페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

blunders. “Come back next year,” cried everybody ; "we will all meet next year! Auf Wiedersehen! Auf Wiedersehen !” and the glasses clinked again with a will.

August 20.—It is now the last day of my stay, and twilight is approaching. As I write these words I remember the thought so well expressed by De Quincey : “Life resembles a journey by stage-coach; the scene continually changes, and the passengers also.” I have quite a sentiment of tenderness in my heart for the young girl, for Fräulein Bertha, for Mr. Binns, Mrs. Jackson, and even for the crocheting old German ladies, now that they will so soon vanish into “the land of shadows." Then I think of Mattie, already departed along that distant silver streak of water whither I shall soon follow her; and, leaning out of my window, I forget my past weeks of boredom, and gaze, almost with a feeling of regret, over to where the red sun dies far away from off the wooded knolls of the Schwarzwald.

EMILY CONSTANCE COOK.

[ocr errors][merged small]

" Cette femme, célèbre dans le monde par son esprit et par sa beauté ... La comtesse, parmi les perfections qui la rendaient une des plus aimables personnes de l'Europe . .."--VOLTAIRE.

"TO Westminster Abbey . . . and here we did see, by particular

1 favour, the body of Queen Katharine of Valois; and I had the upper part of the body in my hands, and did kiss her mouth, reflecting upon it that I did kiss a queen, and that this was my birthday -thirty-six years old—that I did kiss a queen.” Such is Mr. Pepys' quaint account of his post-mortem homage to the royal lady who had lain in the arms of the Victor of Agincourt, and who has been depicted by Shakespeare as the French lady-love of the young Warrior King. The date of the burial of Queen Katharine was January 1457. The date of Mr. Pepys' visit to her remains in the Abbey was February 23, 1668–69. It is not, indeed, a very uncommon thing for the living to have seen the preserved bodies of the long dead. We have all seen the mummies of old Egyptian kings, priests, ladies; and I have held in my hand the head of Henry Grey, Duke of Suffolk, the father of Lady Jane Grey. In about the first quarter of this century it happened to Dr. Friedrich Cramer to see, by particular favour, in the vaults of the old Stiftskirche of Quedlinburg, the mummified remains of a quasi-royal lady, who had been, in her time, one of the most beautiful women of her day in Europe ; who had been witty, accomplished, charming ; the mistress of a splendid king, and the mother of a great captain ; the centre of attraction at the courts of Germany and of Sweden ; who was one of those witch-women of history who, by means of the magic of sexual and of mental charm, had excited desire, inspired intrigue, stirred ambition, and played a distinguished, if ignoble, part in the drama of her land and time. Such was la Saxe galante, the once fair and lovely Aurora Königsmark; and she was the lady upon whose artificially preserved remains Dr. Cramer-and, no doubt, others—gazed with wonder, and with thoughts stirred by many complex memories. Dr. Cramer, more modest, less amatory and inquisitive than Mr. Pepys, was

content with gazing ; and was not guilty of the cadaverous adultery of kissing the dead wife of a dead prince.

Her life, and that of her brother, are so full of romance, and are so typical of the times and of the countries in which they lived, and moved, and had their being, that it seems worth while to endeavour to tell the story of the erring, but lovely Countess. The authorities are many, though the evidence is often conflicting, and the problem, at times, perplexing. The tale has not been fully told by any thorough, lucid or graphic German writer. Cramer is, perhaps, the best.

It may be here in place to touch briefly upon the descent of the “divine Aurora,” and to allude slightly to those of her ancestors who made the most distinct mark in the story of their country and their day. The family was an old German one, belonging to the class of smaller nobles, and had its original seat in Königsmark, in the marches of Brandenburg. The name of Königsmark was first made famous by Johann Christoph, born 16oo, at Kötzlin. He was a general in the Thirty Years' War, serving with the Swedes, and has left a somewhat truculent reputation, owing to his activity as an unscrupulous and cunning freebooter ; but, in energy and in a rugged determination to push his own fortunes, he was a very distinguished old fighter and diplomatist. He was present at the coronation of Queen Christina in Stockholm, in 1650, and died, also in Stockholm, in 1660, leaving immense property and materials for the pompous inscription on his tomb. He was the first to link the old German house of Königsmark with Sweden. Johann Christoph was a valiant, wary, unprincipled soldier of good fortune. One of his sons, Konrad Christoph, strengthened the family alliance with Sweden by marrying Maria Christina Wrangel, born 1638, a daughter of the great Swedish Marshal, Herrmann Wrangel, and of his wife, Amalia Magdalena, born Princess of the Palatinate, of the Salzbach line. Konrad was killed by a bomb-shell at the siege of Bonn, 1673.

Next in the line appears a romantic figure, Karl Johann, son of Konrad Christoph. Karl was born at Nienburg, in 1659. He added to the warrior restlessness of his family a very marked tendency to gallantry and to adventure, in love as well as in war, which renders him still attractive. He lived in, or visited, Holland, England, France, Spain, Rome, Florence, Genoa, Venice; and he brought to our Charles II. letters sent by the King of Sweden. As a volunteer, he joined the English fleet, then waiting for a wind to carry troops to Tangier; and served under the French flag in Catalonia. He is found in Greece, and in the service of Venice; and is always active, brave, and love-loving. One little anecdote touching one of his many romantic amours is characteristic.

