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.
girls had no trouble pleasing their father, who was kind to
them as long as they were quiet and well dressed.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
couldn’t believe that she’d never been told, and raged
against her stepmother for deceiving her.
told her that she’d never thought of Clothild as a
step-daughter, but had loved her and Sache as her two
was reconciled to her step-mother, and out of love for her
never did make inquiries about her blood mother.
move to Schönwald came when little Gerlinde was a baby.
pregnant again at the time, and wanted to remain in bed in
hopes of holding the pregnancy long enough for the baby to
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
revolution swept through France, Prussia, and Austria in 1848,
Otto rode off to join his unit.
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
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
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
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.
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
took care of Luise herself, teaching her about her heritage,
and giving her her first lessons in stitching, music, letters
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
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
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.