In 1826, Prince Pückler-Muskau divorced his beloved wife Lucie and set out for England in search of a rich bride. It was a divorce of convenience. He’d inherited both his father’s enormous debts and his father’s extravagant tastes, he’d lost his principality and all its revenues to the Kingdom of Prussia, and his father-in-law left his fortune to his mistresses. In desperate need of money, the prince traveled to England, where heiresses abounded.
Among the many prospective brides was a doctor’s daughter with a dowry of £50,000, a merchant’s daughter with a dowry of £40,000, an “ugly but well bred girl” with £100,000, and a jeweler’s daughter with £200,000.
He wrote frankly about these prospects to his true love, Lucie. He wrote about a great deal else, too, because Lucie had asked him “for small details of everyday life.”
In the end, he never did find a rich bride. In 1829 he went home to Muskau, still in dire financial straits. But Lucie had kept all his letters, and they decided to publish them (after some editing). In 1830 they appeared anonymously as Briefes Eines Verstorbenen—Letters from a Dead man. In 1832, Sarah Austin’s English translation, The Tour of a German Prince, was published.
Though some of his remarks about the British ticked them off—they called him “Pickling Mustard”—the books made him rich and famous. He got the money he needed, and was able to rejoin his one true love.
The prince, whom I encountered some years ago in Puckler’s Progress—an updated, delightful translation—sparked the idea for “Lord Lovedon’s Duel,” my contribution to the Royal Bridesmaids anthology.
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