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A fortress and widow's residence

Kirchheim Palace

Portrait of Duchess Franziska von Hohenheim, now hanging in Kirchheim Palace. Image: Staatsanzeiger für Baden-Württemberg, Anja Stangl
THE PALACE'S MOST FAMOUS INHABITANT

Franziska von

Hohenheim

Franziska von Hohenheim (1748–1811) moved to the palace a widow. However, she played an important role in Kirchheim from the beginning of her association with Carl Eugen. She remains famous to this day for turning the wild Duke of Württemberg into a good sovereign, but is this a legend?

Portrait of Duke Carl Eugen. Image: Landesmedienzentrum Baden-Württemberg, Dieter Jäger

Duke Carl Eugen.

WHEN DID HER RELATIONSHIP WITH DUKE CARL EUGEN BEGIN?

Franziska first came to Kirchheim with her husband, Chamberlain Baron von Leutrum, in 1771, when they participated in a hunt hosted by Duke Carl Eugen. The 23-year-old Franziska quickly caught the duke's eye. Only a few months later, Carl Eugen appointed her his official mistress and Franziska divorced from her husband. Franziska married the duke in 1785, after the death of his first wife, and became the official Duchess of Württemberg.

HOW WAS FRANZISKA TREATED AFTER THE DUKE'S DEATH?

Carl Eugen had actually passed Hohenheim Palace near Stuttgart on to Franziska in 1772 and she was to spend her widowhood there. After his death in 1791 however, his successor did not recognize her status as a dowager duchess, simultaneously depriving her of her right to Hohenheim Palace. Franziska was forced to relocate to Kirchheim Palace, the equivalent of being banished from court. She even had to leave behind a large portion of her personal items at Hohenheim.

Entrance, Kirchheim Palace. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Thomas Kiel

Bridge to the palace entrance.

DID FRANZISKA LIKE KIRCHHEIM PALACE?

She found it rather outdated and before her arrival in 1795, hired architect Reinhard Ferdinand Heinrich Fischer, an illegitimate son of the duke, who was also responsible for building Hohenheim Palace. He lent the structure a more palace-like charm, particularly by adding the prestigious passageway on the ground floor and the spacious stairwell. Franziska's living areas were outfitted with handsome stoves, subtle stucco and silk wall coverings in fashionable colors or wallpaper.

Kirchheim Palace portal. Image: Staatsanzeiger für Baden-Württemberg, Anja Stangl

Kirchheim Palace portal.

DID CARL EUGEN'S WIDOW HAVE STAFF?

Franziska lived a quiet life, but it was by no means as modest as is often claimed. Her royal household consisted of approximately 50 people. This included ladies-in-waiting, servants and footmen, a table setter, a barista, a personal bather, several coachmen and gardeners, as well as a hairdresser and a French cook named Henri Frommage. Two noble gentlemen and two ladies-in-waiting lived with her, all relatives of hers. Sisters residing locally often visited Kirchheim along with other prominent figures from town.

WHERE IS FRANZISKA BURIED?

Franziska was a pious and respected woman. When she died of cancer on January 1, 1811, her funeral was celebrated with courtly pomp. Her body had been laid out in the palace for two days, so that Kirchheim's citizens could say goodbye. Subsequently, her coffin was conveyed to the St. Martin's church, accompanied by a grand funeral procession and military escort. A commemorative plaque still marks the burial site in the crypt beneath the choir.

Interior of St. Martin's church in Kirchheim unter Teck. Image: Stadt Kirchheim
Duchess Franziska von Hohenheim's coffin. Image: Stadtarchiv Kirchheim

The coffin containing Franziska's remains is located in the crypt below the choir in the St. Martin's church.

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