I almost got rid of my European castle replica collection during a major household purge a few years ago.
Good thing I didn’t. When I feature the Artifact theme in my school Library, I bring selections from my set of twelve castle replicas to display.
One replica tells a particularly interesting story. It is a miniature version of the exquisite Hohenzollern Castle. This was one of the residences of Kaiser Wilhelm II, King of Prussia.
When I display this castle, I present a book talk. A few years ago, my twin sister gave me a book titled, The Secret of the Sierra Madre – the Man Who Was B. Traven. I tell my students that true stories are often a little more complicated than novels that authors write. Traven was known as the author and screenwriter for the famous 1948 movie, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, starring Humphrey Bogart.
But that wasn’t the author’s real name. In fact, he kept his true identity a secret until after his death in 1969. B. Traven was born Hermann Albert Otto Maximilian Feige– the illegitimate son of Kaiser Wilhelm II. This is about the time in my presentation when I’m starting the lose the attention of my 5th and 6th graders. So, I perk them up by saying, “That means I’m related to the King of Prussia.”
I wait for the chorus of “Wha-a-a-at?!” to die down before explaining, “My paternal grandmother’s maiden name was Feige. B. Traven was her distant cousin. He changed his name because his father, the King of Prussia started World War I, and lost his kingdom when he lost the war. His son, Hermann, wrote articles denouncing the new German government that replaced his father’s reign. The Germans didn’t like that too much, and wanted to arrest Hermann. So, he fled to England, the U.S., and ultimately Mexico, to live out his live in the safety of anonymity.”
At least one student makes the connections and blurts out, “So, that means you’re royalty!” I chuckle, reminding them that Hermann was disowned by his royal father. But I’ve got their attention now, and they all want a closer look at the Hohenzollern Castle. This is when students rush up to me to ask if our Library has any books that can help them discover if they are related to any Kings or Queens. I tell them that the best resource for that information is to go to myheritage.com or ancestry.com
Photo credit for feature image: Public Domain