The Insider! Lost Royals!
The Wild Child!
Kaspar Hauser's story is a familiar tale of royal intrigue and childhood abduction. In 1812, Stéphanie de Beauharnais, wife of Grand Duke Karl of Baden, gave birth to a son, a prince who would one day rule Baden. Her stepmother-in-law, the Countess of Hochberg, second wife of Karl's father, had reason to hate this child; she wanted her own son, Leopold, to take the throne. Ever the controlling mother, she made Leopold sneak into the castle to steal the young prince and replace him with a sickly peasant child. This child died, followed by his father, Grand Duke Karl, in 1818, clearing the way for Leopold to assume the throne in 1830.
The Countess's plan, however, was not a complete success. Instead of being killed, Kaspar Hauser was hidden away by an ex-soldier, possibly to bribe the royals or perhaps out of sheer compassion. Sixteen years later, he was abandoned on the streets of Nuremberg. When local shoemaker Georg Weickmann approached, the boy in beggar's clothes held out a sealed envelope addressed "To the Honorable Captain of the Cavalry of the Fourth Squadron, of the Sixth Regiment of the Light Cavalry in Nuremberg." Weickmann took the boy to the captain's house, but, like everyone else, Captain Wessenig could get no sense from him. Hauser was 16-years-old but had the mental development of a six-year-old. He walked like a toddler, could barely use his fingers, and knew only a few short phrases. He was sent to the police station and locked in the Vetsner Gate tower. Eventually Hauser was able to tell police that he'd spent most of his life in a small, dark cell with only a straw bed to sleep on and bread and water to eat. He was drugged so that someone could change his clothes and cut his hair. The first human being he had seen was a man who had taught him to say, "I want to be a rider like my father," and to write Kaspar Hauser. A royal forensic physician believed that the boy was not insane or dull-witted, but had been removed from all human and social education Public interest in the mysterious youth grew daily and crowds assembled to gaze at him as he ate and slept. Many thought that he must be a feral child.
Meanwhile the police examined the letters Hauser carried. One letter came from the poor day laborer that had taken in the boy at his mother's request. The letter went on to say that the boy had been confined to the house, but had been taught to read and write. The letter from the boy's mother asked that the boy be taken at age seventeen to Nuremberg to join the Sixth Cavalry regiment, to which his father had belonged. When the letters were studied closely, the police discovered that they were written by the same hand with the same ink, on the same kind of paper.
In the end, police investigations into Hauser's identity drew a blank; no one knew who he was or where he'd come from. Local magistrate and criminologist Anselm Ritter von Feuerbach, who led the investigation into Hauser's identity, felt that he would die or go insane if he remained in the tower, so he was placed in the care of professor George Friedrich Daumer, who had a reputation for his work in education and philosophy. Under Daumer's guidance Hauser developed into a healthy, intelligent young man, though far from an ordinary one. His story made him famous across Europe, attracting hundreds of visitors and articles speculation on his origins.
In October 1829, while Daumer was out walking, a stranger dressed in black attacked Hauser with a butcher's knife, wounding him in the forehead. The apparent assassination also fuelled rumors about his connection to the house of Baden. Five days after the attempted murder and not long after the death of the reigning Grand Duke of Baden, Lord Stanhope, a wealthy English aristocrat and friend of the Baden family, arrived in Nuremberg. Stanhope began to visit Kaspar regularly, showering him with gifts and compliments about his royal parents and making extravagant, public promises to take him to England. Stanhope and Hauser became close friends. The English Lord provided money to the city for the upkeep of the boy and in time became the boy's guardian.
Despite promises to adopt Hauser and bring him to England, Stanhope left Ansbach never saw him again. Instead Stanhope went to see Stephanie, the Grand Duchess of Baden, and gave her a copy of Feuerbach's recently completed book about Hauser. After reading it, she became eager to meet Hauser. Stanhope said he would arrange for them to meet, but he never did.
In December 14, 1833, a stranger lured Hauser to Ansbacher Hofgarten with the promise that he would hear something about his ancestry. Instead, he was stabbed in the chest. Hauser struggled home but died three days later. The king of Bavaria offered a reward for information leading to the arrest of his killer. The frequent attempts on Hauser's life, the participation of Stanhope, and the Baden family's attempts to keep the story quiet, seem to indicate some truth to the story that Hauser was the lost prince. But his claim to the throne has never been confirmed. He remains a mystery.
Production Notes | Creating The Lost Prince | Family Tree
The Insider! Lost Royals! | Who's Who | Russell Baker
Story Synopses | Links + Bibliography | The Forum
Home | About The Series | The American Collection | The Archive
Schedule & Season | Feature Library | eNewsletter | Book Club
Learning Resources | Forum | Search | Shop | Feedback
Masterpiece is sponsored by: