Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Hohenzollern Harbinger

One of the best-known ghosts in Germany is connected to the Hohenzollern Family who ruled Prussia for four hundred years. The Hohenzollerns were first electors of the Holy Roman Empire and then later they were emperors. 

The ghost that haunted them was known as the “”White Lady”. Members of the Hohenzollern family saw this ghost for centuries. 

The White Lady was considered a harbinger for when she appeared it was always a warning to the descendants of King Frederick that someone in the family was about to die or some disaster was about to occur.

In the Middle Ages widows of deceased sovereigns and princes always wore white mourning. The Hohenzollern ghost was always seen wearing white. 

This White Lady was described as very beautiful but melancholy in appearance. She was tall, very thin, and walked with a poise befitting her station while alive. All who saw her stated she always carried a bunch of large keys attached to a chatelaine at her waist.

She was first seen in 1619 when three young pages spotted her in one of the castle’s halls. 

One of these pages approached her to ask what she was doing there. She turned and whacked him over the head with her keys. He fell to the ground dead. The other two pages fled. The next day Elector John Sigismund died.

The one time the White Lady spoke it is said she quoted Latin, “Veni, judica vivos et mortuos” meaning-- come, judge the living and the dead. 

After this appearance in 1628 a young prince of the house died. In 1678 she appeared again. Soon after this Erdmann Phillip fell from his horse and died.

It is said the White Lady never appeared during Frederick the Great’s reign because he did not believe in ghosts. But after his death he appeared to warn a family member about this harbinger.

His nephew Frederick William the Second in 1792 was camped outside Paris with his troops. The night before they were set to attack his uncle’s ghost appeared before him in a wine cellar and cautioned him not to attack. 

“He warned him to call off his troops, or you will see the White Lady.” The nephew heeded his uncles’ advice and left France.

During the Age of Enlightenment this ghost made several more appearances. She again appeared just before the deaths of Frederick William the Third in 1840 and Frederick William the Fourth in 1861. 

One of the last reported sightings of the White Lady was in 1914 just before World War l. She appeared just before the Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated. I wrote about Ferdinand’s cursed and haunted car in another post here.

After the German’s defeat in World War l, Kaiser Wilhelm the Second was the last ruling Hohenzollern-- he abdicated the throne. 

It is stated that once there was no longer a Hohenzollern ruler the White Lady was finally able to find peace. But many state that the White Lady was seen one last time during World War ll in 1945 just before Berlin burned.

There are several legends as to who the White Lady was when she was alive. Each is more tragic than the next. Here are just two. 

One common tale is that she was a young widowed countess who fell madly in love with a Hohenzollern. She came to believe that her children from her first marriage were stopping him from marrying her so she killed them. 

When he found out about what she had done he shunned her and married another at which point she committed suicide. It is stated that then she haunted and cursed the family for centuries.

Yet another story is just as tragic. A young daughter was forced by her father to marry a man she didn't love for political and financial reasons. Her father neglected to pay her dowry. 

The young bride found to her chagrin that her new husband either ignored her or beat her. She begged her father to rescue her but he ignored her pleas. 

He instead blamed her problems on “her not loving her husband enough”. Her brothers finally rescued her and took her home. 

Her husband was related to the Hohenzollern family. So when she died it is stated she haunted the Hohenzollern descendants in order to reek revenge.

The Hohenzollern dynasty is not the only family that was plagued by a harbinger. The royal Hapsburg’s had a raven and a White Lady that were both considered death omens.

No comments: