The Secret Memoirs of the Courts of Europe: William II, Germany; Francis Joseph, Austria-Hungary, Volume I. (of 2)
Mme. La Marquise de Fontenoy
Part 5 out of 5
or four in the morning. They necessitate, however, an enormous amount
of preparation and organization on the part of the grand huntsman. For
at least forty-eight hours previously, a vast corps of "treibers,"
or Styrian mountaineers engaged for the purpose have been employed in
surrounding a district of mountain and valley many miles in area.
The circle is gradually narrowed down until the whole of the game is
driven from the heights into the valley, where the emperor and his
guests have taken up their positions.
The selection of the positions of the party is regarded as a matter of
the utmost importance, and on the evening before, the grand huntsman
submits to the emperor a carefully drawn up plan of the locality. His
majesty thereupon designates with his own hand the spot where each
of his guests is to take up his position on the following morning. He
himself and the King of Saxony generally await the game in the lowest
part of the valley, the remaining guests and officials being spread up
the mountain side on each hand according to their degree of rank and
the imperial favor, those who enjoy the greatest share of the latter
being the nearest to the sovereign down the valley, while those of
less importance are posted higher up on the mountain side. By nine
o'clock, every member of the party must be in the place assigned to
him on the plan, and the beaters, who have kept the game carefully
within the circle of their lines, now proceed to drive it down towards
the shooting party.
Usually, great nets are stretched a hundred yards to the rear of the
two monarchs, with the object of forcing the game which may have got
past their majesties to retrace its steps, and to face the royal and
imperial sportsmen once more.
Sometimes curious scenes result in connection with these nets. On one
occasion a magnificent gemsbock had managed to get past the King of
Saxony, and finding a net in the way, charged it full tilt with a
flying leap. Its horns got entangled in the meshes, seven or eight
feet high, and there it remained hanging and kicking until a couple of
jaegers in attendance on the king disentangled it and carefully
placed it on the ground. For a moment it stood as if transfixed
with amazement, gazing steadfastly at the net, and then deliberately
charged head down, and with a tremendous bound, at the obstacle once
more, with the same result, of course. Again the jaegers disengaged
it, but in its struggles to recover its liberty the gemsbock left its
beard torn out by the very roots in the hand of one of the men who had
grabbed it for the purpose of holding the animal fast. A third time
the gallant buck charged the net, and cleared it in magnificent style
and made good its escape. The beard which it left behind it figures
to this day on the Alpine hat of King Albert, who is probably the only
man living who can boast of wearing the beard of a chamois that may
still be roaming over the Styrian Alps.
Emperor William's favorite form of sport is wild-boar hunting.
This species of game abounds in the imperial preserves of
Koenigs-Wusterhausen, Letzlingen, Gohrde and Springe, the latter being
quite near to the ancient city of Hamelin, celebrated in legendary
lore for its "_pied-piper_" and for its rats!
The preserves at Gohrde are liked best by the kaiser, as they were by
his grandfather, the old emperor, for they are alive with wild boars.
Persons invited for the first time to these imperial shooting parties
have to go through a regular form of initiation, somewhat akin to that
practised in the case of people crossing the line for the first time
On the eve of the day on which the hunt is to begin, and when the
party are assembled in the smoking and card-rooms of the jagdschloss,
after dinner, the great oak table in the dining-room is cleared and
ornamented with several lines of chalk; thereupon, the deputy grand
huntsman, Baron Heintze Weissenrode, after receiving the emperor's
final instructions, selects a dozen members of the party, and conducts
them to the dining-room, where they take their places around the
table, each armed with a wooden spoon of a different size from those
of his neighbors.
At a given signal the huntsman in charge of the imperial pack of
boar-hounds, who has been stationed at the entrance leading into the
dining-room, sounds the "view-halloo!" on his horn, and immediately
every one of the wooden spoons is rubbed up and down the oaken table
in a manner that produces a sound similar to that of the noise made
by a pack in full pursuit. The person about to be initiated is then
seized and blindfolded, after which the doors are thrown open, and he
is carried into the dining-room, and laid upon the table athwart the
chalk lines. The emperor immediately draws his short hunting-knife,
and after making several mystic passes with it in the air, strikes the
prostrate body of the neophyte a smart blow with the flat of the broad
blade. The huntsman toots forth the signal of "dead! dead!" which is
used to call the pack off the quarry, and the new-fledged "weide-man"
is permitted to struggle off the table and onto the ground.
I may add that the emperor's blow with the hunting-knife is not the
only one which the neophyte receives while stretched on the table on
his face, nor does it constitute the sum total of the initiation, but
only the conclusion thereof. Indeed, there is sometimes a good deal
of rough horse-play on these occasions, in which the emperor, who
delights therein, takes a prominent part.
