Family | Agnes von Witzleben

Agnes von Witzleben
One of the most well-known members of the family in the area of Hude and Elmeloh was Agnes von Witzleben. She grew up in Hude and was the ninth of thirteen children born to Adam d. J. von Witzleben and his wife Karoline von Sobbe. After her confirmation, the canoness of Wemmetoft (Denmark) traveled to her aunt and godmother, the Duchess of Helstein-Oldenburg in Eutin. There, she enjoyed a good education and learned to speak English, Italian, and French. Her intelligence, coupled with her exceptional beauty and grace, quickly made her a favorite of the entire court.  

In 1780, a young Friedrich Leopold, Count of Stolberg, came to be chief of the court at Eutin. There he came to know the nineteen-year-old Agnes. Their love grew and in 1782 a wedding was held before the entire court (instead of the simpler wedding desired by the couple).  
Witzleben Rose
After their marriage, the couple made a round trip amongst Stolberg’s relatives, followed by a tour of Oldenburg, Hude and Elmeloh before returning to Eutin. There they were often at court with the Voss couple (the husband, as grandson of a serf, was not well received by the court).  

Stolberg bought an attractive, Tudor-style house with a beautiful garden on a lake. A white rose bush grew along the waterfront which became Agnes’ joy, as it reminded her of the Maréchal Niel Rose of Hude. Even today, this variety of rose is maintained in the Hude Greenhouse. There is even a portrait of Agnes which shows her with what would be known as the Witzleben Rose.  

In 1783, Stolberg became governor of Neuenburg. During this time, Agnes gave birth to her first son, Christian Ernst of Stolberg while staying with her sister in Tremsbüttel. The boy would later become an Austrian Lieutenant Field Marshal.  

The following year, the Stolberg couple seemed to be experiencing the highpoint of their lives. They journeyed to the spas of Karlsbad and made, among other stops, a visit to Weimar. Stolberg had a lasting friendship with the author Goethe, and through his membership in the Göttinger Hain, formed other far-reaching relationships (for example with Herder and Wieland).  

Goethe paid tribute to Agnes in 1820 after the death of Stolberg, relating to disputes between Stolberg and Voss:

"I and everyone that knew her in her flourishing years, delighted at her graceful presence, before everything had to disappear or accord to dissolve. She acted not out of moral, intelligent genius, but from free, cheerful, personal harmonic tendencies. I never saw her again, but in all relations, and as a mediator between husband and friend, I recognize her as perfect. Certainly she played the role of the angel grazioso to such an extent of loveliness, safety and effectiveness, that I ponder the question of whether it would not set a Calderon, the master of this art, in amazement. Not without consciousness, without feeling, the clear superiority that moved between two friends and reflections of potential paradise, while they are already aware of the internal harbingers of hell. - The Divine rushes back to its origin."  

The Stolbergs spent the winter of 1784-85 in Copenhagen, where Agnes gave birth to a daughter, Mariagnes. In Neuenburg, she planted a beautiful garden. Their contentment was not to last, however, as Friedrich Leopold was commissioned just three days after their arrival: he was summoned to the Imperial Court in Moscow to display the throne of Peter Friedrich Ludwig, Grand Duke of Oldenburg. Agnes and the children accompanied her husband to Hamburg and then returned to her sister in Tremsbüttel.  

In 1786 the Stolbergs were finally able to settle in Neuenburg. On November 6th of that year, Agnes gave birth to her third child, Andreas. Then Agnes embarked upon a period of intense creativeness. Under a pseudonym, some of her poems were published in Voss Musenalmanach. Sadly, only eight of her verses are known. It is likely that much has been lost or possibly published under another unknown pseudonym, or perhaps on behalf of her husband as was sometimes the case in this period.  

On February 20th, 1788 Agnes gave birth to her second daughter, Henriette Luise Juliane, whom she nicknamed Jette. She would later become the Mistress of the Robes in Dresden. The birth went well, but Agnes soon developed anxiety, shivers, convulsions, and later delirium. She recovered slowly as they made a very long and arduous journey to Eutin, Copenhagen, and again to Eutin, Plön, and finally Tremsbüttel before returning to Hude. She maintained her great household in Neuenburg with many guests and events. On November 7th of this year, Stolberg celebrated a birthday with great merriment. The couple was outspoken in their happiness and enjoyed being together.  

One evening, Agnes developed severe headaches, night fever, cough and nausea. The physician from Varel would not arrive until the third day. The medication she was given helped, but despite this, she developed delirium. On November 14, 1788, Agnes passed away in Neuenburg. Mourning over the 27-year old was widespread, and her husband is said to have never recovered from his sadness.

Text: Dr. Brigitte von Witzleben