Characters in Depth:
Friedrich 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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Vicki Wootton
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Friedrich was the fifth son of Luitpold and Helena von Puttkamer.  As a younger son, he had no prospects of a career involving the family inheritance, so his father sent him off to cadet school at the tender age of eight.

A military career was frequently the lot of younger sons of the Junker class in Prussia, but not everyone thrived on it the way Friedrich did.  The discipline suited him, the uniforms delighted him, and the deprivations appealed to his competitive spirit.  The youngest and smallest boy at home, at school Friedrich could strive to best his equals.  All of his brothers had been sent to the same cadet school when they were eight years old, but his eldest two brothers had moved on to agricultural college, leaving the next two, the third son, Bethmann, five years older, and the fourth son, Oskar, one year older, at the school with Friedrich.  None of the other boys revelled in the life the way Friedrich did.  He took pride in being tougher, lasting longer, washing in cold water without gasping, taking corporal punishment from the masters and senior boys without flinching, and taking bullying from bigger boys without complaint.

In fact, Friedrich did better in his first semester than any of his brothers.  Nicholaus and Adalbert only played at being soldier, they were more interested in learning to be Lords of the Manor, Bethmann was only average academically and militarily, while Oskar was a good student but right out of his element as a cadet, which led to their father demanding of the older boys, “Why can’t you be more like little Freddy?  Insignia in his first semester!”  This spurred little Freddy, Fritichen, on to greater efforts.  He was proud of his school, proud of his uniform, proud of his unit, proud of his bruises, and proud of having the greatest military aptitude in his family.  That he did poorly academically and wasn’t considered too bright by the masters and boys didn’t matter to him.  Nor did that matter to Luitpold, who revelled in having produced a boy who was a natural military man.

In December 1799 Fritichen arrived home for the Christmas break after his first semester a stiff-necked, strutting little boy.  It was near the end of those holidays that his 19 year old eldest brother, Nicholaus, died in a fall from the roof of Schönwald at some time during the night of the New Years celebrations to welcome in the new century.

The stunned and bewildered child returned to school for his second semester, travelling with his grieving brothers.  Bethmann, who had been the third son, was now the second eldest, and therefore would no longer go on to officer’s school, but would attend an agricultural college in his senior year in order to prepare him to administer the von Puttkamer secondary estates.

That, to Fritichen, was the real horror.  More than the death of the heir, that he’d died ignominiously; more than losing a brother; more than seeing his father age 10 years overnight; more than the servants saying that it was a bad omen for the new century to start with the mysterious death of the heir; what made Friedrich cry out at night was the idea that a boy could have his intended future torn away from him by something he could not anticipate or control.

Fritichen did not understand that Bethmann felt relief that he was not facing a lifetime in the army, and guilt that he felt as if he’d benefited from his brother’s death; nor did he notice that Oskar envied Bethmann.  He didn’t comprehend the whispered comments that Adalbert looked so pleased to have become the heir that if people hadn’t been with him in the drawing room at the time Nicholaus went up onto the roof alone, they would have been suspicious.

For the next eight years, life went smoothly for Friedrich.  He changed from an arrogant strutting little boy into an arrogant, pompous youth, he grew out of being Fritichen by growing taller than his brothers, he earned more insignia than either of them, he lost his virginity, he earned the right to ignore the school’s academic demands by excelling at its military curriculum.

Then Napoleon swept across Prussia.

This was what he’d been training for all of his life!  Excitedly, Friedrich prepared to do real war instead of practices.  This time the French had bitten off more than they could chew!  This would be the last time the French would invade, this time they would be taught a lesson.

The rapid, almost instantaneous, surrender of Prussia to France did not come quickly enough to save Bethmann.  Friedrich made it to his bedside and sat with him as he died of the infection that set into his wound.  Bethmann was buried beside the field hospital.  Oskar was unable to take his brother’s body with him to be buried at home when he returned to Schönwald to live there during the occupation.  He spent the time learning the role of second son and studying agriculture.  A field promotion meant that Friedrich still had responsibilities and obligations that went on during the occupation, so he was not at Schönwald to mourn Bethmann with the family, nor to celebrate Adalbert’s wedding a year later.

Their sister, Zelda, was married within weeks of Adalbert’s wedding, which celebration Friedrich also missed.  At 17, he liked being the family hero, the one away through duty while everyone else had fun.  Not mature or bright enough to recognise the humiliation there was in taking part in Napoleon’s occupational army, he strutted about happily in his Frenchified uniform and believed he was working for his people, not for the occupation.  His future seemed secured; Adalbert was married and would have children, and Oskar fitting well into the shoes of second son, so Friedrich was free to fancy himself the rising star of the occupation army.

Adalbert died in a hunting accident during the celebrations after Zelda’s wedding.  All breaths were held, waiting to see if Adalbert’s new bride had become pregnant before she was widowed.  When that proved to be the case, Adalbert’s posthumous baby was the heir, male or female, and Friedrich was off the hook.  The posthumous baby was a boy, named Luitpold Adalbert Posthumous von Puttkamer, known as little Adie.  He was born the heir, doted on by his grandparents, spoiled by all for whom he was the symbol of hope for the future after so many devastating losses.

