This is the second post in a series retelling Luise Mühlbach’s Friedrich der Grosse und sein Hof (Frederick the Great and His Court), originally published in serial form in Germany and later reprinted by the Baltimore newspaper Der Deutsche Correspondent in 1858. Special thanks to Jill Fosse from the Libraries’ Division of Digital Systems and Stewardship for providing the translation from German. In the previous post, Jill introduced us to the characters of Miss Catherine Orguelin, daughter of a wealthy merchant, and her fiancé, the heavily indebted Count Rhedern. Catherine says that she and the count need to share an understanding about the nature of their relationship.
Caroline lays it all out for the count. She isn’t deceived by his conventional protestations of love and devotion, although she gives him credit for acting. She knows she’s not young and pretty enough to attract him by herself, but she also knows he’s flat broke and in need of a rich wife. She states frankly that she would do anything to be able to be near the king, with whose nobility, magnificence, benevolence and flashing eyes she fell in love at his coronation. So on that day, she decided to marry one of the courtiers who surrounded the king. Most were married, but Count Rhederer was not, so she went to her father and said,
“I want to marry Count Rhederer. Buy him for me, the way you recently bought me that gold and diamond Nuremburg jewelry.”
“Very flattering,” murmurs the count.
In addition to her one-million thaler dowry, Caroline’s father will give her another million, which stays in his company but she can draw on the interest. She makes it very clear this is her money to do what she likes with. Maybe she’ll spend it on the count if he behaves, maybe not.
The count is enchanted by the idea of a second million, but Caroline warns him that his 1,000 thaler per month can be withdrawn in an instant if he fails to show respect to her, her father, or his bourgeois friends. He promises to be a good husband and son-in-law. She goes on to remind him that she has bought him and knows his worth but also wants to be treasured and respected by him, and he should never think he has conferred an honor on her by making her his countess. Rather, he has married the only daughter and heir of a millionaire who has paid him for his title and entry to court.
The count is unexpectedly delighted and enchanted to be marrying such a clever, spirited, and piquant wife and is convinced that in the fullness of time he really will fall passionately in love with her. She tells him not to bother since she will never fall in love with him.
Who says romance is dead, eh? Look for upcoming posts from the Historic Maryland Newspapers Project that continue the tale of Caroline and her count.