Alexander Leopold Anthon von Ranzow,
a person of princely blood in the house of correction at Koudekerk.

What appears below was originally a lecture (in Dutch) by C. C. van Valkenberg of the Koninklijk Nederlandsch Genootschap voor Geslacht- en Wapenkunde, translated into English by Otto Schutte, editor of De Nederlandsche Leeuw, and sent to the undersigned in early 1984 by Henry Bainbridge Hoff. The undersigned has scanned the document into machine-readable form, and has tried very hard to preserve the charms of Mr. Schutte's English.

Currently (or at least recently) living descendants of Alexander von Ranzow can be traced by using, for example, Danmarks Adels Aarbog 1930:148-158; Nederland's Adelsboek 90:436-452; and Pedigrees of some of the Emperor Charlemagne's descendants, vol. III [1978], pp. 268-270.

William Addams Reitwiesner

Alexander Leopold Anthon von Ranzow,
a person of princely blood in the house of correction at Koudekerk.

by C. C. van Valkenberg

From 1665 to 1678 resided in the protestant noble abbey of Gandersheim in Brunswick as princess-abbess with the rank of princess of the Holy Roman Empire: Dorothea Hedwig princess of Sleswick-Holstein-Sonderburg-Norburg, one of the daughters of the duke Frederick - himself a grandson of king Christian III of Denmark - and of Eleonora princess of Anhalt-Zerbst. The sister of Dorothea Hedwig was there in 1656 married to Anton Ulrich, later reigning duke of Brunswick.

In the year 1678 princess Dorothea Hedwig was asked by Christoph count of the Holy Roman Empire von Ranzow to marry him; he was lord of Schmool, Hohenfels etc. and belonged to the old nobility of Holstein and is painted to us as an earnest and sparing man. He had studied in 1645-1647 at Leyde and Utrecht mathematics, hebrew and theology and visited frequently Amsterdam, where he came into close contact with the broker Bernardus Henricus Staets, whom we shall meet more than once during the course of this history.

Staets was his advisor for the administration of the Ranzow's fortune, which was very considerable, as far as that was invested in the Dutch Republic; this was specially invested in shares of the East and West India Companies and in obligations on a number of towns in Holland. During his stay in Amsterdam the Lutherian Christoph von Ranzow joined the 'Rijnsburger Collegianten', who believed in a general Christian church and did not want to belong to any special communion, while they practised a practical form of Christianity. From this it is clear that the Republic in the middle of the 17th century was not only the centre of money-trade but also attracted foreigners for the spiritual life.

In the summer of 1646 Ranzow stays some weeks in Purmerend at the local doctor, who belonged also to the 'Rijnsburger Collegianten'. Shortly after the treaty of Munster Christoph von Ranzow converted to be a Roman Catholic, as I read in Pastor's standard work Geschichte der Päpste. In a rather unknown booklet about the Catholic hiding church 'de Krijtberg' in Amsterdam, I found that his conversion took place in Rome in 1650 after he had before - in Amsterdam - made friendship with the well known Jesuit father Petrus Laurentius, who also could count under his convert the famous poet Joost van den Vondel.

It is noteworthy that many illustrious persons, especially Germans, were converted at that time to Catholicism, as the landgrave of Hessen, John Frederick duke of Brunswick-Luneburg, the duke Ulrich of Wurtemberg and the landgrave of Hessen- Rheinfels. The authors explain this by the fact that after the Thirty Years War it became fashionable in Germany but also in the Republic to travel to Rome, where the travellers got a very good impression of the Roman Catholic Church. I wonder if this explanation is true, especialy if one is acquainted with the life in Rome in those days, also in ecclesiastical circles, and if this explanation is not a bit too simplistic. I rather see it as an expression of Irenism, the movement in the middle of the 17th century, which endeavoured to bring Protestants and Catholics again in one Church. Hugo de Groot and his German confrater Gottfried Wilhelm Leibnitz were adherents and the movement found also much approval at the Protestant university of Helmstedt, where Christoph von Ranzow, as a Danish book about the Ranzow family told me, studied after his Dutch years.

