From My Life: Poetry and Truth - Book 5, pages 223-228


What didn't appeal to me were the short, modern knickers, the white silk socks and modern shoes. We should have seen short boots, as gilded as you please, sandals or something similar so we could see a complete costume.

In comportment the Emissary von Plotho distinguished himself above all the rest. He looked lively and cheerful and seemed not to have any particular respect for the entire ceremony. Then there was his front man, an older gentleman who couldn't swing so readily onto his horse, consequently the emissary had to wait a while at the large entry, unable to contain his smile until his horse was brought to him, whereupon he swung himself adroitly into the saddle and in wonderment appeared to us to be a worthy ambassador of Friedrich II.

Once again the curtain fell for us. I had scarcely managed to squeeze my way into the church where I noticed there was more discomfort than delight. The voters withdrew into the holiest of holies in which further ceremonies led to a suspicious election exercise. After long delays, exhortations and weavings finally the people heard proclaimed the name Joseph the Second, Roman Emperor.

The crowd of foreigners in the city was growing larger. All came and went in gala attire and eventually people noticed only those dress completely in gold. Emperor and king had already reached Heufenstamm, a count's castle in Schönborn, where they were courteously greeted and made welcome. However the city celebrated the important epoch with spiritual festivals of the assembled religions,


with high church officials and ministers, and on the secular side as accompaniment to the Tedeum, with ceaseless cannonades.

If up until now one has seen all these public festivities as a deliberate work of art then one would not have found much to criticize.* Everything was well prepared. Opening scenes started out gently and became every more meaningful. People grew in numbers, personages grew in significance with their companies as well as their regalia. The activity increased with each day until even the well-trained eye sank into confusion.

The Elector from Mainz' procession, which we had put off describing earlier, was splendid and imposing enough to stimulate the imagination of any superior man and convey the message that here was a great and wise world ruler. * Indeed, we were more that slightly dazzled by it. But it only served to heighten our expections as it was announced that the emperor and future king was approaching the city. A tent had been erected a certain distance from Sachsenhausen in which the entire group of magistrates awaited in order to pay the head of the empire their proper respects and offer him the keys to the city. Farther off in a beautiful and roomy expanse there was another, more splendid tent housing the assembled electors and electorial messengers who awaited to receive His Majesty. Their entourages stretched across the entire route so that one group after the other could fall in and move back into the city in the order they originally entered. Now the emperor rode by the tent, entered and received respectful greetings, then permitted himself to be flanked by the electors and ambassadors so as to proceed down the path in orderly fashion as the highest of all rulers.


Those of us, who remained in the city to gaze in awe at the splendor between the walls and the streets while events occurred in the open field, were well entertained by the barricades set up by the citizenry, by the press of the crowd, and by the jokes and improprieties committed during the interim until the ringing of the bells and the sounding of the cannons announced the approach of the leader. What was particularly pleasing to the Frankfurter on this occasion and at this time with so many souvereigns and their representatives present was that the imperial city of Frankfurt also looked like a small souvereign state. The stall master opened the procession with cavalry horses decked in armor handsomely carrying the flag of the white eagle on a red background; servants and officers, drummers and trumpeters, counsel deputies followed, accompanied on foot by counsel retainers in city livery. At the end were the three companies of well mounted citizen cavalrymen, who were familiar to us from the days of our youth whenever the guard was called to action or there were public events. We enjoyed this feeling of honor and the hundred thousand small pieces of the souvereignty as it appeared here this day in full spectrum. The various entourages of the imperial hereditary marshalls and the six lay electors' appointed ambassadors moved a step at a time. Each had no fewer than 20 retainers and two state carriages. Some had an even greater number. The number of the ecclesiastic electors was ever increasing. Their retainers and house officers seemed countless. The electors of Cologne and Trier had over twenty state carriages. The elector of Mainz alone had as many. The attendant staff on horseback and


on foot was dressed most magnificently. The lords in the carriages, both lay and ecclesiastic, had not failed to appear rich, noble, and decorated with all the badges of their stations. The retinue of His Imperial Majesty outdid all the rest, as was fitting. The riding masters, the lead horses, the riding gear, the saddlecloths and covers drew all eyes and the sixteen gala wagons, each with horse teams spanning six across and carrying imperial chamberlains, high stewards, lord high chamberlains, and high stallmasters, closed this portion of the procession with great pomp and despite their magnificence and glory they were only the vanguard.