Friedrich was to continue to bring them pride and glory with his military prowess, Oskar was to administer the secondary estates, and if their father should happen to not survive until Addie was grown, Oskar was to be regent for Addie.  Surely, surely the bad luck that had dogged the family since the New Year of 1800 had run its course.

When Oskar was 25 and Friedrich was 24, they planned to have a double wedding. Luitpold had found a nice girl who would make a fine Lady of the Manor for Oskar, and a wealthy girl with a big dowry for Friedrich who could use some supplement to his military income.   Their sister Xenia was to be married before the boys, so as not to repeat the ill-fated arrangement whereby Zelda had been married after Adalbert.  This was a banner year with three weddings in the family, little Addie a strapping young boy, and Napoleon gone.

Oskar drank so much during the double stag party that he died of alcohol poisoning the night before the double wedding; unless it was appendicitis.  He had consumed a giant’s portion of many different alcoholic beverages, had been falling over drunk when taken to bed, had woken up howling and clutching his gut shortly afterwards, and had expired before morning.  The doctor put “over-indulgence” on the death certificate, but some of the older people considered it seemed more like appendix.  Friedrich and Clothild had to postpone their wedding for the year of mourning.

With all four of his older brothers gone, Friedrich was now the only one left to administer the secondary lands, and to be regent for Addie.  No one believed Luitpold would last until Addie was 25, he was a broken man, and Addie was only eight years old, in his first year at the same cadet school his father and all of his uncles had attended.

When Luitpold suggested that Friedrich should take courses in agriculture so that he could administer the secondary estates, Friedrich went cold with fear.  The last thing he wanted in his life was to have to struggle with classroom work.  He'd been so abysmally bad at everything at school except the bare minimum of what he needed to be an officer, that he knew he could only fail if he went back.  He managed to convince his father that there were too many demands on his time right then, but he'd do it as soon as he could.  Right then and there while the family members who had gathered for the weddings were still there for the funeral, Friedrich talked to his Onkel Elard, his father’s younger brother who was administering the secondary estates, to find out if he thought it would be wrong of Friedrich to remain in the army, leaving Elard and his son, Friedrich’s cousin Berthold, to administer the estates.  If anything did happen to Luitpold in the next little while, Friedrich would be needed at Schönwald until Addie was 25, so Elard and Berthold would have to continue to administer the secondary lands for him.

Neither Elard nor Berthold could see anything wrong with that idea. Nothing was said to Luitpold who was ill with grief. The next year, at Friedrich and Clothild’s wedding, Friedrich and Berthold mentioned it to one another briefly, only enough for each to be sure the other one still agreed.

The time spent in the occupation army had not prevented Prussian officers from continuing their careers in the Prussian army.  It was as if the whole time with Napoleon had not happened.  No one said openly anything as unkind as “the Prussian army had been less effective than elderly peasant women armed with pitchforks would have been” but when there were no military men there were pointed comments about those who had changed from one side to the other and back again.

When Friedrich was approached about that, he pointed out that those who had spent time in Napoleon’s army had learned the secrets from the inside, and now knew how to fight the French in the French way, which would prevent another French invasion from ever happening again.  Those who thought Friedrich was bright enough to have pulled that off even believed him. Berthold was pointedly not among them.

Berthold was older than Friedrich, of an age with Nicholaus and Adalbert.  He not only treated Friedrich as if he were still a child, he treated him as if he were a not very smart child, and made comments to the effect that Friedrich loved the army because it told him what to do and when to do it so that he didn’t need to strain himself by trying to think.

At the Christening of Friedrich's first daughter, Luitpold pressured Friedrich to take the courses in agriculture, because Friedrich truly knew nothing about running an estate.  Friedrich would have done anything in the world to avoid the humiliation of returning to classrooms filled with teenaged boys after so long as the commander of men, especially since he could only have been near the bottom of the class academically.  Since he was 17 years old he’d been an officer, ordering others around. Even his strong sense of duty could not overcome his fear of humiliation and failure.

Frustrated by Friedrich's avoidance of agricultural school, or even just living at Schönwald full time so that Luitpold could teach him what he had to know to administer the estate, Luitpold lost his temper so badly that he had an apoplectic fit and died.  Friedrich’s worst fears had come true. He was not only responsible for Schönwald; he was responsible for all of the secondary lands, and for his younger sisters.  He was very grateful that his cousin Berthold had agreed to remain on the estate in Byelorussia, even if he didn’t like him.  His own son had died, but he had a little daughter, and Clothild was expecting again.  He moved his wife and child into Schönwald, and returned to his unit, leaving a bailiff to run the land and his mother and wife to run the manor.  He was sure his system would work.

