Joseph II and His Court

Author: Luise Mühlbach

Chapter LII. Count Falkenstein.

"Away with care and sorrow! Away with royalty and state!" cried the emperor, as the long train of wagons, which had accompanied him from Vienna, were disappearing in the distance.

The empress had caused preparation for her son’s journey to be made with imperial pomp. A brilliant cortege of nobles and gentleman had followed the emperor’s caleche, and behind them came twelve wagons with beds, cooking utensils, and provisions—the whole gotten up with true princely magnificence.

The emperor had said nothing, and had left Vienna amid the chiming of bells and the loud greetings of the people. For two days he submitted to the tedious pageants of public receptions, stupid addresses, girls in white, and flower-decked arches; but on the morning of the third day, two couriers announced not only to the discomfited gentlemen composing his suite, but to the conductors of the provision-train, that the emperor would excuse them from further attendance.

Everybody was astonished, and everybody was disappointed. The emperor, meanwhile, stood by laughing, until the last wagon was out of sight.

"Away with sorrow and care!" cried he, approaching his two carriage companions, Counts Rosenberg and Coronini. "Note, any friends," exclaimed he, putting a hand upon the shoulder of each one, "now the world is ours! Let us enjoy our rich inheritance! But—bless me, how forlorn you both look! What is the matter? have I been mistaken in supposing you would relish my plan of travel?"

"No, your majesty," replied Rosenberg, with a forced smile, "but I am afraid you will scarcely relish it yourself. You have parted with every convenience that snakes travelling endurable."

"Your majesty will have to put up with many a sorry dinner and many an uncomfortable bed," sighed Comnini.

"I am tired of comforts and conveniences," rejoined the emperor, laughing, "and I long for the variety of privation. But, in my thoughtlessness, I had taken it for granted that you, too, were weary of grandeur, and would like to get a taste of ordinary life. If I am mistaken, you are free to return with my discharged cortege; I force no one to share my hardships. Speak quickly, for there is yet time for me to select other fellow-travellers."

"No, no, your majesty," said Rosenberg gayly, "I will go whither you go, and share your privations!"

"Here I stay, to live and die at your majesty’s side!" cried Coronini, with comic fervor.

The emperor nodded. "Thank you both, my friends; I had counted upon you, and would have regretted your refusal to go with me. Thank Heaven, we are no longer under the necessity of parading our rank about the world! I cannot express to you the joy I feel at the prospect of going about unnoticed, like any other man."

"That joy will be denied your majesty," said Rosenberg, with a slight inclination. "The Emperor Joseph can never go unnoticed, like ordinary men."

"Do not hope it, your majesty!" cried Coronini. "Your majesty’s rank is stamped upon your brow, and you cannot hide it."

The emperor looked down on the sandy hillock on which they stood, then upward at the bright-blue sky above their heads.

"Are we then under the gilded dome of my mother’s palace," sail he, after a pause, "that I should still hear the language of courtly falsehood? Awake, my friends, for this is not Austria’s imperial capital! It is the world which God created, and here upon our mother earth we stand as man to mail. A little shining beetle is creeping on my boot as familiarly as it would on the sabot of a base-born laborer. If my divine right were written upon my brow, would not the insects acknowledge my sovereignty, as in Eden they its golden wings and leave me without a sign—Happy beetle! Would that I too had wings, that I might flee away and be at rest!"

The emperor heaved a sigh, and his thoughts evidently wandered faraway from the scene before him. But presently recalling himself, he spoke again. Pointing to the sky, he said:

"And now, friends, look above you where the heavens enthrone a Jehovah, in whose sight all men are equal: and so long as we dwell together under the open sky, remember him who has said, ’Thou shalt have no other gods before me!"’

"But, your majesty—"

"Majesty! Where is any majesty here? If I were a lion, to shake the forest with my roar I might pretend to majesty among the brutes; but you see that I am, in all things, like yourself—neither nobler nor greater than you. In Vienna I am your sovereign: so be it; but while we travel, I am simply Count Falkenstein. I beg you to respect this name and title, for the Falkensteins are an older race of nobles than the Hapsburgs, and the turreted castle of my ancestors, the counts, is one of the oldest in Germany. Away, then, with royalty! I ask for admittance into your own rank. Will you accept me, and promise that we shall be on terms of equality?"

He offered a hand to each of his friends, and would not permit them to do otherwise than press it, in token of assent.

"Now let me tell you my plans. We travel like three happy fellows, bent upon recreation alone. We go and stay as it best suits us; when we are hungry, we will dine; when we are tired, we will sleep. A little straw will make our beds, and our cloaks shall keep us warm. [Footnote: The emperor, during his tour as Count Falkenstein, repeatedly slept on straw, over which a leathern cover was spread. Hubner, i., p. 43.] In Florence I shall be forced to play the emperor, as the reigning duke is my brother; but he, too, will join us, and then we shall all go on travelling incognito. First we visit Rome, then Naples. We must find out whether our sister Caroline has taught her lazzaroni-king to read and write; and when we shall have learned something of her domestic life, we will turn our faces homeward. In Milan I roust again play the emperor, for Lombardy needs my protection, and I must give it. From Lombardy I return to Vienna. Does the route please you?"

"Exceedingly, count," replied Rosenberg.

"It does, indeed, your highness," added Coronini.

"And why, my highness?" asked Joseph, laughing.

"Because the Counts of Falkenstein were princes, and the title being appropriate, I hope your majesty will allow me to use it." "I regret very much, most worthy master-of-ceremonies-itinerant, that I cannot do so. Pack up your court-manners, Coronini, and carry them in your trunk until we get back to Vienna. "

"So be it, then," sighed Coronini, "since your m—, I mean my lord count, will have it so, we must be content to have you hidden under a cloud, like Jupiter, when he made acquaintance with Io."

"By Jupiter, Coronini, you are ambitious in your similes," replied the emperor, laughing. "You look very much like Io, do you not?"

"I hope we may be as lucky as the gods," interrupted Rosenberg, "for every time they visited the earth they were sure to fall in with all the pretty women."

"True; but mythology teaches that the women who aspired to love gods, forfeited both happiness and life," replied the emperor, with a touch of sadness in his voice. "But pshaw!" continued he, suddenly, "what do I say? Away with retrospection! Let us come out of the clouds, and approach, both of you, while I intrust you with a great secret—I am hungry. "

The two counts started in breathless haste for the carriage, near which the emperor’s valet and the postilion were in earnest conversation; but they returned with very long faces.

"Count," said Rosenberg, sadly, "we have nothing to eat."

"The valet says that Count Falkentstein ordered every thing to be sent back to Vienna except our trunks," sighed Coronini. "All the wine, bread, game, and delicacies remained in the wagons."

"Very well," cried the emperor, laughing heartily at the contretemps, "let us go and ask for dinner in yonder village behind the wood."

"The postilion says that there is not a public house anywhere about," continued Coronini, in great distress. "He says that we will find nothing to eat in the village."

Instead of making a reply, the emperor walked to the hillock, and questioned the postilion himself.

"What is the name of the village beyond the forest?" asked he.

"Wichern, your majesty."

"Do we change horses there?"

"No, your majesty, we harness up at Unterbergen."

"Can we get any breakfast at Wichern, think you?"

"No, no, your majesty, not a morsel of any thing—none but peasants live in the village."

"Well, my friend, do the peasants live without eating?"

"Oh, your majesty, they eat anything! They live on bread, bacon, eggs, and milk, with sometimes a mess of cabbage or beans."

"And you call that having nothing to eat?" exclaimed Joseph, hastening joyfully back to his friends. "Come, come; we shall find dinner at Wichern, and if nobody will cook for us, we will cook for ourselves."

Coronini opened his eyes like full moons.

"Why do you stare so, Coronini? Are not all soldiers cooks? I, at least, am resolved to learn, and I feel beforehand that I shall do honor to myself. Cook and butler, I shall fill both offices. Come, we are going to enjoy ourselves. Thomas, tell the postilion to drive as far as the entrance of the village. We will forage on foot."

The emperor bounded into the carriage, the two noblemen followed, the postilion cracked his whip, and they were soon at Wichern.


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Chicago: Luise Mühlbach, "Chapter LII. Count Falkenstein.," Joseph II and His Court, ed. CM01B10.Txt - 149 Kb, CM01B10.Zip - 56 Kb and trans. Coleman, Chapman, Mrs., 1813-1891 in Joseph II and His Court (New York: The Modern Library Publishers, 1918), Original Sources, accessed January 31, 2023,

MLA: Mühlbach, Luise. "Chapter LII. Count Falkenstein." Joseph II and His Court, edited by CM01B10.Txt - 149 Kb, CM01B10.Zip - 56 Kb, and translated by Coleman, Chapman, Mrs., 1813-1891, in Joseph II and His Court, New York, The Modern Library Publishers, 1918, Original Sources. 31 Jan. 2023.

Harvard: Mühlbach, L, 'Chapter LII. Count Falkenstein.' in Joseph II and His Court, ed. and trans. . cited in 1918, Joseph II and His Court, The Modern Library Publishers, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 31 January 2023, from