The boar hunt on the following day partakes of the nature of the
chamois drives already described, the only difference being that the
beaters are assisted in their work by a carefully trained pack of
boar-hounds, which are accustomed to obey the horn signals of the
huntsman in charge, and are of much service in driving the quarry from
its lair in the dense brush and underwood.
Another difference is that the shooting parties, instead of firing in
the direction of the drivers, are under the strictest orders only
to fire away from them; that is to say, the hunters are practically
forced to wait until the wild boar rushes past before their rifles may
be levelled. Of course, it sometimes happens that the boar, instead
of charging past, charges directly at some member of the party in the
fiercest and most dangerous manner, and it is in order to be prepared
for an assault of this kind, that each of them is provided with a kind
of pike, or lance, which goes by the euphonious name of "sowpen."
The costume worn on these occasions is an exceptionally hideous
uniform, specially invented and devised by the present emperor.
It consists of a double-breasted frock coat of grey cloth, with
grass-green lapels and collar, green striped pantaloons, high boots,
and a grey Tyrolese hat, with a wide green band. In the emperor's case
it is further adorned by the ribbon and badge of a Hohenzollern family
order known as that of the "White Hart."
At these shooting parties the emperor is accustomed to wind up the day
with a most extraordinary kind of drink, of which he himself is very
fond, and of which he insists upon everybody's partaking, assuring
them that it will help them to sleep. It consists of the following
ingredients: White beer, sugar, citron peel, ginger spices, the yolks
of at least a dozen eggs, Rhine wine, Madeira, and old Santa Cruz rum.
All this, after being thoroughly stirred, is placed on the fire
and slowly heated, several large pats of butter being added to the
concoction while it is warm.
It need scarcely be said that it requires a stomach as strong as that
of the emperor to be able to absorb several glasses of such a drink
before retiring, and it is asserted at the Court of Berlin that there
are many of his subjects of high rank who feign illness when
commanded to join the imperial hunting parties, solely because of the
apprehensions they entertain of being called upon by the kaiser to
drink this extraordinary brew.
For shooting wild-fowl, hares and other small game, William uses a
very dainty and extremely light fowling-piece, specially constructed
for him, which he raises to his shoulder with one hand, and with
extraordinary rapidity takes a remarkably sure aim; but when it comes
to hunting the wild boar, stag, elk, bear and big game in general,
the killing of which requires a heavier gun, he is naturally forced
to adopt other devices. His crippled left arm being useless to support
the weapon, his body jaeger, specially trained for this particular
duty, steps forward and offers either his arm or his shoulder for the
support of his master's rifle. This, _bien entendu_, when his majesty
is engaged in stalking. In cases where the chase takes the form of a
"battue," a species of horizontal bar is affixed at right angles to
the tree beside which the emperor stands, and it is on this support
that the kaiser rests his gun when shooting at the driven game.
Handicapped as William is by this crippled arm, his record of 33,967
head of game killed with his own hand, during the past two decades, is
a very remarkable one. It may be found in his "Game Book," published a
few months ago for private circulation among the royal personages and
court circles of the Old World.
Comprised in this grand total are some pieces which do not fall to the
lot of every sportsman. Thus there are a couple of "aurochsen," which
is a species of bison-like wild cattle, still to be found strictly
preserved in the private domains of the Emperor of Russia. Unless I
am mistaken, there are only about five hundred of them left, and, in
spite of all the efforts made to foster the breed, they are so rapidly
diminishing in number that ere many years are past they will surely
become extinct. In pre-Christian times they roamed all over Germany,
and were, and still are, larger, fiercer, and much lighter colored
than the American buffalo.
The wild boars number in the "Game Book" over 2,700. There are eleven
elks shot in Sweden, three reindeer killed in Norway, and ten bears
laid low, some of them in Russia, and others in Hungary. The emperor
has, much to his vexation, only managed to bag three unfortunate
snipe, an extremely difficult bird to shoot on the wing; but his
record of 120 chamois is decidedly good, when it is remembered what
an exceedingly difficult game this is to reach, entailing, as it does,
mountaineering of the most arduous and perilous character, especially
in the case of a man who can use but one arm easily. These 120 chamois
serve in a measure to atone for the twenty foxes which figure as
having been shot by the emperor, a fact which is more likely to injure
his reputation and prestige in the eyes of hunting men than any other
fault or even crime of which he could possibly render himself
guilty. The most unique item of this "Game Book," with the exception,
naturally, of the two aurochsen, are assuredly the three whales which
the emperor shot with a harpoon gun, on the occasion of his yachting
trip to the furthermost portion of Norway a few summers ago. These
three huge monsters of the deep form a fitting and amusing counterpart
in the "Game Book" to the three snipe above mentioned.
