An Unforgettable Colourful tale of love
With the half-timbered building erected by Duke Adolf in 1685, Neustadt got its own church. Threatened with demolition at the beginning of the 19th century, the church, originally in simple baroque style, was remodelled in neo-Gothic style a few decades later but managed to retain its special atmosphere. Known as courageous, clever and economically successful, the “Plön Moor” had married the daughter of the Plön councillor Radeleff after overcoming considerable difficulties. After only a few pleasant years of marriage, he died in 1690 and was the first to be buried in the then five-year-old church. His wife Gertrud was also buried in the church a few years after Christian Gottlieb. The original gravestone was placed on the eastern outer wall a few years ago. The gravestone of the “Black Trumpeter” had an inscription, repeated on the copy of the stone slab in the central aisle of the church, and it reads:
“Here rests Gottlieb as a Christian.
Consider the end, you who read this,
For like him, you too are mortal”
The former slave from the African continent Christian Gottlieb was in the service of Duke Johann Adolph as a court and field trumpeter. The steep career of the slave and his marriage to the daughter of a Plön councillor caused quite a stir. According to popular tradition, the two fell in love when he rescued her brother who had broken into the ice. The duke himself gave the couple his blessing.
Schleswig-Holstein in the winter of 1683: The landscape is covered in hoar frost. It is bitterly cold and all of Plön is enjoying itself skating on the frozen lake. When Gichte’s brother breaks in, it is a coloured man, the field trumpeter Christian, of all people, who fishes him out of the icy water. And the 17-year-old councillor’s daughter falls head over heels in love with the suspiciously-eyed stranger. “Eiswinter” is the name of a new novel that relieves the people of Uetersen of the agonising question: what should I give as a present? The story, based on true events, which took place at the end of the 17th century, is set in Plön and in Uetersen. The author Brigitte Beil visited both locations three years ago. In Uetersen she had to research where the “Edelhof” might have been, which the Danish queen gave to her coloured chambermaid, a former slave girl when she married her “Moor” to Gansberger, a wound surgeon stationed in Uetersen and a member of the “Löwendahl Regiment”.
The “black and yellow children”, as people called the offspring of the two, were baptised in the old Uetersen monastery church and are documented in the church register. The main plot of the novel, however, is the wondrous love story between the 17-year-old daughter of the Plön councillor Gesche and the field trumpeter Christian Gottlieb, which the author tells with great sensitivity. A coloured man.
Herr von Rantzau of the Ascheberg estate took care of the boy, who had been brought to Holstein from Africa on a slave ship as a tender child, educated him and trained him as a trumpeter, which led to his becoming an officer. Rantzau held his protective hand over the lovers, who were badly treated in Plön. But the two overcame all odds and became a happy couple. Their opponents – Gesche’s relatives in particular – did not give up, however, and the Gottliebs looked for a new home for themselves and their three children in Eimsbüttel, where their estate was called “Mohrenhof”.
Their happiness is abruptly shattered when Christian Gottlieb, who has achieved prosperity and wealth through his great skill as a farmer and horse breeder, dies in a mysterious accident, leaving young Gesche a widow with three small children
Regimental doctor Gansberger in Uetersen has also recently been widowed, and nolens volens Gesche listens to his wooing and becomes his second wife, the marriage is also documented in the local church register. And quite modern – a patchwork family is born with six “black and yellow” children, who are soon joined by a “normal”, as people say, little sister and the Gansberger family lives on the “Edelhof” (noble farm) given to their “Moor” by the Danish queen as a bridal gift.
Unfortunately, it is not possible to say with certainty where this farm was located. As a “noble farm” from the royal property, the estate was not subject to property tax for the monastery and therefore does not appear in the monastery’s accounts. Allegedly, however, the property was on the grounds not far from the monastery. Dr Ada Bues, Claus Ulrich – both now deceased – and Elisabeth Rübcke from Plön, who was also researching in Uetersen at the time and looking for the “Edelhof”, have rescued this exciting love story from oblivion. Their publication “Der Schwarze Trompeter von Plön” (The Black Trumpeter of Plön), which appeared in 1996, came into the novelist’s field of vision entirely by chance.
It will be recalled that, by the end of the seventeenth century, black trumpeters and kettledrummers were employed at many courts of the Holy Roman Empire as symbols of princely magnificence. Their legal and social position within the court hierarchy, and within German society, has been debated among historians. According to a commonly held view, black performers who had been bought on the international slave market were considered legally free and fully integrated into German society once they had completed a two-year apprenticeship and entered court service.
Membership in the Imperial Trumpeters’ and Kettledrummers’ Guild (requiring proof of free birth) is usually cited as evidence of their free legal status, social integration into German society, and privileged position in court. Drawing on insights from social, religious, and legal history, history of race, and music sociology, my article re-evaluates the notion of the frictionless integration of black trumpeters and drummers into Germany’s estate-based society by focusing on two case studies: Christian Real (fl. 1643-74) and Christian Gottlieb (fl. 1675-90). As my study of their little-known yet well-documented careers demonstrates, the social position of these black trumpeters was far more fragile than that of their white colleagues.
The tension between their blackness, associated with their previous slave status, and their visible roles as court trumpeters associated with princely power sometimes led to conflict and even physical violence. Both case studies suggest that black trumpeters and drummers were more susceptible to discrimination and violence whenever they moved out of the courtly sphere in which they were privileged and protected. Keywords: European black studies, German court music, trumpeters and kettledrummers, history of race formation, history of violence
Research Article on Theme: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/338099952_Mohr_und_Trompeter_Blackness_and_Social_Status_in_Early_Modern_Germany