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A Young Noblewoman is Presented at Court (1882-83)

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the two young Miss Maybachs, the daughters of the railway minister, would have taken precedence, but they tactfully restrained themselves. Now the dreaded exercise was about to come – the long, notorious “picture gallery,” the mocking lane, which had already been lined for hours by wedged-in military officers. Only a narrow path remained, through which we had to walk; and as those ladies who were obviously frightened or uncomfortable passed by, the lieutenants often emitted snide, semi-audible comments. This sounds rather ill-mannered but is actually quite human. An acquaintance had advised Berta and me to “look as harmless and contented as possible.” And that seemed to work: our dancers saluted us in a friendly way, and we only heard them murmur our names as we walked down the endless lane.

In one of the next halls the generals were waiting, just dripping with medals, and suddenly there stood [Chief of the Prussian General Staff Helmuth von] Moltke. I passed very close by him and looked at him with overflowing excitement. Children are always told, “It is not proper to stare at people,” but I am afraid this is exactly what I did. Probably he told himself, I must know this one from Silesia – he made a deep bow to me. Absolutely enchanted by this, I returned the sort of reverential bow that is really only due to crowned heads.

Then, as we had reached the chamber of the Queen, each one of us dropped the train of her dress; the chamberlain, Count Kanitz, had the task of spreading them neatly; and we advanced slowly. In the throne room, quiet music played, and we were greeted by shimmering light, the sparkle of gold, and a truly unbelievable glitter of diamonds. Under the canopy stood the Kaiser, tall, imposing, and kind, and beside him was the Empress Augusta, frail with age, partly sitting, partly lying. On both sides, all the princes and princesses were lined up and bestowed smiles on all their acquaintances passing by. These were returned with respectfully cordial facial expressions, because bows were reserved for the imperial couple. The radiance, the glorious sparkle of all the crown jewels was incredible! Now my predecessor’s train moved away, my name was called, and I made the slow, deep bow! –

What followed was a concert in the White Hall. Again we were seated according to category, with us newcomers under the musical gallery. No doubt the artistic performances were excellent, but everyone was so distracted: there was just so much to see. [ . . . ]

Source: Marie von Bunsen, Die Welt, in der ich lebte. Erinnerungen 1860-1912 [The World in Which I Lived: Memories 1860-1912], new edition. Biberach, 1959, pp. 90ff.

Original German text reprinted in Gerhard A. Ritter and Jürgen Kocka, eds., Deutsche Sozialgeschichte 1870-1914. Dokumente und Skizzen [German Social History 1870-1914. Documents and Sketches]. 3rd ed. Munich: C.H. Beck, 1982, pp. 359-61.

Translation: Erwin Fink

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