You’re standing in front of the portraits of Prince Albrecht and Princess Ebba zu Solms-Braunfels. (On the other hand, if you still happen to be standing in front of the Prince's trophy collection in the Family Museum, take a look at your screen).
But how did a woman from Finland end up in Braunfels of all places?
Princess Ebba was born in Helsinki in 1850, when her father was governor of Northern Finland. Even as a child, she captured people’s imagination. She was perceptive, had a talent for languages and was very pretty. After a childhood spent in Northern Finland, she was sent to a Swiss boarding school, where (already fluent in Finnish and Swedish) she learned French, German and Russian.
In the spring of 1889, she travelled to Wiesbaden to meet relatives, and stayed at the Quisisana spa hotel – where Prince Albrecht zu Solms-Braunfels had also taken rooms. He was spending time at the spa town to cure his old injuries from the Franco-Prussian War. It must have been fate that brought the pair together: they were married just six months later!
Two years after the wedding, Prince Albrecht took on the guardianship of the last prince of the House of Solms-Braunfels, his underage nephew Georg Friederich. Meanwhile resident in Braunfels, Prince Albrecht promoted the town’s development into a spa resort. For example, he was instrumental in establishing the Kneipp spa. Pastor Kneipp personally inspected the facility in 1892. In 1893, the prince set up a home for the elderly and orphans called the "Solmser Heim", further evidence of his magnanimous nature.
His wife Ebba was very politically active on behalf of her home country, Finland. After 1899, Russia increasingly curtailed Finland's freedoms. During this period, Ebba skilfully used her links to the European aristocracy and to leading politicians to pave the way for her country's independence. However, her activities came to the attention of the Russian authorities, and Ebba's relatives were terrorised and expelled as a result.
In the choir of the castle church, Princess Ebba is commemorated by the beautiful middle window. She donated it to the church in 1904.
All depictions: © Schloss Braunfels