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Judicial Corporal Punishment Of Women: Stories And Novels

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Jon Smithie

I haven't posted about Doris Ritter for a while -- real life has intervened -- but I'm still looking into factual and fictional material on her fate. Here are two fictionalisations I have come across.

The first is the 1921 silent movie "Fridericus Rex" which I mentioned in the previous post quoted above. The film is not online, although it does appear to have survived -- a restored version was shown at an Italian film festival a few years ago. There are 22 stills from the film at this Italian site. As we know that they did cast Doris Ritter (played by Lilly Alexandra), I have thought from the outset that the whipping must be part of the plot and that it must have been shown on screen -- it's a silent movie, so you have to show everything in the absense of explanatory dialogue. Looking closer, I now found confirmation of that. Firstly, I found several mentions of the movie causing a scandal with press articles complaining not only about the movie being pro-monarchy propaganda (the monarchy having been toppled only three years previously) but also specifically about the brutality of the on-screen execution and flogging scenes, presumably referring to Katte and to Doris, respectively, which the papers say should never have been cleared for juvenile viewers. One article mentions that the flogging shows the lashes on her bare back, although it says that the girl herself cannot be seen (presumably meaning we just see the back, not the entire body or face). There is no still of the flogging scene, but we do have one of Katte's execution, which gives some idea of the scale of the production -- that was an expensive film to make in 1921!:

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Secondly, I found the plot summary as published in 1921 in the Illustrierter Film-Kurier. These were published for every silent movie at the time for sale in the cinema in the same way as an opera programme, to help the audience understand the plot of what happens on screen. The plot summary for Fridericus Rex is here. From this, the film makers took considerable liberty with the historical events, and in particular reversed the cause and effect of Doris's flogging:

"Fritz, der das Bild seiner zukünftigen aus London schon in der Tasche hat, eilt allabendliche mit der Flöte unter dem Mantel zu Dorris Ritter, der schönen Kantorstochter. (...) Am Morgen auf dem Exerzierplatz erregt er den Zorn des Königs, und ehe er sich versieht, sitzt er in Stubenarrest. Aber es gibt noch Fenster, schnell die Flöte her und dann zu Dorris, während der König in der Tabagie seinen Groll in großen Wolken von sich bläst und denkt, sein Sohn werde wohl verwahrt und zur Reue geneigt. Gumbkow aber hat einen Brief des Kronprinzen nach England aufgefangen, indem Fritz einen höchst aufsässigen Standpunkt in der er Heiratsgeschichte vertritt. Der König will seinen Sohn zur Rede stellen. Aber das Zimmer ist leer. Der Adressant ist entflohen. Der König schäumt! Patrouillen werden in Trab gesetzt. Der treue Katte bekommt Wind von der Sache, er eilt und reißt Fritz vom Spinett. Die Wache findet nur die arme Jungfer und schleppt sie vor den König. „Auspeitschen“ befiehlt der außer sich, und schon sausen die Hiebe auf einen harten Rücken. Da stürzt Fritz hinzu und springt den Vater fast an die Kehle. Ein Bruch nicht mehr zu kitten! Fritz will fliehen. Preußen ist für ihn ein Gefängnis. Also fort! Katte ist dabei. Auch ihn lockt Freiheit und Gefahr. Zwei Koffer sind schnell gepackt."

"Fritz, a picture of his future bride from London already in his pocket, rushes every evening with the flute hidden under his coat to Doris Ritter, the beautiful daughter of the cantor. That morning he arouses the ire of the King on the parade ground, and finds himself confined to his chamber. But there is a window, so he grabs the flute and heads for Doris's while the King sits in his smoking room puffing out his wrath in a cloud of tobacco and thinks his son is well confined and rueful. Minister Gumbkow has intercepted a letter by the Crown Prince to England where he takes a most rebellious position on the marriage front. The King wants to confront his son. But the chamber is empty. The delinquent has fled. The King is outraged! Patrols are sent out. Faithful Katte hears of it, he rushes and drags Frits away from the harpsichord. The guards find only the poor maiden and drag her to the presence of the King. "Flogging" he orders in high rage, and immediately the lashes rain down onto a hard back. At that moment, Fritz stroms into the room and almost jumbs at his father's throat. The falling-out cannot be mended any more! Frtis wants to run away. Prussia is a prison to him. So, let's be away! Katte is willing. He is also tempted by liberty and danger. Two suitcases are quickly packed."

So, here Doris is flogged for making music with Fritz against the King's orders, which in turn leads to the quarrel between Prince and King and to the Prince's and Katte's attempted desertion, which ends in the Prince's arrest and Katte's execution. That would put the flogging immediately after this sedate scene:

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Another fictional treatment is from around 1853, in the play "Prinz Friedrich" by the German dramatist and theatre director Heinrich Laube. The play is on Google Books in its entirety as a free PDF (link), and its main characters are all the names I have posted in this thread: apart from the royal family, we have Katte, Doris, Eversmann und Grumbkow all in major speaking roles -- indeed the very first scene is a meeting of Katte and Doris.

The key confrontation is in Act 3, Scene 9, where the King has a stand-off with Friedrich and Doris in front of the Queen, Eversmann and Grumbkow in a scene very reminiscent of Schiller's "Kabale und Liebe" (a play that as I posted earlier is in my opinion based on the Doris Ritter story). At one point, the King grabs Doris and drags her over to the Queen, shouting "Do you know this girl? Did you know that she is your son's harlot?" triggering emotional protestations of innocence from Prince and Doris, and then later speaks the verdict "This girl, demurely clad in gray linen, is to be paraded in front of all folk on the market square to stand in the pillory, and then she is to suffer the Staupenschlag (public flogging)." The scene (and the act) end with the Prince and Doris both asking to be killed outright rather than her having to suffer this shame. In a later scene, Doris begs the Prince to save her "from the pillory and the mob, who will shame and dishonour her and driver her father to despair" by giving her a dagger so that she can kill herself. At that very moment, they hear Katte's execution off-stage. However, on my reading of the play, the King and his son get reconciled in the final act without Doris ever getting actually flogged, which is a bit of an anti-climax.

Altogether, I have to say for a woman who has supposedly been forgotten, Doris has notched up an impressive number of fictional appearances. Clearly, in the 19th and early 20th century her role in the quarrel between King and Prince (an integral part of the foundation myth of the Prussian state) was still universally known in popular culture, always closely associated with the unjust flogging. She has only become obscure in more recent times.
Strong work, nsur! One can only hope there will be yet another celluloid retelling of the Doris Ritter story, only including the whipping. I think it's an equally compelling story to the Affair of the Diamond Necklace incident of pre-revolutionary France that has also spawned film treatments.

One can only hope that perhaps you're working on a historical/fictional retelling yourself?



Strong work, nsur! One can only hope there will be yet another celluloid retelling of the Doris Ritter story, only including the whipping. I think it's an equally compelling story to the Affair of the Diamond Necklace incident of pre-revolutionary France that has also spawned film treatments.

One can only hope that perhaps you're working on a historical/fictional retelling yourself?

Thanks, Jon. There is at least one other, the 1979 TV mini series "Der Thronfolger" (The Heir To The Throne), which has Dietlinde Turban cast as Doris, with the very famous Günter Strack as the old king. It's on DVD but not online, and I haven't seen it. Not sure if Doris is the girl seen in the bedroom scene directly to the right of the film title on the below DVD cover -- looks a bit like Dietlinde Turban:


Also no idea if this treatment has the whipping scene -- a 1979 TV treatment may well have kept that off-screen. It's based on the 1930s novel "Vater und Sohn", which is highly non-historical and treats Doris as a hysterical teenager bringing on her own doom by imagining herself as the Prince's soulmate and defender, but it's possible the TV script treated her more sympathetically.

Quite separately from any research into the Doris story, I have also recently read "Iron Kingdom" by Christopher Clark, a serious historical book on the history of Prussia which I believe was a bestseller in its German translation (although I have read the English original). Inevitably, it has a fairly detailed retelling of the Crown Prince's attempted desertion and the Katte trial and execution (including what Katte had for breakfast the day of his death...), but it mentions Doris only in passing:

"While Frederick’s fate remained undecided, the king vented his rage on the prince’s friends and collaborators. Two of his closest military companions, the subalterns Spaen and Ingersleben, were thrown into gaol. Doris Ritter, the sixteen-year-old daughter of a Potsdam burgher with whom Frederick had engaged in some tentative adolescent flirtation, was whipped through the streets of Potsdam by the hangman and incarcerated in the workhouse at Spandau, where she remained until her release in 1733."

Interesting that Clark chose the "whipped through the streets of Potsdam" version rather than "flogged six times", but hard to say whether he gave the mechanics of the flogging much thought or research. However, quite separately from that, the book is fascinating in its description of the Prussian state in 1730 in terms of religion and education, which makes much more sense of how Doris's father ever came to be appointed to his position in Potsdam and what the signifiance of the Pietist movement was in Friedrich Wilhelm's policy of reconciling the Lutheran and Calvinist faiths amongst his subjects. The book has several pages on August Hermann Francke, the most important Prussian pietist, who was Matthias Ritter's professor at the University of Halle -- and the godfather of his daughter, Doris. Friedrich Wilhelm deliberately appointed pietist teachers to strategic posts in the nascent state education system, so the appointment of a Francke student to the post of rector of the principal grammar school in the King's own residence of Potsdam was of great importance to the King's policy of religious reconciliation and universal education. That's how Doris got to Potsdam in the first place, and it may explain why the King reacted so violently when she became (in his eyes) complicit in his son's intrigues and suspected immoral conduct.

As for my own re-telling, I'm still hopeful but haven't made that much progress. I want it to be historically accurate but also speculate wildly on the details of the punishment. There's a balance to be struck on how much backstory to include to make the character real and her suffering involving to the reader beyond the mere mechanics of the flogging.
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Jon Smithie

There's a balance to be struck on how much backstory to include to make the character real and her suffering involving to the reader beyond the mere mechanics of the flogging.
Couldn't agree more. I really appreciate it when a writer goes to the trouble of making the setting and the character believable. Of course, when there is a vivid description of the mechanics of the flogging, that's always great too!


In a discovery that is equally frustrating and exciting, I have just discovered the existence of two books with the same title, "Der Kronprinzenprozess: Friedrich und Katte" (The Trial of the Crown Prince), one written by Carl Hinrichs and published in 1936 and one written by Rainer Ahnert and published in 1982. Both have clearly been scanned by Google Books, as they are listed and searchable, but as they're in copyright, the full text search only gives a maximum of three hits for each search term and only about five lines of text in context. From this it is clear that the Hinrichs book is a collection of verbatim historical records with a connecting narrative, whereas the Ahnert book follows Hinrichs closely but paraphrases the records with considerable personal interpolation by the author which are not directly based on the records.

The Google Books links are:

Hinrichs: "Der Kronprinzenprozess: Friedrich und Katte" (1936)

Ahnert: "Friedrich und Katte: der Kronprinzen-Prozess" (1982)

I can only roughly stitch together some snippets of information by combining the results from various searches. As an example, the above links are for a full-text search on the term "Jungfrau" (virgin or maiden), and they both lead to the same detail, namely the virginity probe performed on Doris on the order to the King. Hinrichs says:

Hinrichs virginity.jpgHinrichs virginity 2.jpg

"[The King] ordered the girl to be examined by a midwife and a military surgeon, both of whom assured the King: she is still a maiden. Notwithstanding this, as it transpired that the Prince gave the parents of the maiden a present of 50 crowns to buy an outfit for the daughter, the King ordered: she was to be [whipped] through the town by the common hangman."

Ahnert fleshes the scene out with what can only be fictionalised details:

Ahnert virginity a.jpg
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"... in all secrecy and as innocuous as a plain cantor's daughter could be. Both seems to be of importance to the King, as what he orders now is brutal: he rules like a medieval prince who practices the jus primae noctis in his county. Friedrich Wilhelm abruptly orders: The girl is to be examined by a midwife and a military surgeon simultaneously, to see if she was still in possession of her innocence. A matter that appeared to the King truly important for the sake of the State? Or after all only to accuse his son of whoring? The midwife was quickly summoned, a surgeon found, and what choice did little Dorothea Ritter have: Bright red in her face, unable to comprehend in her mortification, she had to strip off her skirt in front of the strange woman and the strange man, take off the linen shift and lie down on her back on the sofa in the room. Both examined the girl and both were immediately satisfied that Doris Ritter was still a maiden. The news was sent by horseback courier relay without delay to the King. However, in the meantime the interrogation of the completely distressed parents had not stopped and it came to light that the Prince had made the two of them a gift of 50 crowns "to buy an outfit for the daughter". That was enough for the King to act, after the other news could not be enough. The girl Doris Ritter, so he orders, was to be whipped through the town by a common hangman and imprisoned for life at Spandau." This is followed by the direct quote of the King's order to the Mayor of Potsdam to have Doris whipped, as already posted earlier by me.

Now, the Ahnert retelling above is nicely atmospheric and clearly based on Hinrich's barebones account with added details. Pity these details are almost certainly spurious. For one, the King was at the Town Palace and Doris was under arrest at the Town Hall. The two buildings are less than 100m apart, so where does the horseback courier relay come in? How does he know about a sofa (!) in the room where the examination takes place?

Still, there appears to be enough in these books to be worthwhile to seek them out -- for example, it seems both of them are quoting verbatim the entire interrogation transcript of Doris that was prepared after her initial arrest on 1 September. That would be the only chance to hear Doris's voice directly in the documents, relatively unfiltered through re-telling.

As it happens, both books are available second-hand. Hinrich is pretty expensive, but there are several cheap copies of the Ahnert book available. I've ordered one for a couple of Euros, so I should know more about what is and what isn't in the book shortly. I suspect only about three or four pages are relevant to Doris, but it wasn't a lot of money.
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Assistant executioner
The 2012 movie "The Diamond Necklace" was a great disappointment. In the actual affair, the noblewoman Jeanne de la Motte was sentenced to be stripped completely naked in public and thoroughly whipped before being branded as a thief on both shoulders. Although she physically fought against the constables assigned to carry out the sentence, she was eventually subdued so she could be stripped, whipped and branded as hundreds watched. But the movie gave a "vanilla" account of her whipping, which left me disappointed.


The 2012 movie "The Diamond Necklace" was a great disappointment. In the actual affair, the noblewoman Jeanne de la Motte was sentenced to be stripped completely naked in public and thoroughly whipped before being branded as a thief on both shoulders. Although she physically fought against the constables assigned to carry out the sentence, she was eventually subdued so she could be stripped, whipped and branded as hundreds watched. But the movie gave a "vanilla" account of her whipping, which left me disappointed.
Indeed, the Sanson's would be more through then what was portrayed!


The 2012 movie "The Diamond Necklace" was a great disappointment. In the actual affair, the noblewoman Jeanne de la Motte was sentenced to be stripped completely naked in public and thoroughly whipped before being branded as a thief on both shoulders. Although she physically fought against the constables assigned to carry out the sentence, she was eventually subdued so she could be stripped, whipped and branded as hundreds watched. But the movie gave a "vanilla" account of her whipping, which left me disappointed.
Some historians have hinted that Marie Antoinette was instrumental in Jeanne receiving a much more severe sentence than than her co-conspirators, and that she, in fact, discreetly watched the punishment from a nearby apartment window.
Some contemporary reports suggest, that as the result of her struggles, Jeanne was actually branded on the breast.


Altogether, I have to say for a woman who has supposedly been forgotten, Doris has notched up an impressive number of fictional appearances. Clearly, in the 19th and early 20th century her role in the quarrel between King and Prince (an integral part of the foundation myth of the Prussian state) was still universally known in popular culture, always closely associated with the unjust flogging. She has only become obscure in more recent times.

Just to illustrate that point, in addition to the two films/TV adaptations and being written about by intellectual giants such as Voltaire and Thomas Carlyle, Doris also managed to be the main romantic heroine in at least two novels of the early 20th century.

In my very first post in this thread I mentioned the fact that Rafael Sabatini (of "Captain Blood" fame) made Doris the heroine of his 1942 novel "King In Prussia" although he wimped out of having her actually whipped and instead had her rescued from jail by his (fictional) hero, Alverley, who flees with her to France for a novel's-worth of romantic adventures. That's Doris at the harpsichord on the cover:

King in Prussia.jpg

Having just read the (more-or-less) factual account of the virginity probe in the Ahnert book in my previous post, here is how Sabatini recounts it -- note that all those names I've been using in this thread make an appearance:


The King had had a bad night, following upon yesterday's Tabagie, in the course of which he had drunk too much. He was being tormented in body by an attack of the gout and in soul by the wailings and plaints of the Queen and by what he accounted the mutinous conduct of Schulenberg and his court martial. So Gundling found his Majesty in savage mood.

He was still dealing with the day's correspondence. Two secretaries stood receiving his petulant instructions. Alverley lounged in a window embrasure, awaiting the end of the business, and marvelling that a man should dissipate so much energy in unnecessary ill-humour.

"Be brief," he sourly admonished Gundling. "I have to go to Potsdam."

The President smirked, lisped and washed his hands in the air. There was a flush on his flabby face, a glitter in his red-rimmed, watery eyes.

"May it please your Majesty, I have discovered the siren whose music decoyed his Highness."

It was a moment before Majesty's mind absorbed the fellow's meaning. Then there was a wicked eagerness in the long, interrogative intake of breath. "Ah—h?"

"The strumpet's name, Majesty, is Dorothea Ritter. The daughter of Pastor Ritter."

Alverley, who from one of the windows, was watching the changing of the guard in the courtyard, span round on his heel with an involuntary start, his face set. But Gundling was too intent to observe the movement, and the King's back was turned upon his aide-de-camp.

"So! Pastor Ritter has a daughter, has he?"

"Who lured the Crown Prince regularly to her house...to make music. I leave your Majesty to surmise what else they did." He giggled as he spoke, and Alverley, eyeing him in disgust, accounted him the very incarnation of Silenus.

"Grosser Gott!" Majesty's fist crashed down on the table. "You are sure—quite sure?"

"Should I venture otherwise to trouble your Majesty? Oh, there is no possibility of error." And he advanced in evidence the information gleaned from Böhme the bookseller.

"So! So! Now we know why he bought diamond bracelets. And I suppose that all Berlin knows of this." Majesty groaned. "Is there no shame that this dissolute, godless son of mine will spare me?"

His gross bulk sagged over the writing-table, on which he had set an elbow, resting his head on his hand. Thus he remained, in silent brooding, his eyes narrowed, his lips tight, until Katzenstein arrived with word that his Majesty's carriage waited with the escort.

He nodded gloomily "In a moment. In a moment. You can go, Gundling. You'll find the Staatsrat Klinte waiting in the ante-room. Send him in to me. By God! I'll make an example of this wench. I'll send her somewhere where sirens won't feel disposed to sing."

Then he dismissed the secretaries. "Here, take these papers. They'll have to wait. I'm too bedevilled now Almighty! To be so plagued and vexed."

They withdrew as Klinte, the State Councillor, came in, a stocky, keen-faced man in a yellow wig. He bowed low to the King, and nodded pleasantly to Katzenstein and Alverley.

"Pay attention, Klinte," snapped the King. "You'll send me a sergeant's guard to Pastor Ritter's house in the Nikolaistrasse at once with a warrant to arrest his trull of a daughter. You'll have her lodged in the town gaol until I send you further orders."

He set his hands on the table to heave himself up. Then with a gasp sat down again. "Ah! Curse this gout. As if I had not enough to plague me! As if the Lord God did not punish me enough in giving me a son without religion, morals, or even decency. By God, Katzenstein, the worst disservice you ever did me was when you prevented me from running a sword through him. A vile seducer who has been whoring with this daughter of that doddering old fool Ritter."

Out of his deep devotion to the Prince, Katzenstein was surprised into an exclamation of protest. "Sire!"

"Well? What? Do you doubt it?" roared the King.

"I cannot judge, sire. I do not know the evidence."

Then Alverley spoke, uttering his indignation. His face was grey "There is none yet. At present it is no more than the tale of a drunkard."

Majesty slewed round in his chair to stare at him in furious amazement. "Is that the way to speak of the Worshipful President of the Academy?"

"With submission, sire, the President's way was not the way to speak of the Crown Prince of Prussia, of an intercourse that may well be innocent and of a lady who may well be virtuous."

"Virtuous!" The King's face was empurpling. "Do virtuous women in her station entertain crown princes? Do they receive diamond bracelets from crown princes?"

"It is not impossible, sire."

Majesty vented angry scorn in laughter. "Not impossible! Righteous God! Where have you lived, Margrave? In a cloister? Not impossible? Perhaps not. But highly improbable. And, anyway, we'll make certain. It shall never be said that I want for justice; that I act rashly upon assumption. That is not at all my way. Attend to me, Klinte. When you've lodged this girl of Ritter's in gaol, you'll send a surgeon and a midwife to examine her, and then report to me. You shall have my final orders for her disposal after that. And meanwhile, chaste or not, the girl shall be taught not to practise her blandishments on the Prince of Prussia. Have her publicly whipped tomorrow morning. If Madam finds the weather chill for stripping, the whips will warm her. Let her be whipped first before the Town Hall, then before her father's house, before the Cathedral and before the Zeughaus. That should suffice as a beginning. Afterwards I shall probably have her shut up for life at Spandau. Such women must be sent where they can do no harm. You can go."

The Councillor's face betrayed something of his distaste for the loathsome task imposed upon him. Not for him, however, to argue with Majesty. He bowed himself out.

Behind the King's back Alverley and Katzenstein exchanged a look of sheer horror.

Then his Majesty stirred again, and Katzenstein stepped forward to assist him to rise. Leaning on the Baron's arm, and further supporting himself on his cane, he limped and grunted his way to the door.

Alverley followed, walking like an automaton. His dominant thought was that, cost what it might, these bestialities must not be perpetrated upon Dorothea. Merely to think of that pure, delicate body subjected to treatment that would be brutal if administered to a harlot's was to be taken with physical nausea. This, as it happened, was to help Alverley to his ends whilst still his wits were beating themselves frenziedly against the problems of how to avail her. That rescue her he must if it cost him his life was a thought as natural as the drawing of breath.

Alverley, who had waited without dismounting, led the way at a sharp trot over the bridges spanning first the narrow and then the wider arm of the sluggish Spree, swung right along a narrow street, driving the wayfarers against the walls, crossed the Nikolai Platz with the carriage trundling after him, and brought up at Pastor Ritter's house.

In an instant he was out of the saddle, tossing the reins to the post-boy and hammering on the door. It was opened at once by the broad bosomed Theresa, her jolly countenance disfigured, her apple cheeks besmeared with tears.

"Your mistress?" cried Alverley

"Gott sei uns gnädig! The Fräulein has been taken...arrested...the soldiers came..."

Alverley turned cold. He cursed Klinte's diligence. And then, espying the tall, bowed figure of the pastor in the gloom of the passage, he strode past Theresa, and went in.

"What is this?" the afflicted cleric hailed him. "In God's name, what is this? What does it mean? I always feared that no good would come of receiving the Prince's visits. But this...Just Heaven! This passes everything. This is wicked. Monstrous. To be publicly whipped like a common harlot! My Dorothea! A tender, innocent child of eighteen!" He clutched his head in anguish.

"So! Klinte has not only been prompt; he has been communicative." Alverley bowed his head. "Let me think, sir. Let me think. I came to save her. I have brought a carriage, so that you might take her away at once, beyond their reach. But Councillor Klinte in his zeal has been too quick for me. What now?" he demanded. "What now? What is there we can do?"

"Why, what I intended. I am going to Potsdam at once: to the King. They tell me he has gone there. He shall give me reason. He must. They have told me what else he intends out of his foul suspicions. But it shall not be. God will not permit that a pure and innocent virgin be so abused."

"The calendar of saints is full of virgin martyrs, sir."

"In other times, sir." The pastor was impatient. "These are enlightened days."

"Not at the Court of Prussia, by what I have seen."

"I shall know how to plead. I am a father, and I have ever been a faithful servant of the Gospel. The Almighty will prompt me. The King shall hear reason from me."

"That madman!" Alverley scoffed. "He doesn't know the language. Sir, you don't understand the King's unspeakable mind. He cares nothing for your daughter. It is the Prince whom he desires to mortify and shame. Himself and his own brutality that he seeks to justify. To that end he uses Dorothea as he is using others: Katte, Keith, Spaen, Ingersleben, Duhan, even the Princess Wilhelmina. How can you hope, then, to prevail with such a maniac acting from policy?"

The deepening pain in the pastor's eyes showed the yielding of his mind. "What then, my God? What then?"

"What I came to enjoin. You must take your daughter beyond the King's reach."

"But she is in prison already." The voice rose in exasperation.

"I must get her out. Leave me to try. Pray that I accomplish it. Whilst I am about it, prepare for the journey. Get together your valuables, your money and what else is of immediate need to yourself and Dorothea. Make haste. Let Theresa pack such things as Dorothea will need so that you are ready to set out as soon as I return."

Already he was turning away when the old man seized his arm. "Set out, do you say? But where am Ito go?"

"Anywhere out of the dominions of the King of Prussia."

"But my work here!" the pastor plaintively protested. "How am I to live away from Berlin? It is unimaginable."

Alverley was stern. "What is unimaginable is that your child should be martyred. For the rest, you are a churchman. At least have faith in what you preach that the Lord will provide. I cannot stay to argue, sir."

He was gone, followed by quavering supplications which it is fortunate that he did not stay to heed, for he had not overstated Klinte's swift zeal.

He came briskly into Klinte's office on the ground floor of the Schloss, and demanded to see the Staatsrat at once, announcing himself as from the King. In a moment he was ushered into the Councillor's presence.

Klinte rose to receive him. "At your orders, Monsieur le Marquis."

Alverley was stiffly formal. "In the matter of the girl Ritter, it will not now be necessary for you to take action. His Majesty has considered further and has decided himself to examine her in the first instance. My orders are to conduct her to Potsdam. That is all, sir."

The Councillor of State looked perplexed. "But action has already been taken. Not only is the girl already in prison, but Hochbauer, the surgeon, and a midwife have this moment left me, to carry out his Majesty's instructions." His solemnity was overspread by a complacent smile. "I do not dare to permit myself delays in the execution of the King's wishes."

"Neither do I. Therefore, my dear Councillor, you will oblige me with an order on the prison. I will then do my part."

"At once." Klinte sat down, and took up a pen. "I trust that his Majesty's questioning of the girl may remove the need for the further measures he had in mind."

"The hope does you credit, sir. I permit myself to share it; for it must give pain to Prince Frederick to have this lady subjected to such indignities."

"Indeed I understand." The Councillor sighed, dusted his writing with pounce, rose and handed the sheet to the aide-de-camp.

Within ten minutes Alverley was drawing rein before the gloomy portal of the penitentiary, the carriage ever at his heels.

The head gaoler put on his spectacles to read the order.

"The Fräulein Ritter again! She keeps us busy. The Herr Doktor Hochbauer is with her now He has just gone to her."

Alverley repressed a shiver of disgust.

"Then we will hasten so as to save him trouble. His offices are no longer necessary." His voice was firm and hard, and for all that his pulses raced, his countenance was that of the emotionless officer on duty.

He hurried the too-leisurely gaoler along a vaulted gallery, wherein presently he caught the echo of voices: first a woman's whose words were inaudible; then a man's, loud, clear, stern: "Idle to protest, Fräulein. We are in our duty, by the King's orders. Resistance will only increase your distress."

The gaoler had reached a door, and he paused there to grin over his shoulder at the officer. "The Fräulein is being coy, and..."

"Open, you dog."

"Almighty!" The gaoler was taken aback by the sudden fierceness. He made haste to fling wide the door.

Within the bare, narrow cell a small man and a large woman turned sharply as Alverley crossed the threshold. Beyond them, her shoulders touching the wall, in an attitude of fierce defiance, her face deathly, her eyes wild, a hand to her heaving breast, stood Dorothea. She wore a simple, high-necked gown of sapphire blue; she was without hat, but a shawl of purple silk draped her shoulders, its ends entwined about either arm.

At sight of Alverley her eyes seemed to dilate still further, the heave of her breast increased, her breath came in dry, hard sobs.

He made haste to end her horrible suspense. He spoke sharply, rapidly "You will be Doctor Hochbauer. I have to tell you that your services are no longer required here. His Majesty has changed his mind." He stood aside, and motioned them out.

"My instructions are from the Herr Staatsrat Klinte," the surgeon objected.

"This cancels them." Alverley thrust his order under the man's nose.

Hochbauer scanned the order, and bowed. "Perfectly. The Fräulein will be relieved. My duty to you, Herr Rittmeister." He bowed again. "Come, Frau Schacht." He led his female companion out.

There was a gasping sob from Dorothea. Her arms sank inertly to her sides, and she swayed a little in that sudden release from unutterable tension.

Under the eyes of the gaoler, Alverley maintained a stiff, military formality "Be good enough to accompany me, Fräulein."

She inclined her head, and kept it lowered after that, looking neither to right nor to left, faltering a little at first in her stride as she paced beside him along the stone gallery and out to the waiting carriage.

Leaving the order of release with the gaoler, Alverley handed her into the chaise, closed the door, and mounted. "Follow me," he bade the postilion, and again led the way to the Nikolaistrasse.

In the chaise Dorothea sat quietly weeping, in reaction from the abominable horror that had confronted her. Thus Alverley found her when he opened the door of the chaise.


Stirring stuff - Sabatini did his research (give or take a few liberties with the geography, placing Doris's house in Berlin rather than Potsdam, and the biography of Doris's father who was all of 41 at the time) and even gave that midwife and military surgeon a walk-on part. However, this being written in 1942, he stops the scene just before Doris is forced to strip off and spread her legs to show off her virginity. Note how Sabatini aged Doris from sixteen to eighteen for decency's sake -- given policy on this site, I expect I shall have to do the same when I get around to her story.

Recently, I have come across another romance novel with Doris as the heroine -- this one was was written in 1930 by German hack Günther Holm and was issue No. 133 in a series of historical romance novels called "Frauen der Liebe" ("Women of Love"), each named after a real historical figure. See Doris on the cover in a demure black gown and bonnet, with a rolled-up music score in her hand:

Doris Ritter Frauen der Liebe cover.jpgDoris Ritter Frauen der Liebe inner cover.jpg

No idea of the plot, but I expect a sort of precursor to Mills & Boon. There are antiquarian copies of this paperback available but I don't feel like spending 25 Euros or so to find out.

Interestingly, this is not the only issue in this series about the Crown Prince's juvenile lovers (or not, as may be the case for proven virgin Doris). No. 116 in the series is about the Countess Orzelska, who was Friedrich's actual first lover, meeting him two years before Doris in 1728 during a state visit with his father to Saxony and having an illegimitate child thought to be Friedrich's. Remarkably in view of how he treated Doris, the old King knew all about the affair with Countess Orzelska and had no objection at all. The King also knew all about Friedrich's subsequent adulterous affair with another noblewoman in 1731, the married Baroness Luise Eleonore von Wreech, who also had a child with him (named Friederike, just to make sure everybody knew who the Dad was). The King thought that was a splendid sign for future legitimate offspring to keep the family line going. Which is rather rich, seeing that at the time poor Doris was still imprisoned and subjected to unspeakable corporal and (probably) sexual abuse at the Spinnhaus in Spandau for a disproven allegation of immoral conduct with the Crown Prince. So, the King's objection doesn't appear to have been that he thought Doris was Friedrich's mistress, but rather that she was a commoner above her station and/or that she was playing music with Friedrich which the King had expressively forbidden his son to do.

Compare and contrast the dress of Countess Orzelska on the cover of her novel with that of Doris:

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Jon Smithie

This takes me back. Rafael Sabatini's "Captain Blood" was one of my favorite books back in the day. I regret I didn't read his "King In Prussia," though I think even back then, I would have smelled a rat with Alverley rescuing Doris so precipitously.

It is kind of amusing to note the differences in the depictions of Doris on the covers of the different books. In Sabatini's she looks like a high fashion model on the glam, and in Holm's she looks a little more like what I would expect a pastor's daughter to look; rather sedately dressed and not overly made up. The kind of girl who would give you a real rise out of a thorough inspection of her maidenhead, and a thorough and severe flogging through the town.


Still, there appears to be enough in these books to be worthwhile to seek them out -- for example, it seems both of them are quoting verbatim the entire interrogation transcript of Doris that was prepared after her initial arrest on 1 September. That would be the only chance to hear Doris's voice directly in the documents, relatively unfiltered through re-telling.

As it happens, both books are available second-hand. Hinrich is pretty expensive, but there are several cheap copies of the Ahnert book available. I've ordered one for a couple of Euros, so I should know more about what is and what isn't in the book shortly. I suspect only about three or four pages are relevant to Doris, but it wasn't a lot of money.

Following up from my previous post quoted above, I have now received my copy of the 1982 book by Rainer Ahnert. As suspected, it is somewhat of a curate's egg: Ahnert says in his preface that his book is closely based on the 1936 book of (almost) the same name by Carl Hinrich, but he wanted to add "the human dimension" which he felt was missing from the earlier book. Unfortunately, that meant that whereas Hinrich's book was a collection of archive sources reproduced in full and verbatim, with a bare-bones linking narrative, Ahnert has added extensive linking narrative, frequently unsupported by any sources. Worse (and really unforgivably for what claims to be a collection of archive material) he has paraphrased and edited some of the sources to better fit his narrative and to add his "human dimension" without clearly identifying this, and sometime even while pretending to quote verbatim. So, he is to be treated with some caution.

As far as Doris is concerned, there are five pages:

Ahnert p138-139.jpgAhnert p140-141.jpgAhnert p142-143.jpg

His brief chapter on Doris consists of four sub-sections:

The first (and most useful) is what is said to be the protocol of Captain von Roeder recording the arrest and interrogation of Doris Ritter on 1 September 1730, along with the Crown Prince's friends Lieutenants von Spaen and von Ingersleben, and the subsequent search of the lodgings of Doris's family and interview with her parents. Unfortunately, comparison with the fragments from the earlier Hinrich book that I can access through Google Books shows that despite the use of direct quotation marks, what Ahnert claims to be direct quotes from v. Roeder's protocol have been jazzed up by Ahnert into a mock questions-and-answers format, and with interjections on Doris's emotional state which are invented by Ahnert. Still, the factual contents appears to be correct and combining this with what I can get from the Hinrich book I am confident that we get a close idea of what Doris has actually said in that interrogation, as opposed to what other people have said about her or projected onto her. See my next post for a translation of the full protocol (patched together from the Hinrich and Ahlert books), the closest we will come to hearing Doris's side of the story.

The second sub-section is the one I had already translated in my previous post, namely Ahnert's account of the virginity test and his claim that the King's order of 6 September for Doris to be flogged, despite the outcome of that virginity test, came about because following the initial interrogation, further questioning of her parents revealed an additional cash gift of 50 crowns to the parents "to make a new outfit" for Doris, which the King chose to interpret as payment for sexual services, which in turn would make Doris a whore and the parents her pimps. While we do not know what the King's reasons were for his decision, I have now found the original source for both the virginity test and the cash gift of 50 crowns, and in my view the source material doesn't support Ahnert's guesswork as to events between the arrest on 1 September and the King's order on 6 September, or the motives underlying the King's brutal decision, although to be fair it doesn't contradict it either. Again, I will present and discuss the actual historical source for the virginity test in my next post later today.

The third section is a supposedly verbatim quote of the King's order, although Ahnert can't help himself and slightly fiddles with the King's wording, changing "Cantor's daughter" to "Rector's daughter" [Doris's father held both posts at the same time, and the sources randomly switch from one to the other, a potential source of confusion. Yet, it may be significant that the King said "Cantor", in view of his strong opposition to his son's music lessons, and the musical nature of Friedrich's relationship with Doris.]

Finally, Ahnert has a brief discussion of the King's brutal treatment of Doris, which he sees as a sign of pathological defects in the King's psyche (possibly an inherited tendency to insanity from certain named ancestors) and as an "unfathomable and also in the eyes of the time not comprehensible over-reaction" to what was a perfectly harmless acquaintance with some minor gifts and occasional chats.

He finishes with a reference to her being sent for three years to the Spinnhaus at Spandau, "a notorious women's prison amongst thieves, prostitutes and child murderers", which he says "completely removes her from the events of Summer 1730". And indeed, there is no further mention of her in the remainder of the book which is concerned with the subsequent interrogations of Katte and Friedrich and the court martial hearings.

One useful aspect of seeing the sources of Doris's fate being presented in the context of the wider investigation of the Prince's desertion (and possibly treason) is that it makes clear just how much was on the King's plate in that first week of September 1730. The King was writing vast numbers of orders every day, many other interrogations and strands of investigation were going one, arrests being carried out, Crown Prince arrived at his final fortress prison on 4 September, and the King was reported to be in a foul temper interspersed with wild outbursts of rage (including beating up his own daughter, Princess Wilhelmine, on 26 August, calling her a "slut" and a snake and accusing her of being Katte's secret lover and having multiple bastard children by him). It may be that sending Doris to be flogged and then locked away at the Spinnhaus was simply a way of removing at least one pawn from the board and closing down one strand of investigation, while also having the benefit of giving a spectacle to the wider populace where rumours would have been running wild since the arrest of the Crown Prince, the big scandal of the day. What better way of disarming any rumours of possible treason or political intrigues than to present it to the people as simply a sex scandal, complete with giving the crowd a sacrificial virgin as a scapegoat, and source of titilation.

[To be continued...]
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[Continued from previous post]

This additional material means that I am now confident that I have full copies of every existing archive source on the arrest and punishment of Doris Ritter, and therefore am in a position to evaluate what is documented historical fact, what is legitimate contemporaneous ambiguity, and what is plain later embellishment or falsification. Simply put, if it isn't in this post, it's not part of the historical record.

Contemporanous sources from 1730

These are the existing records of documents prepared by direct participants of the events of August-October 1730, in as far as they mention Doris Ritter, and how they fit into the chronology of the unfolding larger events.

The prince departed Berlin on 15 July as part of the King's entourage on a long state visit to various Southern and Western German principalities, having previously made secret plans with his friends Lieutenants von Katte to take this opportunity to flee to his mother's relatives in England (the Queen was the sister of King George II) and to marry his cousin, Princess Amelia, to whom he was secretly engaged against the wishes of his father. The plans that he had made with Katte were laughable and failed from the outset, but nevertheless the Prince hatched a new (equally laughable) plot with another officer, Lieutenant von Keith, to abscond from the royal travelling party on 5 August. The attempt is immediately discovered and the Prince arrested, whereas Keith made his getaway. When the King is made aware of the attempt to abscond, incriminating correspondence is quickly discovered making clear that there was a plot, but not who was involved or the full intentions. For the Crown Prince to flee abroad with plans to marry without the King's permission, and to the princess of a potentially hostile power (Prussia was allied to the Emperor in Vienna, a political opponent of Britain) was to manipulate the succession and undermine the realm's political alliances, and at one stage the King thought there may even be a plot to assassinate him and install Friedrich as King in his place. So, this was serious stuff - the King quickly needed to get to the bottom of whether this was a juvenile act of filial rebellion by his feckless son or a wider-ranging conspiracy against his rule by the pro-British political faction afiliated with his wife, the Queen. The first priority was to identify Friedrich's co-conspirators and arrest them. Keith had already got away and would find exile in England. Katte's name was discovered on 12 August and an order for his arrest was sent to Potsdam, where he was arrested on 16 August. While the royal party made its way back to the residence, initial interrogations of Friedrich and Katte took place and the King prepared a witness statement of his own setting out how he learned of the attempted desertion. On 27 August, the King arrives in Berlin and immediately has a violent confrontation with his wife and daughter, abusing them physically and verbally and accusing them of being part of the conspiracy. He then wants to have Katte put to the torture to get the truth out of him. The King's Chief Minister, Grumbkow, prevents this from happening (at least for now), but Katte is interrogated very aggressively on 27 August by Grumbkow and the King himself. That day and the next, 28 August, he then writes a long and rambling statement which is printed in full in the Ahnert book, where it occupies 14 pages. Part of it flatly contradicts Friedrich's own statements during his initial interrogations, raising the King's suspicions even further. Transcripts of the initial interrogations of Katte and Friedrich and the King's own statement as well as his orders during August are all reprinted by Ahnert. None of them mention Doris Ritter.

But then, her name suddenly appears on the record in a letter written on 31 August by Katte to Grumbkow, presumably following on in some fashion from the aggressive questioning he was subjected to over the previous days. This letter is not reprinted by Ahnert, but quoted in parts in the thin book on Doris Ritter written by Anna Röhrig in 2003, translated by her from French (the court language) to German. So, this is our very first contemporaneous document. My English translation is:

1) Letter from Hans Hermann von Katte to Chief Minister von Grumbkow of 31 August 1730

"I recall that [the Prince] spoke of a girl that he had in Potsdam, whom he loved very much, the said cantor's daughter, perhaps she is the one, for whom he ruined himself financially by frequent gifts from his own pocket. I have never seen her and he has only told me of her once -- prior to his departure, when he regretted his absence."

From this, it appears that Katte didn't bring up Doris's name by himself, it was put to him in some fashion either in verbal questioning or in writing, and although he says he didn't know her, he thinks she might have been the girl Friedrich once told him about.

For the King, still looking for further co-conspirators to get to the bottom of the extent of the plot, the next step is obvious: an order to arrest the hitherto inconspicious and unknown girl was issued promptly and executed the next day, 1 September 1730. Also arrested at the same time were the Lieutenants Johann Ludwig von Ingersleben and Alexander Sweder von Spaen, both serving in the Regiment of the Great Grenadiers -- the King's personal guard regiment and main hobby, the so-called "Postdam Giants". Having his son compromise the personal loyalty of officers from his pet regiment would have been a particular insult and threat to the King at that stage.

So, this is our second contemporaneous document (the image below is the patched together excerpt of the Hinrich book I got from Google Books, augmented in the below translation from Ahnert's paraphrased version).

Doris Ritter Verhoer.jpg

2) Protocol by Captain von Roeder and Ensign von Perband on the arrest of the Lieutenants von Ingersleben and von Spaen and the rector's daughter Doris Ritter, dated Potsdam the 1st of September 1730

"On receipt this noontime of His Royal Majesty's most high order to Colonel von Kleist dated today in respect of the arrest of the Lieutenants von [Ingersleben and von Spaen and the rector's daughter Doris Ritter, we arrested Lietenant von Spaen on duty at the main guard station and Lieutenant von Ingersleben at the Nauen Gate and placed them under the personal supervision of Majors von Einsiedel and von Knesebeck. The rector's daughter] was also promptly brought into custody at the Town Hall by a sergeant from the regiment and town police, with a guard placed at her house. Thereafter, Captain von Roeder's personal seal was placed on the doors of the lodgings of Lieutenants von Ingersleben and von Spaen, and additional guard from the regiment posted there. And then we proceeded to the Town Hall to promptly interrogate the rector's daughter after giving her serious warning to tell the full and honest truth.

Her name was Dorothea Elisabeth Ritter, she was 16 years old, and it was 3/4 of a year ago that she came to Potsdam with her father. She had no possessions belonging to His Royal Highness the Crown Prince; but she could not deny that he had, over time, made her various presents, namely:

1. 10 ducats in cash; 14 days later
2. A nightgown of blueish Gros de Tour fabric with a silver buckle as well as 11 ducats, from which she bought a set of lace, and a silver palantine and kittle.
3. A green contouche with stitched flowers.
4. A pair of mother-of-pearl earrings set in gold.
5. About 7 cubits of orange ribbon with silver.

The cloth for the blueish nightgown and also the green contouche were however not new but, as told to her by Lieutenant von Ingersleben, had already been worn by His Highness himself, so that she had to have her mother buy some more of the bluish cloth so that it would make a night gown. [In any case, all these presents were not brought to her by His Highness himself, except for the some cubits of orange ribbon which he brought her back from Saxony. The other gifts were delivered to her by Lieutenant von Ingersleben, or sometimes by his manservant.

How did she make the acquaintance of His Highness?

This arose one evening in spring of this year, her parents were not at home, when there was a knock on the door. When she opened the door], His Highness stood in front of it, but she did not know him; after His Highness had wished her a Good Evening, he beckoned over an officer standing by the church opposite, whom she now knows to have been Lieutenant von Ingersleben, they departed again after a very brief conversation, with the promise to return another time. His Highness did then indeed return the very next day and the third as well, and thereafter at various times, on his own the first days and then occasionally in the company of Lieutenant von Ingersleben. Her father was not at home at these times, except once when His Highness immediately departed again.

Thereafter we returned her to her previous place of custody.

And then we proceeded promptly to the lodgings of the rector [and explained to him that to avoid incurring the grave displeasure of His Majesty and most severe punishment, he was to produce all belongings of his daughter Dorothea Elisabeth and hold not even the meanest thing back. On reviewing her belongings], we found all the things and clothes declared to us by the daughter herself, and in addition in a small chest a silver toothpick holder and a pair of poor quality amber bracelets, also another contouche of blueish taft, the latter according to the parents made from the lining underneath the blueish gros de tour fabric of the nightgown given to her. It is to to be [noted that the nightgown and also the green contouche were not new, but patched together from worn pieces. The parents assured us and swore to their honour that other than this not even the slightest belongings were there, and also no letters, and in the most forceful manner the cantor declared that the dealings of his daugther with His Highness were not in the slightest disreputable. The parents begged that their daughter be released from her arrest, or at least allowed to remain under house arrest under guard at her own home."

[Paraphrased passages taken from the Ahnert book are in square brackets, the rest from the verbatim statement in the Hinrich book.]

So, this is the protocol of Doris's initial interrogation, on the day of her arrest, as well as the questioning of her parents. We may assume that the tone was considerably rougher than the formal language in the statement, and -- as Barbara Moore may attest to from her experiences from Singapore to Zilawe -- what is written down in police statements often has a somewhat loose relationship with the truth, or with what actually happened during questioning. Still, this is the closest we have to Doris's voice. Many of the facts found in the various books and essays I have previous posted are here, but it is more striking what is not here, namely no mention of music, no mention of the Prince spotting her singing in Sunday mass, no mention of promenades by the banks of the Havel River. Instead, she plainly confirmed that not only was she entirely un-chaperoned during her encounters with the Prince, but on the one occasion that the Prince called while her father was at home, he immediately turned around and left.

Röhrig's reading of this is that Doris was deliberately telling events in such a way so as to avoid compromising her father as much as possible, presumably out of fear for his position (quite justified, as he was sacked shortly after Doris was flogged). Similarly, she may have decided not to mention music, knowing that the King had expressly forbidden his son from taking music lessons.

However, as a result, it is entirely unsurprising that the King, on reading this interrogation protocol, would have readily drawn the conclusion that an 18-year old prince calling almost nightly at the home of a 16-year old girl, but only when she was on her own with her father out of the house, must have been fucking like rabbits.

If a virginity test did indeed take place, it would have been ordered by the King at this stage, to follow up on that suspicion. There is no record of such a test in the official Prussian documents at the time, only in a letter written later the same month, which I shall produce in my next posting.

In the meantime, the next few days following Doris's questioning are busy for the King, with ongoing interrogations of Katte, more arrests of the Prince's servants (they were eventually dismissed from service), searches for hidden music and books (which were sold or burned), while the Prince finally arrived at his prison cell at the fortress of Küstrin on 4 September. The King also started to compile a long list of detailed questions, eventually running to 185 questions on all aspects of the plot which were put to the Prince on 16 September. Ahnert's book reproduces the questions and the Prince's answers in full, over 22 pages. None of them concerned Doris. The King can't have been all that interested in her role, or suspected her of involvement in the plot, or else he would have asked the one person who would certainly know the truth.

Of course, by that time Doris was already off the scene, because the very next one on our list of contemporanous documents is the terrible cabinet order issued by the King on 6 September, which brought public shame, painful torture and the a sentence of life imprisonment in a living death onto poor Doris:

3) Cabinet Order by His Majesty King Friedrich Wilhelm I to the Mayor of Potsdam, Hofrath [Councillor] Klinte, dated 6 September 1730

Doris Cabinet-Ordre (King's original wording).jpg Doris Cabinet-Ordre (sent to Klinte).jpgDoris Cabinet-Ordre.jpg

There are three slightly different wordings of this order, all of them reproduced above. The original order was preserved at least until the mid-19th century at the Potsdam Town Archives (from where it was transcribed for the periodical of the Potsdam Historical Society in 1869) and was written in the King's own hand, in unadorned language:

"Order to Klinte that the cantor's daughter who is under arrest here shall be flogged tomorrow, once in front of the Town Hall, once in front of the father's house, and at all corners of the town, and then brought forever to Spandau."

The same piece of paper also contained the same order in more fancy language, presumably redrafted by the King's secretary:

"His Royal Highness in Prussia etc. Our most gracious lord commands the Hofrath Klinte, that tomorrow he is to have flogged the cantor's daughter who is under arrest here, and shall have the same then bought for ever to the Spinnhaus at Spandau, first shall the same be flogged in front of the Town Hall, then in front of the father's house, and then at all corners of the town.

Potsdam, the 6th of September 1730 Fr. Wilhelm (in his own hand)"

A third version then was then transcribed into the official record book of royal orders that was maintained in the court records, and that version is now in the Prussian State Archives. The wording is effectively the same, except for a slightly different opening.

At the same time, the King issued a second cabinet order, to the commandant at Spandau (included on the above transcription from the official record book)

4) Cabinet Order by His Majesty King Friedrich Wilhelm I to the Government at Spandau, dated 6 September 1730

"His Majesty herewith orders the Gouvernment at Spandau that the daughter of the cantor here, when she is sent over, is to be admitted forever to the Spinnhaus there."

These chilling orders were issued by the King on 6 September, to be executed the next day, 7 September. However, there was still time for one last rescue attempt, which I shall recount in the next installment, to be posted tomorrow...

[To be continued...]

Jon Smithie

Outstanding work, nsur!

I have a great deal of sympathy for the real, historical Doris Ritter, as opposed to Barbara Moore, who deserves everything she gets. It sounds to me like Doris was simply the scapegoat of a cruel tyrant. No doubt Friedrich had real concerns about conspiracies swirling around him, but even if Doris had been involved in some conspiracy up to her eyeballs, to have this young woman of 16 years flogged and confined to prison for life seems over the top, even for those times.

Do you have information about how the sentence was received publicly? I'm particularly curious if the public, who, I presume, was well aware of the injustice of this, nevertheless turned out for the flogging, and if there would have been enthusiastic support for such a spectacle.

Separating my sympathetic interest from my prurient interest, I must say that the fact that such a cruel sentence could and indeed was carried out (at least so far as the flogging and three years worth of, I'm sure, miserable, brutal imprisonment) is quite stimulating.

Thank you for sharing your careful, detailed research!


[Continued from previous post]

It is now 6 September and we are approaching the day of reckoning for Doris. She is still sitting in a custody cell at the Town Hall, where she has been since her arrest six days earlier, on 1 September. The King's hand-written order for her flogging and subsequent incarceration has been sent to the Mayor of Potsdam, the Privy Councillor Nicolaus Dietrich Klinte. The Town Hall was just across the Old Market square from the palace, and hence the order would have been received by Klinte with minimal delay the same day.

Let's consider for a moment what Klinte's role here is. Since a reorganisation of Potsdam local government in 1722, the post of civic mayor in charge of town administration and policing matters had been combined with that of the justice of the peace, presiding over all criminal and civic court cases. This powerful municipal post was held from 1722 to 1742 by Nicolaus Dietrich Klinte. In principle, he was supposed to rule the town in total autonomy. In practice, being in charge of the residence town of an absolute monarch with a history of issuing summary orders and micro management, which was also a garrison town with more than a third of residents being soldiers and therefore under military jurisdiction, his scope for independent action was rather more limited.

In the case of Doris Ritter, Klinte was in an impossible position. There is no doubt that he would have known her father, Matthias Ritter, very well indeed -- St. Nikolai, where Ritter was cantor, was the town's principal Lutheran church and was situated directly opposite Klinte's town hall. The grammar school affiliated to St. Nikolai, where Ritter was the rector (head master) and where his lodgings were, was also opposite the church, in the next building but one along from the Town Hall. If Klinte had any sons, they may well have been educated in Ritter's school. If Doris was indeed regularly singing solo parts at mass, Klinte would have seen her in church every week. According to the Röhrig book, Matthias Ritter was an avid social climber and networker, so in all likelihood Klinte would have met Doris at social and civic events in town on a regular basis. For the King, this was just some random commoner wench who had jumped into bed with a prince and had to be put in her place, but to Klinte this was the highly-respectable daughter of one of the town's leading citizens, poorly-paid perhaps but prominent and very well-connected. But however sympathetic Klinte was, as a Prussian official appointed by and reporting to the King, there was little he could do.

For the past six days, Doris had been sitting under Klinte's charge in one of the Town Hall custody cells (probably one of the holding cells for middle class prisoners rather than the dungeon for the common rabble -- Prussian town halls at the time observed class distinctions in their holding cells), but with an additional military guard posted who was outside Klinte's command. Klinte may have hoped that his dilemma would go away and Doris would be released once the King was satisfied that Doris played no role in the Prince's desertion plans and her interactions with the Prince were innocuous.

Receiving the King's cabinet order of 6 September dashed any such hopes. Klinte's judicial authority and civic autonomy were crudely overruled by the monarch's summary justice, and Klinte reduced to mere executor. He was to have the girl flogged in the most public and dramatic manner, and then sent to life incarceration in a workhouse intended for common scum. The impact of that order on the cream of Potsdam civic society would have been immediate and dramatic -- the daughter of one of their own was to be dishonoured. Could anything be done to stop this outrage at the eleventh hour? Klinte himself could not intervene, as he was in charge of administering the King's verdict, but that didn't stop him from being involved in a panicky last-minute attempt at lobbying anybody who might have any sort of influence with the King to try to change his mind.

The above is not just idle speculation, but recorded in our next contemporaneous document, an utterly remarkable find preserved in the Potsdam Town Archives at least until 1869 when it was transcribed for the magazine of the Potsdam Historical Society:

5) Letter from Preacher Schultze of the Church of St. Nikolai to Mayor Klinte, dated 6 September 1730

Letter Pastor Schultze to Mayor Klinte, 6 September.jpg

"The Commandant von Haacke was not able to achieve anything with the King in the said matter, but he will try the get to Him once again. He strongly advises us against seeking an audience ourselves, for many reasons; however, Pastor Schubert has gone to see Councillor Boden to consult him for any advice he might give. May God show us a way as to how the imminent shaming of the subject person may yet to be averted : at this time I do not yet see one.

Potsdam, the 6th of September 1730

On the reverse:
To Privy Councillor Klinte, Esq."

So, this is a letter from Schultze, the most senior church official in Potsdam, preacher and intendant of St. Nikolai (and hence the immediate superior of Matthias Ritter), to Klinte, the most senior civic offical and magistrate in Potsdam. In it, Schultze summarises concerted efforts by three further senior officials to try to change this King's mind:
  • Hans Christoph Friedrich von Hacke (sometime spelled "Haacke") was the chief military adminstrator of Potsdam and hence in charge of military justice. Possibly more importantly, he was also a member of the King's famous "tobacco cabinet", the group of senior-advisors-cum-drinking-buddies with whom the King met every night for a session of smoking and drinking during which foreign and domestic affairs were discussed and decisions were made in an informal round with no protocol and no distinctions of rank, including for the King.
  • Heinrich Schubert (1692-1757) was the pastor of the other main church in Potsdam, the Heilig-Geist-Kirche (Church of the Holy Spirit), and hence the second most senior Lutheran cleric in town, after Schultze.
  • August Friedrich von Boden was a senior official in the King's government, in effect minister of finance, and also the King's personal cabinet secretary.
So, these were very heavyweight supporters trying to save Doris -- two of them have Wikipedia entries! -- demonstrating not only that Doris wasn't the lowly commoner wench usually depicted, but also that the King's order was seen as a screaming injustice even at the time. Also noteworthy that her supporters included the two men who should really be in charge of enforcing the laws on morality as well as civic and military justice. Klinte would have been resonsible for policing immoral conduct of the townspeople, whereas Hacke was responsible for enforcing military regulations amongst the soldiery in the garrison of Potsdam, including those on immoral conduct and suppressing prostitution.

However, all of them were helpless -- the King's mind was not to be changed and the following day, 7 September, the verdict was duly executed. We don't have any records of how precisely this was done, other than what it says in the King's order: she was to be flogged first in front of the Town Hall, then in front of her father's house, then "at all corners of the town", whatever that means.

It would have fallen to Klinte to pass the King's order to the town's hangman for execution, and to the hangman to make the logistical arrangements as to how and where and with what implement Doris was to be whipped. In this respect, there are three glaring omissions in the order: we don't know how many separate whipping sessions (at least two, plus unspecified further ones at "all corners"), how many lashes at each session or in total, and -- possibly most surprising at all -- what she was actually being punished for.

If you think about this, this last one is pretty strange. The whole point of a public flogging is to demonstrate justice being done in front of the populace: the delinquent's crimes are exposed and publically punished. They come with a public pronouncement of the crime and the sentence, prior to execution. So, what would Klinte have told the town crier to announce in the case of Doris? "You may have seen this girl before in church, and now it's the King's pleasure to have her stripped and whipped in front of you for no good reason at all" doesn't really work. She would either have to be publically declared to be a harlot and flogged for immorality, or as an accomplice in the Crown Prince's plot and flogged for conspiracy to desertion (which was actually a capital offence, although that was not inconsistently enforced). Realistically, with the Prince and Katte still under arrest and being interrogated pending court martial, and with the King still investigating possible other co-conspirators, the latter option would have been politically far to sensitive at the time, so I think there is little doubt that the public announcement on the market square prior to her first flogging, and then each subsequent flogging, would have been as a proven whore and harlot being punished by the hangman for immoral conduct at the command of the King.

That, of course, would have immediately dishonoured her and removed any class privileges in her treatment that she had previously enjoyed. No more middle-class holding cells at the Town Hall, no more formal questioning by (possibly) respectful officers addressing her in a polite way, no more protection by powerful supporters like Mayor Klinte. Just a bloody back and a half-dead traumatised girl being dragged from whipping post to whipping post, and through all parts of town in a neverending ordeal, immediately followed by delivery to Spandau as a lowly whore, to be incarcerated for the rest of her natural life.

There is no documentary record or witness account of any of this in the surviving records, but we can get a sense of place from old paintings of Potsdam. Here are two (one of them I had posted before), each showing the church of St Nikolai and the Town Hall opposite it, as well as the school building where Doris's father taught and where the family lived.


In both paintings, the town hall is at very right-hand edge of the frame (only seen partially in the first painting). This is where Doris sat in her cell for six days, where she was interrogated by Captain von Roeder and Ensign von Perband on 1 September, and in front of which she then received her first flogging on 7 September. The next-but-one building to the left of the Town Hall is the school. This is where Doris opened the door to the Prince, without recognising him (Ingersleben loitering by the church on the opposite side of the street), where she was arrested on 1 September, where v. Roeder and v. Perband searched her belongings and questioned her parents. Now, on 7 September, her first flogging completed, she was dragged along the street from the Town Hall to the school building, and flogged again in front of that house, followed by unknown further ordeals.

Here, the documentary trail picks up again. We do know that the entire punishment was indeed completed in a single day, on 7 September, following which we have a heart-breaking file notice added to the King's order as preserved in the Potsdam Town Archive, presumably in Klinte's own hand:

6) File notice on completion of execution, 7 September:

Doris Cabinet-Ordre with Klinte execution confirmation.jpg

"On the 7th, execution took place and the verdict announced to the parents, of which the father is the rector, as well as to the delinquent Dorothea Elisabeth Ritter".

So, it fell to Klinte, despite his frantic efforts of the previous night, to go up to Doris and then to her parents to formally pronounce judgment and inform them of the penalty to be executed. Note that unlike the King's order, the file notice took great care to include Doris's actual name, and to refer to her father as the "rector" rather than "cantor" (not sure if Klinte wanted to make a point here).

Completing this strand of the documentation, we get yet another administrative record -- Prussia's fame in respect of administrative order and bureacratic record keeping is well-deserved. This is the receipt issued by the Spinnhaus at Spandau when Doris was delivered to them, still on the same day, 7 September:

7) Receipt of the admission of the prisoner Dorothea Ritter at Spandau:

Doris Ritter admission to Spandau.jpg

"That the daughter of the cantor at Potsdam, by name Dorothea Elisabeth Riddern, has been properly admitted to the prison and work house at Spandau, is hereby certified.

Spandau, the 7th of September 1730

Signed: W.J. Pertsch, Commissarius"

We don't know in what state she was on delivery, but we can guess -- the end of the worst day of her life, or anybody else's!

No doubt, there would have had to be some recuperation before she was in a fit state to work, but then the reality of the endless slog of 12-14 hours at the spinning wheel, exposed to random physical and (probably) sexual abuse by the wardens and prison officials would have materialised, with no prospect of ever being released. As a dishonoured whore having been publically flogged, she would have been fair game with no legal repercussions for any abusers.

Bringing this strand of the documentation to an end, now that his daughter had been dishonoured, the father's position in his Royal appointment and in polite Potsdam society could also no longer be maintained. Two days later, 9 September 1730, he was summarily dismissed from his post and fled the town as well as the country of Prussia, eventually scraping a position in Mecklenburg.

8) Cabinet order by His Majesty King Friedrich Wilhelm I of 9 September 1730, dismissal of Matthias Ritter:

Matthias Ritter Dismissal.jpg

As with the order for Doris's punishment, there are again two versions: the King's handwritten order in unadorned language and the more pompous official wording faired up by his secretary for the records. The King's own words are:

"Order to the magistrate here in Potsdam, that the rector here is to be dismissed and that a letter shall be sent to Professor Francke in Halle for another suitable man."

