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The Childhood and Youth of a Prussian Nobleman in the Late 18th Century. From the Memoirs of Friedrich August Ludwig von der Marwitz (Retrospective Account)

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That summer [1793] my father got progressively worse. [ . . . ] On the evening of September 19, as I was about to go out, our groom arrived on horseback; his laments and the letter bearing a black seal had convinced me of our misfortune even before I read its contents. [ . . . ]

We buried him on the 23rd. My brothers (six and three years old) and I followed the coffin which, accompanied by the ringing of all bells and followed by the singing congregation, was carried by six landowners, through the gateway and the tower to the church crypt, to which I have subsequently accompanied my mother, wife, and three children (and the fourth since! 1833), while these two brothers beside me found their death on the battlefield! [ . . . ]

When the testament was read and the inheritance examined we were given cause for great alarm since we were told we had nothing and that Friedersdorf estate had to be sold. The former was about right, the latter was wrong, however. There was my mother’s considerable fortune. – My father had never owned any capital or been able to save any since he had to take over the debt-ridden estate, which had been parted among his many siblings, from his brothers at a very high price. [ . . . ]

After spending about fourteen days in Gusow my mother returned to Berlin and was now forced to economize by the standards of those times. This economizing consisted in her renting out the smaller part of our residence (the lower floor of what today is Prince Friedrich’s palace on Wilhelmstraße plus one of the rear wings) and only retaining fourteen rooms. She also disposed of any redundant staff, horses, cook, valets, foresters, and servants and only kept two horses, a coachman and two servants. She later limited herself even more. – At age seventeen I was put in the position of a kind of family father. It did not take long until my mother consulted me in all matters; I supported her in raising my younger siblings, whom I tutored myself once I had acquired more of an education, and in the years before my majority my guardians consulted me in matters regarding Friedersdorf about which I knew more than they did: Minister Voss due to his many state affairs and my uncle because agricultural matters were not his cup of tea. –

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