Also Dorothea Hedwig was converted to Catholicism inbetween; she resigned as an abbess and married 7 June l678 in Hildesheim Christoph von Ranzow. Pope Innocentius XI sent a personal congratulation on occasion of their wedding; he had already helped her financially after her conversion, as had done the grand duke of Tuscany.

Contrarely to Christoph his wive was a person, who enjoyed life, although she was some older and a bit mis-shapen. A contemporary writes about her: Weil sie aber ein einfaches Leben zu führen gar keine Beliebung getragen, sondern lieber bei lustigen Begebenheiten sich altemal gern finden lassen, hat sie dort (i. e. in the abbey of Gandersheim) kein gutes Andenken hinterlassen; sie hat vielmals Komödie gespielt und Pall gehalten und war wenig im Stift.

After some years difficulties arrose between husband and wife and Dorothea Hedwig gets his consent for a journey to Vienna, where she pays her respect to Emperor Leopold; her husband had dwelled earlier in Vienna, where he got his title of count of the Holy Roman Empire in 1650 and where he became Imperial Counciller of the Court and chamberlain.

After that she continues her journey and after a sojourn of four weeks in Venice because of ill health, she arrives in Rome.

In Rome she moves in the circles of her far away cousin the ex-queen Christina of Sweden, the last of the Wasa's, who had been also converted to Catholicism, and lived in Rome permanently on a big scale. I tried in the memoirs of this princess, which are very well readable, to find something about her contact with Dorothea Hedwig, but she is not mentioned.

Shortly after her arrival Dorothea Hedwig communicates her husband and by the way of a certain father Winandus the Pope that she is pregnant. 17 November 1681 she gets a son, who recieves the names Alexander Leopold Anthon; sponsors are queen Christina   A l e x a n d r a   of Sweden, the German Emperor   L e o p o l d   and   A n t o n   Ulrich duke of Brunswick.

Count Christoph has recieved the communication of his wive's accouchement with mixed feelings. This late motherhood on the age of 45 years seemed strange to him. Inbetween his brother-in-law Anton Ulrich of Brunswick has arrived in Rome and knows to calm down the feelings.

After having regained health Dorothea Hedwig travels back in the beginning of 1682. When count Christoph, who sojourns inbetween in Paris, hears this, he hurries back to Holstein and they meet at his castle of Oevelgun. Nevertheless not all suspect has disappeared and he makes her swear against two fathers, before going to Communion, that everything with the birth is regular.

When I got knowledge of all this, my suspicion had not yet vanished totally. I wrote to Rome but I learned that the baptesimal record of the German-Dutch church Santa Maria dell'Anima, the only one in consideration, could not be consulted, so that I cannot communicate if the baptism has been registered in Rome.

Count Christoph was a fanatic, who made it his point to prosecute witches. In the second tome of Soldan's Hexenprozesse I found noticed that he - after some incidental cases - in 1686 no less than eighteen old women belonging to the people of his good Schmool near Lütjenburg had burned on the Baltic beach. This however was thought going too far by the government. He was called before the 'Landesgericht' to justify himself and sentenced, not because he had burned eighteen women alive, but because he had executed the verdict so quickly. He was sentenced to a fine of 20.000 'Reichsthaler' and he escapes to Cologne, where he settles down at the Jesuits.

At the other hand he liberated his serfs on his goods in Holstein, with which fact he was much in advance of his time.

His wife Dorothea Hedwig stays at Schmool with her son Alexander and dies in Hamburg in September 1692. Count Christoph sells his Holstein possessions to the counts Von Dernath.

Count Christoph has his son come over to Cologne and appoints as his governor Giovanni Arragoni, later merchant in Amsterdam and consul of Venice. Already soon Alexander becomes a boarder at the gymnasium in the Jesuit monastery Tuum Coronarum. He is treated with distinction and placed at the upper part of the table with two princes "with singular distinction of state and rank of other nobles and other disciples of condition".

However it seems that from that moment the hell came upon earth. At night Alexander lets himself down from a window, breaks out more than once and the terrified fathers see him marching as a tambour with a group of soldiers. Hardly fourteen years old he pays promise of marriage - as stands in the papers - to a low woman and then, when his father remonstrates with him on this last misbehaviour; he remarks: If you leave me here in this Jesuit prison, you cannot be my father. The old suspicion from his year of birth and the dark allusions of the contemporaries rise anew in his fathers mind and then Alexander says: I know everything; mother has confessed everything on her death-bed.

From that moment his father pulls his hands from him and rejects him. Alexander then comes as an apprentice in the house of a surgeon in Nijmegen. Again he leads a licentious life and as a vagabond he travels with a group of sailors through France to Spain, where he settles down in Cadiz trying to find shipping-opportunity to the East.

Inbetween his father had in 1693 appointed as a guardian of his son the Catholic merchant Bernardus Henricus Staets in Amsterdam in case of his death before his son's coming of age in an act for notary Johan van Kerckhoven. After the repudiation he makes 20 April 1695 (notary Poelenburg in Amsterdam) a will in which he cancels the appointment of a guardian, declares to be childless and Staets to be the heir of his Dutch possessions. Only a rent of f. 500 a year he bequeathes to Alexander. The institution of Staets as an heir can be judged as camouflage, because all the revenues were ment to go to the Catholic poors; during the 17th century it was still judged to be too dangerous to institute as an heir a Roman Catholic institution and one prefered to put a natural person as an intermediary in between.

In Amsterdam I found neither the appointment of a guardian from 1693 nor the will from 1695. This is not amazing while the protocols of both the notaries are incomplete and have much suffered by damage of fire and water, but I found that count Christoph was in contact with the notary Van Kerckhoven, because in 1693 he bought for that notary an obligation.

The news about Alexander becomes more and more worse. In a new will, passed in Cologne, the rent is decreased to f. 200 a year and many German possessions are bequeathed to the Jesuits in Cologne. Shortly after that the old count dies in that town on 16 January 1696.

Joh. Arragoni, who had settled down inbetween in Amsterdam, has nevertheless not forgotten his pupil from Cologne. With much trouble he knows to find him in Cadiz and have him come over to Amsterdam. Also his well ment attempts shipwrecked, as appears from a sentence of the Court of Holland of 20 May 1698: "As Johannes Arragoni, living in Amsterdam, has made known to the Court of Holland by request, that he suppliant to his regret has found, that Alexander Leopold Anthon count von Ranzow shortly before had fallen into such a loose and unbound behaviour and debauches, that he, suppliant, was afraid that all good provisions, which the suppliant was willing to apply upon him, were made illusive, and the said minor would rush into his own destruction and would be ruined totally, if there were not going to be taken any provisions by the Court, because the said young man, who was still under the age of eighteen years, had not only involved himself with light women, with one of whose he had stayed in an humble inn saying they were husband and wife, stating to others that he would never leave this woman, what so ever might occur, but also a few days ago by running wild and vagabonding had recieved a cut in his cheek, and enlisting himself, as he pretended, as a simple sailor to sail from these countries to Moscovia in the service of His Majesty the Czar, to which extravagancies not heard of in a young man of so few years the suppliant feared for heavier sequences and an inevitable total ruin of the said minor, the suppliant found himself obliged to represent it to this Court, humbly begging that the Court might authorise the bailiff or one of his first officers to apprehend the said Alexander Leopold Anthon, where ever he might be found, and to bring and confine him in a house of correction in this Province."

The sentence goes on for a while in the same way and the Court accorded Aragoni's request to confine Alexander in the house of correction of Koudekerk.

I made some research in the criminal archives of Amsterdam if there could be found anything about this street fight, but this was not the case.

