2008: Mayor of London a descendant of the House of Württemberg

In August 2008, the British BBC aired a "Who Do You Think You Are" TV documentary about London's Mayor Boris Johnson. His rather interesting, international ancestry includes a German noble branch: the Bavarian Barons of Pfeffel (Freiherren von Pfeffel). I was asked to provide documentation about this family, and especially to confirm rumours that Boris's ancestor Karl Freiherr von Pfeffel (1811-1890) had married an illegitimate offspring of the Dukes of Württemberg.

Indeed this was the case. Not only the 1836 Augsburg marriage entry turned out to be highly interesting - in contrast to common practice, the entry named the bride with a noble-looking title as "Adelheid Pauline von Rottenburg", but gave only information about her mother - an actress -, nothing about the father and nothing about the bride's current place of residence. A small note at the bottom was added by the scribe, complaining that the bishop had kept all documents pertaining to the preparation of this marriage, and had only allowed him to take a short look into the papers to prepare the marriage book entry. The whole thing very much looked like a marriage arranged by someone ranking very high in the Bavarian hierarchy. Needless to say that the documents mentioned, which were retained by the Bishop, do not exist any more ...

But who was this Adelheid Pauline von Rottenburg? There is no noble family with that name; however, Rottenburg is a small town south of Stuttgart, which became part of the Kingdom of Württemberg only hortly after 1800, after a long history of being part of Austria(!). So this place might be a good candidate for lending its name to an illegitimate branch of the House of Württemberg. I was unable to find any papers in which this name officially was given to her. What could be found, though, was a highly interesting small file how Karoline - this is the name she was christened with - in 1828 threw herself to the feet of Wilhelm, King of Württemberg (1781-1864)  ... requesting the King's protection in a state of "complete loneliness and helplessness", and explaining that she was the illegitimate daughter of his brother Paul, Prince of Württemberg (1785-1852), and that he had turned her out after a quarrel about a possible marriage for her. Reading this rather moving document, one almost watches Wilhelm and his wife, sitting there and brooding what in heaven's name he now should do with her. Wilhelm took her under his protection, and obviously, eight years later, he managed to find a groom for her in the person of Karl von Pfeffel.

What the BBC writes about this documentary

Just one day before the filming - and therefore too late to include it into the BBC story - I found out that a portrait commonly identified as Christiane Vulpius, wife of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, in fact shows Karoline's mother, the actress Friederike Margarethe Porth (1776-1860), who sometimes also appears with her various husbands' family names Voß, Kehre, and Werdy. A comparison of the portraits of Christiane Vulpius as found in the internet indeed shows that this one here must show another woman, as it looks completely different to the others showing Christiane Vulpius:

Not Christiane Vulpius but Friederike
        Porth aka Voß

The detailed explanation why this misunderstanding came into existence can be found here:
Ulrike Müller-Harang: Das Bildnis der Friederike Voß und seine Umdeutung zu Christiane Vulpius. Untersucht anhand der Quellen, in: Hellmut Th. Seemann (Hrsg.): Anna Amalia, Carl August und das Ereignis Weimar (Klassik Stiftung Weimar, Jahrbuch 2007), Göttingen 2007, S. 326-333.


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