A Secret in Bebenhausen
Bebenhausen, a 45-minute drive south of Stuttgart, is a former Cistercian Monastery which later became the hunting residence of the dukes and later kings and queens of Württemberg. It is in a very small village nestled in the Schönbuch forests in the center of our state.
But there is a little secret here that is not known by most people from further afield: there was a queen who lived here until not so terribly long ago.
After the fall of the Württemberg monarchy in 1918, when the kingdom was fully incorporated into the new Weimar Republic, the elderly king and queen, due to their having been quite popular with the people, were invited to remain in the country on a stipend. They retired to their hunting lodge here at Bebenhausen where they died: King Wilhelm II in 1921, and Queen Charlotte in 1946.
Yesterday, Miss A. and I had the privilege of meeting a lovely older lady there, who grew up in the village and, like all the children in her youth, knew the queen. The queen, a relatively shy person, had no children of her own and spent her retirement years remaining in the village, doting on the children there. She gave a birthday tea in the “castle” (actually a very comfortable country home - nothing ostentatious or palace/castle-like whatsoever) for all the village children each year. At Christmas, she would come to the little school house and give gifts to the children.
The queen and villagers were familiar with each other. The lady told us of playing hide-and-seek on the grounds of the monastery/royal residence. Anytime the children encountered the queen, they had to bow or curtsey and say “Good day, Majesty”. The lady said she didn't like to do that because then the queen would ask about their schooling and families and they had to be polite and answer. What kid, busy at play, would want to have to stand there and answer all those questions?! (She laughed.)
Queen Charlotte is remembered fondly even today by the old-timers in Bebenhausen. They are proud that their last queen chose to stay and live quietly amongst them in their little village after history swept away there little kingdom. And, just as typically for these local Swabians*, they don't feel a need to boast about it. It was just everyday life for them.
*Swabians - the people of southwestern Germany, who speak a dialect of the same name.
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