Couple's joined monogram
The bridal couple (photo copyrighted by Preussen.de/Paul Schirnhofer)
As I hadn't been in Potsdam for twelve years, and this city near Berlin is really interesting for royalty-watchers, I already headed to Germany on Wednesday August 24th. After a trainride of more than five hours I arrived in Berlin where I waited for my Danish friend Stig who arrived about one hour later. In the meantime I bought the train tickets to Potsdam. It suddenly had become Summer, after weeks of cold and rainy weather, so I put my jacket in my bag. Stig happily was in time and we just managed to get the next train to Potsdam, where we arrived half an hour later. A taxi brought us quickly to our hotels. Afterwards we met again and took a walk along the Havel river to a former royal villa Stig wanted to see. On the way back we had a quick look at the Sanssouci Park and had a look in the Friedenskirche where Prince Georg Friedrich of Prussia and Princess Sophie von Isenburg were to get married on Saturday. We also saw some graves of members of the Prussian royal family buried there. Early in the evening we finally met with Anuschka, Sofia and Stefan who had arrived earlier that day. Of course we were a bit jealous when we heard that they had already met the bridal couple in town.
Another warm day on Thursday August 25th, a good day for a look at the palaces in the Sanssouci Park. Of course we at first had a look at the Friedenskirche again to see if anything was going on already. It turned out a company had started delivering the flower and tree decoration. After a stroll through the park we bought tickets for an afternoon tour of the Sanssouci Palace. Then we headed for the much smaller but very nice Neue Kammern Palace. In the meantime we heard that Dag from Norway was on his way to Potsdam so we decided to wait for him for a while. He unfortunately only could join us on the Thursday afternoon, as he had travelled to Berlin for his work. As soon as he arrived we visited the Neue Kammern (New Chambers), where on Saturday afternoon the wedding reception was to take place. In the back we could already see small trees and bushes with white ribbons hanging in between.
Flower delivery at the Friedenskirche; wedding decoration at Neue Kammern (Copyright: Netty Leistra)
Also Gabi finally arrived and together we visited the orangery, where also all kind of work was done for the big day on Saturday. Here the party on Saturday evening was to take place. From the top we had a good view and also the tour inside was quite nice. After the tour had finished we had to hurry to be in time for the Sanssouci tour, which was again very interesting. Afterwards we had a look at the grave of King Friedrich the Great of Prussia which is situated next to the palace.
We had just left the palace and had to cross the street, when suddenly a car stopped in front of us. Stig and Dag were already on the other side, but me and the others heard a cheerful hello and had a look in the car. It turned out to be the bridal couple who had recognised Anuschka, Sofia and Stefan from the previous day. Before we could really react they had already driven away. We however had seen the shiny white coat of the bride-to-be and the suit of the groom. It turned out later on that at noon they had celebrated their civil wedding at the town hall of Potsdam. They were married by mayor Jann Jakobs. Only about 20 guests attended. After the wedding they had driven to the Sanssouci Palace to plant an apple tree at the royal Weinberg in the park. If only we had known ...
We walked further and finally found ourselves a place to eat at the Drachenhaus. We relaxed a bit and enjoyed each others company. Afterwards Dag decided to go back to Berlin. The others walked towards the Neues Palais (new palace). On our way we made a short stop at the Antikentempel (Antique Temple), where the two wives of Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany, two of his sons and a grandson found their last resting place. Unfortunately the building hasn't been restored yet and can't be visited from the inside. Stig decided he wanted to see the Belvedere instead, so the rest of us visited the Neues Palais (New Palace). We were some of the last visitors of the day.
It was still quite a long walk back to the hotel. On our way we saw the Chinese House. Back at the Luisenplatz (square) just outside the park we saw shuttle cars waiting outside a big hotel. Not much happened, but while the others returned to their hotels, I decided to stay outside the hotel, thinking some kind of reception might take place there. Although within half an hour some guests started to leave the hotel. I recognised Archduke Martin of Austria-Este, a brother-in-law of the bride. I just managed to call Stig who was with me within five minutes and we were joined by a another Dutch royalty-watcher also. It turned out the family of the bride was staying at the hotel.
Bride and groom outside the hotel (Copyright: Netty Leistra)
Soon we also saw the bride, still wearing the same dress as in the afternoon. After she had finished talking to some people we decided to go and meet her. Of course we congratulated her and as we hadn't been online yet that day, we asked her if the civil marriage indeed had taken place that day. She happily confirmed. A short while afterwards also the groom came out and we managed to get a photo of them together. It turned out later that there had been a wedding party for the couple at the Sage club in Berlin that night, which was of course where the couple and their guests were heading to when we saw them.
It was pretty hot outside, but despite of that we took the train to Berlin in the morning of Friday August 26th to visit the Charlottenburg Palace. Today the palace is the largest residence of the Hohenzollern family left in Berlin. Although it was badly damaged in World War II it has been reconstructed since. The Palace was originally built by Elector Frderick III of Prussia as a summer residence for his wife Queen Sophie Charlotte in 1699. Later it was extended into a stately building with a cours d'honneur. We especially loved some huge halls in one of the wings of the palace which would have been quite suitable for the wedding celebrations of Saturday. Because of the lack of time and the hot weather we only took a short walk in the magnificent baroque gardens. We had a look at the Mausoleum which was built for Queen Luise, who died in 1810, and where some other family members were buried afterwards also. We had something to eat and to drink in a small restaurant at the front of the palace before heading to the Gendarmenmarkt in Berlin for the pre-wedding concert.
On the occasion of the wedding of Prince Georg Friedrich and Princess Sophie a charity concert was held at the Konzerthaus am Gendarmenmarkt in Berlin. The concert was held in favour of the Princess Kira of Prussia-Foundation, which for sixty years has enabled socially underprivileged children and youngsters to spend their holidays at Hohenzollern Castle. The Foundation was established by the groom's grandparents Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia and his wife née Grand Duchess Kira of Russia. Usually the concert is held at Hohenzollern castle, but on the occasion of the wedding, it was held in Berlin for the first time this year.
The musical programme was themed "Tableaux Musicaux - 950 years House of Hohenzollern". The more than 1000 guests were experiencing a musical journey through time. Pieces of music commissioned by the Hohenzollern court were performed, as well as compositions by family members. Performing were the Sing-Akademie of Berlin, the State and Dome Choir of Berlin and the ensemble Lautten Compagney Berlin.
Bride and groom arriving for the concert (Copyright: Netty Leistra)
When we arrived at the Konzerthaus there was hardly press present. Happily the place in front of the stairs to the entrance of the Konzerthaus was already lying in the shadow, so it was a nice and cool place to stay. Soon after our arrival the security started making the press area so that we knew where to stand. Because we were so early we were however still able to figure out which camera lense to use. Slowly also other press, including some friends and acquaintances of us, arrived. It made the time we had to wait until the guests arrived much shorter. But finally around 6pm the guests started arriving in cars and busses. Happily for us they didn't park in front of the stairs, apart from some of the closest family members of bride and groom.
We left soon after the concert had started. As it was still a long way back to Potsdam and we had to prepare for the wedding on Saturday, we thought it was better not to wait until everybody would come out again. Later we heard that Prince Laurent of Belgium had arrived in his Porsche about half an hour late.
The Friedenskirche (Copyright: Netty Leistra)
The Friedenskirche (Church of Peace) where the wedding of Prince Georg Friedrich of Prussia and Princess Sophie von Isenburg took place on Saturday August 27th 2011, is located in the south eastern part of the park of Sanssouci and was built for king Frederick William IV. of Prussia (1795-1861) from 1845 to 1848 by the architects Ludwig Persius and Friedrich August Stüler. It is constructed as a three naval basilica with a freestanding bell tower and is inspired by early Christian churches in Italy.The neighbouring buildings and colonnades also resemble monasteries in Upper Italy. In the choir apsis of the church an important Venetian mosaic from the early 13th century can be seen, which was acquired by the king when he was still crown prince from the ruinous church St. Cypriano on the island of Murano which therefore defined the measurements of the church where it was supposed to be integrated. In the middle it depicts Jesus as the ruler of the world assisted by saints and archangels. The dark green columns of the altar are made of Siberian jasper and were a gift by Czar Nicholas I., the Prussian king’s brother-in-law. The crypt underneath the choir of the church houses the remains of his builder, who passed away exactly 150 years ago, and of his wife Elizabeth Princess of Bavaria (1801-1873).
The groom and his mother and sister upon arrival; the bride and her father (Copyright: Netty Leistra)
About 650 guests had been invited to attend the religious wedding of Prince Georg Friedrich of Prussia and Princess Sophie von Isenburg. Before the guests arrived press was able to have a look into the church. Among the guests were numerous members of the German and international royalty and nobility, as well as representatives of politics, culture and society. After we had enjoyed seeing all the guests arrive it was finally time for the groom to show up. Prince Georg Friedrich was accompanied by his mother Duchess Donata von Oldenburg and his sister Princess Cornelie-Cécile of Prussia. They took their time posing for everybody and were in a very good mood.
The bride and her father Fürst Franz Alexander von Isenburg arrived in a silver/black-coloured Rolls Royce from a Swedish friend of the groom. To our big disappointment the car stopped right at the entrance of the church far from the press stand where we were standing. We didn't manage to get much more than a glimpse of the bride. To her shock the long veil that was attached to her hair-dress fell off after stepping out of the car. Happily the veil could quickly be attached to the hair again.
Inside the Friedenskirche; flower decoration at the entrance (Copyright: Netty Leistra)
Bride and groom had opted for an oecumenical wedding service, as the groom is a Protestant and the bride a Catholic. The service was led by the Rev. Michael Wohlrab of the Kaiserin Auguste Victoria-Stiftung at the Mount of Olives in Israel, and by former abbott Gregor Henckel von Donnersmarck of the Heiligenkreuz Abbey in Austria. The music was performed by the Royal Danish Brass, organist Björn O. Wiede, soprano Aviv Weinberg and bass Amnon Seelig.
In his sermon the Rev. Michael Wohlrab mentioned that the bridal couple already met when they were children, and even played together. He refered to the conversation he had with the couple at the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, Israel. The family of the groom always felt very much connected to this city. The couple celebrated the Millennium at the Ascension Church of the Augusta Victoria Hospital in Jerusalem. It was also mentioned that on invitation of the Princess Kira of Prussia Foundation Palastine and Israeli youth comes together in a bid to promote peaceful gathering. Wohlrab also referred to the fact that both the family of bride and groom have been open and tolerant over the years.
At the end of the service money was collected for the preservation of the Friedenskirche.
The carriage arriving (Copyright: Netty Leistra); fall of the horse (Copyright: Stig Nielsen)
During the church ceremony outside it started to rain a little bit. Too our big disappointment therefore the Rolls Royce was driven forward. However the rain stopped more or less, so then the promised carriage drawn by six horses (sorrels) came after all. But before bride and groom came out one of the horses stumbled and fell down. Quite a scary moment, but the people taking care of the horses knew exactly what to do. They got the horse back on its feet again.
The navy blue Landau was provided by the Brandenburg State Stud at Neustadt. The carriage was conducted by driving instructor Klaus Eckert. The stud in Neustadt was established by order of King Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia in 1788. The carriage was also used in 1993 when Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain visited Potsdam and Sanssouci.
Bride and groom leaving church and in the carriage (Copyright: Netty Leistra)
Then finally the newly wed couple left the church. The kiss according to media reports lasted 1,8 seconds. Photos showed there were two kisses with a small break in between. Afterwards they got into the waiting carriage. Of course the bride quickly touched her veil to feel if it was still in the right place. Through the streets of Potsdam they drove to the Neue Kammern (New Chambers) in the Sanssouci Park where the wedding reception was being held.
The wedding dinner and ball took place at the Orangery in the Sanssouci Park in Potsdam. After the wedding reception all the guests had been taken back to their hotels. Unfortunately it rained heavily in the second part of the afternoon, as well as in the early evening. Only around 7pm it started to get better. After a while we left our hotels and decided to stay at the Luisenplatz nearby. We had been given the impression that there wasn't much to see at the Orangery itself, although afterwards it turned out the public and press had been able to see the guests (not the bridal couple) there quite well. Anyway the Luisenplatz wasn't the worst place to be that evening. Several busses were waiting for the guests, so we saw them coming from several directions. As long as we didn't move away from the busses too much, we could keep an eye on all sides. Most guests were happily willing to pose for us. Unfortunately it was getting dark, so that my pictures didn't turn out to be that good in the end.
The Orangery; bride and groom leaving the hotel (Copyright: Netty Leistra); the meander tiara (Copyright: Stig Nielsen)
After all the guests had left, we were able to have our last look at bride and groom. The bride had taken off her jacket, and had changed her tiara. She wore the Prussian meander tiara, which was given by her groom’s greatgrandfather Crown Prince Wilhelm to his wife Cecilie, née Duchess of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, as morning gift after their wedding in 1905. It was crafted by the court jeweller Robert Koch in an antique design dominated by the meander motif on top and below giving the tiara its name. It was also worn by Prince Georg Friedrich’s grandmother Grand Duchess Kira of Russia in 1938 when she married Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia at the Cecilienhof Palace in Potsdam.
After the dinner the German singer Max Raabe and his Palast Orchester took care of the entertainment, as well as the Potsdamer Police Orchester, and Techno-DJs Jochen Arbeit and Peter Glückstein. The bridal couple and their guests partied until the early morning. The couple spent their honeymoon in the South of France, the German magazine "Bunte" reported.
The weddding dress was exclusively designed for Princess Sophie by the famous German designer Wolfgang Joop under his label WUNDERKIND Couture, a Prêt-à-Porter deluxe collection. It was the first time Wolfgang Joop had accepted a request to design an exclusive dress. Wolfgang Joop commented: "The Princess of Isenburg is one of my ideal figures as a woman - a protagonist of the WUNDERKIND style. Her beauty is modern and romantic - characterized by natural self-effacement. The wedding dress is a summary of stylish tradition and artistic vision." It took several months of countless hours of work and numerous fittings to finish the dress. The bride was very much involved in the design of the dress.
The wedding dress in the colour "whisper white" was made of washed silk taffeta with applications of pleated silk tulle. Over the dress she wore a cloak made of transparant silken organza sateen. Altogether 60 meters of fabric from Como, Italy (Clerici Tessuto and Taroni) and France (Sophie Hallette) were used. An antique veil of lace from Brussels with a length of four meters was laid upon the train of the cloak. The veil was made around 1830 and bears the woven coat of arms of the princes of Ixenburg. It is generally worn by female members of the House of Isenburg on their wedding day, according to the family tradition.
Tiara and bridal bouquet (Copyright: Preussen.de/Paul Schirnhofer)
The bride wore a tiara which was probably made in Paris around 1860. It is traditionally worn by female members of the princely family of Isenburg on their wedding day. The diamonds and brillants are arranged in floral patterns and partly mounted on hairsprings to create an extremely vivid sparkle.
Bridal bouquets and rings
The bride had a wedding bouquet of white roses. The groom wore a small bouquet with the same kind of roses on his lapel.
The bridal couple exchanged wedding rings that were already worn by the parents of the groom, Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia and Countess Donata zu Castell-Rüdenhausen in 1975.
Seats of the bridal children (Copyright: Netty Leistra)
Prince Georg Friedrich Ferdinand of Prussia (Preussen) was born at Bremen on 10 June 1976 as son of Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia (1944-1977) and Countess Donata zu Castell-Rüdenhausen (* 1950). Shortly after his first birthday his father tragically died from the injuries he had suffered in a military training excercise. Six months later his sister Princess Cornelie-Cécile was born. Due to his father’s early death Prince Georg Friedrich was designated by his grandfather Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia (1907-1994) to become his successor as head of the family.
After attending grammar schools in Bremen and Oldenburg Georg Friedrich passed his A-levels at Glenalmond College near Aberdeen in Scotland. After his military service in the mountain troops in Mittenwald, Bavaria, he started to study business administration at the university of Freiberg, Saxony. During his university career he took various internships in software enterprises in Germany and abroad as well as a six month stay in Quito, Ecuador. Since 2009 he is working for a company specialized on marketing of academic innovation and start up companies.
In addition to preserving the memory of the Prussian history and keeping up the family’s traditions Prince Georg Friedrich is also envolved in various committees and foundations, e.g. the Princess Kira of Prussia-Foundation which was founded by his grandmother and allows socially disadvantaged children and youngsters to spend their holidays at Hohenzollern Castle, the German Foundation for Monument Protection and the German-American Club.
