
‘And he would marry me?’
‘At the moment tentative inquiries are being made. You should not consider them certain, but this is in the air and it would be an excellent marriage for you.’
She did not say: My husband has no doubt had a hand in this because he is determined not to have you for our son. Yet if you are good enough for the King of Spain why not for the King of Prussia?
Of course, Charles was only the titular King of Spain and Louis was powerful but…
Caroline had thrown herself into Sophia Charlotte’s arms and they clung together.
‘I never, never want to leave you,’ she sobbed.
Yet when she was alone she stood before her mirror and looked at her reflection. The traces of tears still showed on her face. She was plump and pretty; she had masses of auburn hair, and blue eyes; she was talented and well-educated.
‘The Queen of Spain,’ she said aloud.
She could never be happy away from Sophia Charlotte whom she loved so dearly; she would never find a home such as Lützenburg had been to her; and yet she saw herself with a crown on her head, dressed in purple and ermine.
‘Her Majesty, Queen of Spain,’ she said.
Months passed without mention of the project.
Of course, said Caroline, to herself, I should never be happy away from Sophia Charlotte. No place however grand could ever be home to me the way Lützenburg is.
After a while she told herself it had been merely a rumour, and she forgot that the marriage had been suggested.
Sophia Charlotte did not forget. Betrothal to the Archduke Charles might have come to nothing, but there would be other suitors. There must be. Caroline was twenty years old. She could not keep her with her much longer.
The fact depressed her so much that she became unwell. She felt a pain in her throat which kept recurring – only slightly but painfully enough to be uncomfortable.
She discussed this with one of her attendants, a close friend named Marie von Pöllnitz.
‘I have not felt well since this question of Caroline’s marriage has been in the air.’ Marie looked at her sadly, for she knew that it was unlikely that she would be able to keep Caroline with her for ever. Sophia Charlotte put her hand to her throat. ‘I have a vague sort of pain… here. But I believe I should feel as well as ever if the King would consent to Caroline’s marrying our son.’
‘Your Highness might be anxious then if Caroline were not happy in her marriage.’
‘But we should be together for the rest of our lives. I am sure that is all Caroline would ask… as I should. Whatever happened we should be together.’
Marie, looking at her friend, thought she showed signs of her anxiety. It was the first time she had noticed that the Queen showed her age.
To her astonishment Caroline received an invitation from the Duke and Duchess of Weissenfels who would be delighted if she would spend a few days with them. She showed the invitation to Sophia Charlotte.
‘Why should they suddenly remember me?’
‘Why not? They are related to your mother. I daresay they have heard accounts of your charm and would like to see you. It is natural.’
‘I shall not go.’
‘It will seem churlish to refuse.’
‘You would come with me?’
Sophia Charlotte laughed. ‘My dearest, I am not invited.’
‘You must now and then take these little trips.’
‘If I go I shall not stay long.’
‘I hope not, my dear. I shall be longing for your return.’
‘Then why go at all?’
‘Because you have been asked.’
‘And why should you not come with me? I am sure if I suggested it they would be delighted to receive you.’
Sophia Charlotte shook her head. Secretly she would be glad of the respite. She was often feeling very tired and she did not wish Caroline to know this. While the girl was away she would
spend the time resting and on her return would feel as
So Caroline went to Weissenfels alone.
During her journey to Weissenfels, Caroline began to feel uneasy. Had she imagined it or had Sophia Charlotte seemed as though she wanted her to go? Surely that could not have been so, for she hated their parting as much as Caroline did.
But when she arrived at the castle of Weissenfels, which was a delightful spot situated among vineyards on the River Saale, she had no time for speculation; she was welcomed by the Duke and Duchess and taken to her apartments by the latter; and as soon as they were alone there, the Duchess told her that a very important visitor was expected at the castle.
‘Who?’ asked Caroline.
The Duchess, looking a little coy, replied that it was the Archduke Charles, King of Spain.
Caroline flushed slightly but said calmly that she had heard much of him and should be interested to meet him. If she was to meet him.
‘Certainly you are,’ was the reply. ‘It is to see you that he has broken his journey to call at Weissenfels.’
The Archduke Charles was clearly delighted with Caroline when, with an absence of ceremony, they were introduced to each other by the Duke and Duchess of Weissenfels.
Charles was nineteen and gallant; he knew that the sooner he married the better; and this young woman, a year or so older than himself with her very bright blue eyes, abundant hair and lively expression seemed delightful. He had heard of her unusual intelligence, for he had met people who had stayed at the Prussian Court and been invited to Lützenburg; although she was merely the daughter of a Margrave of Ansbach she had been brought up as that of the King of Prussia.
Charles did not feel that he had made an unnecessary journey.
Although they were not allowed to be alone, the Duke and Duchess gave them opportunities for conversation; and they walked in the gardens together, with a few attendants keeping them in sight and at the same time their distance; they also sat
together in the reception chamber with attendants placed too far from them to hear their conversation.
Caroline compared the Archduke Charles with Frederick William and that made her see Charles very favourably. Although there was no mention of a marriage she knew that could have been the only reason for this visit and she was vain enough to have been very disappointed if the Archduke Charles had not been favourably impressed with her.
He was so gallant that it was difficult to be sure, but she was almost certain.