Total ruin seemed to be near: having lost the inheritance of the very rich father, regarded as a bastard by his own sayings, enclosed in a house of correction in Koudekerk near Leyde, this boy, over whom the Emperor of Germany, Queen Christina of Sweden and the duke of Brunswick had been sponsors, who from his mothers side was a cousin of the kings of Sweden, Denmark and England and of many German princes, seemed to be lost without return.

The house of correction, where he was confined, was - as I mentioned already - situated near Leyde. I tried very much to find peculiarities about this house and looked up first, what Hellema, a specialist in this field, might have written about it. He only mentiones it incidentally. The archives of the Court of Holland contain records of inspection of houses of correction only from 1729 onwards. In an edition of the Society Haerlem, titled In een beterhuis van 1682 tot 1692 by Dr. A. H. Garrer, we can find nevertheless the story of somehody who was confined in a house of correction in Koudekerk, some years before Alexander. These houses of correction were private institutions, where lunatics, feeble minded, epileptics, débauchés of both sexes and all ages could be taken for unlimlited time after authorisation given by the government. In Delft in the 17th century there were thirteen and in Breda in the 18th more than twenty of these houses. For genealogists the archives of these institutions are not without importance, because one finds there material about many people, whose course of life for understandable reasons are left open in contemporary family books and manuscript genealogies.

While Alexander was in his lowest state, in Brunswick - far away from Koudekerk - a mendicant friar requested to the duke Anton Ulrich, asking for a favour. In his request he states to have been secretary to the count von Ranzow. Anton Ulrich asked him, in a private interview, what had happened with his brother-in-law, with whom he was at variance, and his son. The monk told that Christoph was dead and that his son was somewhere in Holland. The duke orders him to find this son, the monk finds him after long peregrinations in the house of correction in Koudekerk and reports this to Brunswick.

Inbetween the duke Anton Ulrich tries also to get information by diplomatic channels and brings in therefore Leibnitz; to him Alexander is described as: C'est un jeune seigneur qui ne manque pas d'esprit ni de vivacité; mais la vie du couvent et celle qu'il a mené ensuite parmi les matelots ne lui a pas encore donné l'air du monde et de sa qualité.

The dukes Rudolph August and Anton Ulrich of Brunswick then address a letter dd. 11 February 1699 to the States General and to the States of Holland, asking to dismiss Alexander from the house of correction and to deliver him to their councillor and resident Siegel in The Hague to receive further education in Brunswick. 11 March this letter is send over by the States of Holland to the Court of Holland, which has the supervision over the houses of correction.

Immediately a complication arises, because in the mean time already three parties were at law at the Court of Holland about the inheritance of count Christoph, as far as being under the jurisdiction of that Court. This was claimed by: 1) B. H. Staets as heir installed by will (the Roman Catholic-poors), 2) the only sister of the late count, Lucia Oligard countess von Ranzow, baroness dowager von Burkersrode, who stated that Alexander was not the son of her brother and that the will in favour of Staets was void, because this was passed without witnesses, 3) Joh. Arragoni in the name of Alexander, stating that he as being the only child was universal heir.

Arragoni considered the boy as somebody who could be improved in the future and thought therefore disinheritance by the father unreasonable. He is convinced that Alexander in his thoughtlessness out of malignancy has invented the so-called confession of his mother on her death-bed to hurt his father and to escape from the severe education planned by him. Arragoni was already on the 16th of April 1698, when the fight for the inheritance started, appointed by the Court of Holland as a 'curator ad lites' (i.e. extraordinary tutor) over Alexander being under age. Shortly afterwards he had have him confined in the house of correction, as we saw, but he continued to work in his interest. Giovanni Arragoni appears frequently in the litterature about the commerce of Holland and Venice in the 17th century. He was a good friend of the grand pensionary Anthony Heinsius; so I looked up if the archives of Heinsius contained anything about him, but this was not the case.

In the incidental requisition for the delivery of Alexander, the baroness von Burkersrode is party. Staets, as a good merchant, refers to the judgement of the Court. Madam von Burkersrode, the aunt of Alexander, fears apparently that her nephew will obtain the paternal inheritance with the help of the dukes of Brunswick.

