The cornflower is a symbol of Prussia. It was the favourite flower of the Prussian Queen Louise (1776–1810), the consort of King Frederick William III (1770–1840).
The regal couple enjoyed great favour among their subjects, leading almost the life of commoners in contrast to the customs at the court of the predecessor, Frederick William II, who had numerous affairs and was heavily in debt when he died. Their summer residence, Schloß Paretz, 20 km away from Potsdam’s city centre, offers an impression of the private life of the royal couple.
Despite the fact that, with his neutrality policy, Frederick William III tried to stay out of the major European conflict of his times, the fight against domination by France under Napoleon, Prussia took a body blow in 1806 in the battle near Jena and Auerstedt. French troops advanced on Berlin, stole the quadriga from the Brandenburg Gate and forced the royal couple to withdraw to Königsberg. As Königsberg too came under threat, the royal family fled to Memel, in the extreme north-eastern corner of Prussia.
Prussia was excluded from the subsequent peace talks between France and Russia held in the Prussian town of Tilsit, although its fate was also decided there. Official talks were therefore not possible.
In this situation, Queen Louise arranged an encounter with Napoleon, in which she passionately made the case for her country in the hopes of achieving less stringent peace terms. Even if her efforts proved fruitless, the endeavours she made remained unforgotten and are the basis for the myths surrounding her. Her early death at the age of only 34 – the flight took a considerable toll on her health – was a contributory factor. She did not live to experience the liberation of Prussia and Europe from the yoke of Napoleon in 1815.
In memory of Queen Louise and the era of the Prussian kings and German emperors who bestowed on Potsdam the beauty we can enjoy today, I have chosen the cornflower as both the name and the symbol for my holiday apartment.
Text and stylised cornflower © 2020 Ernst Eimer. Reproduction not permitted.
Images (5) and (6): public domain