We urgently need more information about Ernst’s mother. We know that her first name was Charlotte; her maiden name was Brumow [HWE:18] or Horna-Brumow [Pecka:88]; and she came from Leippa, now Ceska Leipa, in Northern Bohemia. She married Jakob Ernst, shortly after the death of his first wife Barbara in 1805. According to me, she had six children with Jakob altogether (Franziska, Marianna, Adolf, Joachim, Heinrich and Moritz [HWE:18]); according to Pecka she had nine children with him altogether (Betty, Nathan, Franziska, Marianna, Leopold, Joachim, Heinrich, Moritz and Adolf [Pecka:88). Charlotte is not mentioned in Jakob’s will of 1828, where all his property, apart from a few small gifts to servants, is left to his children; and she is described as ‘predeceased’ in the inventory of property (Sperre-relation) taken immediately after Jakob’s death in 1835. I therefore presume she died before 1828 and certainly before 1835.
According to Dr Leone’s biographical sketch of 1847, Ernst ‘received from his mother, a Slav, his supple figure and love of music’ [HWE:20]; Amely Heller does not mention Charlotte at all, and thinks Barbara was the mother of all Jakob’s children (and is therefore puzzled by Leone describing Ernst’s mother as ‘a Slav’). [HWE:10]
The Ernsts were, for the most part, a close and loving family, and it is strange that Charlotte is mentioned so rarely in documents and not mentioned at all in any family letter. It is equally puzzling that Josephine Ernst - daughter of Ernst’s older half-brother Johann - who was Amely Heller’s main informant, did not mention that Barbara had died in 1805 and that Heinrich was the son of Jakob’s second wife, Charlotte. This may be because Josephine wanted to claim she was more closely related to Ernst than in fact she was (she was the daughter of Ernst’s half-brother not his brother); it may be that Charlotte was not close to Barbara’s children, and died before her own children had clear memories of her (if she died after Moritz’s birth, as I speculated in HWE:221-2, her oldest child cannot have been more than 9).
Alternatively, there may have been some shame or problem associated with Charlotte and the family did not like to talk about her. Perhaps she left or was separated from Jakob; perhaps she became mentally ill. Acute Intermittent Porphyria (AIP) – which crippled Ernst – is an inherited illness which can cause mental problems, as in the case of George III of England. It is more common in women than men, and is particularly dangerous if a woman has a number of children in quick succession – as in Charlotte’s case. [HWE:221-2]).
The most important questions about Ernst’s mother are therefore:
When was she born?
When and where did she die?
Why is she not mentioned in any family letter, and why did Josephine not mention her to Amely Heller? (Mark Rowe 30/10/2103)
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