The “Lady Diana” of the 19th century died 200 years ago.
by Pia Reutter
She is regarded as the “mother of the nation” and was celebrated as “the most beautiful of the beautiful”: Prussia’s Queen Luise was a legendary figure in her lifetime, quasi the “Lady Diana” of the 19th century.
Intelligent she was not, instead she was beautiful, gracious, gentle, cheerful, natural, charming and unquestioningly devoted to her overburdened and often ill-tempered spouse, Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm III. The people admired her for her simplicity and cordiality, regarded at the time as bourgeois virtues.
She was born in Hanover in 1776 as Luise Auguste Wilhelmine Amalie, Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. When she was six her mother died, which is why Luise spent the rest of her childhood with her grandmother. At the end of 1793, at the age of 17, she married Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm in Berlin.
Her life spanned one of the most turbulent periods in the 18th and 19th century – from the French Revolution to the beginning of the Prussian reforms. When Prussia formed an alliance with Russia, Luise met Russian Tsar Alexander I and found him charming. The tsar was also fascinated by the queen. Researchers are certain, however, that an affair between the two, often alleged by biographers, never happened.
Queen Luise was considered to be a great support to her spouse and aided him in making decisions, but her role in the Peace Treaty of Tilsit in 1807 has been politically overestimated.
Luise asked Napoleon to show restraint with the terms of the peace treaty. But this appeal went unheard. This did not hurt Luise’s reputation. After her death following a lung infection in 1810, thousands followed her funeral procession. Her early death was seen as the death of a martyr, with which German nationalists justified their hostility to France. Prussia’s victory over French in 1870-71 was also regarded as late revenge for her death. Even the National Socialists saw her as the founder of their empire more than a 100 years later.
Berlin and the state of Brandenburg are celebrating their famous “daughter” with numerous special events through spring and summer 2010.