We may ask, with Walter Scott,
Or was the gentle page, in sooth,
A gentle paramour P

The account rests upon the authority of a letter addressed by Charlotte Elizabeth, of the Palatinate, daughter of Elizabeth Stuart, and then the widow of the Duke of Orleans, to Caroline of Anspach, then Princess of Wales; and the German lady recounts that she knew a Count Königsmark who had been followed to the wars by an English young lady of rare and delicate beauty, who discharged, among other duties, the office of page to the Count, and —had, for that purpose, adopted dainty masculine costume. The page lived with the soldier in his tent at Chambor; and one day he described his amour to the widowed Duchess, who, returning with the Count from hunting, insisted upon seeing the fair page. The Duchess had never in her life (she says) seen anything prettier than this pretty page, who smiled, though with a little embarrassment, at the curiosity of the Duchess. The page was found to possess great brown eyes, a very delicious little nose, and a charming, laughing mouth, showing white teeth. He or she wore her own ample brown locks, fastened with large buckles. When the Count went with her to Italy, the landlady of an inn came running to the Count, crying out : “Monsieur, courez vite la-haut, votre page accouche : " We need not follow the fortunes of the daughter of the Count and of his romantic and lovely young page. The name that the daughter

bore was Maria Dorothea d'Hollande von Königsmark. Aurora's father, Konrad Christoph, had, as we have seen, died a soldier's death at Bonn in 1673. Her mother, Maria Christina, born Wrangel, was left a widow in her thirty-fifth year. That vehement, sprightly gentleman, Count Karl Johann, escaped the ordinary lot, and was never married. A soldier is better accommodated than with a wife; and may be satisfied with a pretty page. Aurora herself was certainly never married; probably she never really loved. Aurora's elder sister, Amalie Wilhelmine, married the Swedish Count, Karl Gustav von Löwenhaupt, who was soldier and diplomatist. Maria Aurora was, no doubt, born in Stade ; but it is difficult to fix the precise date of her birth. Ordinary historians say that she was born in 1677 or 1678; but they forget that her father died in 1673. Dr. Cramer's careful calculations make it more than probable that she was born in 1667 or 1668; but Aurora herself, with the fantastic chronology of a beauty, was fond, in her riper years, of representing herself as younger than she really was. Her brother, Philipp Christoph, was a mere boy at the time of his father's death. During

the youth of her children, the widowed Countess moved her residence to Hamburg.

Amalie Wilhelmine being married, there remained only the beauty-daughter to settle in life; but it was not so easy to find a suitable parti for such a brilliant young divinity. She did not want for suitors, and for renowned and even regal suitors among them. Portia of Belmont had not more ; though in her case loveliness was supplemented by an heiress's wealth, while Aurora had beauty only, and was poor. “The most celebrated woman of two centuries " drew after her crowds of adorers ; though royal admirers hesitated to pay the price of marriage even for the possession of such beauty, such wit, such talents, and so rare a charm. Many of the love-letters addressed to Aurora still lie before us ; and we find that she had bewitched Herzog Anton Ulrich von Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel, who begs Aurora to visit him at Brunswick, but urges her in a letter dated November 3, 1692, for the preservation of the peace, to write to his wife the Duchess to announce the visit for which the elderly gallant longed most ardently. The Herzog Friedrich Wilhelm von Mecklenburg-Schwerin (son of the above) is another of her amatory correspondents, and he prays for a portrait of the charmer. Her brother, Philipp Christoph, Count Königsmark, writes to her from Hanover, dated January 10, 1693, about her matrimonial projects and prospects; and speaks of his sister as “halb verlobt,” half-engaged ; and alludes to various aspirants, among whom we find Herr Ma foolish Graf von Waidel, Graf von Hohenlohe, and another nameless suitor, strongly favoured by the brother, who had 6,000 dollars of income, and could settle 30,000 dollars upon Aurora. But the most passionate of her correspondents was Gustav Horn, related in some way to his divinity, and grandson of the well-known Swedish Field-marshal, Gustav Horn. The genuine warmth of this young man's adoration inspires us with a certain respect and sympathy, and in one of his letters he gives us the following picture of his hotly-loved, incomparable mistress. He ascribes to her a wealth of physical beauty, and says that her figure was neither too stout nor too slim, and that all parts of her exquisite body were formed in perfect harmony. Her delicate complexion evinces the bloom of youth and health. Her hair is of unusual fulness and darkness ; the face is of a fine oval, and the forehead open and high. Her eyes are large, dark, and full of fire, and capable of most expressive glances. The nose is tenderly modelled, the mouth small, the lips always glowing with lively red, the teeth white, regular, and of equal size. Then he exclaims, rhapsodically, that all about her must strike

« 이전계속 »