Then a remarkable fight explodes about the legitimacy of Alexander. From the process dossiers and the notary acts, which I found in Amsterdam, appears that parties had procured themselves already in an earlier state of testamoniums, fixed by notaries, but the request from Brunswick forces them to disclose all there proofs at one time. Nothing is spared to us.

Arragoni is armed with testifications under oath from Anna Maria Sieuwers, then wife of Johann Georg Klappenschild, writer of the county of Steurwald in the Bishopric of Hildesheim, who as a lady's maid of the countess von Ranzow had been to Rome, of Johannes Müller, at the time secretary of von Ranzow, and of Hendrik Steffens, at the time writer of von Ranzow, of the baron von Mansbergen, of Eva Bruyne, old unmarried maid in The Hague, at whose house count Christoph had lived, of Willem Ignatius van Wichem, born in Nijmegen, law student at Leyde, who had been in the Jesuit monastery in Cologne with Alexander, and of Dr. Henricus Cuperus, rector of the Jesuit gymnasium in Cologne. What they attested is for the main part worked up in what precedes here.

The testimoniums confirm that von Ranzow has always judged Alexander to be his son and has treated him like that till the time of the explosion at Cologne, except for a short period of doubt shortly after the birth.

The lady's maid gives detailed information about the pregnancy and the birth, for instance that Madame Landini, lady in waiting of queen Christina of Sweden, has helped the "princess" (i.e. the countess von Ranzow) to go to bed, that Madam von Ranzow has ordered pater Winandus to inform the pope and queen Christina of her approaching delivery; that this Dominican pater Winandus, Maria van Hamburg, married to Dominicutio, servant of queen Christina, the midwife and she herself were present at the delivery.

At certain points, on which I will refer hereafter, the lady's maid gives more information.

The baroness von Burkersrode now also is forced to give full testimony. Her position seems not to be favorable and it must have produced astonishment at the Court, when the only thing she let her procurator say, was: The Court must first look at Alexander and have him uncover his right foot; after that we will go on. The Court goes in chamber, grants the request and appoints 13 March 1699 a commission, consisting of the councillors François Keetlaer, Frederick Rosenboom and the secretary Anthony van Kinschot to have a look at Alexander in Koudekerk.

Already the next day the commission travels by water to Koudekerk. I don't want to withhold the report:

"On the 14th of March 1699 have we, François Keetlaer and Frederick Rosenboom, councillors in the Court, as commissionaries, having as adjunct Anthonij van Kinschot, secretary, early in the morning with a yacht left The Hague and before we arrived at Koudekerk, Abraham Selkart van Wouw, as procurator of the baroness von Burkersrode, asked us, commissionaries, that we should have the foresaid Alexander pull off the shoe and stocking of his right foot, and that - the foot being naked - we commissionaries should inspect the foot from the under side, saying he expected that we commissionaries would see there the clear sign of a dubbel cross, about this figure being black or brown of colour or - if this had been moved away artificially - at least the scar and maybe the vestigia of it, and if this should be true, that he would explain afterwards, and we, commissionaries, have arrived at Koudekerk at about eleven o'clock, where we made the officer Van der Salm knock at the door of the said house of correction and make known the master of the house of our arrival, after which the wife of the master has opened the door at the Rhine side and brought us through the garden into a room of the house, after which the master, having joined us, was asked if not stayed in his house a certain Alexander von Ranzow whom we wished to see and speak with and having confirmed this, he has gone out of the room to call for the said person and has taken him to us. Then having arrived and being asked if he was named Alexander von Ranzow which he confirmed, we noticed him to be rather short of stature, having short dark brown curled hair, nearly black, dark brown eyes, the white nearly yellow, with an approximate age of twenty years or thereabout, and further being asked, how he liked it to be there and if he wouldn't prefer to be in liberty, he answered that he was rather well there and that the nourishment was rather well, that it was better to be at the singing of birds, but that he didn't mind very much. Continuing our conversation, we asked him if he had a scar on his right leg and if he might pull off his shoe and stocking to show it, upon which he immediately answered that his right leg had no scar, which we noticed after thorough inspection after he had pulled off his stocking but having said he had a scar on his left foot, where we, after he had done this, noticed that upon the upper middle part of his left foot a scar appeared in this way which scar he said to have had from his youth on and longer than his memory and, as he was told, from being a child of about two or three months, adding that he was now cold, but that in case he was warm, the said scar appeared more clearly. After which demonstration we, commissionaries, left and arrived at The Hague at night time."

