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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
second son had posthumously produced a son, but that child
managed to get himself killed in a duel at the tender age of
meant that Friedrich’s daughter, Gerlinde, was the heiress,
unless a baby boy could be persuaded to live.
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.
everything she had into trying to keep life in any baby placed
in her care.
refused to believe that there was a curse on the family, and
that no child born at Schönwald would live.
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.
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
Hildegard was not
made of such stern stuff, and so remained delicate, timid,
almost shell-shocked, throughout her life.
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
She had no idea how
to handle such a situation.
She had ever seen or
heard of a manor house with a vacant nursery.
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.
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.
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.
situation at Schönwald was so far outside of Clothild’s
experience that she didn’t form a plan of how to adjust the
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.
Klemperer had never said one word about Frau Blücher’s
obsessiveness with Hildegard, and no one else was there to see
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.
two old women regarded Clothild as the shy young girl she had
been when she first arrived at Schönwald with Gerlinde as a
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
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.
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
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
that end Clothild took Luise out of the nursery as much and as
often as she could.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
since Frau Blücher was overbearing, her influence pervaded
everything and everyone in the nursery, the schoolroom, and
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.
enthusiasm, and enjoyment of life baffled Frau Blücher who
never fully realised that Luise wasn’t an extension of
was constantly taken aback when Luise talked and behaved in
ways Hildegard would never have considered.
understand why Luise was curious and mischievous, and was
dismayed by her intelligence.
considered Luise to be a wicked child.
Try as she might,
she could not force Luise into the mold of being a replica of
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
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.
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.
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.
believed Hildegard’s illness was caused by Otto and his
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
obsessiveness made her frantic.