Emperor William has a number of shooting-lodges, among the best known
of which is Hubertusstock, of which he is particularly fond owing to
its proximity to the capital. Yet it is hated by the members of his
suite, for it is a terribly gloomy place. It stands in the midst of
a dense, dark forest of vast extent, and swarming with game, within
a few hundred yards of the reed covered and marshy shores of the
Werbellin Lake, and was built by the late King Frederick-William IV.
During the last few years of his madness this monarch was frequently
taken out to Hubertusstock by his attendants, who hoped that the
entire absence of all excitement and the intense solitude of the place
would diminish the recurrences of his attacks of violence.
The emperor sometimes spends an entire week at Hubertusstock and it
has frequently been asserted that he takes advantage of the complete
absence from public observation which he then enjoys, to make secret
trips abroad. It was his absence at this place for a period of ten
days while the czar was at Paris that led to the very circumstantial
story in the German and foreign press about his having been in the
French capital, in the strictest incognito, for several days during
the Russian emperor's stay on the banks of the Seine. A number of
people claim to have recognized him, and it is even alleged that he
caught the czar's eye, and was recognized by him during the grand
entertainment given by President Faure in honor of his Muscovite
visitors at the Palace of Versailles.
A story was told at the time about a couple of German officers, one of
them attached to the embassy, who happening to find themselves face to
face with an individual presenting a striking likeness to the kaiser,
save for the fact that his moustache was twisted downwards instead
of upwards, and his hair brushed in a different way, lost to such an
extent their presence of mind that they could not help drawing their
heels together and standing at attention; a form of courtesy which
received as its only response the muttered exclamation of "Verdammte
Esel!" which may be translated: "Accursed jackasses!"
That served to confirm their suspicions, and unfortunately both their
behavior and the growl of the stranger had been witnessed and heard by
people who were quick to make the matter public.
It was with the object of endeavoring to disprove and discredit these
stories that the emperor caused a telegram, to be sent to the czar
from Hubertusstock, not written, as usual, in cipher, but in ordinary
language. There is an old French proverb according to which "he who
seeks to prove too much, proves nothing," and thus it happened that
this open telegram which reached the czar at Chalons, and which was
published in the German newspapers, even before Nicholas had made
it known to the members of his entourage, merely served to convince
people that the kaiser had really been in Paris when he was supposed
to be buried amidst the gloomy forests of Hubertusstock.
Hubertusstock is not, as most people seem to imagine, a castle, but
merely a huge, overgrown two-storied chalet, surrounded by a number
of smaller wooden dwelling-houses for the use of the imperial suite.
Formerly, it required a drive of at least three hours from the station
on the main line in order to reach the jagdschloss. But since the
accession of the emperor he has caused a private railroad to be
constructed from the trunk line to a small station within a few
hundred yards of the chalet.
Seldom is the kaiser found in the schloss after daybreak. The entire
morning is spent by him in the woods, which are so vast that one can
wander about them for days without meeting a soul. Luncheon is usually
partaken of at some point in the forest, and frequently during this
repast a concert takes place, the performers consisting of a quartette
of foresters, their instruments being mere hunting horns, and their
melodies those of old hunting-songs. Within the limits of the imperial
preserves is the celebrated Schorfhaide, which each year, towards the
month of November, becomes the meeting place of thousands of stags.
They come from all parts of Germany and Austria, this being rendered
possible by the proximity to one another of the great estates of the
territorial nobility, so that it would be feasible to march almost
from the Adriatic to the Baltic without leaving forest glades. This
annual assemblage of stags on the Schorfhaide has been taking place
every autumn for untold centuries. In fact, mention thereof has been
found in documents more than a thousand years old. The meetings afford
an extraordinary sight, and are the scenes of numerous single combats
to death between "Royals," the other stags and the deer standing
round, as if to form a huge amphitheatre, and gravely watching the
duel without making any attempt to interfere.
All sorts of theories have been put forward with regard to this annual
concourse of stags on the Schorfhaide. Foresters, however, insist that
it is nothing more nor less than a species of great animal congress,
at which the various antlered tribes meet for a big "palaver" to
decide matters affecting the policy and the leadership of their
various clans! Far-fetched as this theory may seem at first sight, it
is evident that there is something of the kind which brings stags and
their mates from the remote forests of Galicia on the Russian border,
from the vast Liechtenstein game preserves to the South of Vienna,
and from the still larger sporting property of Belyer, in Hungary,
belonging to Archduke Frederick, all the way to the Schorfhaide on
the reedy banks of the Werbellin Lake, in order to flock together by
It is a matter of forest ethics, and of the law of the chase, to
abstain from disturbing this annual _convivium_ of the stags, as it
is called, and while it lasts, not a single shot is to be heard in the
forests around Hubertusstock. In fact, November has on this account
become a species of close season there, no one interested in sport
wishing to do anything that could in the least degree interfere with
this, so far as I know, altogether unique custom in the animal world.