After having treated this report of the 14th in the session of the 17th March, the Court orders the appearance of Alexander in person. The first officer of the Court is ordered to pick him up in Koudekerk and bring him over to The Hague in good custody.

In chamber his description is taken down anew; he is measured after his wig has been taken off and he appears to be tall five feet and three inches; all what was noted already in Koudekerk is ascertained anew, now by the Amsterdam surgeon Nicolaes Streeuw and two collegues of him from The Hague, asked for that reason by the baroness von Burkersrode.

The next day the parties in the process get the opportunity to speak: Arragoni has said that the surgeons are partial, because they were not appointed by the Court but by Mrs. von Burkersrode and he states that Alexander has shown his left foot of his own accord, after it has appeared that on the right foot, as indicated by the procurator of Mrs. von Burkersrode, nothing was to be found.

The baroness von Burkersrode protests against the title of count, which is given to Alexander by Arragoni.

Still the same day the Court of Holland resolves that against the demand of the dukes of Brunswick to dismiss Alexander from the house of correction there are no objections and reports this to the States of Holland.

Then Alexander is handed over to the duke of Brunswick, who for that reason has travelled to The Hague, and his resident Siegel to be educated in Brunswick.

With these events the second part of the drama has taken its end.

Inbetween the process about the inheritance of count Christoph is continued for more than twenty years and only during this it becomes clear why the scar in the form of a cross had to be noted with so much emphasize. The baroness von Burkersrode states with so many words that Alexander is a substituted child, originating from the well known foundling hospital Santo Spirito in Rome. All children admitted in that foundation, she states, get the cross of the Holy Ghost tattooed on one of their feet. Alexander had this mark, and moreover he had black hair, his eye white was nearly yellow and he was very mature for a North-European as his adventures proved. Therefore he is an Italian and a substutited child from the hospital Santo Spirito.

For my part I thought it necessary to find out if indeed all the foundlings from Santo Spirito got this tattoo. Because I couldn't find any litterature about this subject at home, I wrote to Rome. One was so benevolent to inform me that indeed the foundlings were marked in this way and to send me a copy from the book II pio istituto di Santo Spirito by Dr. Alessandro Canezza and Prof. Dr. Mario Casalini. This part treats the admission of foundlings in this foundation, who by a untransparent tourniquet were turned inside, as it happened in Cuba still in this century. The passage reads as follows: The tourniquet of the Holy Ghost is at the side of the main entrance. Through the opening of the iron gate the child is brought in and by the turning of the wheel a bell starts ringing, at which sign the doorman called if the child was baptised. The infant was wrapped in a blue cloth, the symbolic colour of the Holy Ghost and after that passed over to the tourniquet of the sisters to be handed over to the prioress; she examined thoroughly the marks, which might be added, and gave it over to a sister to have it washed with warm wine etc., before it was put into its craddle. In this period the foster-mothers, who lived permanently in the foundling house, were about twenty fife in number, the externs about two thousand. The tattoo on the foot in the form of the cross of the Holy Ghost served as a mark of recognition.

It is still too little known which enormous extend the care of foundlings used to take place in Latin countries. The number varied very much with the economical situation. When I looked up litterature about foundlings I found noticed in the Recherches statistiques de la ville de Paris, that for instance in that city in 1820 on 223.910 births 55.250 babys, i.e., nearly 23 % were foundlings.

