Search This Blog

Showing posts with label german states. Show all posts
Showing posts with label german states. Show all posts

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Damn, Girl-Hildegard of Bingen

Though armed with only a scant education, Hildegard of Bingen would go on to be the world's first known composer, a prestigious scientist, and a legendary prophetess. A true renaissance woman, it's difficult to know which of her achievements is most influential today. She revolutionized music, wrote medical textbooks used well into the renaissance, and proposed the idea that people, like plants, could inherit traits from their parents--some 700 years before Gregor Mendel did his experiments with pea plants.

Image result for Hildegard of Bingen
Hildegard von Bingen
Hildegard was the tenth child of Hiltebert and Mechthild, most likely members of the local nobility. The custom at the time was to give up the tenth child as a nun or monk to the Catholic Church, and as such Hildegard was sent to a Benedictine cloister at Disibodenberg, where she was put into the care of Jutta von Spanheim, a distant relative, and abbess of the cloister.

Hildegard suffered from illness as a child, and living in the austere Benedictine cloisters didn't help her. The damp, poor sleep, and lack of food and sunshine saw that Hildegard was bedridden for much of her childhood. In addition to her illness, Hildegard also had visions that she believed were sent from God. She was cautioned by Jutta to keep her visions quiet, and Hildegard did so for most of her life.

Image result for liber scivias
Page from the Liber Scivias
When Jutta died in 1136, Hildegard succeeded her as prioress. Under Hildegard's leadership, the atmosphere at the cloisters became more relaxed. The sisters were allowed to wear their hair uncovered, and encouraged to step out into the sunshine. Hildegard was still having visions, and five years after being installed as prioress she had a vision so intense that she was prompted to confide it to her mentor, Volmar the Monk. Volmar encouraged Hildegard to record her visions, and with Volmar's help Hildegard began working on her first book, the Liber Scivias.

As a visionary, Hildegard had a fine line to walk. She had the challenge of recording what she saw, while not verging into heretical territory. Proposing new religious ideas, while easier for a nun than a common person, was still a risky venture, and could cost Hildegard everything should she be denounced as a heretic. Luckily for Hildegard, her visions were accepted by the pope of the time, and she was encouraged to keep writing.
Hildegard began to build up a reputation as a mystic. Her study of local medicinal methods saw her praised as a great healer, and she composed music for her nuns to sing. In 1150 Hildegard founded the convent of Mount St. Rupert in an effort to get away from the hoards of people who made pilgrimages to see her. Taking Volmar as well as a few sisters and novitiates with her, Hildegard started writing in earnest.

Because her education had been scant and interrupted, Hildegard relied on Volmar to help her with the actual physical writing. Her exact process is unknown, but it is speculated that Hildegard either wrote everything out on a wax tablet, and then Volmar put it to parchment, or that Hildegard simply dictated to Volmar. After the initial putting of words to paper, Volmar had his monks make copies of Hildegard's words. Though it took ten years, the Liber Scivias was finished in 1158.

Image result for volmar the monk
Hildegard and Volmar
The Liber Scivias was disseminated throughout the Catholic countries, and Hildegard began working on her next book of visions, the Liber Vitae Meritorum. The visions contained in her books pertained to the workings of the universe, and how the earth, air, sun, moon, and stars were all connected. In addition to her books of visions, Hildegard also began working on medical textbook, which put forth the idea that boiling drinking water was a good move.

In addition to her writing, Hildegard also traveled Europe preaching pacifism, and promoting orthodox religious ideals. She founded another convent, and corresponded with hundreds of people from all across Europe, including kings and popes. She was so well loved that when she died at age 81 she was immediately dubbed 'St. Hildegard', though she was not formerly canonized until 2012.

Hildegard is best known today for her music, but her religious and medical writings have seen an increase in popularity in recent years too. Several biographies and novels have been written about her, and her song cycles have been recorded hundreds of times by classical vocalists. She is much beloved in the Catholic church, and the convent that she established still stands today.

Sources
Saint Hildegard, German Mystic
Hildegard of Bingen
Hildegard of Bingen: Life and Music of the Great Female Composer

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Match Made in Hell-King George the IV and Queen Caroline

Royal marriages of times gone by weren't the fairy tale royal romances of modern years. Up until the past few years, royal marriages were political and economic transactions, and little more. While most couples weren't in love, they were expected to remain civil, and many became friends. Some royal couples, however, were royal disasters. But no couple was quite so disastrous as the marriage between the dissolute George IV and his German cousin, Caroline of Brunswick-L√ľneburg.

Image result for caroline of brunswick
Caroline of Brunswick
By age 17, George IV was a known troublemaker. He was fond of women, wine, gambling, and all sorts of immoral flim-flammery. His parents, King George III and Queen Charlotte had quite given up on him, and he was running wild around the country. He was a notorious womanizer with a preference for older women, and liked to build elaborate and ornate palaces (Like the Brighton Pavilion  which was constructed in 1787). In 1785 George contracted an illegal marriage with the twice widowed Maria Fitzherbert, and within the decade was 630,000 pounds in debt.

George was desperate for funds, and the only way he could get parliament to pay his debts was to marry and provide an heir. His marriage with Maria had ended in about 1793, and so on the urging of Frances Villiers, Countess of Jersey, George agreed to a marriage with his cousin Caroline, whom he had never met.

Caroline was a vivacious and bubbly young woman with some unfortunate hygiene habits. According to contemporary sources Caroline liked to talk and gossip, and enjoyed a good joke. She was very friendly, but was prone to talking about things outside of what was considered appropriate. This alone, wouldn't be a big problem, but she had a bad habit of not changing her underwear, and once sent the English ambassador a tooth she had had pulled. Despite these shortcomings, Caroline was both a protestant and a princess, and was therefor a suitable bride for George.

Their first meeting was on the same level of disaster as the first meeting between Henry VIII and Anne of Cleves. Upon being introduced to his cousin, three days before their wedding, George turned to his friend, Lord Malmesbury, and asked for a glass of brandy. He then left the room, calling for his mother, the Queen. Caroline was equally unimpressed, informing Lord Malmesbury in French that George was not nearly as handsome as his portrait.

The couple's rocky start can be attributed not only to a mutual lack of physical attraction, but to the fact that both parties were in love with, or at least involved with, other people. It was an open secret that George had married Maria Fitzherbert, and though he had left her eight years after he was attached to Lady Jersey, and he wasn't going to get rid of her. Caroline, though the identity of her suitor is unknown, definitely had a different man she wished to marry. Upon being asked her opinion on her marriage, she replied:
Image result for george iv
George IV
“I am indifferent to my marriage, but not averse to it; I think I shall be happy, but I fear my joy will not be enthusiastic. The man of my choice I am debarred from possessing, and I resign myself to my destiny.” 
Note the "The man of my choice I am debarred from possessing" part.

Despite their lack of attraction and the fact that they were both romantically interested in other people, the couple might have had a decent go of things. Unfortunately, George was an immature dick who was determined to make his new wife miserable right from the very beginning. He installed his mistress, Lady Jersey, as Caroline's Lady of the Bedchamber, and showed up drunk to their wedding. He later demanded the return of several of Caroline's wedding jewels, and gave them to Lady Jersey, who flaunted them in Caroline's presence. On their wedding night, George was so drunk that he passed out on the floor before performing his marital duties.

Despite George's obvious distaste, the couple evidently had sex at least once, because in January of 1796, almost exactly 9 months after the wedding, George and Caroline's only child--Charlotte--was born. Shortly afterwards George sent Caroline a note informing her that though they were required to remain married they would no longer be living together. This was reportedly quite fine with Caroline. However access to her daughter was heavily restricted, and she was only able to see Charlotte in the presence of others. She wasn't quite as fine with this. In 1811 her access to Charlotte was cut off entirely. There wasn't much for Caroline in England, so she left to tour the continent in 1814.

While abroad Caroline lived the way she wanted. She took an Italian lover, adopted multiple children, and was fond of dancing half naked. She was very happy, but in 1820 when George III died and George IV became king she returned to England to claim her rights as Queen.

This was, as it turns out, a terrible idea. Princess Charlotte had died in 1817, and George was scheming to divorce Caroline and remarry so he could have an heir. He used scurrilous tales of Caroline's time abroad and false accusations of her having an illegitimate child to persuade parliament to open up an investigation into her. The House of Lords introduced the 'Bill of Pains and Penalties', which, if made law, would have dissolved their marriage.

Unfortunately for George, Caroline had the popular support of the people. While the Bill of Pains and Penalties passed in the House of Lords by nine votes, the House of Lords knew that the bill would never pass in the Commons, so they dropped the affair, leaving George furious.

File:How to get Un-married, - Ay, there's the Rub! by J.L. Marks.jpg
Political cartoon put out in 1820
George, however, was the king, and he had a few cards he could still play. On July 19, 1821 Caroline was barred from his coronation. When she tried to enter Westminster Abbey the men at the door would not let her in, and slammed the door in her face. She died a little over two weeks later.