Or in faired-up language:

"His Royal Majesty in Prussia etc. Our gracious Lord has for the known reasons decided that the rector here of the school here at Potsdam is to be dismissed; Therefore direct the magistrate herewith to make this known to him, and also to write to Professor Francke at Halle that he shall send you a suitable man, as you have already sent order to Professor Francke to that effect.

Potsdam, the 9th September 1730"

That is a good point to pause, with Doris in the Spinnhouse recuperating from her wounds, and her Father, Mother and three little sisters frantically packing up to flee town and rebuild their lives.

It is not yet the end of the archive records, though -- I have still promised you the available evidence on the virginity test and the music-making. That's for the next installment.

[To be continued...]


[Continued from previous post]

Moving onward in the chronology of 1730, Doris has been convicted and her sentence executed, but the wider story of the fight between father and son and the scandal of his attempted desertion and arrest is moving towards its climax -- whereas Doris has been summarily dealt without the niceties of a trial or even a stated reason for her punishment, the other accused were all noblemen and Prussian army officers, and so were entitled to formal court martial, which eventually took place over four days from 25 to 28 October 1730, just under seven weeks on from Doris's arrest. The accused were the Crown Prince along with Katte (both incarcerated in fortress prisons), Keith (who had by then made his escape to England and was tried in absentia) as well as Spaen and Ingersleben (both under house arrest since they were arrested along with Doris on 1 September). There were 16 officers on the tribunal: five separate panels of three officers each, grouped by rank, plus the presiding officer. Each of these panels and the presiding officer discussed their decision separately and issued a written reasoned verdict, which were then compared and a final verdict issued. These are key documents in Prussian history -- the Crown Prince's own life was in the balance, which would have dramatically altered world history -- and the original court martial protocols were published in the 19th century and are now available in full for download from Google Books.

Usually, the main interest is in the verdicts on the Crown Prince (the tribunal, wisely, decided that this was far above their pay grade and declared the prince to be outside their jurisdiction and his fate a matter of the King's parental authority) and Katte (the panels issued a split decision, 3-3, between death and life imprisonment, which by convention meant the milder sentence was adopted -- not the outcome the King wanted, who tore the verdict up and had Katte executed anyway, in front of the prince). Spaen had some minor involvement in the plot and was sentenced to three years prison at the fortress Spandau. Keith was hanged in effigy, which wouldn't have bothered him much as he was safely in England.

However, none of this is of much interest as far as Doris Ritter is concerned, except in a negative way: the mere fact that her name did not appear once in the deliberations of the court martial in respect of the prince, Katte, Keith or Spaen, nor in any of their surviving statements and interrogation protocols, is proof positive that she had nothing whatsoever to do with the actual conspiracy or the plans for the prince's attempted desertion.

What interests us here is what tends to get skipped in other accounts of the court martial: the verdicts on Ingersleben. He was the companion of the prince on his very first visit to Doris, and thereafter repeatedly the go-between bringing presents from the prince to Doris. This was the sole reason he was arrested in the first place, at the same time as Doris, on 1 September. He was never accused of any other involvement in the prince's plot (other than as an unwitting messenger for a letter from the Prince to Katte some time earlier), and so as far as the court martial was concerned, the only matter they needed to discuss when deciding on a verdict for Ingersleben was whether or not his actions in respect of the prince's relationship with Doris were legitimate or punishable as a matter of military discipline. Thus, in effect, the verdicts for Ingersleben become the closest Doris ever got to a trial herself, and the closest we have to a documented reason for her own punishment.

So here is our next contemporaneous official document: the judgment of the five invididual panels (the chair had nothing interesting to say) and the final summary verdict on Ingersleben:

9) Court Martial verdicts on Lieutenant Johann Ludwig von Ingersleben, 28 September 1730.

a) Verdict of the Captains:

Ingersleben Court Martial 1 Captains.jpg

"Lieutenant von Ingersleben, for accepting and delivering errants to the rector's daughter, which he must have known would have incurred the displeasure of His Majesty, to be sentenced to two month arrest in fortress, in addition to time served."

b) Verdict of the Majors:

Ingersleben Court Martial 2 Majors.jpg

(slightly shortened) "From the documents we have reviewed, Lieutenant von Ingersleben should not have consented to go for walks with His Highness the Crown Prince through Town in the evenings, let alone allowed himself to be used to deliver presents to the girl. We recognise that as a matter of law he should serve half a year imprisonment in fortress, but in view of time already served ask His Majesty to consider a more lenient sentence."

c) Verdict of the Lieutenant Colonels:

Ingersleben Court Martial 3 Lieutenant Colonels.jpg

"The Lieutenant von Ingersleben is assigned by us because (...) he helped with the acquaintance with the rector's daughter and also brought her some presents, that he should serve six months under arrest in Spandau."

d) Verdict of the Colonels:

Ingersleben Court Martial 4 Colonels.jpg

"(...) As the Lieutenant von Ingersleben brought some presents from the Crown Prince to the rector's daughter, for which he should not have allowed himself to be used, he is to be punished with half a year fortress arrest, in addition to time served."

e) Verdict of the Major Generals:

Ingersleben Court Martial 5 Major Generals.jpg

"In respect of the Lieutenant Ludwig von Ingersleben, as the files and the interrogations have shown that he never initiated the Crown Prince's conversation with the rector's daughter, and as he only went along to give him company, and nothing else could be found against him other that he delivered some presents, but as he should have in any case refused to do so: As he has already served six weeks aggrevated house arrest: So our verdict is that he is to be punished with another three months of fortress arrest."

f) Final verdict:

Ingersleben Court Martial 6 Final.jpg

"In respect of the Lieutenant von Ingersleben after he was forced to admit that (...) he delivered from the Crown Prince to the rector's daughter a blue nightgown, and also accompanied the Crown Prince to see her, which he properly should have refused as he must have known and should have judged that it would have incurred His Majesty's grave displeasure: The same is to be punished with six months fortress arrest, including time already served."

So, none of the subsequent interrogations and statements revealed anything else other than what Doris herself had readily admitted in her own statement immediately after her arrest on 1 September. The only possible new information here is that the panel of the Majors referred to "walks with the Crown Prince through Town in the evenings". That, I think, is the source for later authors to refer to the Prince taking Doris for walks along the River Havel. However, in context, the evening walks may just as well have been the Prince and Ingersleben on their way to see Doris at her home rather than taking her out on walks (which would in any case have been far too public if he wanted to keep his visits a secret).

Some later authors (in particular the more prudish 19th century ones) take the above rulings as positive evidence of Doris's innocence of any charges of immorality or fornication: if evidence to that effect had emerged during the court martial, the verdicts would have said so. There is some sense in that, but it is difficult to make deductions from an absence of information.

In the event, Ingersleben never had to serve any time in fortress arrest: the King pardoned him immediately after the court martial, as he liked him, and his career in the Prussian army continued without hitch. In view of the harsh treatment given to poor Doris, the solicitude given to Ingersleben by his brother-officers on the tribunal, and then by the King himself in his pardon, does stick somewhat in the craw.

Note the refererence to "fortress arrest" at Spandau in the Tribunal's verdicts. In case you are thinking that Spaen and Ingersleben (had he not been pardoned) would have served time in the workhouse alongside Doris there, nothing could be further from the truth. Here is a print of the town and fortress of Spandau:


Fortress arrest for noble delinquents usually involved being confined to a suite of rooms in the fortress (to the right of the print), probably allowed a manservant and deliveries of food and supplies from outside (although they would have had to pay for their own upkeep and the cost of imprisonment). In contrast, the Spinnhaus (for women) and workhouse (for men) was in a large crowded former merchant house right in the centre of town (in the left mid-distance on the print), without yard or garden or grounds, being confined indoors and worked hard at all times under strict discipline. Although the Spinnhaus was part of the jurisdiction of the commandant of the fortress, it is unlikely that this senior officer showed his face very often there or was closely involved in its administration. So, "sent to Spandau" meant something very different for noble officers than it did for Doris, condemned as a harlot (although I have previously posted evidence that some wives of noble officers were in fact sent to the Spinnhaus for adultery, and would have suffered the same indignities as Doris). Here is a (no doubt sanitised) old print of the work room in a Spinnhaus -- 12 hours or more per day, doing nothing but spinning yarn to make uniforms for the King's army:

Spinnhaus bild.jpg

This leaves the last official contemporaneous document concerning Doris: her pardoning and release from the Spinnhaus on 11 July 1733, almost three years later. This order by the King consisted of a single word scribbled at the side of a petition for mercy submitted by Doris's father:


I would like to show the petition itself, as it would no doubt be interesting to know what precisely Matthias Ritter wroted to persuade the King to release the girl, but unfortunately although it survives in the archives, I have found no copy of the petition. The timing suggests that the father was tipped off to ask for mercy, as it came immediately after the very public reconciliation of the Crown Prince with the King and the announcement of the prince's engagement to a bride of the King's choosing (they never had any children, and may never have consummated the marriage).

On her release from the Spinnhaus, Doris Ritter joined her father and family in Mecklenburg, outside Prussian jurisdiction. She was still only 19 years old.

Other Primary Sources

That's how far the official Prussian archives take us. There is still no sign of several key parts of the usual narrative, in particular the musical connection and the alleged virginity test. For this, we need to turn to other sources. None of these were first-person accounts by individuals known to have witnessed the events themselves (with the possible exception of the first), but they would have spoken to actual witnesses. So, these are to some extent hearsay sources.

There are five such sources, of which the first is by some distance the most contemporaneous with the events and also contains the most relevant additional evidence.

This is a dispatch from the secretary at the British embassy to the Prussian court, Melchior Guy-Dickens, sent to his superiors at London on 25 September 1730 (possibly directly to the Prime Minister, Horace Walpole) -- less than three weeks after Doris was flogged, and well before the court martial convened to consider their verdicts on the Prince, Katte, Spaen and Ingersleben. These letters were published in German translation in 1839, by a German historian, Friedrich von Raumer, who was given access to British archives. As everthing these days, it's on Google Books:

1) Letter by Melchior Guy-Dickens, 25 September 1730

Guy-Dickens letter of 25 Sep 1730.jpg

"It is the general opinion that Katte will lose his head, as the King is doubly enraged against him because of a new discover. (...)

Every day, things happens here which even to us (who are on the spot) appear incredible, and I am afraid must appear even more incomprehensible to Your Excellency from such a great distance.

About one week after the King's arrival, he ordered the imprisonment of two lietenants from the regiment of the Great Grenadiers and the daughter of a school teacher (Dorothea Ritter). The girl was suspected of intrigues with the Crown Prince, and the two officers were accused of bringing letters to and forth. The King gave order: the girl was to be examined by a midwife and a military surgeon, both of which assured the King: she was still a maiden. Notwithstanding this, as it transpired that the prince had given to the parents of the maiden a present of 50 crowns, to buy a new outfit to the daughter, the King ordered: she was to be whipped through the town by the common hangman and imprisoned for life at Spandau. Against the two officers, nothing was proved other that they attended a concert where the girl played clavier and the Prince accompanied her on the flute -- nevertheless they were both dismissed from their commissions and banished from the land."

