Royal Highness Thomas Mann

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Royal Highness  by  Thomas Mann

Royal Highness by Thomas Mann
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s/t: a novel of german court lifeExcerpt from the beginning of the first chapter: THE CONSTRICTION Artillery salvos were fired when the various new-fangled means of communication in the capital spread the news that the Grand Duchess Dorothea had given birth to a prince for the second time at Grimmburg. Seventy-two rounds resounded through the town and surrounding country, fired by the military in the walls of the Citadel. Directly afterwards the fire brigade also, not to be outdone, fired with the town salute guns- but in their firing there were long pauses between each round, which caused much merriment among the populace.

The Grimmburg looked down from the top of a woody hill on the picturesque little town of the same name, which mirrored its grey sloping roofs in the river which flowed past it. It could be reached from the capital in half an hour by a local railway which paid no dividends. There the castle stood, the proud creation of the Margrave Klaus Grimmbart, the founder of the reigning house in the dim mists of history, since then several times rejuvenated and repaired, fitted with the comforts of the changing times, always kept in a habitable state and held in peculiar honour as the ancestral seat of the ruling house, the cradle of the dynasty.

For it was a rule and tradition of the house that all direct descendants of the Margrave, every child of the reigning couple, must be born there. This tradition could not be ignored. The country had had sophisticated and unbelieving sovereigns, who had laughed at it, and yet had complied with it with a shrug of the shoulders. It was now much too late to break away from it whether it was reasonable and enlightened or not: why, without any particular necessity, break with an honoured custom, which had managed somehow to perpetuate itself?

The people were convinced that there was something in it. Twice in the course of fifteen generations had children of reigning sovereigns, owing to some chance or other, first seen the light in other schlosses: each had come to an unnatural and disgraceful end. But all the sovereigns of the land and their brothers and sisters, from Henry the Confessor and John the Headstrong, with their lovely and proud sisters, down to Albrecht, the father of the Grand Duke, and the Grand Duke himself, Johann Albrecht III, had been brought into the world in the castle- and there, six years before, Dorothea had given birth to her firstborn, the Heir Apparent.

The castle was also a retreat as dignified as it was peaceful. The coolness of its rooms, the shady charms of its surroundings, made it preferable as a summer residence to the stiff Hollerbrunn. The ascent from the town, up a rather badly paved street between shabby cottages and a scrubby wall, through massive gates to the ancient ruin at the entrance to the castle-yard, in the middle of which stood the statue of Klaus Grimmbart, the founder, was picturesque but tiring.

But a noble park spread at the back of the castle hill, through which easy paths led up into the wooded and gently-swelling uplands, offering ideal opportunities for carriage drives and quiet strolls.



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