Authors: Jean Plaidy
‘So one should accept?’
‘One should try to discover what is the wisest way for one’s own advantage.’
‘I see,’ said Caroline.
Sophia Charlotte covered the girl’s hand with her own.
‘I believe you do,’ she said.
Even while the Brandenburgs were visiting her Eleanor had to take to her bed. The Dresden interlude had undermined her health and it could not be expected that – even though the threat to her life was removed – she would easily recover.
Sophia Charlotte visited her in her bedchamber and sent away her servants.
‘I have become deeply attached to Caroline,’ she said.
‘That pleases me more than anything else could.’
‘I know you are anxious for her future. Your son will doubtless be secure in Ansbach but it is little Caroline who worries you.’
Eleanor nodded. ‘I sometimes feel so weak, that I know I have not long to live.’
‘Nonsense, here you will recover. But…’
‘But?’ asked Eleanor eagerly.
‘If anything should happen to you, you need not fear for Caroline. You know I love the child as my own daughter. My husband and I would be her guardians and she would have a home with us.’
‘Oh… how can I thank you!’
‘You shouldn’t. I love your daughter. It would give me the utmost pleasure to have her with me, to educate her, to launch her in life. And… I don’t forget, Eleanor, that you met John George in Berlin… that we persuaded you to the match.’
‘It is all over now…’
‘It must have been… a nightmare.’
Eleanor stretched out a thin veined hand. ‘It is over and if you will make yourselves Caroline’s guardians I shall die contented.’
‘Then it is done.’
‘And the Elector?’
‘He is with me in this.’
Eleanor lay back on her pillows. Now, she thought, I can die in peace.
Eleanor lingered for two years in peaceful retirement at Pretsch; and on her death her eleven-year-old son went to Ansbach to live with his stepbrother, the Margrave, and thirteen-year-old Caroline, to her joy, was sent to Berlin to live at the court of Sophia Charlotte and her husband.
Suitors and tragedy for Caroline
THERE FOLLOWED THE
happy years. Life at Lützenburg offered even more than Caroline had dared hope for; here were pleasures which she had not known existed. There was luxury to compare with that of the Dresden court but here it went hand in hand with good taste and the adventures were those of the mind.
Sophia Charlotte had attracted to Lützenburg some of the most interesting men of the age. Her wit and charm, her unusual intelligence, and her power over the man who was one of the most important Electors in Germany sent them flocking to her court.
Her love of everything beautiful was evident in the castle. She had collected together pictures and exquisite furniture, some of the latter inlaid with porcelain, crystal, ivory and ebony. Everything in the castle was rare and beautiful; but in spite of its grandeur, ostentation was avoided.
There was no other castle in Germany where so many interesting people gathered; and this reason was due to the mistress of Lützenburg. Here came men of diverse religious opinions – Catholics, Protestants, and Freethinkers. There was nothing
Sophia Charlotte enjoyed more than to bring these men together, encourage them to discuss their views, and herself join in the discourse. Philosophers, historians, artists, literary men, all came to her salons, wandered in her gardens, talked learnedly with each other; and it was Sophia Charlotte’s hope that one day because they had been able to meet at her home they would discover some way of welding the various versions of Christianity together and make a more tolerant society in which men and women could discuss their ideas freely, without fear.
The coming of Caroline to Lützenburg had been a great joy to her. She had been drawn to the girl from the first, since she had always wanted a daughter, and she had been distressed when she had heard rumours of what was happening in Saxony; she had blamed herself for having encouraged the marriage and by making herself Caroline’s guardian she had hoped to salve her conscience. But what had begun as a duty had become a joy, and when Caroline had been with her a few months she wondered how she could ever endure to be parted from her. However, that should not be until she had found a suitable husband for her, and secretly she hoped to avoid separation by marrying her ward to her own son Frederick William. Her husband, indulgent as he was, would no doubt oppose that match, for Frederick William was one of the most desirable matches in Germany whereas Caroline had nothing to offer but her beauty, her charm and that alert mind which Sophia Charlotte determined should have all the advantages she could give it.
