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Characters in Depth:
Frau Blücher

First Trilogy
All Manor of Yarns

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  I. Prussian Yarns

 II. A Stitch in Time

III. Tinctures & Tantrums

Second Trilogy
The Snow Queen and
The Caterpillar

IV. There is a Season
 V. Viennese Yarns
VI. Orchids

Third Trilogy
Taffeta Tales

 VII. British Yarns
VIII. Polish Yarns
  IX. Threads of Strife

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Lorraine Stanton
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Shalanna Collins
 

Frau Blücher was a poor relative of the illustrious Blücher family of Prussia.  Although her family name was well respected, Chlodwiga Blücher was put into service at the age of 12.  The only job she held throughout her life was working in the nursery of Schönwald.

For her first few years Chlodwiga ran errands for the nursery staff, racing up and down the narrow, dark twisting back staircases carrying used dishes and chamber pots down, and carrying snacks or other items up.  She considered such menial tasks to be beneath her, giving her a sullen attitude which earned her many a cuff from her superiors, and much resentful taunting from her peers.  She could not understand why her wealthy relatives did not save her from such a servile life, and never forgave them.  Nothing would convince her that those she worked with were equal to her, for she considered them far beneath her.  She made no friends.  Her rigid Calvinist upbringing gave her solace, but also gave her a tendency to tell anyone who crossed her that God would punish them, which did not gain her popularity.

Chlodwiga’s obsessiveness gave her work a meticulousness that endeared her to the head nanny, who took her on as personal servant.  She threw herself whole-heartedly into her new tasks, working her way up over the years to junior nanny, then assistant nanny, and finally she became the head nanny.  As junior nanny she was no longer Chlodwiga to everyone, but was granted the respect of being called Fräulein Blücher.  Then, when she was promoted to assistant nanny, she was known as Frau Blücher, though she never married.

When Frau Blücher was a young woman the tragedies that became known as the “Schönwald curse” began to hit the Schönwald branch of the von Puttkamer family.  Each of the four older boys died, leaving the fifth son, Friedrich, as head of the family when his father died.  Friedrich knew nothing about running the estate, having been away at cadet school since he was 8 years old, and not even home for holidays from the time he was 17, when Napoleon invaded Prussia.  The second son had posthumously produced a son, but that child managed to get himself killed in a duel at the tender age of 16.  That meant that Friedrich’s daughter, Gerlinde, was the heiress, unless a baby boy could be persuaded to live.

Frau Blücher took it as a personal affront that the only one of Friedrich and Clothild’s babies to live was Gerlinde, who had not been born at Schönwald.  She poured everything she had into trying to keep life in any baby placed in her care.  She refused to believe that there was a curse on the family, and that no child born at Schönwald would live.

The only other baby Frau Blücher managed to keep alive was an undersized, unattractive, mousy little baby girl, Hildegard.  Frau Blücher put her whole heart and soul into keeping Hildegard alive, despite the advice of the doctor and the other staff that the kindest thing would be to let the poor little thing go.  Fiercely protective of the baby, who she called her little lamb, Lämmchen, Frau Blücher came to love Hildegard as her own.  The satisfaction and joy she got from raising the child against all odds made her feel as if everything she’d gone through was worth while.  She never did realise that her over-bearing personality was in itself harmful to Hildegard, who was a gentle, timid soul.  As “her” child, Hildegard was expected to be an extension of Frau Blücher, meticulous, religiously rigid and uncompromising, dutiful, and reflexively obedient.  Hildegard was not made of such stern stuff, and so remained delicate, timid, almost shell-shocked, throughout her life.

Friedrich took no part in running the house, and Clothild was too intimidated by Frau Blücher to have any influence on her.  For a while Clothild took heart from Frau Blücher’s insistence that there was no curse, but she could not deny the reality that the nursery was becoming empty.  She had no idea how to handle such a situation.  She had ever seen or heard of a manor house with a vacant nursery.

Just as Friedrich’s younger sisters were still in the nursery when Friedrich and Clothild moved to Schönwald with Gerlinde, the big estate manor houses had a constant stream of babies in them, with the generations overlapping.  If Friedrich’s older brothers had lived, the two oldest would have been repopulating Schönwald a decade earlier than Friedrich.  It wasn’t uncommon for the oldest son to have his first offspring before his youngest siblings were born.  Women didn’t always survive childbirth, and subsequent wives were usually young, sometimes of the same generation as their step-children, and having babies at the same time.  Thus in all the manor houses of Friedrich’s and Clothild’s knowledge, there was a permanent need for head nannies, assistant nannies, junior nannies, governesses, tutors, maids, nursery cooks, and all of their associated assistants and servants.

The situation at Schönwald was so far outside of Clothild’s experience that she didn’t form a plan of how to adjust the staffing accordingly.  Although she did see that there was not much point in replacing the people who stopped working in the nursery for their various different reasons, she did nothing about the people who remained.  The end result was that the nursery kitchens were closed down, and the population of the west wing dwindled until Frau Blücher and Frau Klemperer were alone in the nursery with one charge, two old spinsters who had never liked each other, but who found themselves dependent upon one another in their old age.  They never bickered because Frau Klemperer never dared disagree with Frau Blücher.

Frau Klemperer had never said one word about Frau Blücher’s obsessiveness with Hildegard, and no one else was there to see or comment.  Frau Klemperer never mentioned it to Clothild, either, not wanting to make Frau Blücher angry, and not wanting to draw attention to herself just in case anyone realised that there was really nothing for her to do, and she did very little of that, while collecting a full wage.