There are several points of interest here:
  • Guy-Dickens is the first and only source for the virginity test by a midwife and surgeon, which everybody has repeated since then. Note that it is not clear whether the two of them examined Doris jointly or individually -- there may well have been two separate virginity tests, despite the graphic imagining of Ahnert who told us about Doris being forced to strip in from of the two and open her legs on the sofa.
  • Guy-Dickens is also the first source for Doris playing music with the Prince, her on clavier (which would have meant harpischord in 1730 rather than piano), him on flute.
  • Guy-Dickens knew not only about the whipping but also about the life imprisonment of Doris, suggesting that the verdict was in some way made public, possibly read out during the public flogging itself. For all we know, Guy-Dickens may have witnessed the flogging (although the embassy was in Berlin, an hour's ride away from Potsdam). If so, the specifc mention to Doris being "whipped through the town by the common hangman" may be significant as to the format of the flogging.
  • This is also the source for the 50 crowns given to the parents to buy a new outfit. Ahnert says this came out only when the parents were further questioned after the virginity test, and was the final straw for the king to decide that Doris took money for sex. However, Röhrig thinks the 50 crowns is simply a conversion into British currency of the 10 ducats cash gift declared by Doris in her protocol of 1 September, as quoted before. That seems to me more likely, also in view of the further 11 ducats Doris says she was given two weeks later, from which her mother bought various items of clothing and accesories to go with the infamous blue nightgown. If so, it may well have roused the King's displeasure, but was already known for several days before the King's verdict and well before there was time to arrange any virginity test.
  • In his 2011 book, Kloosterhuis dismisses Guy-Dickens as entirely unreliable, on the grounds that he is plainly wrong in what he says about Spaen and Ingersleben, both of whom had not yet been tried and convicted at the time of the letter (and Spaen had no connection to Doris at all). In the event, neither was banished from the land: Ingersleben was convicted to six months prison but pardoned, and Spaen did lose his commission and was imprisoned for three years, but he was not banished. Because of this, Kloosterhuis does not believe in the virginity test either and plainly states that he considers that Doris's virginity was long lost. He also says that in his view, the issue that decided the King to have Doris flogged was genuinely the charge of immorality and prostitution, rather than any involvement in the Prince's plot or conspiracies. That may carry some weight as Kloosterhuis is the current director of the Prussian State Archives, and therefore has a lot of academic credibility. However, he has no documentary evidence for that conclusion and one reviewer of his book took issue with Kloosterhuis's summary dismissal of Doris's virginity, and pointedly asked whether Doris would have lost her virginity before or after the flogging. Given what I have said about the legal consequences of her dishonoring punishment on her protection from rape, that is a very fair point.
One point that may be worth making when considering Guy-Dickens's credibility as a witness is that although his correspondence may read as a dispassionate diplomatic report on curious but distant events at the court where he is accredited, in reality Guy-Dickens was very much more guilty of involvement in the prince's conspiracy than poor Doris was: unlike Doris, Guy-Dickens did meet with both Katte and the Crown Prince ahead of the Prince's departure from Berlin, he forwarded letters from the Prince to King George II (his uncle) and Princess Amelia (his cousin and secret fiancee), he promised the Prince asylum in Great Britain, and he advanced him 5000 Thalers in expenses for the attempted flight. All this was known to the King at the time Guy-Dickens wrote his letter, as both Katte and the Prince extensively talked about their meetings and encouragement from Guy-Dickens in their statements and interrogations (all quoted in full by Ahnert). I have little doubt that the King would have loved to have Guy-Dickens arrested and executed as a foreign spy sent to conspire against his rule, but didn't dare as Great Britain in 1730 was a vastly greater power than poor little Prussia. What that means for the credibility of Guy-Dickens as a witness is hard to say, except that he may have had sources of information and inside knowledge not available to the general public, in particular through his links with the pro-English faction at the Prussian court, around the Queen (who was the sister of George II).

[... to be continued]

Jon Smithie

This story has everything, doesn't it: Conspiracies and betrayals at the highest levels of power, with the potential to alter history; a son in conflict with his father, with an ultimate "reconciliation;" and an illicit, forbidden love between a beautiful young commoner and the Crown Prince.

I think it's safe to assume, contrary to how Voltaire described Doris in later life, that Doris was quite attractive, otherwise why would the Crown Prince, who could have had any common woman in the land, be attracted to her? Certainly he might have admired her for her musical talent or her character and personality, but those are not usually the traits that initially attract a man to a woman, and I think it's doubtful in any case that such superior qualities that she may have possessed would have inspired him to give her the material for a nightgown(!) The story also sheds light on the class consciousness of the time. As you indicate above, nsur, common people, no matter how well regarded and respectable they were among their own class, were seen as ultimately disposable, and to be treated according to the whims of the nobility. And certainly women, at all levels, were more or less regarded in this way.

How times have changed, lol!


Thanks for your comments, Jon, and apologies for the delay in replying to them -- I'll get back to you on those points once I've completed my posting of the sources!

[Continued from previous post.]

The remaining four primary sources are all more remote to the events, and may be unreliable.

The first one is barely worth mentioning, except that it was (I think) the very first published reference to Doris, and written by a rather colourful character. Baron Karl Ludwig von Pöllnitz (1692-1775) is described by Wikipedia as a "writer and adventurer". As a boy, he grew up at the (soon to be) Prussian court, and he was a boyhood friend of the future king, Friedrich Wilhelm I -- Doris's nemesis. He spent his 20s and 30s as a travelling rogue, gambler and proto-Casanova flitting between the noble courts of Europe. By 1730, he was flat broke and decided to write a book about his derring-do life, which was eventually published in 1734, originally in French but soon translated into German and even into English (where he was a great success). Shortly afterwards, he returned to Prussia and took service first with the old King and on his death in 1740 with Friedrich II, who treated him effectively as his court jester.

The narrative of his book (somewhat grandly titled his "memoirs") only goes up to 1723, and is described by Wikipedia as "very unreliable". However, as it was one of the great scandals of the day, he did include an aside on the recent crisis in Prussia which includes this throwaway line about Doris:

2) The Memoirs of Baron von Pöllnitz (1730/34):

Poellnitz on Doris.jpg

"The daughter of a Lutheran preacher, of whom it was believed that the Prince had closer relations with her, was publically flogged at Spandau [NB: Pöllnitz uses the word "Staupbesen", which derives from the judicial concept of the Staupenschlag I have previously discussed] and thereafter incarcerated at the prison [Zuchthaus]."

It is not entirely clear what the readers of the day would have understood by "closer relations" ["genauern Umgang"], but in my reading at 300 years distance it is meant to signify a sexual relationship. The same 19th century moralising authors who think that he court martial protocols absolve Doris of the charge of immorality also say that Pöllnitz was such a scandal-monger elsewhere in his book that he would not have hesitated to relay any juicy details of the sex life or Doris and the Prince if there had been any, and therefore Pöllnitz's wording also confirmed Doris's dealing with the Prince to have been entirely pure and chaste. That seems a bit tortuous, but whatever Pöllnitz meant, the fact is he was in Amsterdam and not Potsdam at the time and although he still would have know many people at the Prussian court, it's all hearsay. He also of course got the place of the flogging wrong -- it was in Potsdam and she was only delivered to Spandau thereafter.

The next source is barely more reliable or detailed, but a lot closer to the heart of the story. The Crown Prince's oldest sister, Princess Wilhemine, was also his closest ally at Court. Their mother, the Queen, was the sister of George II and had hatched a plan for a British double match: the Crown Prince to marry her brother's daughter Princess Amelia, and for Wilhelmine to marry the Prince of Wales, Frederick. The King was strongly opposed, which was one of the factors that led to the Prince's attempted flight to Britain. Of course, the fallout of that also scuppered Wilhelmine's chances of marrying the Prince of Wales, and her dreams of becoming Queen of Great Britain. One year later, 1731, the King forced her into a disastrous marriage with a minor German princeling, the Margrave of Bayreuth, and the more her marriage deteriorated, the more Wilhelmine's bitterness about her Father and her lost marriage into British royalty deepened. By the time she set out to write her memoirs in the 1740s, she was determined to thrash the memory of her by then recently-deceased father, which makes her memoirs very entertaining to read but utterly unreliable.

Doris gets a mention when Wilhelmine recounts a warning relayed to her by one of her mother's ladies-in-waiting at some unspecified stage in September 1730, telling her that the Prince's allies were being hunted down and direly punished, and that the King was arranging for Wilhelmine herself to be punished as well as well.

3) The Memoirs of Wilhelmine of Bayreuth (c. 1740-1744)

Sie fuhr fort: „Der König hat schreckliche Dinge vor: Ihre Abreise ist beschlossene Sache, Madame; er wird Sie in das Kloster Zum Heiligen Grab schicken, wo man Sie wie eine Hochverräterin behandeln wird, ohne Ihre Oberhofmeisterin und Ihre Dienerschaft und einer so harten Klosterordnung unterworfen, dass Sie mir leidtun.“ Ich erwiderte: „Der König ist mein Vater und Souverän, er ist Herr, mit mir nach seinem Gutdünken zu verfahren; ich vertraue Gott allein, der mich nicht verlassen wird.“ Sie fuhr fort: „Sie tun nur deshalb so standfest, weil Sie sich einbilden, dass das hier alles nur leere Drohungen sind. Doch ich habe mit meinen eigenen Augen den Befehl zu Ihrer Exilierung gesehen, von der Hand des Königs unterzeichnet, und um Sie von der Wahrheit dessen zu überzeugen, was ich Ihnen sage: Die arme Bülow ist gerade vom Hof gejagt worden, sie und ihre ganze Familie sind nach Litauen verbannt. Leutnant Span wurde entlassen und nach Spandau geschickt; eine Mätresse des Kronprinzen wurde ausgepeitscht und verbannt; Duhan, der Erzieher Ihres Bruders wurde nach Memel geschickt, Jacques, der Bibliothekar des Kronprinzen, hat dasselbe Schicksal erlitten und Frau von Sonsfeld würde es noch
schlechter als ihnen allen ergehen, wenn sie sich nicht diesen Sommer mit der Königin zerstritten hätte.“

She continued: "The King has terrible things in mind for you: your departure is a done deal, Madam; he will send you to the Convent where one will treat you like a high traitress, without your lady-in-waiting and your servant and subjected to such a hard convent order that I feel sorry for you." I replied: "The King is my Father and Sovereign, he is in his rights to treat me as he sees fit; I trust to God alone who will not desert me." She continued: "You are only pretending to be so steadfast because you are deluding yourself that these are all just empty threats. But I have seen with my own eyes the order for your exile, signed by the hand of the King, and to convince you of the truth of what I say: the poor Lady Bulow has just been chase from the Court, she and her entire family are banished to Lithuania. Lieutenant Spa[e]n has been dismissed and sent to Spandau; a mistress of the Crown Prince has been whipped and banished; Duhan, the teacher of your brother has been sent to Memel, Jacques, the librarian of the Crown Prince, has suffered the same fate and Frau von Sonsfeld would be treated worse than all of them had she not falled out with the Queen this sommer.

All very melodramatic. Nobody knows quite how reliable her direct recollections are, but even if she was perfectly reliable and objective (which she wasn't) the description of Doris as "a mistress of the Crown Prince" is explicitly marked as hearsay rather than something within her own knowledge. However, what it does suggest is that being the Prince's lover was indeed what Doris was being punished for, regardless of whether that allegation was actually true.

Moving quickly along to the next source, here finally is our old friend Voltaire, in what is grandly and misleadingly called his "Memoirs" but is actually a posthumously-issued satirical travelogue of his visits to Prussia in the 1740 and 1750s during the reign of Friedrich II. The two were initially best buddies, but had fallen out rather dramatically by the time this was written, and Voltaire duly proceeded to caricature Prussia under the rule of both father and son as a barbaric and backwards country, and both rulers as brutal despots.

He makes two mentions of Doris, which I insert here from the English first edition, saving me the bother of a translation. Having read the French original, I might quibble slightly with the original translator on some points, but not enough to bother correcting him:

4) Memoirs of the Life of Monsieur de Voltaire Written by Himself (pub. 1784, but written much earlier)

Voltaire on Doris Ritter.jpgVoltaire on Doris Ritter 2.jpg

Voltaire clearly finds the concept of Doris being whipped through the street of Potsdam quite entertaining, and also takes the opportunity to spread some malicious innuendo about the Prince's sexuality. Here is another source saying that Doris was a musician and accompanied the Prince on the harpsichord. I note that our only previous source for that was the Guy-Dickens letter, which still locked in the secret Whitehall archives at the time Voltaire was writing, so Voltaire's reference to joint music making is useful independent corroboration.

On the other hand, he is definitely wrong to say that the Prince was forced to witness Doris's whipping (the Prince was incarcerated at the fortress Küstrin since 4 September), and probably wrong to say that the King watched her being whipped -- at least nobody else suggested anything like that. It is unclear what sources he had access to, but some of the people he met during his travels would presumably have been in Potsdam or Berlin in 1730, and may even have attended the flogging. From the second passage, it seems that he may have seen Doris in person on the streets of Berlin many years afterwards, but he doesn't appear to have spoken to her.

Which bring us to our final primary source, who unlike Voltaire had definitely met and spoken to Doris, as he was living for a while in the same house as Doris's family in Berlin, a couple of decades afterwards. This is from the memoirs of Johann Heinrich Samuel Formey (1711-1797), the secretary of the Prussian Academy of Sciences (writing originally in French, but here in German translation):

5) Johann Heinrich Samuel Formey: Souvenirs d'un citoyen (Berlin, 1789)


"The King Friedrich Wilhelm I conferred a dishonouring corporal punishment on a young, lovable, innocent person, the daughter of a school rector at Potsdam, because she had a connection with the Royal Prince, later Friedrich II, which, it is said, related only to music. She later married a licensee of fiacres and lived for some years in my house (in Behrenstrasse in Berlin) with her husband and her family. I counld never determine with confidence whether the King had granted her some small pension. However it may be, when I once spoke about this with M. de Maupertuis, the more I went into the details of the situation of this person the more his astonishment increased. At the end he exclaimed: "How is this possible? I would have given her a position in the Abbey of Quedlinburg!"