In the beginning of this article I said that the parties in the process gave themselves much trouble to collect all sorts of testimonies from the moment the process started. The process papers of the Court of Holland are far from complete. Some testimonies of servants of the von Ranzow's in Germany has been translated in the presence of notary Pieter Schabaelje in Amsterdam, as follows from the papers in the General State Archives in The Hague. This gave a motive to study the protocols of this notary in Amsterdam, happily not without result. The first thing I found was the procuration of Lucia Olegaard countess von Ranzow, widow of Johan Frederik baron von Burkersrode, lord of Sornzig, on the 1st of October 1697, in which she authorizes Abraham Selckart van Wouw to be her procurator at the Court of Holland in her process against Bernardus Henricus Staets.

These Burkersrode's are, as I found in the Adelslexikon of Kneschke, originating from Saxony and still survive in the male line in the family von Zeck-Burkersrode. Kneschke mentions Johan Frederik and says that he "sich vermählt hatte mit einer als gelehrte Dame zu ihrer Zeit bekannte Gräfin von Ranzow". How clever Alexander's aunt was, will appear from the information from the testimonies, she was able to procure.

The beginning of the process lies thus in 1697, which is understandable because count Christopf had died in 1696. The aunt von Burkersrode appears frequently in the protocols of the notary Schabaelje in connection with bills of exchange drawn on Saxony, of which she always has confirmed by a notary the delivery on post; from this we get the impression that during the first years of the process she must have lived in Amsterdam.

Originally I looked at Alexander as a boy, who by the intrigues of outsiders, especially the merchant Staets and his aunt Mrs. von Burkersrode, was disputed his lawful inheritance. The question of the stigma made arise doubt in me, but the noble person of the mother, the former princess-abbess of Gandersheim, née a princess of Sleeswick-Holstein-Sonderburg-Norburg, a friend and a relative of nearly all princely families of Europe, stayed.

The big blow however came, when I found at notary Schabaelje's protocol a document concerning this highborn lady (Munic. arch. Amsterdam, not. arch., inv. nr. 6181, fo. 137 dd. 21 Jan. 1699): "To-day the 2lst of January anno 1699 appeared in front of me, Pieter Schabaelje, notary publicq admitted by the Court of Holland, residing at Amsterdam, Mr. licenciat Christiaen Granardt, Royal Danish appointed inspector over the high jurisdiction of the rivers at Oldenskloin Stormarn, old approximately 50 years, and has with true words in stead of and under presentation of oath solemny at the request of lady Lucia Oligard baroness von Burckersrode née countess von Rantzaw testified, declared and attested that is true and that he knows very well that a certain boy, named Alexander Leopold Anton, who was brought by the wife of the late count Christoff von Rantzau in the year 1682 from Italy with her from Rome, not is the son van the said count nor of the countess von Rantzau, but that he is a child out of the hospital di Santo Spirito in Rome;

"giving he, deposant, for that fact as reasons of knowledge, to know: that he, deposant, himself and also many other people apart from him, at that time have seen often on the said child Alexander Leopold Anton the burned token, that he had on his body, which token the child had already at the time, when the countess took him from Rome with her;

"also that the people of the said countess von Rantzaw, whom she had with her at Rome and especially the nurse or foster-mother of the child, even have confessed such a supposition to him witness and often have shown the said burned token;

"also that the said countess von Rantzaw at that time to him witness and to others has appeared much too old to be able to give birth to children, because of which fact everybody, who looked at her and the child, laughed at it because of her age, to which was added that she had never been pregnant before of the count von Rantzaw and also that she - according to her people and the common speaking - had been so long in Italy and away from her husband, that it was impossible that she honestly could have bearied the child a tempore praesentiae mariti;

"also that at that time the rumour was spread among everybody that this Alexander Leopold Anton was a foreign, substituted, Italian child, taken from the hospital di Santo Spirito of Rome, which rumor was so big that it even attainted to His Royal Majesty of Denmark and the whole court, who laughed about it;

