Saturday, August 27, 2011

Prince Georg Friedrich weds his princess

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My friend Paul and I visited Potsdam in the mid-1980s before the Berlin Wall crumbled in the fall of 1989.   Potsdam was located in the East,  not too far from East Berlin.  At that time, the only way to see the royal palaces in Potsdam was to book an organized tour in West Berlin.

We booked a day tour that included the Neues Palais and Sanssouci, as well as lunch at a local restaurant.   Paul and I were the only non-West Germans on the bus, which we boarded in West Berlin.   Our tour guide got on after we crossed through the Wall and traveled to East Berlin.  

The tour was heavy on Socialist propaganda.  As the bus headed toward Potsdam, our affable, but-by-the-book, tour guide pointed out a rather ugly Stalinesque apartment building,  She told us -- with a straight face - that 20,000 residents of the building lived in socialist harmony.  I turned to Paul and said:  "I don't think I want to live in Socialist harmony."

When we got to the Neues Palais,  Paul and I managed to get a few words with the tour guide,  We explained our interest in royalty, and I told her about my work as a royal genealogist, specializing in the descendants of Queen Victoria.  We asked if it were possible to visit the Friedenskirche, where Queen Victoria's eldest daughter, Vicky, and her husband, Friedrich III, were interred.   The church was not included in the tour.  But when we got to Sanssouci - and the group was going to have tea at the Orangerie, our guide pointed out the path to the Friedenskirche, and said we had 20 minutes.

Paul and I ran as fast as we could.  The church needed work, but the East Germans had no interest in maintaining houses of worship.  We walked into the church and asked how to get to the crypt.   We were able to look through the grate to see Vicky and Fritz's tomb.   I gave $3.00 to the woman in the church, and she tried to say no.  I said that I was Lutheran (Evangelisch) and I wanted to give (this small amount) to the church.   The woman was very touched and accepted the money.  

After taking a few photos, Paul and I realized we had to hustle, and we hustled back to the group.  We thanked our tour guide, and when the tour was over, we tipped her rather well, for her kindness (and her willingness to let an American and a Briton step away from an organized tour to see the Friedenskirche.)

Fast forward twenty-five years.  East Germany is now a part of history.  Potsdam has regained an appreciation of its heritage and the role it played in Imperial Germany.  A majority of the former imperial family's palaces are located in Potsdam.

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 Thus, when Prince Georg Friedrich and Princess Sophie were looking for a church to marry,  they decided on the smaller Friedenskirche located in Sanssouci Park.   Georg Friedrich's grandfather, Prince Louis Ferdinand, who died in 1994, would have certainly approved of his grandson's choice.  He also would have been delighted by his grandson's fiancée.

Unlike Georg Friedrich, who does not own a palace or a castle,  Princess Sophie of Isenburg was raised at Schloss Birstein in Hesse.  She is one of five children of the Prince and Princess of Isenburg.  

Princess Sophie arrived at the church in a silver Rolls-Royce.  She was escorted down the aisle by her father, Alexander.   Her gown was designed by Wolfgang Joop. The veil was made in 1830 from Brussels lace, and the diamond tiara are traditionally worn by Isenburg brides.
Prince Georg Friedrich, dressed in a morning suit and a top hat, was escorted to the church by his mother, Duchess Donata of Oldenburg and his younger sister, Princess Cornelie-Cecilie, who is mentally handicapped.

The service was according to the rites of the Lutheran church, but as the bride is Roman Catholic, a Catholic priest also took part.   The Rev Michael Wohlrab of the Kaiserin Auguste Viktoria Foundation at the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem was assisted by Gregor Graf Henckel von Donnersmarck.

The newly married Prince and Princess emerged from the church to strains of Mendelssohn's Wedding March.  They posed for the photographers, and then got into the landau for a carriage ride through the streets of Potsdam and back into Park of Sanssouci to the Neue Kammere, to attend a reception for 1300 well-wishers including political and religious leaders.  In the evening, a white-tie dinner for 350 guests was held at the Orangerie.  At this reception,  Princess Sophie wore the Prussian Mander tiara, which Crown Prince Wilhelm gave his bride, Duchess Cecilie of Mecklenburg in 1905.    This tiara was also worn by Grand Duchess Kira during the religious wedding in Potsdam.

Officially, royalty does not exist in Germany.  Not since 1919, after the fall of the empire and the establishment of the Weimar Republic.  In 1919, titles became one's surname.   But pick up any of the weekly women's magazines, including Bunte, and you will find numerous articles about the Adels  (nobility.)   Germans are particularly interested in the British, Swedish (Queen Silvia is German-born), and Monaco royals.   

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 The RBB channel in Brandenburg decided to capitalize on the royal interest as millions of Germans tuned into watch the recent British and Monegasque wedding.   The channel, seen on cable networks throughout Germany, decided to televise the royal wedding.  Although several local left-wing politicians griped about the programming, most people thought it a positive event. 

For one day,  Potsdam returned to its imperial past with the celebration of a young couple, Georg Friedrich and Sophie Prinz und Prinzessin von Preussen.

The memoirs of the Crown Princess Cecilie


radical royalist said...

A very interesting personal report. Thank you for posting it.

Rex said...


Thanks for this report of the wedding. I was very impressed with the warmth and care Georg showed to his disabled sister, Cornelie-Cecilie, as they walked to the church with their mother.

Did not Crown Princess Cecile have a disabled Down syndrome daughter she chose to rear with her other children instead of institutionalising her?

Princess Sophie is not a ravishing beauty is she?


Marlene Eilers Koenig said...

I believe Cornelie Cecilie lives at a special school - and Alexandrine was institutionalized in her later years.