Kaiser Wilhelm junior gives Germany its own royal wedding

Enjoli Liston
Sunday 23 October 2011 01:25
Kaiser Wilhelm II (left) and his great-great grandson Georg Friedrich with Sophie, his bride-to-be
Kaiser Wilhelm II (left) and his great-great grandson Georg Friedrich with Sophie, his bride-to-be

Set in the grounds of a Potsdam palace, with plenty of aristocracy on the 700-strong guest list and an opulent six-horse-drawn carriage for the ride home, the marriage of Prince Georg Friedrich of Prussia and Princess Sophie Johanna Maria of Isenburg, which takes place today, is being hailed as Germany's own "royal" wedding. The only difference is, the couple aren't royals.

The German monarchy was scrapped by the Weimar Constitution more than 90 years ago when Prince Georg Friedrich's great-great-grandfather Wilhelm II, Germany's last Kaiser, was forced to abdicate. The titles Prince of Prussia and Princess of Isenburg now serve as surnames for the couple, who both work as consultants in Berlin.

But that has not stopped some Germans from celebrating the marriage as the republic's answer to this year's lavish royal weddings in London and Monaco.

"People are longing for things they don't get out of the republic [...] for little princes and princesses who are born and will be of some importance for the rest of their life," Rolf Seelmann-Eggebert, who will provide three hours of live wedding commentary for German broadcaster RBB, told The Wall Street Journal.

More than 100 journalists are expected to report from the wedding, which will take place on the grounds of the Sanssouci Palace, the magnificent 18th-century summer residence of Frederick the Great in Potsdam.

The venue carries with it the weight of history, as the former seat of power for the 950-year-old Hohenzollern dynasty, of which the prince is a descendant. Not everyone agrees that the occasion warrants media attention. For many Germans, Prussian royalty, and its stately accoutrements, are reminders of a past many would rather forget.

The kingdom of Prussia continues to be associated with aggressive military occupation, and many historians still argue that Kaiser Wilhelm II's role in the outbreak of the First World War helped set the scene for the rise of Nazism in Germany.

However, the prince and princess's wedding offers Germany a happy occasion to celebrate some aspects of its Prussian past, according to Michaela Blankart, spokeswoman for the House of Hohenzollern. "Prussia's history has its periods that we criticise, but also many times that we can be proud of," she said, listing some of these positive attributes as the Prussian kings' religious tolerance and patronage of the arts.

Today's wedding will be the grandest Hohenzollern family nuptials since the marriage of Princess Marie Cecile of Prussia in West Berlin in 1965. After an ecumenical church service to accommodate both the 35-year-old groom's Protestant beliefs and his 33-year-old bride's Catholic faith, the couple will be driven to their reception past the palace's rococo fountains in a midnight-blue Landau carriage, before rounding off the day with a gala dinner in the estate's Orangerie.

The pair, who have known each other since childhood, have revealed that the church will be decorated in white and blue, with delphiniums as the flower of choice.

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