Neither Sophia Charlotte nor Caroline made any attempt to hide the attraction they felt for each other. The love which had sprung up between them was too deep to be denied. For Sophia Charlotte, Caroline was the perfect companion, intelligent, inquiring, loving learning for its own sake and not only because she wished to please Sophia Charlotte by her grasp of it. And for Caroline, the goddess she had worshipped from the distance was now a loving friend and guardian who had lost none of her perfections through intimacy.
They were constantly together; Sophia Charlotte supervised Caroline’s education, which was not only a matter of schoolroom lessons. They would walk together in those magnificent gardens made by Le Nôtre in the manner of Versailles; they
would sit in arbours and talk with Sophia Charlotte’s visitors who knew that if they would please her they must take seriously the young girl on whom she doted.
This was not difficult, for the young Princess Caroline had much to contribute, and in the warmth of discussion her youth was forgotten.
When Caroline had been at Lützenburg a year Saxony had become like an uneasy nightmare, something that is only remembered now and then. This was her real life, surrounded by beauty, culture and above all love – the love of the person she loved best in the world – and with it that feeling of protection and security, which, but for fears of the past, she could not have known was so precious.
She was not so fond of her official guardian who was, naturally, Sophia Charlotte’s husband, the Elector of Brandenburg; she found his appearance repulsive and he had no interest in those matters which seemed so vital to her and Sophia Charlotte. He was exclusively concerned with statescraft; he would rise at four o’clock in the morning and retire early, which was in complete opposition to the habits of his wife, who liked to spend the morning in bed because, for her, the day did not begin until the evening.
He cared for all that seemed empty to his wife. He enjoyed colourful ceremonies and never lost an opportunity of indulging in them. Often it was necessary for Sophia Charlotte to appear with him and this she did, but it was with reluctance that she put on the robes of state, the glittering jewels which so delighted her husband, and took her place beside him; and as soon as possible she would discard them and put on some loose, flowing garment, in Caroline’s eyes so much more tasteful and beautiful than flamboyant purples and gold, and instead of glorifying the power of the Electorate, talk of art or literature, philosophy or music.
Caroline, while having no affection for the Elector, often marvelled at his tolerance towards his wife. He would look at her wistfully and long for her to interest herself in his affairs and yet he never showed displeasure that she did not do so; only sadness. Whereas Sophia Charlotte had no desire to draw him into her life and was quite content for him to go his own way.
It was only natural that he should resent the girl who had so
easily won the love of his wife in a manner which he had been unable to do, in spite of everything he had done for her – particularly as, with the coming of Caroline, his wife had grown even further from him.
There were occasions when, on his way to bed, he would look in at her gatherings which were just beginning. He would stay awhile to listen to the music of a young boy named Handel whom she had discovered and was encouraging – for she was constantly discovering and encouraging someone; or exchange a word with one of her Huguenots or Catholics or perhaps Leibniz who was one of the most eminent philosophers of the day. He would not stay; he would be too weary to do anything but yawn at their learned discourse; and in any case, he felt unwanted.
Caroline, very much aware of him, always relieved when he left, often felt that their happy home would have been nearer perfection if the Elector had not been there.
But growing in wisdom as she was, she knew that those moments when she and Sophia Charlotte were together could not have been quite so rapturously wonderful if there had been perpetual contentment.
For Sophia Charlotte there were the petty displays of pomp for which she had no feeling; there was the fact that she was married to a man whom she could not love; there were anxieties about the wild nature of her only son – but from all these she had her escape, and she and Caroline were together every day.
So the golden years began to pass and Caroline was growing into a handsome young woman.
Caroline’s greatest friend in Berlin, next of course to Sophia Charlotte, was Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, and from him she first became deeply aware of the family at Hanover.
Leibniz had come to Lützenburg to visit Sophia Charlotte from Hanover, bringing messages from the Electress Sophia, and when Caroline began her friendship with him he was in his late fifties. Recognized as one of the most learned men in Europe, he was both philosopher and mathematician, and had originally made a name for himself at two universities and later by the ideas he presented through his writing.
The Electress Sophia, Sophia Charlotte’s mother, had welcomed him at Hanover; and because Leibniz was a man who had a great respect for money and position, he allowed himself to be seduced from the universities to the courts of princes where he hoped to make his fortune.
The Electress Sophia had given him charge of the archives at the Hanoverian Palace, and one of his main duties was to write for the glorification of the house of Hanover.
Sophia, whose favourite child was Sophia Charlotte, liked her daughter to share in her pleasures and so she sent Leibniz to Lützenburg.
Sophia Charlotte had welcomed him to her band of philosophers and Leibniz was delighted to linger in such an enchanting place. He would sit in the arbours and conduct a discussion between Vota the Catholic, Beausobre, the Huguenot preacher and Toland the English freethinker, while Sophia Charlotte and Caroline listened and now and then offered an opinion. It was all very interesting and, as Sophia Charlotte often said, if only the same good sense could be shown all over the world as was seen in her arbours and salons, there would be no bloodshed over religion, for men would put their views forward in argument, not by torture and the stake.
Although Leibniz was contented at Lützenburg, he often talked affectionately of Hanover.
One day when her son Frederick William had been more difficult than usual, Sophia Charlotte spoke to Leibniz of her anxieties about the boy. Caroline was present.
‘He seems to grow quite unmanageable,’ sighed Sophia Charlotte. ‘His governors and tutors have no power over him.’
Caroline frowned to see her adored Sophia Charlotte so worried. The boy was her anxiety. He was several years younger than she was but had begun to notice her. She was thinking of an episode which had occurred a few days before. He had pulled her hair so hard that she had cried out with the pain; then he had held her captive and attempted to kiss her, and when she had protested he had laughed at her.
‘My mother will try to marry us to each other one day, so I should like to try you first,’ he had told her.
‘You are insolent,’ Caroline had retorted.
‘And you give yourself airs, Madam Caroline. You should go down on your knees and beg me to marry you.’
‘That I should never do to anyone… least of all you.’
‘And why least of all me, pray? You should be very grateful for me… if you can get me. Do you realize that I shall be the King of Prussia one day? You do not answer, Madam Caroline.’
‘I was too busy feeling sorry for Prussia.’
She had turned and walked away. ‘Don’t worry, Madam Caroline,’ he had called after her. ‘My father would never agree to let me marry you. You’re a nobody… a
! Not good enough for marriage with the King of Prussia.’
Yes, he was an insufferable boy and she disliked him. She was only sorry that Sophia Charlotte cared so much for him, which was of course understandable since he was her only son… her
son which must be different from an adopted daughter.
So now she listened intently to what his mother was saying to Gottfried Leibniz.
‘He has not enough discipline here,’ was Leibniz’s verdict. ‘There are no other boys of his equal. The grooms and squires he spends his days with are in awe of him. He needs to be treated roughly by his equals. Why not send him to Hanover where he could be with his cousins.’
‘You think Hanover… at this time… is a good place for him to be?’
‘The best possible place. There he can become friends with his cousin, George Augustus, and find he doesn’t get all his own way.’
‘I often think of those poor children. Do they miss their mother much?’
‘It is a long time since they saw her.’
‘But to know that she is kept a prisoner in Ahlden! Do they never ask for her, want to see her?’
‘Oh yes. George Augustus often speaks of her. I have heard that he remembers her well and talks of rescuing her.’
‘And my brother?’
‘The Prince Elector behaves as though he never had a wife. He is happy enough as matter stands. He has his heir George Augustus and his daughter Sophia Dorothea.’
‘The fact that she is named after her mother must remind him.’
‘He gives no sign. He continues to amuse himself…’
‘With Ermengarda Schulemburg?’
‘She remains his favourite.’
Sophia Charlotte shivered. ‘And you think my son would be better off at Hanover!’