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CHAPTER I.

ANSBACH AND ITS MARGRAVES.

1683–1696.

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WILHELMINA CAROLINE, Princess of BrandenburgAnsbach, known to history as “Caroline of Ansbach,” Queen-Consort of King George the Second of Great Britain and Ireland, and sometime Queen-Regent, was born in the palace of Ansbach, a little town in South Germany, on March ist, 1683. It was a year memorable in the annals of English history as the one in which Lord Russell and Algernon Sidney were brought to the block, who by their blood strengthened the long struggle against the Stuarts which culminated in the accession of the House of Hanover. The same year, seven months later, on October 30th, the ill-fated Sophie Dorothea of Celle, consort of George the First, gave birth to a son at Hanover, George Augustus, who twenty-two years later was destined to take Caroline of Ansbach to wife, and in fulness of time to ascend the throne of England.

The Margraves of Brandenburg-Ansbach were far from wealthy, but the palace wherein the little princess first opened her eyes to the light was one of the finest in Germany, quite out of proportion to the fortunes of the petty principality. It was a vast building, four storeys high, built in the form of a square, with a cloistered courtyard, and an ornate façade to the west. Yet large as it was, it did not suit the splendour-loving Margraves of later generations, and the palace as it stands to-day, with its twenty-two state apartments, each more magnificent than the other, is a veritable treasure-house of baroque and rococo art. Some of the interior decoration is very Aorid and in doubtful taste ; the ceiling of the great hall, for instance, depicts the apotheosis of the Margrave Karl the Wild ; the four corners respectively represent the feast of the Bacchante, music, painting and architecture, and in the centre is a colossal figure of the Margrave, in classical attire, clasping Venus in his arms. The dining-hall is also gorgeous, with imitation marbles, crystal chandeliers, and a gilded gallery, wherefrom the minstrels were wont to discourse sweet music to the diners. The porcelain saloon, the walls lined with exquisite porcelain, is a gem of its kind, and the picture gallery contains many portraits of the Hohenzollerns. But the most interesting room is that known as “Queen Caroline's apartment,” in which the future Queen of England was born; it was occupied by her during her visits to Ansbach until her marriage. This room is left much as it was in Caroline's day, and a canopy of faded green silk still marks the place where the bed stood in which she was born.

The town of Ansbach has changed but little

since the seventeenth century, far less than the palace, which successive Margraves have improved almost out of recognition. Unlike Würzburg and Nuremberg, cities comparatively near, Ansbach has not progressed; it has rather gone backward, for since the last Margrave, Alexander, sold his heritage in 1791, there has not been a court at Ansbach.' A sign of its vanished glories may be seen in the principal hotel of the place, formerly the residence of the Court Chamberlain, a fine house with frescoed ceilings, wide oak staircase, and spacious court-yard. The Hofgarten remains the same, a large park, with a double avenue of limes and oaks, beneath which Caroline must often have played when a girl. The high-pitched roofs and narrow irregular streets of the town still breathe the spirit of mediævalism, but the old-time glory has departed from Ansbach, and the wave of modern progress has scarcely touched it. The little town, surrounded with low-lying meadows, wears an aspect inexpressibly dreary and forsaken.

i The last of the Margraves of Brandenburg-Ansbach, Christian Frederick Charles Alexander, was born at Ansbach in 1736. He was the nephew of Queen Caroline, and married first a princess of Saxe-Coburg, and secondly the Countess of Craven (née Lady Elizabeth Berkeley), who called herself the “Margravine of Ansbach and Princess Berkeley". Having no heirs he sold his Margravate to the King of Prussia in 1791, and came to live in England with his second wife. He bought Brandenburg House, and was very beneficent and fond of sport, being well known on the turf. He died at a ripe old age in the reign of George IV. In 1806 Ansbach was transferred by Napoleon from Prussia to Bavaria, an act which was confirmed by the Congress of Vienna in 1815, and with Bavaria it has since remained. Occasionally some members of the Bavarian royal family visit Ansbach and stay at the palace, but it has long ceased to be a princely residence.

The honest burghers of Ansbach, who took a personal interest in the domestic affairs of their Margraves, feeling that as they prospered they would prosper with them, could not, in their most ambitious moments, have imagined the exalted destiny which awaited the little princess who was born in the palace on that March morning. The princesses of Ansbach had not in the past made brilliant alliances, and there is no record of any one of them having married into a royal house. They were content to wed the margraves, the burgraves, the landgraves, and the princelets who offered themselves, to bear them children, and to die, without contributing any particular brilliancy to the history of their house.

The margravate of Ansbach was one of the petty German princedoms which had succeeded in weathering the storm and stress of the Middle Ages. At the time of Caroline's birth, any importance Ansbach might have possessed to the outer world arose from its connection with the Brandenburgs and Hohenzollerns, of which connection the later Margraves of Ansbach were alternately proud and jealous. Ansbach can, with reason, claim to be the cradle of the Hohenzollern kingdom. For nearly five hundred years (from 1331 to 1806) the princedom of Ansbach belonged to the Hohenzollerns, and a succession of the greatest events of Prussian history arose from the union of Prussia and Brandenburg and the margravate of Ansbach. It is not certain how, or when, the link began. But out of the mist of ages emerges the fact, that when the Burgrave Frederick V. divided his possessions into the Oberland and Unterland, or Highlands and Lowlands, Ansbach was raised to the dignity of capital of the Lowland princedom, and a castle was built. The Margrave Albert the Great, a son of the Elector Frederick the First of Brandenburg, set up his court at Ansbach, decreeing that it should remain the seat of government for all time. Albert the Great's court was more splendid and princely than any in Germany; he enlarged the already beautiful castle, he kept much company and held brilliant tournaments, and he founded the famous order of the Knights of the Swan. The high altar, elaborately carved and painted, of the old Gothic church of St. Gumbertus in Ansbach remains to this day a monument of his munificence, and on the walls of the chancel are the escutcheons of the Knights of the Swan, and from the roof hang down the tattered banners of the Margraves.

The succeeding Margraves do not call for any special notice ; after the fashion of German princes of that time, they spent most of their days in hunting, and their nights in carousing. They were distinguished from their neighbours only by their more peaceful proclivities. Two names come to us out of oblivion, George the Pious, who introduced the Reformation into Franconia, and George Frederick, who was guardian to the mad Duke Albert Frederick of Prussia, and who consequently managed Prussian affairs from Ansbach. With his

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