The House of Hohenzollern was first mentioned exactly 950 years ago in the year of 1061. After a hereditary distribution in the early 13th century the two still existing branches of the family were formed: the Swabian-catholic line of the counts and later princes von Hohenzollern and the Franconian-Brandenburg-Prussian branch from which the Prince Electors of Brandenburg (1415), Kings of Prussia (1701) and German Emperors (1871) derived. Its most prominent member was king Friedrich the Great (1712-1786) under whose reign Prussia become a European great power and who had his summer residence installed in the roccoco palace of Sanssouci near Potsdam where he was surrounded by important intellectuals of his time. The reign of the House of Hohenzollern ended with the abdication of Emperor Wilhelm II (1859-1941), who went into exile to the Netherlands in 1918. His grandson Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia (1907-1994) married Grand Duchess Kira of Russia (19091967) in 1938; after World War II the town of Bremen became their new home.
Hohenzollern Castle, having been reconstructed in the 19th century, is still owned by both branches of the family and marks one of the most imposing creations of its kind.
Princess Sophie Johanna Maria von Isenburg was born in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, on 7 March 1978 as the fourth child of Prince Franz Alexander von Isenburg (* 1943) and his wife since 1968 Countess Christine von Saurma, Freiin von und zu der Jeltsch (* 1941). She spent her childhood in Birstein, Hessen, together with her four siblings: Alexander (* 1969), Katharina (* 1971), Isabelle (* 1973) and Viktor (* 1979).
She attended primary school in Birstein and St. Mary's School in Fulda. Afterwards she attended the boarding school Kloster Wald where she passed her A-levels and a trade test as a dressmaker. She studied business administration at the Albert Ludwig University in Freiburg im Breisgau and the Humboldt University in Berlin. Afterwards she had several internships, at the Deutsche Bundestag in Berlin, and in London, Hongkong and Shanghai. From 2006 on she worked as a key account manager at an affiliated company of the publishing house Bertelsmann. Since 2010 she is a project manager at an independent counselling service for nonprofit organizations in Berlin.
Sophie's interests are reading, sports (swimming, skiing, tennis, jogging) and travelling. She has among others visited large parts of Europe as well as Asia and South America.
The origins of the princely House of Isenburg can be traced back to the year 963, when Reginboldus Vicecomes is mentioned in a document. The ancestral seat of the family is Isenburg Castle erected at the confluence of the rivers Sayn and Iser near the Rhine around 1100, which was considered as one of the best fortified castles between the Central Rhineland and Westerwald. In early times the Isenburgs were feudatories in the area of Cologne, Trier, Limburg and Mainz (Mayence) as well as counsellors of the German kings and emperors. Among the most important family members are Arnold von Isenburg who officiated as archbishop and elector of Trier from 1242 to 1259 and Salentin von Isenburg-Grenzau (1532-1610) who was elected archbishop and elector of Cologne as well as prince bishop of Paderborn in the late 16th century. After having been entitled counts in 1442 the family was granted the rank of princes in 1744. The entire Isenburg possessions were unified as a souvereign territory within the Rheinbund in 1806 but due to the Vienna congress had to be given to the Grand Duchy of Hessen-Darmstadt in 1815. The two branches of the family existing until today, the princes of Isenburg-Birstein and the princes zu Ysenburg und Büdingen, were considered as coequal to the ruling families thereafter. Princess Sophie of Isenburg is a direct descendant of Empress Maria Theresia of Austria and related to the family of the Russian author Leo Tolstoy.
Birstein Castle was acquired in 1438 as a fief from Fulda and transformed in the mid 18th century into a baroque residence. It is still the seat of the princely family today and made partly accessible to the public.
There were many other guests, but I of course don't know all the names. These are the ones we found out either by the placing cards on the seats in the church or they were recognised from pictures. Thanks to Stig Nielsen and others for identifications. Please don't copy this list or anything else in this special without permission, as it has cost me quite some time to compile everything. I haven't added non-noble guests, unless there is a noble or royal connection, apart from the witnesses.