Fredericka Marie Helena von Goff-Puttkamer
is the last surviving child of Friedrich and Clothild von
Puttkamer, stereotypical jack-booted Junkers, who were so
desperate to have a son and heir that they paid no attention
to their baby girl at all. Unwanted, Hildegard was left
entirely to the care of the nanny, who came to regard
Hildegard as her own child. The nanny, Frau Blücher,
was overly controlling, overly protective, never recognising
that Hildegard grew beyond being a fragile premature baby.
in a cocooning isolation, Hildegard grew up afraid of
virtually everything outside of her own rooms.
Becoming the heiress
when her older sister joined a convent was sheer torture for
her, and intensified rather than dissipated her fears of the
Because she appeared
to be so delicate, her nanny was permitted to stay with her
long after babyhood, on into her married life.
were those who believed Otto von Goff only married Hildegard
to obtain the estate, but, in fact, Hildegard had fallen for
Otto as being the only man she’d ever met who didn’t
quickly came to see him as just another torment when his view
of a wife did not include someone who was only happy isolated
in her rooms producing hats for functions she never attended.
Otto and Hildegard’s son was born too prematurely to live,
and the only child she carried long enough for it to survive
was a daughter, Luise, Hildegard felt as if she had failed as
took no interest in her daughter or her survival.
Frau Blücher did
not dote on Luise as she had on Hildegard, she remained firmly
attached to Hildegard’s side.
came to view Luise as just another torment.
understand the relationship between Otto and Luise, seeing
their gleeful light-hearted banter and affection as indecent.
No matter how hard
she tried to turn Luise into a demure, timid child as she had
been, Luise remained vigorous, energetic, joyful, curious –
all attributes that made Hildegard cringe.
Hildegard’s mother, Clothild, was alive, Clothild continued
to run the estate manor house as if she were still the wife of
allowed Hildegard to live the life of a school-girl without
the lessons, dallying away her days in her suite, taking no
responsibility for anything.
Every time her
mother attempted to make Hildegard fulfill her role as
mistress of the manor, Hildegard would consider that she might
be pregnant again, and by that ruse would avoid doing anything
outside of her rooms.
She even managed to
avoid social obligations by forever being too delicate.
Clothild died, and Hildegard could no longer avoid her responsibilities, she felt utterly overwhelmed, retreating
inside her grief for months until Frau Blücher forced her to
get up and go outside her rooms to control Otto.
Hildegard did her
best to please Frau Blücher as she always had, but she could
not prevent Otto from retiring the elderly servants and
replacing them with younger, more capable ones.
Even worse, she
could not prevent Otto from hiring unsuitable people to work
and live inside the manor house.
Hildegard was unable
to hire people herself, and drove out the ones Otto hired by
finding fault with everyone and everything that was unfamiliar
Otto, in desperation, brought the cook’s daughter up from
the kitchens to wait on the tables, Hildegard was unable to
drive the unsuitable girl back down to the kitchens.
any skills of negotiation, Hildegard’s only means of
objecting to Otto’s actions was to scream at him, which made
Rail against his
actions as she might, he involved himself more and more in the
running of the household, filling the void left by
Clothild’s death that she should have filled, even to the
point of changing the colours of the uniforms worn inside the
house, and hiring an assistant governess, a tutor, and a
companion for Luise.
felt bewildered and terrified by what she saw as unnatural
behaviour in a man, since no real man ever concerned himself
about the running of his household.
ordered Hildegard to prevail upon Otto to cease his unnatural
acts, but Hildegard was utterly unable to affect his
couldn’t even make Luise behave like a lady.
She came close to
complete emotional collapse under the strain.