Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Schloss Weikersheim

Being a bit of a castle adventurer, it will not come as a surprise to any regular reader of this blog that I have visited a fair number of castles in my lifetime and have read about even more. Schloss Weikersheim, however, even took me by surprise. Frankly, I had never heard about it before I went to Franconia earlier this year to visit Würzburg and go to see that royal wedding. Rather spontaneously, I decided to google for a few more castles in the vicinity of Würzburg and stumbled over this gem in the tiny town of Weikersheim in Baden-Württemberg. A former home to the Hohenlohe family, wandering through its gardens somehow reminded me of a cross between France and Tuscany. 
Nestled in the hilly vineyards close to the Main and Tauber rivers, the origins of today's castle lie in the 12th century when Konrad and Heinrich of „Wighartesheim“ were firstly mentioned. Heinrich later took the name "Hohenloch", which would evolve into "Hohenlohe" over the years. Until 1586, only several smaller changes were made to the moated castles. That same year, however, Count Wolfgang II of Hohenlohe(-Weikersheim), who was married to Countess Madgalena of Nassau-Dillenburg, a sister of Willem of Orange, came into the possession of the castle and made it his residence. 
Count Wolfgang had travelled extensively through Europe, especially France, Austria and England, and the art-loving and enlightened Renaissance ruler decided to expand Weikersheim into a castle befitting his status. The scenic landscape of the Tauber valley allowed Count Wolfgang to build a representative castle surrounded by extensive gardens. The original plan for the castle was to create an equal-sided triangle. The third side, however, was never completely finished due Wolfgang running into financial difficulties. Nonetheless, the castle that was built pretty much reflects the Renaissance ideal of a country estate in part already foreshadowing the Baroque era that was to come.
By 1605, much of the new Schloss Weikersheim was finished. The richly decorated Knights' Hall is both a highlight of the Schloss and Renaissance architecture in southwestern Germany in general. Dating from 1600, it is one of the best preserved halls of its kind from that era. One of the most knowledgable and enthustiastic guides leading through the castle as well as music being played when entering the Rittersaal made it especially enjoyable to visit. Count Wolfgang was a keen alchemist and his wife Madgalena ran a pharmacy in the Schloss, which today offers special exhibitions about their favourite pastimes.
Count Wolfgang died in 1610 aged 64. Only a few years later, the Thirty Years' War broke out. It did not only put a halt to all further building activities on Schloss Weikersheim but was also looted by the troops of Count Johann von Werth in 1634. Only in 1679, Wolfgang's grandson Count Siegfried began to refurbish the castle though it remained empty for the most part. In 1709, Count Carl Ludwig of Hohenlohe became the new owner of the Schloss after a new division of assets within the family. He married Princess Elisabeth Friederike of Oettingen-Oettingen, who wasn't only of higher standing than the count but also brought along quite a bit of money. With his wife's dowry, Count Carl Ludwig started to remodel the castle according to the tastes of the time. During the first half of the 18th century, much of the castle as well as its gardens were turned into a Baroque dream. 
After Carl Ludwig's and Elisabeth Friederike's deaths, however, the Schloss was pretty much frozen in time - one of its most endearing aspects when visiting today. The couple died without surviving offspring and so their residence fell back to the other lines of the Hohelohe family. While they occasionally visited during the summer months, the castle was mostly left to itself and no changes have made to its in- or exterior since the times of Count Carl Ludwig. 
Only after the Second World War, Schloss Weikersheim was waken from its 200-year sleep. Prince Constantin of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, who had fled from Bohemia, was given the castle by his relatives. Himself an artist, he founded an art school within the castle and opened in to the general public. With the entrance fees, he slowly started to renovate the building. The Schloss also became home to annual chamber music courses during the summer months. After Prince Constantin died in 1967, the castle was bought by the state of Baden-Württemberg, who have been the owners ever since.

