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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
Napoleon swept across Prussia.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
took care of the secondary estates following the death of his
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.