If you would have asked me as a child and even now to draw a castle, something slightly resembling Schloss Marienburg would probably be the result. (I say something slighty resembling as my drawing skills never even graduated kindergarten.) Growing up in the area, the castle of the Guelph family was the castle of my childhood dreams - and what a fairytale castle it is! You could probably also call it the world's fanciest birthday present, as that is what it is in a nutshell.
And it wasn't even a big birthday but the 39th. The lucky recipient? Queen Marie of Hanover, the consort of King Georg V. The couple would become known to history as the last King and Queen of Hanover though nobody knew it yet when the blind King gifted a hill, renamed Marienberg (Marie's hill) in her honour, between the towns of Hanover and Hildesheim to his beloved wife for her birthday on April 14, 1857. Plans for a summer residence and future widow's seat were drawn up immediately and construction started in October 1858 with the couple's three children carrying out the first three hammer blows.
Schloss Marienburg, much like the hill it stands on named in honour of the Queen, may have a very Medieval feel to it from the outside, but is actually fairly modern from the interior. Behind the Neo-Gothic walls taking inspiration from the likes of Schloss Babelsberg, Burg Hohenzollern, Schloss Stolzenfels and Burg Sooneck, you will find the conveniences of late 19th century modern life such as hot running water, hot water heating and windows in the knight's hall that could be completely lowered to open the room up to the terrace. The masterminds behind all of it were architects Conrad Wilhelm Haase and later his student Edwin Oppler.
Construction went ahead pretty quickly and the castle was structurally complete by late 1860 with the topping out ceremony being celebrated shortly before Christmas of that year. While Haase gave the Schloss a German Neo-Gothic appearance, his successor as architect Oppler preferred English Neo-Gothic style. That is the reason why some of the castle's rooms were never quite finished. The original furnishings by Haase, for example in the knight's hall, were removed to make room Oppler's ideas, however, there is a thing called history that got in the way.
But first, King Georg and Queen Marie, together with their children, got to spend a summer at Schloss Marienburg. By 1865, construction had advanced so far that it was halted during the summer months in order for the royal family to spend a few carefree weeks at the Queen's "little eldorado" as she liked to call her castle. Queen Marie would later also go on to describe the place as "the most beautiful place on Earth". However, fate intervened and her happiness at the castle wasn't long-lived.
In 1866, before the castle could be completed, Hanover entered the fateful Austro-Prussian War of 1866 siding with the Habsburgs against the Prussians. Those who know history will also know what happened next: The Hanoverians won the Battle of Langensalza but were then surrounded by a larger and reinforced Prussian army, and, unable to link up with their Bavarian allies to the south, they surrendered. Subsequently, Prussia annexed Hanover and forced the King into exile. While King Georg V, his son Ernst-August and older daughter Friederike left for Austria, Queen Marie and their younger daughter Mary stayed in Hanover for another year to show resistance to the Prussians. After first staying at Schloss Herrenhausen, they moved into Schloss Marienburg in September of 1866.
After the Prussians threatened to replace their royal household with Prussian faithfuls, Queen Marie and Princess Mary left Schloss Marienburg and the new Prussian province of Hanover on July 24, 1867 never to return again. While construction was carried on for a few more years, the castle was left unoccupied for a good 80 years. Only after the Second World War, Ernst-August III, a grandson of Georg and Marie who had married Viktoria-Luise of Prussia and thus reconciled the Guelphs and Hohenzollern, and his family moved into the castle after having to leave Schloss Blankenburg. The Guelph family remained at the castle well into the 1950's. These days, the castle is used as a museum, restaurants and wedding venue.
Good to know:Schloss Marienburg is open during the summer season (this year) from March 3 to November 4 from Tuesdays to Sundays between 10am and 6pm. In June, July and August, the castle is open daily. During winter season, the castle is open Wednesdays to Sundays from 11am to 4pm. Admission for the classic castle tour is 9 euros. Currently there is also a special exhibition taking place called "Royal History and Stories" about the life of King Georg V and Queen Marie of Hanover. For more information, have a look here.