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Legends of Hohenzollern Castle

Hohenzollern Castle is known as being the ancestral seat of the Imperial House of Hohenzollern, which ruled Prussia for 40 years, and is located approximately 50 miles away from Stuttgart, in Baden-Württemberg, Germany. One of the most well-known ghost stories in Germany is tightly linked to the Hohenzollern family This ghost is said in fact to haunt not just one, but all of their Castles around the country. As with every legend, there are many variations to the story. Some call her ‘The White Lady’, others call her ‘The Harbringer’. What is true is that many people have claimed to have spotted a tall, beautiful lady with a grave visage wearing white throughout the years, and that her presence was always followed by a fatality. All those who saw her also said she carried a big bunch of keys at her waist and that she had a poised and noble bearing.

The White Lady

Countess Kunigunde von Orlamonde, who was a widow and a mother of two children fell desperately in love with Albrecht von Hohenzollern, Duke of Prussia, also known as Albert the Fair, and wanted to marry him. Although Albert was in love with her as well, his parents opposed the marriage, which is why he told Countess Kunigunde that ‘if it were not for four eyes between us’, he would marry her. The Countess was under the assumption that he was referring to her two children, a son and a daughter, who stood between her and a happy marriage. In an effort to gain the affection of the one she desired and remove all impediments, she used a golden needle to pierce the eyes of the two children, and murdered them. Albrecht, horrified by her actions, refused to marry her.

Devastated with remorse, she fled to the Vatican in Rome to find forgiveness and absolution for her sins. As penance, the Pope ordered her to build a monastery and then enter consecrate her life to prayer. Some versions of the legend state that she did so, walking on her knees from the Plassenberg to the Valley of Berneck to establish a monastery there. There are also those who maintain that she became the abbess of a Cistercian convent at Himmelsthron, where she died in 1351. Coincidentally the Cistercian Order’s habit is all white. Others state that she was sentenced to life in prison for murder and others that she died of exhaustion while on pilgrimage. On the other hand, historians refute this legend, saying that Kunigunde von Orlamunde did not have any children.

The legend goes that after her death, infuriated by Albrecht’s betrayal and his abandonment of her, she started haunting all the Castles belonging to the dynasty of the Hohenzollern, bringing bad luck or even death to anyone who glimpsed her. It is told that she has been seen on many accounts over hundreds of years, and has been linked to immediate deaths and disasters shortly after each sighting.

The Harbringer

The Bohemian historian Balbinus reported that the ghost of the woman in white seen haunting the Hohenzollern Castles belonged to a woman named Perchta von Rozmberk or Rosenberg. Her father, Ulrich the Second, was the ruler of part of Bohemia. In 1449, she was forced by her father and family to marry John of Lichtenstein, who was of the House of Hohenzollern, for political and financial reasons.

Ulrich neglected to pay Perchta’s dowry and John took it out on her. He abused and beat her over and over, but no one helped her. She told her father about John’s deplorable behaviour and asked to be rescued, but this was in vain since at the time it was a husband’s right to beat his wife. She had to beg her mother-in-law for food as she was not given any, her husband’s family fought with her constantly and John refused to have anything to do with her. He snubbed her in front of the court and disrespected her in every way. It is even said that he brought his mistresses home and organised orgies in the Castle. His evil sisters, like relatives of Cinderella from a fairy tale, also humiliated the girl. Ulrich accused Perchta of causing her predicament by not being loving enough.

Finally, the dowry was paid, but nothing changed and Perchta was forced to live with this monster for twenty years, until Ulrich died. It is said that on his deathbed, he was sorry for his behaviour and asked his wife for forgiveness, but that she refused him. Angrily, he cursed Perchta, telling her ‘May you not have rest even after death’. After his death, Perchta’s brothers brought her back to their ancestral home where she lived until she died. However it is said that the curse came true in the end, as after her death, Perchta started haunting the Hohenzollern dynasty predicting and warning of death and disasters before they happened.

Sightings of the Lady-ghost

Be it Kunigunde von Orlamonde or Perchta von Rozmberk, the ghost of the Lady in White has been seen again and again in the Hohenzollern Castles throughout the years. She appeared in 1589, eight days before the death of the Prince Elector John George of Branderberg. It is said that in 1619, three young pages spotted her in one of Hohenzollern Castle’s halls. They thought she was a living human being, so one of these pages approached her to ask who she was and what she was doing there. She turned and whacked him over the head with her keys and he fell to the ground dead. The other two pages fled. Three weeks later, John Sigismund Prince-Elector of the Margraviate of Brandenburg from the House of Hohenzollern, died.

In 1628, she appeared to a young prince of the house of Hohenzollern and reportedly spoke these words in Latin – ‘Veni, judica vivos et mortuos’ which means ‘Come, I judge the living and the dead’. The day after, he died of an illness.

In 1667, Louise Henrietta of Orange, the wife of Elector Friedrich Wilhelm of Brandenburg, was lying ill. The sick lady had seen the White Lady sitting at her writing desk. Within a few days she had died.

In 1678, the Margrave Erdmann Philip of Brandenburg said he saw the White Lady sitting in his armchair as he entered his chamber in Baireuth. He started back, and left the room in terror. The next day he mounted his horse in the Castle court, when the brute reared and plunged, as though seeing something that alarmed it, and threw the Prince. He picked himself up and, unassisted, went to his chamber, but in two hours, he was dead in his bed.

It is said that the White Lady never appeared during Frederick the Great’s reign because he did not believe in ghosts. However, after his death he himself appeared to warn a family member about this harbinger. In 1792, his nephew Frederick William the Second was camped outside Paris with his troops. The night before they were set to attack, his uncle’s ghost appeared before him and cautioned him not to attack. Specifically, he is said to have warned him to call off his troops if he didn’t want to see the White Lady. The nephew heeded his uncle’s advice and left France, thereby escaping a visit from the harbringer of death.

In 1806, Napoleon Bonaparte defeated Prussia and reduced Bayreuth to a heavily taxed province of the French Empire. In 1812, Bonaparte reportedly spent a night in the former Bayreuth Palace of the Hohenzollerns, and was so disturbed by experiences that night that he left the next day and referred to it as le maudit chateau, ‘the cursed castle’.

The Lady is said to have made several other appearances. It is said that people saw her just before the deaths of Frederick William the Third in 1840 and Frederick William the Fourth in 1861.

One of the last reported sightings of the White Lady was in 1914 just before World War l. She appeared just before the Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated. After the German’s defeat in World War l, Kaiser Wilhelm the Second was the last ruling Hohenzollern, and he later abdicated the throne. It is stated that once there was no longer a Hohenzollern ruler, the White Lady was finally able to find peace and that she never appeared in a Hohenzollern Castle again.

Text by: Melisande Aquilina