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A Magdeburg Merchant Remembers a Royal Visit (1880)

After 1871, royal visits were frequently made to Germany’s diverse regions and localities in order to foster the Empire’s “inner” unification. These visits were well-suited to familiarizing non-Prussian populations with the new Hohenzollern dynasty, and, as this excerpt suggests, they also encouraged popular allegiance to the new imperial state, even among Prussian populations. Here, a Magdeburg merchant, Otto Pilet, recalls Kaiser Wilhelm I’s visit to his city nine years after unification.

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After I had gained the capable help and support of Ernst Jacoby in my business in 1870, I accepted a seat as a municipal deputy and joined the assembly on August 10, 1871. Soon my activities in this assembly became quite substantial. As early as October 23, 1873, I was elected to the committee charged with overseeing public debt; on May 27, 1881, to the committee on trade; and, not long after my start as a municipal deputy, to the committee for the projected building of the new city theater. [ . . . ] Subsequently, as a member of the election commission, and also as its chairman, my position in the assembly became greater and more influential, as it were. Thus the year 1880 came along and with it Magdeburg’s grand day of celebration, June 4th, which marked the 200th anniversary of the definitive incorporation of the Duchy of Magdeburg into Brandenburg, the date upon which it had come under the glorious scepter of the Hohenzollerns. The day brought a visit to the city by the old Kaiser [Emperor] Wilhelm, the magnificent Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm, the young Prince Wilhelm (our current imperial majesty), and the chivalrous Prince Friedrich Karl, together with a dazzling entourage. The enthusiasm and excitement during the preparations were great, for Magdeburg wished to give a grand reception to its beloved ruling house. With pride and delight I think back to this day: to the beautifully decorated city, the magnificent large banquet hall of the Alte Markt,* and the parade of Magdeburg merchants and tradesmen paying homage. Everything glistened in the most glorious weather fit for an emperor.

The assembly of municipal deputies had voted me onto the reception committee, and I belonged to the executive of this body. In particular, I was responsible, together with one city councilor and a municipal deputy, for attending to the banquet, and, again as a board member of the joint-stock association that supported the city theater, I was also in charge of organizing the setting for that evening’s gala performance.

On the previous day, the Empress of Russia, the sister of our beloved Kaiser, had passed away, so our city’s joyful anticipation of seeing our illustrious ruling dynasty was seriously threatened. Late in the evening, however, the happy news arrived that all the dignitaries would attend, and that the entire program should remain unchanged. His Majesty the Emperor, though, would have to return to Berlin after accepting homage in the Alte Markt. [ . . . ] Everyone breathed a deep sigh of relief and looked forward to the following day with jubilation. [ . . . ]

* The "Old Market" – trans.

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