Monday, July 30, 2012

A German Prince Seeks Food and Shelter

In October 1858, a curious report appeared in the Darling Downs Gazette. It had been sent to the newspaper by a correspondent in Ipswich.  According to the letter writer, the rough and ready township of Ipswich had recently received a visit from a German aristocrat.[1]

THE PRINCE AND BONIFACE[2] - A correspondent writing to us from Ipswich says, "I beg to tell you of an incident that occurred here lately, which is too good to be lost, and not published. You must know that a Count, or, more properly speaking, a Prince of Württemberg has been visiting Ipswich.

If the “Prince” was seeking elegant accommodation and superior hospitality, he was soon disappointed, for the patrons of the public house were well lubricated.

During his short stay he paid a visit to the north side of the river, and on his return late in the evening, called at the first convenient public house in East Street, and ordered supper, but as most of the inmates were in "a state of beer," or spirituous hilarity, no attention was paid to the guest, and after waiting a considerable time he at length went to bed supperless.

Patrons of a Colonial Tavern

Feeling perhaps that his guest would be feeling neglected, the landlord decided to bring some hospitality to his room.

His rest, however, was soon interrupted by Boniface, who having sacrificed pretty freely at the shrine of the jolly god[3], entered the room with a bottle of rum in one hand, and a glass in the other, pressed the old buffer (he is a grey-headed man) to take a "ball."[4]

It is almost needless to add that the Prince was obdurate, and Boniface reluctantly retired from the apartment without accomplishing his object, and highly indignant that his distinguished guest should refuse to become his boon companion for the night.

Colonial Era Hotel

Understandably, the German nobleman decamped from the hostelry in the morning, seeking nourishment elsewhere.  At the Crown Inn the landlord assumed he was one of the German immigrant workers of which there were many arriving in the colony during the 1850s.

On the following morning the Prince shifted his quarters to the Crown, where the worthy landlord provided him with breakfast at his own table, mistaking him for an old German shepherd, and thinking that it was quite good enough from the appearance of his guest, who made no objection to his mode of entertainment.

The landlord soon realised that his cultured guest was no mere member of the labouring class.

A Real Prince - August of  Württemberg  1813-85
During the conversation which ensued, the landlord was much struck with the superb manners and conversation of his visitor, and was quite astounded in the long run to find that he had had a real live German Prince for a customer. No doubt the Prince went away impressed with a very unfavourable idea of the temperance, morality, and civility of the Ipswich publicans."

The purpose of the visit of this European eminence is never revealed and no further mention is made of him in the press.  It is doubtful whether he was really a “Prince of Württemberg”. Perhaps he was merely an educated German gentleman who spoke very good English. Stories of events in the Kingdom of Württemberg were appearing in the press at the time.

Or perhaps, the whole story was just a good “yarn” doing the rounds in Ipswich.

© K. C. Sbeghen, 2012.

[1] The Moreton Bay Courier 30.10.1858
[2] Boniface, a landlord or innkeeper, from the name of the jovial innkeeper in Farquhar's Beaux Stratagem (1707). OED
[3] Bacchus, the Roman god of wine.
[4] A glass of (Irish) malt whiskey; as in a “ball of malt”. OED

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