Arms and the Man
"Today is not a good day. I am bored and my funny little arm hurts a lot. I think I will start a war with England". So writes the 9 year old Wilhelm von Durch-Stücke who, according to a new edition of Eva Nicht Verantwortlich's masterly "The Rise and fall of the House of Fadenknocken" turned a personal grudge into the great tragedy that was the 1914-18 Continental War of Europe (aka The First World War or WWI).
Wilhelm's story - recently popularised in thrupiecetelevision's three part documentary series "The Unequal Arms Race: Prosthetics, Mensuration and Sibling Rivalry in the House of Fadenknocken" - is familiar enough, but rather less well known is the story of how the defeated Kaiser whose relations with his British family had always been strained, spent his years of exile in the West Country where he quietly re-integrated himself into the English side of the family. He died in 1961 aged 99.
Readers familiar with the Thrupiece story will know that the late Professor's German ancestors [the Mecklenburg branch of the von Durchstücks] arrived in Dorset in about 1871 following the catastrophic failure of the kumquat harvest (1866-1868, 1870 & 1871). Patriarch Adolph von Durchstück, whose command of English was rudimentary, was determined to strike out in new directions and settled in Chaldon Herring in the mistaken belief it was a fishing port. His career as a deep-sea trawler-man was short-lived. However by 1918, the Mecklenberg von Durchstücks were a well established local family, having Anglicised their name to the now familiar Thrupiece.
The Durchstücks in Dorset. None have been identified (save possibly Adolph with beard). The Parson'sTerriers, however, are Woglinde [left] and Fricka [right] and the walking stick is a Krupp Biedermeier DünnStarkAlpenGehstock Modell-ß dating from c1866.
Kaiser Wilhem was from the more powerful and militaristic Prussian branch of the family - The von Durch-Stückes - though losing the First World War had done him few favours back in Berlin. Arriving in England with only 10 Deutschmarks and five imperial dress uniforms, he was welcomed with "firmly closed arms", writes Eva Nicht Verantwortlich, "not least because his defective left arm rendered him next to useless with a fishing net or a loaded lobster pot". "Still", she continues", it was a touching sight to see the man who had once ruled half of Europe and was a dab-hand with a right-handed ceremonial sword reduced to selling whelks on Brownsea Island beach. He cannot have been entirely happy".
Before and After: Kaiser Wilhelm von Durch-Stücke [LEFT] at the height of his imperial powers and [RIGHT] in later life as William Thrupiece, purveyor of shell-fish on Brownsea Island beach.
Eva Nicht Verantwortlich's "The Rise and fall of the House of Fadenknocken" is re-published by The Threadbone Press and is available from Threadstones and from The Threadbone Press's digital portal.