The two old women regarded Clothild as the shy young girl she had been when she first arrived at Schönwald with Gerlinde as a baby.  To them the real mistress was Friedrich’s mother who had died when Gerlinde was 5 years old.  Clothild could make no headway with them.  This was of no importance to her while Gerlinde was growing up, but once Gerlinde was gone and she had to deal with Hildegard, she began to think there might be something wrong in the nursery.  At first she believed as everyone else did, that the problem was within Hildegard.

It was when Luise was born that Clothild’s vague uneasiness about the nursery became clearer to her.  She did not want Luise to turn out like Hildegard, and began to suspect that Hildegard’s problems might have something to do with Frau Blücher.  The decisions for Luise’s care ought to have been made by Hildegard, but Hildegard was like a small child under Frau Blücher’s complete control, so Clothild found herself having to deal with the household and the baby as if she were still the wife of the master.

Clothild was far more involved with Luise as a baby and a small child than she had ever been with Hildegard.  She spent time in the nursery with Luise that she had never spent before, not even when Gerlinde was up there.  She began to see a side of Frau Blücher that she had never seen before, and that disturbed her.  Too intimidated by Frau Blücher to think of standing up to her, unable to talk to Hildegard about her concerns because any hint that Frau Blücher might not be perfect sent Hildegard into hysterics, and unable to talk to Otto about it because one simply did not talk to men about nurseries, Clothild could think of nothing to do except to mitigate the effect Frau Blücher could have on Luise.

To that end Clothild took Luise out of the nursery as much and as often as she could.

Despite the rigidity with which Frau Blücher adhered to what she considered the “right way” to do things, she hardly noticed that Clothild was caring for Luise as a baby, and giving her the first lessons that should have come from Frau Klemperer as she grew older.  Despite the fact that Hildegard was married and too old for a nanny, Frau Blücher was still obsessive about her, still trying to keep her “little lamb” alive against all odds.  She paid scant attention to Luise, hardly noticing even when Luise slipped off by herself to visit with Otto or with the household cook.

When Otto moved out of the marital suite and set himself up in a suite in the west wing, instead of being mortified for her little lamb, Frau Blücher railed against that evil man who had humiliated her baby, while actually being pleased that she had her darling all to herself again. 

Freed from the requirement of having to share the master and mistress’s suite with Otto, Hildegard wanted nothing more than to move back into her old rooms near the nursery.  This wasn’t in order to be near Luise, her only child, but to have everything back the way it used to be before she was married.  Frau Blücher assisted in the move, directly against Clothild’s edicts, on the premise that her poor broken hearted little lamb needed her, and set herself back up in the sleeping area she’d had when Hildegard was single.

Frau Blücher also kept her room in the nursery, though she didn’t often spend the night there.  She liked to think that she was running the nursery, and that the care of the child was her sole concern, but the reality was that she was running Hildegard’s life and paying very little attention to the nursery.  However, since Frau Blücher was overbearing, her influence pervaded everything and everyone in the nursery, the schoolroom, and Hildegard’s suite.

Luise had been born with a stronger, more resilient personality than Hildegard, plus she benefitted from the time she spent outside of the nursery with her father, her grandmother, the cook, and, as she grew older, playing outside with her pets.  Luise’s energy, enthusiasm, and enjoyment of life baffled Frau Blücher who never fully realised that Luise wasn’t an extension of Hildegard.  She was constantly taken aback when Luise talked and behaved in ways Hildegard would never have considered.  She couldn’t understand why Luise was curious and mischievous, and was dismayed by her intelligence.

She considered Luise to be a wicked child.  Try as she might, she could not force Luise into the mold of being a replica of Hildegard.  Her only explanation for a child who did not fall meekly under her control the way all the others had from Friedrich’s sisters on down, was that Otto was a wicked man who had led the child astray.  Finding herself unable to prevent contact between Otto and Luise, Frau Blücher tried to exert influence on Otto through Clothild, and after Clothild died, through Hildegard.  She did not realise that part of Luise’s immunity to her came from Clothild.

Frau Blücher’s efforts to influence Otto through Clothild were part of the reason Otto and Clothild never got along, and never discovered in the other a like mind.  They agreed in many ways, and neither ever knew that. 

Frau Blücher’s efforts to influence Otto through Hildegard were even more tragic, driving Hildegard to the brink of collapse.  She was unable to stand up to Frau Blücher, unable to influence Otto, and had no-one to turn to.  The strain of being expected to do something that was utterly beyond her abilities made Hildegard ill.  Frau Blücher believed Hildegard’s illness was caused by Otto and his wicked ways.

The one and only person who dared to stand up to Frau Blücher was the young junior governess Otto hired, Amalie Braun.  Frau Blücher could see no way to deal with such a situation.  She had never expected Otto to start taking part in the running of the household after Clothild died, never mind going out and hiring household staff himself.  He not only brought Amalie Braun into her realm to thwart her, and encourage that wicked child in her unsuitable behaviour, he also hired a bastard child to be Luise’s companion/maid.  She could not get Hildegard to prevail on Otto to stop such wickedness, she could not get rid of the interlopers in her world, she could not control Luise, and she could not control Otto.  She felt as if her world were becoming unravelled, and she couldn’t understand how that could be.  For the first time since she was a child Frau Blücher was unable to control everything and everyone around her, and she couldn’t bear it.  Her obsessiveness made her frantic.

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