The real legacy of George and Caroline's disastrous union was the introduction of tabloid coverage of royal life. During the investigations into Caroline's behavior, two penny broadsheets advertised every detail. Rivalries sprung up between newspapers that supported the queen and newspapers that supported the king. For the first time in English history, the public was immersed in every detail of a royal scandal, a tradition that continues to the modern day.

Sources
The Wedding of the Prince of Wales and Princess Caroline
The Queen Caroline Affair, 1820
George IV
Caroline of Brunswick-Luneburg
George IV and Queen Caroline: A Disastrous Royal Marriage
The Trial of Queen Caroline in 1820 and the Birth of British Tabloid Coverage of Royalty
George IV: the Royal Joke?
Caroline of Brunswick, Wife of King George IV of the United Kingdom

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Damn, Girl-Kathinka Zitz-Halein

Born November 4, 1801 Kathinka Zitz-Halein was an influential writer and political activist during the mid 1800's. Not only would she go one to publish over 30 books, but she also created the first women's political organization in Mainz Germany, but she also was instrumental in caring for the political refugees, political prisoners, and families of the aforementioned during the 1849 German uprising.

Image result for kathinka zitz-haleinKathinka was born to a middle class family, and received an excellent education. She was a talented writer, and had published her first series of poems by the age of 16. She had multiple teaching jobs, as well as a job as the headmistress of a school. However, when her mother died she left that to take care of her sister, Julie. It wasn't until Julie died that Kathinka started to get into politics.

It is unclear if Kathinka married Franz Zitz before or after her founding of the Humania Association. What is certain though, is that she was the founder and president of the leading women's political association in Mainz, and he was the president of the leading men's political association in Mainz. They were the Bill and Hillary Clinton of their era, right down to the rampant infidelity.

Unlike Secretary Clinton, Kathinka told Franz to hit the road. Though they remained married for the rest of their lives (Kathinka refused to grant him a divorce), they never lived together after the first 18 months of their marriage. Kathinka used support payments from Franz to support herself and her writing career. This steady income allowed her to further her political aspirations as well.

Before proceeding, it is important to mention that Kathinka was NOT a feminist. By her own admission, she didn't want men and women to be equal, merely for men and women to both be free to excel in their own respective spheres. She also believed that women were more than capable of helping the German revolution, and that they should be allowed to have political rights. This is what she said publicly anyways, here letters cast further doubt on her beliefs.

Image result for kathinka zitz-halein
Mainz, Germany
Kathinka was, essentially, That Girl. You know That Girl? That Girl who believes that men and women should be equal, believes in closing the wage gap, believes in ending rape culture, believes in a woman's right to choose, but says that she's not a feminist because she doesn't believe that women are better than men, and doesn't hate men? You know, That Girl who says she's not a feminist because she doesn't really understand what feminism is? Kathinka was the 1800s version of That Girl. Though she publicly spoke against gender equality, and said that women should not leave the domestic sphere, her actions said otherwise.

The mission of the Humania Association was to disperse aid to refugees, prisoners, political insurgents, and their families. Aside from managing the financial and internal governance of the organization, Kathinka also did a large amount of 'field work', that would sometimes lead her dangerously close to insurgent territory. On one particularly memorable occasion Kathinka was asked by the Democratic Association--the male version of the Humania Association (with a bit more fighting)--to smuggle a chest back to Mainz during her visit to Kahrlsrule. Kathinka didn't know the contents of the chest, but when the chest was confiscated by Hessian authorities, it turned out that the chest contained the membership records of Democratic Association, as well as the names and information of several covert operatives.

Image result for kathinka zitz-haleinAside from charitable giving behind enemy lines, Kathinka's main impact came from her writing. Not only did she write novels and poetry, but she also wrote political pamphlets under her various pseudonyms, some of which got her in trouble with the law. In 1848 she wrote a series of articles for a Mannheim newspaper calling the people of Mainz to arms against the Hessian government. Not only was this article suppressed by Hessian authorities (always a good sign), but it was very influential in the uprisings later that year.


Though she is not widely known or read today, Kathinka had an enormous impact on the people of her community. She fought not only for German unification, but also helped the families and soldiers who had been injured and impoverished because of their dedication to that fight. She was a clever and persuasive writer, and it is because of her writing that we know as much about German politics of that era as we do.

Sources
German Women and the Revolution of 1848: Kathinka Zitz-Halein and the Humania Association by Stanley Zucker
Kathinka Zitz-Halein
Zitz-Halein, Kathinka