Czech, German, and Noble: Status and National Identity in Habsburg Bohemia

By Rita Krueger | Go to book overview

CHAPTER ONE
The Aristocratic World of the
Eighteenth Century

IN 1790, THE Bohemian Count Kaspar Sternberg traveled to Frankfurt to attend the coronation of Leopold of Habsburg as Holy Roman Emperor. Details of the events in Paris had begun to percolate through Germany, and in viewing the events of the 1790s from the more comfortable temporal distance of the 1820s, Sternberg believed he had at the time seen many unfortunate omens in this penultimate coronation:

Here for the last time was Germany displayed in all its splendor and
majesty…. Despite this, there was no unity of purpose in Germany,
and harbingers of future events spit over from the left bank of
the Rhine, though these were in the meantime subjugated by the
excitement of the coronation. The Princes and Ambassadors conveyed
great state and pomp; only, Emperor Leopold could not properly fit
into the crown and vestments of Charlemagne…. As I visited the
rooms where the portraits of the emperors were painted on the corners,
and found only one corner yet free, I wrote in my travelogue: Is this
an evil omen?1

In Dichtung und Wahrheit, J. W. Goethe also recounted his visit as a boy to the imperial hall in Frankfurt and reported the same premonitions: “Our informants added ominously that another such prophecy or, rather, a feeling of foreboding was making the rounds, for it was obvious that there was only room enough left for the portrait of one more emperor. This circumstance, although apparently a chance happening, filled patriotic hearts

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