Little Addie was a spoiled, indulged arrogant child with far too high an opinion of his own standing.  He assumed all of the girls would fall all over him, because he was tall, good looking, and was already the Gutsherr, the Baron, of  Schönwald, even though he was still in school.  When he was 16 this attitude got him into trouble for the last time.  He had been obnoxious enough to be challenged to duels before, but his opponents had always fired into the air in order to avoid killing a child.  This time his opponent was only 1 year older than Addie, not mature enough to bear the sneering of the boy child.  He aimed and shot as if he meant it.  Assuming no one would dare to hurt him, Addie didn’t prepare himself.  His death meant that Friedrich was now the Gutsherr of Schönwald, and could no longer pursue his army career.

Berthold took care of the secondary estates following the death of his father, Elard.

It was after the death of his second son that Friedrich paid more attention to Clothild’s family.  Then he discovered that Clothild’s mother had actually been her step-mother, and Clothild’s birth mother’d had the same difficulty in carrying babies to full term that Clothild had.  He realised that what he’d taken to be a magnificent dowry for Clothild had actually been Clothild’s inheritance from her mother.  He felt honour-bound to replace all of her inheritance.  If husbands used their wife’s dowries to ensure they and their families lived well, that was one thing, but if an inheritance were used up, that was something else.  Friedrich had more sense of honour than he did of finances.

Now Friedrich became desperate to have a son of his own so that his line of von Puttkamers would not die out.  He didn’t want Berthold to take over Schönwald.  He didn’t like Berthold’s constant criticism of the way he ran Schönwald.  He used all of the force and discipline on his staff that he’d been taught to use in the army, but regardless of what he did the place continued to look more and more unkempt.

He was distraught that it seemed only girls lived, and not all of them. There had been no more sons after he’d been born, though his parents had five more girls.  His parents’ only grandson had died, and now he couldn’t have any sons.  He began to believe the peasant rumours that there was a curse on the von Puttkamers of Schönwald.

All he had was a daughter, Gerlinde. No matter what Friedrich did, every baby his wife had after Gerlinde, boy or girl, died until 1829 when a weedy, sickly little girl baby lived on.  Friedrich looked at her once, saw how puny she was, and didn’t look at her again, unable to accept the fact that such a runt could come from him.  The frailness of her made him feel like less of a man.  He wanted her kept up in the nursery out of everyone’s sight, and never mentioned that there was another child.

In her pre-coming out years Gerlinde created a stir.  When she was 18 she was going to have all of Prussia talking, he knew.  He pinned all of his hopes on her.  He was sure he could pick a fine accomplished young man for her who would be like a son to him.  He knew Berthold wanted to marry his son to Gerlinde, but Friedrich would only do that to Gerlinde if there was no other hope for her.  He looked forward to presenting her to society and being able to take his pick.

When she was 18, right before she was to have her first real ball, Gerlinde vanished.  She had joined the Catholic Church, and had become a nun. Friedrich felt betrayed as he never had in his life before.  His beautiful daughter, the light of his life, had gone over to the Godless papists.  To top if all off, the weedy, sickly, pathetic, embarrassing little runt in the nursery was now the von Puttkamer heir.  Friedrich redoubled his efforts to force Clothild to bear him a son, but to no avail.  He couldn’t imagine what he’d done wrong that God would punish him like this.  He knew he was going to have to let Berthold marry his son to Hildegard, because he would never be able to find anyone else to take her, not even if he doubled her dowry.

When Hildegard was only 17 she fell for a young man, Otto von Goff, who, it seemed, wanted her.  Desperate to have Hildegard married before Otto realised what a poor choice she was, Friedrich hurried the wedding along.  He was astonished that the young people seemed to be in as much of a hurry as he was, and didn’t argue at all.  More astonishing still, Clothild made no fuss.  That Otto’s family could be persuaded to let their son marry Hildegard, and to do it in a hurry, was icing on Friedrich’s cake.

He believed he had found in Otto someone like himself, a youngest son who would want to continue his career in the military, only doing what honour and duty demanded of him at Schönwald.  Otto was Friedrich’s dream come true: a very young man, not yet 25, young enough to be trained by Friedrich, and with enough in common with Friedrich that they would have an understanding of one another.  He considered that Otto wasn’t very intelligent if he wanted a feeble girl like Hildegard and sought to entrap him utterly by getting him to agree to use the von Puttkamer name.

At last Friedrich saw things turning out the way he wanted them to.  He could never return to his beloved military life, but he could get rid of Berthold’s interference once and for all.  Friedrich’s daughters would never, never be married to Berthold’s son, and Friedrich’s branch of the von Puttkamer line could go down through Friedrich by his taking Otto on like a legitimately born son, provided Otto managed to get a living child from Hildegard.  The two weeks between Otto and Hildegard’s marriage and the outbreak of epidemic that took Friedrich’s life were the happiest two weeks of his adult life.  He had, he was sure, beaten the curse of the von Puttkamers of Schönwald.


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