King of Spain! It was a glittering title. She was discovering that she was ambitious; but how far from Lützenburg Spain was! So how could she happily contemplate marriage into that country?
She had always known that marriage would be a state into which she would enter with trepidation. Now, when she was alone in her rooms, she would stand at her window gazing over the vineyards and think of those long ago days when she had looked out at her stepfather and his mistress caressing each other for all to see, while her mother lay in her room wondering whether her punishment for marrying him would be repudiation or death.
Marriage! She had to consider it. And either way she looked she could see unhappiness. To Spain and separation from Sophia Charlotte – to Berlin, to spend the rest of her life with her beloved foster-mother. And the price? Frederick William or spinsterhood.
And when she looked at the pleasant face of the young Archduke, she could not make up her mind what was preferable.
He talked of his ambitions because he could not yet talk of his more romantic intentions. Before he did this his advisers must set forth their conditions, and she supposed the King of Prussia would set forth his. They would be bargained for, wrangled over, and she was glad of this, because the time necessary to do the bargaining and wrangling would enable her to think; for she believed that the final decision was hers because Sophia Charlotte would never allow her to be forced into what she did not want.
‘They call me a king,’ her suitor told her, ‘but I have yet to win my kingdom.’
‘I hope it will not be long before you do.’
He shrugged his shoulders. ‘The Spaniards prefer the grandson of Louis XIV.’
‘But your claim is greater.’
His smile was deprecating. ‘The second son of the Emperor? Perhaps. It is a pity the King of Spain died without heirs. Then there would not have to be this war for the succession.’
‘Well, you have great allies.’
‘Yes, William of England has made the Grand Alliance, and England and Holland as well as Austria are with me. We are determined to prevent French domination of Europe which will surely ensue if Louis gets control of Spain.’
‘The Electress Sophia, mother of my guardian, would tell you you could not fail if you have the English on your side.’
‘The great Marlborough will carry us to victory, I doubt not. When I leave Weissenfels I shall make my way to England, where I shall be received by Queen Anne and have conferences with the Duke of Marlborough. I should like to see a speedy end to this matter.’
‘And when you are victorious, you will go immediately to Spain?’
He smiled at her intently. ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘I shall go to Spain. It is an interesting country. Have you ever felt that you would like to see it?’
‘I think it is always interesting to see new places,’ replied Caroline noncommittally.
The stay of the Archduke at Weissenfels was short. He had merely come to take a look at the bride he was being offered to assure himself that she was not deformed or distasteful in any way.
Then he rode on to the Hague to embark for England and Caroline went back to Lützenburg.
When Caroline reached the palace she went immediately to Sophia Charlotte, embraced her, and told her what had happened.
‘I’ll never… never leave you!’ she cried.
‘But you liked him… this Archduke Charles?’ said Sophia Charlotte.
‘He was pleasant enough but…’
‘He could well become the King of Spain. Have you thought of that?’
‘I could only think that you would be in Prussia, I in Spain.’
‘And that is enough to make you want to refuse this match?’
‘It is. I am certain of it.’
‘My dearest, I cannot be always with you.’
‘But why not?’
‘Because I am older than you, and none of us can expect to live for ever.’
‘Let us swear to be together… until death parts us.’
‘My darling, it is not right. It is not good. There is your future to think of. You will soon be twenty-one. In a few years they will be saying you are too old for marriage. You have no great titles or riches, remember, to attract a bridegroom. It is my duty to tell you that you might never get an offer to compare with this.’
Caroline put her arms round Sophia Charlotte’s neck. ‘I choose to stay with you,’ she said.
The King of Prussia sent for his ward. When she stood before him he looked at her more intently than he ever had before. It seemed miraculous that she could have received such an honour. Of course she was a Hohenzollern and connected with the Brandenburgs, but without fortune, without honours and titles. Why had she been chosen by the Imperial family to marry one of the sons of that House? It was true Archduke Charles was a second son, but he could be Emperor one day; he could also be King of Spain. Of course, the Empire was not the mighty power it had once been, and Charles was a young man with ambitious hopes rather than actual possessions; all the same this was a brilliant offer for Caroline and he hoped she realized it.
It was Sophia Charlotte who had made this possible. She had brought up the girl in such a manner as to make her a desirable wife, without dowry and titles though she might be, and all who had met her at Lützenburg had been impressed by her accomplishments, for she was perhaps the most well-educated and cultivated princess in Germany. Sophia Charlotte had
determined to educate her as though she were her own daughter – and this was the result.
He would be glad to see the girl married, for she was not going to have his son. He was afraid that Sophia Charlotte would attempt to persuade him and, although he was determined to remain firm, he might waver.
‘Now, Caroline,’ he said, ‘I have great news for you. The Archduke Charles is asking for your hand in marriage.’
Caroline sought to control her feelings, which amazed herself. She was horrified because this would mean separation from Sophia Charlotte, and yet at the same time she would have been hurt if the offer had not been made.
The King gave her his wintry smile. ‘You clearly made a good impression during your meeting at Weissenfels.’
‘I… I’m pleased about that.’
‘Well, you don’t seem to realize the honour this is. I expect at first it overwhelms you. I can tell you I did not expect anything quite so exalted. This is your great opportunity, and I am sure you are clever enough to realize that. As your guardian I am invited to meet the Elector Palatine to discuss terms, but there is one condition which will be essential. You will have to become a Catholic.’