Saturday, January 19, 2013

Anna Amalia Grand Duchess Patron of Goethe and Schiller

Princess Anna Amalia of Brunswick was 19-years-old when she married Constantine, Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach.  Within three years of marriage, Anna Amalia found herself as a widow with two young sons, and becoming regent for her elder son, Duke Karl August.

The marriage had been an escape from a mother who never loved her daughter.  As she grew up Anna Amalia had embraced books and literature: her love of reading never abated.

Being the regent for a small duchy of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach was not an easy task for a young woman who had not been raised to be a ruler.  She had to deal with court officials who railed against her regency.  In the 1770s, Saxe-Weimar was a backwater, but Anna Amalia, a cultured, educated woman, was able to establish Weimar as a a cultural center.

Weimar's status was greatly enhanced by the arrival of Wolfgang Goethe in 1775, who became a close friend of Duke Karl August.   This led to an introduction to Duchess Anna Amalia and her ever-growing literary circle.

Anna Amalia's coterie grew in prestige with the support of Goethe and Friederich Schiller.  Little Weimar had suddenly become the center for culture and art.  She was also a gifted composer and musician.

Anna Amalia Grand Duchess Patron of Goethe and Schiller is a modern reprint of a book first published in 1902.  The author is Francis Gerard, the nom-de-plume of Geraldine Fitzgerald, an Irish woman who moved in German noble circles.

The modern edition may have tightened up some of the 19th century language by editor Alan Sutton, but the story of a royal bluestocking still stuns, more than 200 years after her death.  Anna Amalia, who died in 1807, established Weimar as a major cultural center.  Her library, now more than 1,000,000 books  in Weimar is still extant.

The book was published by British-based Fonthill Media  (L16.99.$24,95.)

Anna Amalia was a truly remarkable woman. She was able to use her gifts and her joy for literature to bring great changes to Weimar.  I think she would be a great subject for a movie.  Her story should be told.

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