Good to know:
Schloss Weikersheim is open to the public between April 1 and October 31 from 9am to 6pm and between November 1 and March 31 from 10am to 5pm. The last guided tour starts an hour before closing time. The Schloss is closed on December 24 and December 31. Admission per adult is 8,50 euros. There are also several additional exhibitions apart from the guided tour. When I visited earlier this year, the apartments of Elisabeth Friederike were closed for renovations. For more information, have a look here.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

From Aldovia to Genovia: 5 Of The Most Ridiculous Fictional Royal Movies

The other night, Netflix suggested me to watch a movie called "A Christmas Prince" and, well, I didn't have much to do, didn't care for anything mind-stimulating and thus did. What I thought of it? It was one of the most ridiculous storylines I have ever seen in a movie dealing with royalty! It, however, tempted me to come up with a list of fictional movies portraying royalty with the most ridiculous and cringe-worthy storylines. Mind you, I will not be including movies dealing with actual current and historical royalty even though those are occasionally pretty ridiculous too. I also asked around on Twitter and got some interesting suggestions, so check thus out too. And yes, attention: spoilers ahead!


A Christmas Prince

An American reporter goes undercover as a nanny to get the inside scoop on a playboy prince, who turns out to be not such a playboy after all but has an evil noble ex-girlfriend who sold stories about him to the papers yet he somehow keeps her around in his circle of friends so that she can scheme with his equally evil cousin against the reluctant king-to-be. (Because yes, in this European nation of  "Aldovia" there is a period when a crown prince (or king-in-waiting?) can decide whether he wants to succeed his father who already died before the first scene takes place.) So far, so stereotypical. Things go further south when it somehow turns out that the crown prince isn't actually of the king's blood but instead adopted. Will an obscure decree written up by the late king unknown to anyone hidden inside an acorn-shaped Christmas ornament save the prince's claim to the throne? Yes, it will. Plus, the reporter and the prince/king also get together, but that was kinda expected.


The Prince and Me (1-4)

Truth be told, I actually thought that the first "The Prince and Me" from 2004 was kinda cute. What followed were "The Prince and Me 2: The Royal Wedding" (2006), "The Prince and Me 3: A Royal Honeymoon" (2008) and "The Prince and Me 4: The Elephant Adventure". (Frankly, I didn't even know the last one existed before today.) While the first movie is the typical storyline of "prince wants out of duties, goes undercover at a university abroad, falls in love with a girl, and then the paparazzis catch them so they break up because she is angry that he lied to her but eventually do end up together" (and allegedly based on the real life romance of Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary of Denmark), the movies do get more ridiculous with every new edition to the tetralogy. Between reading the constitution in Danish in front of parliament to be crowned a princess because the king can only marry a princess due to an old law; an ex-boyfriend conspiring with an evil prime minister in the country of their honeymoon to bulldoze a forest and drill for oil; and a South-East Asian arranged royal wedding where the bride is secretly in love with a young elephant handler and can only be helped by the King and Queen of Denmark, one shudders what part five will be about if it ever comes to it. 


The Princess Diaries (1+2)

"The Princess Diaries" and "The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement" are probably the best known of all fictional royal movies. Apart from the major gap in the storyline of Queen Clarisse being a Queen consort yet somehow ruling the country after the deaths of her husband and her son, the first  movie is a fairly sweet story of an unsuspecting girl, illegitimate daughter of the heir to the throne of Genovia, becoming a princess. Things on the cringe-o-meter heat up in the sequel though when Princess Mia is forced to marry to take over the throne but having a change of heart at the last minute when walking down the aisle and a quick change of law by the attending members of parliament after an empowering speech. And oh yes, we do get a royal wedding at the end when Queen Clarisse marries her head of security and long-time lover - cause why waste all the perfectly fine flowers, food and what else was planned for the wedding celebrations?! At least the lucky people of Genovia will know that all the money wasn't thrown out the window.


My Summer Prince

A young executive assistant aspiring to become a PR executive gets an opportunity to develop her skills in small town in Idaho, where Prince Colin of Edgemere, who has a history of scandalous behaviour, is arrested for defacing a landmark while making a public appearance - cause that's what royals do. Things on the cringe-barometer get to breaking point when the prince's mother arrives in town, the PR assistant is put in the most 80's of dresses, the prince somehow decides that it is a good idea to wear a sash over his tux and the love-struck couple breaks up because the prince finds out that his spin doctor impersonated her boss who was out sick with chickenpox. Realising that the movie needs a happy ending, everyone who - just about three seconds ago - was super mad at the prince and the PR assistant for their shenanigans convinces them that it must be true love and so they make up and kiss. The end. 


The Royals

Not a movie, but "The Royals" may just take the crown of this bunch. The first episode starts out with the death - or not really, as it later turns out - of the beloved Crown Prince Richard. His family, however, is a much less noble crowd. His mother, the Queen, is a vicious, status-besotted Royal Housewife of London, his brother is bedding the daughter of the head of security and his sister is more interested in drugs and flashing the paparazzi while spending her nights without panties in nightclubs around the world. Throw in an evil and pervy uncle and two Anglotrash cousins and the King is ready to ask parliament to abolish the monarchy. Too bad he doesn't succeed - but is instead murdered - as it would have spared the world from three seasons of this royal soap opera which includes the throne going back and forth between various family members due to alleged illegitimacy et al. Surprising that if the King couldn't get rid of the monarchy, the people of Great Britain haven't even tried so.


What are your thoughts? Any additions to the list? Let me now below!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Schloss Glienicke

The other weekend I visited Berlin and, the Castleholic that I am, wanted to squeeze a castle visit into my programme. Mind you, for being the German capital Berlin isn't as castle rich as one may think. The famous ones are probably Schloss Bellevue and Schloss Charlottenburg as well as a few smaller ones either repurposed or scattered on the outskirts of town. One of them is Schloss Glienicke, which is actually located closer to castle-rich Potsdam than to most of Berlin's other attractions. The name Glienicke itself is probably most famous for the bridge by the same name, also known as the Bridge of Spies as it was used several times for the exchange of captured spies during the Cold War. 
Right next to Glienicke Bridge, on the banks of the Havel river, lies Schloss Glienicke, the Italian-style palatial villa once owned by Prince Carl of Prussia. The third son of King Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia by his wife née Luise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz had bought the property from the heirs of Prussian prime minister Prince Karl August of Hardenberg in 1824. Prince Carl, a Prussian general by day, was famous as a patron of the arts and for his sizable collections of art and armour. In his new palace, he wished to realise his "dream of Italy".
A few years prior to the purchase of the palace, Prince Carl had travelled to Italy. He was especially impressed by the harmony between landscape, architecture and the classical work of art to be found there. Prince Carl and his equally architecture-loving oldest brother, the future King Friedrich Wilhelm IV, drew up their own plans for the palace. Prince Carl commissioned Prussian architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel, one of the most prominent architects to this day whose buildings are sprinkled all over Berlin and Brandenburg, to realise his plans. Schinkel and his student Ludwig Persius actually incorporated many of Prince Carl and his brother's ideas into the new palace. 
The previous building, originally merely a cottage, was soon turned into a summer palace in the late Neoclassical style. Especially noteworthy are the many antiques scattered on the palace's courtyard's facade. Many of which were actually gathered by Prince Carl on his travels or gifted to him by other family members. For the creation of the park surrounding the palace, Prince Carl commissioned landscape architect Peter Joseph Lenné.
After Carl's death in 1883, aged 81, the prime-age of Schloss Glienicke soon came to an end. The palace was inherited by his only son, Prince Friedrich Carl. The testament included a stipulation that Friedrich Carl had to annually spend 30,000 Mark for the upkeep of the palace and gardens but he survived his father for only two years. Prince Friedrich Leopold, son of Friedrich Carl and next owner of the palace, did not fancy the Schloss at all and instead decided to live in a nearby hunting lodge until the end of the monarchy instead. 
When he moved to Switzerland after the end of the monarchy, Prince Friedrich Leopold took many of the antiquities from Schloss Glienicke with him. Add to that unsolved ownership questions during the 1920's, the palace soon fell into disrepair. Though the descendants of Friedrich Leopold eventually received the palace and gardens back, they soon struggled financially and thus the palace came into the hands of the city of Berlin. While there were plans in the early 1940's to turn the palace in a seat for the mayor of the city, in was eventually used as a field hospital by the German Wehrmacht and later by the Red Army officers for their time off.
Even later, the palace was turned into a hotel and then used as a school - needless to say: Almost nothing of the palace's original interior survives to this day. Still, Schloss Glienicke was restored during the late 1980's and early 90's now housing a museum. The furniture shown comes from other Prussian palaces or was left to the palace by the life partner of the youngest son of Prince Friedrich Leopold. In addition, the palace is home to a museum about the court gardeners of Prussia - though the most interesting part is definetely its exterior including the extensive park.
Good to know:
Schloss Glienicke is open to the general public from April to October from Tuesday to Sunday between 10am and 6pm. During wintertime, the palace is open on the weekends between 10am and 5pm with certain closure dates around the holidays. Admission per adult (including a guided tour) is 6 euros. For more information, have a look here.