Now the line became concentrated as rank and splendor increased. Among the house servant staff, some on foot and some on horseback, appeared the election messengers and the electors in ascending order of rank in magnificent state carriages. Immediately after the Elector of Mainz there were ten royal runners, forty-one lackeys and eight Heiducks [Hungarian attendants] of His Majesty himself. The most luxurious state carriage was outfitted with a full mirror in the back, decorated with paintings, lacquer, wood carvings and gold plating; embroidered red velvet overhead and inside allowed us to easily see the emperor and king, the long expected leaders in all their glory. People led the procession out on a wide detour, partly out of necessity so the train could spread out and partly to let all the people in the crowd see it. It went through Sachsenhausen, over the bridge, through the Fahrgasse, then behind the Zeil and returning to the inner city through the Katharinenpforte, a former gateway and since the


expansion of the city now an open thoroughfare. Fortunately people had taken into account that external signs of majesty in this world had led to greater height and breadth over the years. They had measured and found that the gateway, through which many princes and kings had passed, wasn't big enough for the current royal carriage to get through without damaging some of its carvings and other signs of opulence. They debated and in order to avoid an unpleasant detour they decided to take up the pavement and install a gentle descent and incline. In this same frame of mind people had taken the eaves off all shops and booths facing the street so that the crown, the eagle and the genies would not be shocked or damaged.

Even as we cast our eyes upon this highest personage as the priceless carriage with its precious cargo approached, we could not help but turn our gaze upon the magnificent horses with their harnesses and braided decorations. We were particularly taken with the coachman and outrider sitting on the horses. They looked a though they came from a different nation dressed in long black and yellow velvet coats and caps with large clusters of feathers in the imperial court style. So many elements were crowded together that one could barely distinguish one from the other. The Swiss guard flanked both sides of the carriage; the hereditary marshall, carrying the Saxon sword in his right hand, rode forward; the field marshalls as leaders of the Imperial Guard, rode behind the carriage followed by the royal pages en masse and finally the halberdiers in flowing black velvet coats richly embossed with gold braids.


Underneath, their red dress coats and colored leather camisoles were similarly embossed in gold. People could scarcely recover their wits amid such sights, signs and displays, thus the bodyguards of the electors, also dressed in splendor, went unnoticed. Indeed, we might have withdrawn from the windows were it not for the fact that we had not yet seen our magistrates, who closed the procession in fifteen, double-span carriages. In particular we wished to view the Council Secretary with the keys to the city in the last coach with the red velvet cushions. Our company of City Grenadiers trailed at the end and even this seemed a sufficient honor. We felt doubly edified as Germans and as citizens of Frankfurt on this day of great honor.

We had taken a place in a house so when the procession came out of the cathedral it would have to pass by us again.* In the church, the choir and the conclave you had the church service, the music and so many ceremonies and rituals, addresses and responses, reports and recitations leading up to the affirmation of the vote that we had plenty of time to empty several bottles in drinking to the health of the old and young rulers. Conversation lost itself in retreat to the past, as it usually does on such occasions, and there were plenty of older people who preferred the past to the present times at least in regard to certain human interests and partisan sympathies. At the coronation of Francis I the peace accord had not yet been settled. France and the electors of Brandenburg and the Palatinate were opposed to the election. The troops of the future emperor were stationed in Heidelberg,


Go to pages 229-234


Text provided by the Lockwood Library, State University of New York at Buffalo.
Imaging and translation by Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks