Schlosshotel Kronberg

The Development of Friedrichhof Palace


A Country Home

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1895 Friedrichshof Palace from the north side

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1900 The Empress in the Grünen Salon

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1895 The entrance hall

"FRIDERICI MEMORIAE" is written above the main portal of Friedrichshof: "To the memory of Friedrich". Victoria Empress Friedrich, Queen of Prussia and daughter of the British Queen Victoria, made a new home for herself in the Taunus after the early death of her husband, the "99-day emperor" Friedrich III. She was no longer wanted in Berlin, and her original goal of establishing a modern, parliamentary system of government in Germany based on the English model was no longer an option with her son Wilhelm II.

The empress had a palace built in the historicist style on extensive grounds near Kronberg. Her architect, the Berlin court building director Ernst Ihne, knew how to blend elements of German and Italian Renaissance with English Tudor Gothic and local half-timbering to create a prestigious ensemble. After four years of construction, the palace, including the stables and outbuildings, was completed in 1893.

Inside, Victoria surrounded herself with her art collections, which she had collected with her husband over thirty years of marriage. The suite of rooms on the first floor offered her guests a vivid tour through the history of art from Gothic to Classicism.

"In its own way, the castle must be seen as a unified work of art"

explains her grandson Philipp Landgraf von Hessen. "She succeeded in doing this in such an exemplary way for the time that it was considered a model. Many of the palaces and palatial houses that were built later, especially in America, were inspired by this."

Although Schloss Friedrichshof was initially only intended as a summer residence, it had state-of-the-art technical comforts such as central heating, a freight elevator and electric light. The empress had the first coal-fired power station in the region built nearby by Siemens & Halske, which supplied Friedrichshof with three-phase electricity. She was only able to afford the exorbitant expense because a deceased friend, the Duchess of Galliera, had left her five million francs. "She had no idea what a godsend she was giving me," the empress explained to her mother, the British Queen Victoria, "as it enabled me to create a comfortable, independent country home where I could end my days."

The Empress brought the court gardener Hermann Walter from Potsdam to Kronberg, who laid out the park in the English style according to her ideas. Two English gardeners were employed to look after the grounds, which also included a nursery, a terraced Italian rose garden and a grotto with a waterfall.

The presence of the Dowager Empress, who was committed to the common good, proved to be a stroke of luck for Kronberg and the surrounding area. "Wages are high in the local area, which is something to be happy about," she explained to her mother. "There are some very poor villages near Kronberg where I hope to make myself useful." She had the town's landmark, the decaying castle, and St. John's Church restored, donated a hospital (now the Kaiserin Friedrich Haus), the Victoria School in Schönberg, a retirement home, the Kronberg town library and the town park (now Victoria Park).

Exciting visit

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around 1900 Victoria Kaiserin Friedrich with her son Wilhelm II. on the south-facing terrace

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1898 The tsar couple

William II was the first to insist on inspecting his mother's new residence, although the visit was inconvenient for her: "If only he would come with two gentlemen, but he has to bring 18 people," she complained to the Queen, "it is a great 'corvée' [agony] how to accommodate them in rooms that are not yet finished." When it was over, she told her daughter Sophie more relaxed: "The whole province was on its feet, extra trains were brought in from Frankfurt and Wiesbaden, bringing hordes of fence-sitters. They were lined up along the road from the station to my gates. The little town of Kronberg was charmingly decorated. Of course, I would have much preferred an unofficial visit ... Nevertheless, I think that ... Wilhelm had a good time in his own way ... although all those tree-length, noisy aides-de-camp are a test of patience."

In the spring of 1895, the 76-year-old Queen visited her daughter. "Unfortunately, it rained cats and dogs in the afternoon," she reported to Sophie. "In the morning, Grandmama planted a tree and just went for a ride in her little garden chaise through the rose garden and the Marstallhof. I think she liked it very much and said that the next time she comes to Germany, she would rather live here than in Darmstadt" - where she lived with her favorite grandson Ernie (Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig).

In October 1896, Tsar Nicholas II, who had married Victoria's niece Alix from Hesse-Darmstadt, also came for a day visit.

"Since Nicky arrived in Darmstadt, there have been 40 detectives in Frankfurt"

the Empress wrote to Sophie. "Four have come here to our innocent Kronberg, and one marched up to the cottage yesterday to inquire about the road we intended to use. I am indeed very glad that I am not the Tsar and can come and go as I please, without detectives on my heels."

"I received Nicky and Alicky at the train station in Homburg," she continues her report the next day. "The laying of the foundation stone [of the Russian church] went well and quickly. Then I drove here with Nicky and Alicky ... Here in Friedrichshof everything was quite pleasant ... not stiff or ceremonial. Nicky looked at everything and said he wanted to copy a lot of it. They just had time to plant two trees before they had to leave."