The meetings, however, have been witnessed by the emperor and a few
chosen companions who concealed themselves in the branches of
trees, bordering on the Schorfhaide, and William is never tired of
expatiating on the magnificence of the spectacle presented.
Next to Hubertusstock, the most favored shooting-lodge and
sporting-estate of the kaiser, is Rominten, not far from the Russian
frontier. Owing to this proximity, bears and wolves, especially
the latter, of Muscovite origin, are frequently to be found in the
Rominten forests, adjoining which is the celebrated imperial Trakenen
stud and horsebreeding establishment, founded as far back as 1732
by Frederick the Great. Some idea of the size and importance of this
stud-farm may be gathered from the fact that over two thousand hands
are employed in connection with the concern. Trakenen was originally
famous for elk, and an elk's horn remains to this day the Trakenen
brand placed upon all horses bred there. The emperor's headquarters at
Rominten are situated at a place called Theerbude. His jagdschloss or
shooting-lodge consists of a handsome Norwegian block house, brought
from Norway, and erected on the Goldberg on the left bank of the
Rominten River. The stables are built on a most extensive scale, and
the chapel, as well as all the other buildings, are constructed in the
picturesque Norwegian style, which harmonizes so well with the dark
fir forests by which they are surrounded.
There is no interruption of the business of slate during the emperor's
stay at Rominten. Theerbude is connected with Berlin by wire, and
telegrams are arriving and departing at all hours of the day.
The kaiser shoots as a rule twice a day, at four in the morning, and
four in the afternoon, the drive to the hunting-grounds often taking
several hours, for most of them are at a considerable distance. The
various foresters' lodges, even at the most remote portion of the
estates, are connected by telephone with the imperial residence, and
thus the emperor is able to know at midday where the game is likely to
be most plentiful in the afternoon.
When the emperor is not shooting, he transacts business with his
various military and civil secretaries, and long after his guests are
asleep he himself is still at work, signing state papers or reading
and annotating reports. Indeed one of the most remarkable things about
Emperor William is his apparent ability to do almost entirely without
On Sundays the emperor invariably makes a point of attending divine
service at the Chapel of St. Hubert, opposite his residence, and
subsequently is accustomed to walk to the Koenigshoehe, a neighboring
hill on which he has built an observatory-tower about one hundred feet
high, which commands a magnificent view of the surrounding forest,
extending about twenty miles in every direction from the tower.
Curiously enough, wild boars are not found at Rominten; but the stags
there are superb, and specimens turning the scales at a thousand
pounds are the rule rather than the exception.
One of the features of the Theerbude is a goblet of the time of King
Frederick-William III. The vessel is held between the points of a
couple of antlers, and it is only possible to drink out of it by
squeezing one's face between these two points. The possessor of a
rotund countenance experiences considerable difficulty in performing
this feat, and is apt to spill the contents over himself, yet every
one of the emperor's guests has to submit to the ordeal, for
an inscription on the goblet says that all persons attending
shooting-parties at Rominten for the first time must empty the vessel
of its contents,--a pint bottle of champagne,--at one draught, to the
health of the sovereign.
So great are the quantities of game shot by the emperor and his guests
at these shooting-parties that they very much exceed the needs for the
consumption of the imperial household. Formerly, it was the kaiser's
custom to distribute all the surplus among the various hospitals and
charitable institutions; but since discovering that these gifts of
game seldom reached the persons for whom they were destined, namely
the inmates, but were monopolized by the staff and the attendants
of the establishments, he has given orders that the game that is not
needed for imperial consumption should be sold, and the money derived
therefrom turned over to the funds of the hospitals and convalescent
homes under the patronage of the crown. That is why one so frequently
sees in the great Central Market of Berlin, deer, stags, wild boars,
etc., adorned with greenery, and with cards intimating that the quarry
in question has been shot by his imperial majesty the kaiser.
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
WILLIAM II AND FRANCIS JOSEPH
WILLIAM II, EMPEROR OF GERMANY........... _Fronts_
PRINCESS FREDERICK AND PROFESSOR VON BERGMANN............. 80
THE RUNAWAY AT PROECKELWITZ............................... 104
SCENE IN DUKE ERNEST GUNTHER'S QUARTERS................... 136
AUGUSTA VICTORIA, EMPRESS OF GERMANY...................... 192
IN THE WHITE HALL......................................... 256
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