And on with this confirmation of the musical connection, and denial of any erotic dealings, we get to the end of our source material. Quite a colourful bunch of authors who wrote about Doris at the time -- all five of them have English Wikipedia entries, and various degrees of fame, from the rather unsavoury Pöllnitz all the way up to the immortal Voltaire!

You may note that we still haven't found anybody who would vouch for her being a singer in church, something confidently stated in all the later books as being how she first came to the attention of the Prince. The 1869 paper by the Potsdam Historical Society is the only one who list two references for that. Unfortunately, one of them is Voltaire (who says nothing of the sort) and the other is an unpublished manuscript said to be in the Prussian National Library and identified only by an archive reference. It is not quoted in the paper, so I have no idea what it may or may not say.

[The end of this sequence of posts -- this turned out to be rather longer than I had intended!]


After all of this dry(-ish) discussion of historical sources, I feel that I have to atone and remind myself that I am writing at a porn site (albeit a sometimes rather cerebral one) by posting an excerpt from the book where I first read the name "Dorothea Ritter" and was intrigued enough to want to find out more.

Here is the prologue, starting with a rather familar-looking Royal Order, plus a bit of Chapter 3 and the entirety of Chapter 8 from the classic erotic novel "The Prussian Girls" by P.N. Dedeaux, set in a rural girl's boarding school somewhere in Prussia in 1729 (a mistake, it should be 1730). Note that all the corporal punishments and sexual activity in the chapters I quote below involve adult school mistresses, not the pupils.

The full book can be downloaded in any format you want from here (ignore the fact that the site is in Russian, the files are all in English):



The year was 1729. The winter on the plain north of Rathenow already promised particular severity, even in October. It was sixteen years since Friedrich Wilhelm I, the “Royal Drill Sergeant” as he was called in the courtyards and corridors of European Ministries, had become the first Hohenzollern ruler of Brandenburg and established such rigorous discipline as the keynote of his State that it was now widely known as “the land of the Corporal's stick.” As for the Army, he had initiated a severity unknown since Roman times; one of his first ordinances was to decree that any soldier resisting discipline should run the gauntlet thirty times.
But this atmosphere of drill and discipline, in which the individual existed only for the State, by now permeated every institution, including the family. Of his son, this new and self-styled King of Prussia had fulminated-“That snot-nose, he shall have the whip before he has a wife.” And he would have him tried as a common deserter, for leaving his country. It was, in fact, in the year in which our story opens that the young Prince Friedrich's supposed love-affair with Dorothea Elizabeth Ritter, the demure daughter of a Potsdam Rector, had been discovered. The result? The following official decree:

“His Majesty orders Klinte, Councillor of the Court, to have the daughter of the teacher who is here under arrest whipped tomorrow… She will be whipped first before the Town Hall, then before her father's house, then in all corners of the town.”

She was at that time sixteen and a half.

Thus the Hohenzollern territories were united in little less than a mystique of the rod. Schloss Rutenberg, of which this story tells its tale, was but one of several such ladies' seminaries, where daughters of the highest families in the land were sent for training as mothers-to-be of the new State which was determined to take the smile off the face of a Europe that despised it, largely for being no more than thirteenth in size of population. Procreation was encouraged. Almost the only offense unpunished in the Army was that of drunkenness. The maxim that no one asked of an inferior anything he would not face himself meant not only the celebrated tours de baton in the Royal household itself, but that upper-class seminarists such as those of Schloss Rutenberg were treated, for this brief training period of their lives, virtually pitilessly. No less than total stoicism was demanded of them and, firm in the conviction of their country's eventual glory and their King's, they asked no quarter. Indeed, their parents were grateful for this rigor for which they themselves might have lacked both time and taste.
The school itself was set on flat land, whipped by easterly winds, though its walls were thick enough to stand a series of sieges. This outer wall was topped with a bed of mortar and broken glass and spiked gaffs, a prison-like rampart that formed the limit of the girls' domain for three terms a year, one they left only for brief walks in military formation under the attendance of a mistress and two Prefects, or Praelictors. Entry was by a ponderous gate, studded with iron bolts and again surmounted with jagged iron spikes. The whole place, from its bell-turret trellised in iron to its bare, barred cellars and even the gigantic, gnarled trees of its grounds, was calculated to inspire awe and stamp into its denizens that rigid regulation of the passions which had become the new Draconian Law of the land. This solid structure, with its massy, creaking doors, monotonous corridors, and the barren arrangement of its schoolrooms, was calculated to break and bend, an academy founded on control-and it is to one of these last that our historian's eye conducts us. (...)

Chapter 3

The Directress thought. Finally she said, “Stand here and wait until I dismiss you.” She turned on her heel and left the room on the opposite side from that taken by the punished junior mistress. This connected with her salon where a tall, big-boned, red-faced officer in a perruque and off-duty clothes reclined with a glass of fortified wine. His tight pale-blue trousers and flounced shirt suggested an immense muscularity of body beneath.
“Dire execution over?” he murmured as the Frau Direktrice entered and closed the joining door behind her. “It sounded salutory, and I am sure was.”
“Yes, I flogged a Prefect and a young mistress. A new one.”
His brow raised over the glass. “Really? Do I know her?”
She shook her head with a laugh. “Nor will you, until at least next term, Karl. I'm not sending Maria Daunitz to you ruffians at the barracks until she's trained.”
“Not even for a flogging, Beth? I've one Corporal who is accuracy itself. And 'tis so entertaining for the young officers, y'know.”
“Did you see that Ritter girl get it, by the by?” asked the now insouciant Directress, serving herself to wine.
“Alas, no such luck. Had to take my squadron out on training at the time. But Leopold-you know him-saw the last part and says the skin was fairly taken off her back by the end. Unfortunately she kept on fainting, despite all the brandy they gave her. No,” he ended on a sigh, “I rather fear she won't throw eyes at our young Prince Fritz again in a hurry.”

Chapter 9

They came for them in the dead of night.
The three mistresses had been sitting in silence in the anteroom near the entrance steps when the clatter of the carriage came up. The school had long gone to bed and since they had been told not to talk they did not talk. Only Ingeborg Untermacher leant once to squeeze Maria Daunitz's knee, as she perched nervously on a pouffe-“It's not so bad after the first one.” The force of the UNKNOWN held Maria in its thrall. All color had long since left her cheeks. Ulrika Wedell, meanwhile, was lugubriously inspecting the lacing on her glossy boots, turning her ankles this way and that.
The first thing they noticed when the Flugleman entered, saluting, was his gigantic height. He was, it was all too obvious, one of Friedrich Wilhelm's famous regiment of giants, the same that guarded the royal hunting lodge at Wusterhausen; some of these colossi were, it was said, as much as eight feet tall, to which the miter-shaped hats of the Grenadier Guards (to which they were affected) added at least another fifteen inches. It was also said that this vanity was costing the Emperor dear in prestige since, unable to recruit these mammoths from his own country in sufficient quantity, he was obtaining them from Poland, England, anywhere by barter-and now, so rumor had it, even by impressment. The three women, already curiously cowed, followed the back of this tight-fitting Prussian uniform out into the night and the waiting carriage there.
This was little more than an Army trap, without Postillion, and they sat edgily on the padded seat at the back in firm-lipped silence now, as there was a speaking slot in the top through which they could be seen. The Flugleman drove over the dirt roads of the plain as if for dear life, down the narrow streets of the neighboring town, and finished up finally to a sentry's shouted challenge. They were at the barracks gates.
“Pass and proceed!”
Again they clattered briskly forward, fetching up in a cobbled courtyard to one side the main square. And again as though there were no time to spare at all, their escort held open the door, handed them down, and marched them at haste along dimly lit corridors and passageways on which his boots resounded echoingly. Maria, indeed, bringing up the rear, found herself forced more than once to break into a run; she soon realized, however, that this frantic pace was simply due to the inordinate length of leg of the soldier leading them. At last under flares illumining great ranks of helmets and cuirasses, swords and breastplates, they had turned into a stone passage lined with guardsmen. There must have been a dozen of them, motionless, backs to the wall, staring straight ahead as if of stone themselves. About a pace or more apart, none paid the smallest attention to the cortege of three women passing under their noses. But the Flugleman had stopped at a door at the end of this corridor, rapped on it, received a thundering “Herein!”, saluted and shown the three mistresses in, again saluting before withdrawing and slamming the heavy door upon them.
The three found themselves in a gloomily lit guardroom of black stone which, at sight of the man standing to one end of it, their six knees quickly struck. It was Count Karl von Schmettau, in full uniform of Commanding Officer of the 15th. Dragoon Guards, and he was not smiling at them.
“Get up,” he said without preamble, “and stand over there.”
The three women ranged themselves across the room from the Count, facing him. “Strip,” he said.
Maria Daunitz found herself almost feverishly tearing off her garments beside her friend Ingeborg, who was doing the same. Beyond her Wedell moved more lethargically. All three, however, worked with a certain lack of cheer. The contents of the room, to which their eyes were becoming accustomed, were not designed to inspire such; already Maria, for one, had noted the presence of three other figures, all stiffly standing to attention, than the tall Count himself. Moreover, it was curiously warm within this guardroom.
Confronting them also, as they lined up buck naked save their boots, was a brawny individual with huge, horsehair mustaches wearing only a stained singlet above his breeches. Spikes of wiry black hair from his chest thrust over this single upper garment, while behind, and to one side of, him stood a ruddy-cheeked boy of about fifteen, stripped to the waist. Some drummer-lad, thought Maria, noting how closely the thin white cottonette of his trousers clung to his young hips and thighs. He, too, appeared excessively solemn. Finally, to their left, at the far end of the chamber, a figure loomed stiff as a cypress tree, some waiting Grenadier; it was glancing at him that Maria noted a brazier burning in the dim recesses. Such no doubt accounted for the heat. Iron instruments lay on the coals. It was altogether an impressive place, calculated to dampen the liveliest of spirits.
When Ingeborg ventured to speak, indeed, it was in a tone of such respectful sobriety that it increased her friend's incipient apprehensions-“The boots, too, Hoheit?”
“No. Leave them. Line up there.”
Silently, slowly, the Count paraded before the three naked figures, nodding in satisfaction at the triplet of well-haired cunts on display at the tops of their legs-Wedell's vulva a bulging lump, Ingeborg's shagged in a strenuous golden furze through which the commanding officer's fingers strayed reflectively, and finally Maria's sliced twat, trim on her flat belly above the arcs of her nicely muscled thighs.
“You know why you're here?” he said, resuming his stance across the chamber from them.
“Ja, Hoheit,” came the hoarsely chorused murmur.
“I have had a platoon of His Majesty's favorite Guards attached to my strength for a month and, whilst they receive no especial favors or privileges-rather to the contrary, in fact-they needs must be serviced from time to time. Such big men require constant glandular relief. I suspect you will be surprised at the extent and power of their emissions. As there is a whole platoon and a Corporal to account for, we have some twenty-one men to get through tonight, and I told Frau Grumkow it might be a trifle, er, exacting for a single one woman, however stoic. She agreed.” Here the Count gave a sardonic smile, and his henchman in attendance stroked out the horsehair mustaches. “Sergeant-Major here will see to proceedings. A stable-boy will help mount each man… because with these… rather long… as you will appreciate. Now then,” concluded the Count, openly fingering his flies, “you'll all have your womb-sponges set?”
“Ja, Hoheit,” came the even bleaker chorus of assent, to this.
“Not that there is truly any need of them, since each guardsman has his orders and Kurt, our stable-boy, will watch closely. However, one never knows with such prodigies of manhood as these. So each of you will take seven men. You should be able to stand it, under controlled conditions such as these. All of you are strong young Prussian girls. There will be no chance of insemination since each man will fuck you in the cunt first and finish up the anus and I assure you, with tools like theirs you're going to know you've got something up you. The best thing you can do is to relax and try to help it on. You'll feel you want to go, but you can't. Understand? Any recalcitrant behavior, any lack of complete co-operation on your part and my Sergeant-Major will have the pleasure of putting his cane across your backsides in no uncertain fashion. Got it?”
“J-j-ja, Hoheit.”
Seven pricks! Merciful Heaven!

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