The empress's main concern

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1911 In the Marstallhof from left: saddle master Eckhardt, Richard, Max, Friedrich Karl, Margarethe, Friedrich Wilhelm, Wolfgang, Christoph

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1904 Regular summer guests in Friedrichshof on the north terrace

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1900 The siblings Bertie and Vicky (Edward VII and Victoria)

Wilhelm II's impulsive foreign policy, which increasingly alienated England from Germany, worried his clear-sighted mother. She therefore did everything in her power to bring about an alliance with her mother country at Friedrichshof:

"Time is pressing"

she wrote to her son in the spring of 1898, "and I am so worried that if the English statesmen see that Germany does not care to go along with the [alliance] idea, they will have to look elsewhere - that would be disastrous, now is the time & now is the hour!" In fact, she managed to arrange a secret meeting in Friedrichshof in August 1898, at which the British ambassador presented the Kaiser with an English offer of alliance. However, instead of giving a binding answer, the Emperor immediately communicated the strictly confidential offer to the Tsar - to test whether "dearest Nicky" would not want to outbid the offer? As a result, mistrust of the unstable emperor grew in both Russia and England.

Shortly after the Queen's death in January 1901, her son and successor Edward VII visited his favourite sister "Vicky" at Friedrichshof, who was already seriously ill at the time. She took the opportunity to send her brother personal correspondence, which contained her criticism of her son's style of government, to England for safekeeping.

Empress Friedrich died just a few months after her mother, in August 1901, leaving Friedrichshof to her youngest daughter Margarethe, who had married Prince Friedrich Karl of Hesse.

In August 1906, Friedrichshof was once again the venue for a diplomatic meeting.

- This time between Edward VII and his nephew William II. The meeting was arranged by William's sisters Sophie and Margarethe. The Germans felt increasingly unsettled by the entente between France and Russia. And now the British were also flirting with the idea of joining this alliance because they felt threatened by the "boundless" expansion of the imperial navy. Although the Kronberg meeting between uncle and nephew, accompanied by high-ranking advisors, was "entirely satisfactory" according to Wilhelm, it ultimately had no consequences because he stubbornly refused to discuss disarmament issues.

Friedrichshof between the wars

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1895 Cottage

The consequences of this policy, which led to the First World War, the German defeat and the fall of the empire, were felt in Friedrichshof at the end of 1918 with the arrival of French occupying troops. The irony of history was that only a short time before, Frederick Charles had received a Finnish delegation here who offered him the royal crown of Finland.

As the upkeep of Friedrichshof became too expensive during the period of inflation, the family moved into the Court Marshal's Cottage in the park above the palace. The inventory was "mothballed", most of the staff retired and the house was closed. Only once, in December 1930, was it opened and the covers removed from the furniture, the servants were brought out of retirement and put into the old livery to celebrate a family wedding. Over the next 15 years, the castle fell back into its slumber.

From "Kronberg Castle" to "Schlosshotel Kronberg"

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October 1946 The jewellery robbers with their loot in the castle, fantasy drawing from "American Weekly"

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March 1958 Jewellery theft trial at the US court martial in Frankfurt/M. Princess Sophia and Landgravine Margarethe (in the middle) are questioned as witnesses. Press photo in "American Weekend"

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1967 The big fire

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2003 The bridal couple Floria and Donatus in the Green Salon

In March 1945, occupying troops, this time Americans, marched into Kronberg for the second time. As a result of the Hessians' involvement in the Nazi regime, Friedrichshof and its outbuildings were confiscated by the US Army, the family was expelled and the castle was used for eight years as an officers' club under the name Country Club Kronberg Castle. During this time, a significant part of Empress Friedrich's collections were lost.

The family jewellery (incorrectly referred to in the media as "crown jewels"), which was walled up in the coal cellar, was betrayed to the leading US officers, who stole it and sold it. The theft led to a sensational trial at the US court martial in Frankfurt, and the perpetrators were sentenced to prison. Only a small part of the jewellery was recovered.

He had the park turned into a golf course without interfering with the valuable tree population.

At the same time, his older twin brother Philipp succeeded in creating a synthesis of stately tradition and bourgeois self-image with the interior design. In the 1960s, the family transferred the Schlosshotel Kronberg to the Kurhessische Hausstiftung (now the Hessische Hausstiftung).

A roof fire destroyed the second and third floors in 1967. Fortunately, antique furniture and artefacts were saved. Additional damage was caused to the lower floors by the extinguishing water, which poured down the large oak staircase like a torrent into the entrance hall. The restoration of the property was entrusted to the Philipp Holzmann company, which had already built the castle 75 years earlier and still had the construction plans. An additional storey was added to the roof in consultation with the state conservator and the façade on the small northern terrace was brought forward on the first floor. This created space for additional bathrooms, and the opportunity was generally taken to meet the increasing comfort requirements of hotel guests during the restoration. On the ground floor, an extension for a bar, barely recognisable from the outside, and rooms for cloakrooms and toilets below were created.

Even after its conversion into a hotel, the house was occasionally used for family celebrations. Most recently, Landgrave Philipp's grandson Donatus celebrated his wedding to Floria Countess von Faber-Castell here in 2003.

The management of the Schlosshotel under the current Chairman of the House Foundation, Donatus Landgrave of Hesse, meets the growing challenges posed by the steadily increasing number of new hotel openings in Frankfurt and the surrounding area by constantly investing in logistics, technology, service and room comfort. Landgravine Floria personally takes care of the redecoration of the rooms in the English country house style.

The successful adaptation to the changing times in the empress's "Country Home" can be summarised in a trivial formula:

Where once emperors and kings were guests, today the guest is king.