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Characters in Depth:
Clothild von Puttkamer

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
Vicki Wootton
Shalanna Collins
 

Clothild von Puttkamer was the eldest child of Ferdinand and Gerlinde von Pressen.  She was known as Tilde to her family, and raised almost as a twin with her younger sister, Alexandrina, who was only 15 months younger.  Tilde and Sache were dressed alike, their hair was curled in the same way, and they did everything together.  Depending on what it was, either Tilde was held back a year, or Sache was brought forward a year, so that they were never apart no matter what it was they were doing.  Their mother called them her “doll faces” and adored them.  Their father took no part whatsoever in the raising of his daughters, wanting them only to appear at the socially specified times looking and acting adorable.

The girls had no trouble pleasing their father, who was kind to them as long as they were quiet and well dressed.  As adolescents, Tilde and Sache dreamed of having a double wedding so that they would even do that together, but when the time came it was the beginning of their separate lives.  Their mother pointed out to them that there was only one von Pressen tiara, so if they had a double wedding only one of them could wear it.  That stilled their tears somewhat, but they still found going in separate directions to be devastating, and put it off as long as they could, not marrying until they were past 20.

Clothild was surprised when the young man her father found suitable was an army man, Friedrich von Puttkamer, a youngest son.  However, she was impressed by his uniform and his military bearing, not to mention that her friends, sisters, and cousins sighed romantically over him, so she had no objection to the choice aside from the fact that the marriage took her away from her family.

Her first child was a boy, who she named for his father, but he’d been born too soon.  Despite the common wisdom that the mother should never see the face of a baby that won’t live, she refused to be separated from him, and held him close beside her in her bed, trying to keep him warm with her body, to keep him breathing by massaging his tiny chest, and to squeeze drops of milk into his mouth because he was too weak to suckle.  She held him and loved him like that until he was still.

When Friedrich came home from maneuvers to find that a boy had been born and lost, he hit Clothild for the first time.  The next baby, a girl, came the next year, and was also born too soon.  Clothild named the baby for her mother, Gerlinde, and tended the tiny creature in the same way she’d tended her son. Gerlinde lived, saved by Clothild’s devotion.  When her parents visited and saw that the second baby was also born too early, her father sneered at Clothild, “You’re just like your mother!”

Bewildered, Clothild asked her mother what he could have meant.  That’s when she learned that she had not been born to Gerlinde, who was Ferdinand’s second wife, but to his first wife, who had died at Clothild’s birth.  Clothild had been the only child who had lived from her father’s first marriage.  Clothild couldn’t believe that she’d never been told, and raged against her stepmother for deceiving her.  Weeping, Gerlinde told her that she’d never thought of Clothild as a step-daughter, but had loved her and Sache as her two doll-faces.  Clothild was reconciled to her step-mother, and out of love for her never did make inquiries about her blood mother.

The move to Schönwald came when little Gerlinde was a baby.  Clothild was pregnant again at the time, and wanted to remain in bed in hopes of holding the pregnancy long enough for the baby to survive.  Friedrich didn’t believe in coddling women, and forced her to get up and do her duty.  During the move she went into premature labour and lost another son, earning such a severe beating that she couldn’t appear in public for some time afterwards.

Each year or two there was another pregnancy that ended in miscarriage or premature birth.  At first Clothild fought every time to keep the baby alive, but after several losses she simply couldn’t bear the agony of the deaths any more, and gave in to the convention of having the baby whisked out of her sight before she could see it and “get attached.”

When little Gerlinde was five years old, another daughter lived and became a fat, happy baby.  Clothild named her Helena, after her mother-in-law, and dreamed of her daughters being close the way she and Sache had been, but Helena succumbed to a childhood fever at 5 months.

After Helena died Clothild named every boy Friedrich, and every girl Fredericke, so that if any of them lived her husband would have a name sake.  By the time Hildegard was born there had been another 5 years of losses.  Hildegard was born on St. Hildegard’s feast day, so she was given the names Hildegard Fredericke Marie Helena, but by that time Clothild couldn’t bear to look at or take any interest in her babies.  Even when Hildegard lived, Clothild found herself unable to warm to the scrawny, timid little thing.  Helena had been fat and strong, and still hadn’t lived, so Clothild couldn’t believe a tiny frail little thing like Hildegard would live.  Hildegard was left to the care of the nursery staff.

When Gerlinde ran off in the night to join a convent, the unexpected loss of the daughter who had been a friend and companion to Clothild was such an agony that she couldn’t even cry for years afterwards.

Clothild liked Otto von Goff when she first met him, but when Friedrich pushed for Hildegard and Otto to be married almost immediately, far faster than propriety allowed, and also declared that Otto was a son and heir to him as if he had been born to him, Clothild began to suspect that Otto had some kind of hold over, or power over Friedrich.  She had by that time realised that although Friedrich could be very cunning in some ways, he was not the sharpest sabre in the company.  Otto, on the other hand, was observant as well as intelligent, so she suspected Otto had out-witted Friedrich.

Friedrich died while Otto and Hildegard were on their honeymoon, causing them to cut their honeymoon short and hasten home.  The very first thing Otto did was begin to change the way things were done at Schönwald.  He brought in a cook from Vienna, he ploughed sugar beet fields under and planted grass to raise cattle, he paid workers in coin, he had meetings and took suggestions from staff, he took all of the hunting trophies out of Friedrich’s study and turned it into a library, and he ignored every one of Clothild’s objections.  On top of that, he fought with Friedrich’s cousins, not only shouting matches in the house, but when they took the young upstart to court, instead of learning his lesson and being ashamed of having caused so much trouble in the family, he won a partial victory and continued in his wicked ways.  Clothild formed a dislike and distrust of Otto that remained to her dying day.

When revolution swept through France, Prussia, and Austria in 1848, Otto rode off to join his unit.  Clothild was desperately afraid that another revolution in France might end up with Prussia being invaded by the new Napoleon.  She worried about what would happen to her and Hildegard if Otto did not return from the fighting, plus she worried about what would happen to Hildegard if something happened to her, as well.  She made out a Will that would make sure Hildegard would be cared for in the event neither she nor Otto survived the fighting.  That Will appointed Berthold as executor of Clothild’s Will and administrator of Hildegard’s inheritance. 

Clothild had never liked Berthold, but she didn’t know what else to do at the time.  She could see that if Otto didn’t survive that Berthold would take over Schönwald one way or another, and she feared for Hildegard under his control if she didn’t have her own means.  She hoped that the best way to get Berthold to take proper care of Hildegard was to make him personally responsible for the administration of her inheritance.  No matter how much she disliked Berthold, Clothild believed that his sense of honour and sense of duty would compel him to administer Hildegard’s inheritance as directed, and not take it for himself.  

The closest Clothild came to happiness after she had left her parents’ home was after her husband had died, and her granddaughter, Luise was born.  Luise reminded her of the happiness she’d known as a child.  It wasn’t until then that Clothild began to realise that the nanny, Frau Blücher, was perhaps not as dependable as she’d thought, but Clothild was unable to prevail against a personality so powerful, with habits so entrenched. 

Now that her husband was no longer overseeing her, Clothild was free to spend her time as she wished.  She was free to travel to her sister, Sache’s home and spend time with her again, and she was free to spend as much time with Luise as she wished.  She took care of Luise herself, teaching her about her heritage, and giving her her first lessons in stitching, music, letters and numbers.  Despite the fact that she was deeply suspicious of Otto, she recognised that he loved Luise and did his best for her, so she never interfered in the time he spent with Luise, even though it wasn’t the done thing for a father to take a small girl into his library and talk to her about the running of the estate.

She also turned a blind eye to the love that developed between Luise and the cook.  She was surprised, at first, when she suspected that Luise was going down to the kitchens because most cooks wouldn’t allow children in the kitchen, but she could see that Luise got no affection from her mother, and she thought it did no harm for Luise to be indulged a little now and then.  After all, she and Sache had been doted on, and it had done neither of them any harm. Besides, she could see that Luise was not becoming bratty from being indulged.  The fact that Luise remained biddable, if mischievous and impulsive, made her into the light of Clothild’s life.  When she took Luise with her to administer to the poor, she could see a genuine good-heartedness and caring in the child, which filled her with pride.  She was a little concerned when she realised just how sharp Luise’s intelligence was, worrying that such a keen mind could only be a burden for a girl, but Luise’s buoyant good nature put all of her fears to rest.  Just being around Luise made Clothild feel light-hearted and joyful.

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