"that for that reason also it happened, that a certain nobleman from Holstein, named captain Hans von Buchwald, in the presence of him witness sitting at the table in a certain inn in Rensburg with the said countess, when she, the countess, spoke very ignominious about the Gospel and the Lutherians, answered her and spoke into her face and asked what to think of the person, who was first abbess in a convent, changed her religion and after being married left her husband and went to Rome out of lust and who, as a woman too old to give birth to a child, who took from there a tokened child from the hospital di Santo Spirito to get hold falsely of the inheritance of her husband and decieve the whole nobility of Holstein; after which the countess von Rantzaw became so ashamed that she left the table and went away, that however the said captain Buchwald was not ashamed at all, but shortly afterwards went to the room of the countess von Rantzow - without being announced -, taking with him for reasons of curiosity the countess von Alefeld, wife of the grand chancellor, and their daughter Dorothea with him as a witness to show to him (as he said) the young ltalian, and when they had reached the room in the presence of him witness and found the countess von Rantzaw and the Italian child Alexander Leopold Anton together, the countess von Rantzaw tried to hide the child, but he said to the countess von Alefeld: "Merciful woman, here is that papistic child, do you think that this Italian is a Holstein nobleman; no, he is Italian" and has seized thereaftcr the child at his black hair on his front and pulled him with that, saying: "You, black Italian, could you be from Holstein; no, you are really an Italian", which all the countess von Rantzaw has attended, without speaking a word against it, but she wept about it and was ashamed, while the present ladys could not abstain from laughing;

"Also that because of that reason the count von Rantzow himself and all the other noblemen in the neigbourhood in Holstein supposed this boy Alexander Leopold Anton to be a foreign, substituted child;

"also that he witness afterwards had met the said countess von Rantzaw at Olssburg in an inn, where she passed the night with her servant and behaved poorely, saying she was the wife of a colonel and having him witness say by her servant not to mention that she was the countess von Rantzaw;

"that he witness also knows that the said countess von Rantzaw has lived afterwards in Hamburg in a very suspect house of a public souteneur called Paul Anthony Joncker alias Vitallio, being a baptized Jew, and that there and in total Holstein the public rumour was, that she once afterwards had pretended to be pregnant, but that the count von Rantzaw had catched her that this was false and that she only had bound up her body with a cushion;

"declaring moreover that he witness in as far is concerned the servant of the said countess - being from Wolfenbuttel - who as was told to him witness, had declared in Hildesheim that she had seen the child Alexander being born in Rome from the hody of the countess von Rantzaw, he witness very well knows that this is not true, apart from the fact that this servant doesn't merit any credibility, because at that time she was much too young, while at the time he witness had seen her near the countess, which was in the year 1683, she -according to the thoughts of him witness - was not older than 25 years and secondly because this servant, while she was at Rensburg with the said countess von Rantzaw, had suffered the said captain von Buchwald (as he himself had confessed to him witness) to climb at nighttime with a ladder to her room and have had stayed with her and two other servants the whole night;

declaring he witness finally that he knows the lady requirante very well and knows also that she is the full sister of the said late count von Rantzaw;

thus passed in Amsterdam in the presence of Dirck Cruys and Leendert Mensoo as witnesses and was signed etc."

When one has got knowledge of this document and has learned from the process pieces that the count and countess von Ranzow lived for years separated already, it is remarkable to find in a scientific study of the Jesuit father Allard from 1887: After a very happy marriage of nearly eighteen years she died in Hamburg, where husband and wife had settled down and had edified and strengthened the small but execeIlent group of Catholics in the faith of their fathers. Such statements show once more how careful one must be in copying the meaning of others and has to try to return to the sources themselves.

Contrarily to declarations as the before mentioned contrarily also to the stigma and other exterior tolkens, which show rather a Roman than a northern extraction, Arragoni and later Alexander himself, when he became of age, repeat the testimoniums of servants of his mother and of queen Christina, of father Winandus and others, who all describe in detail what happened in the lying-in room. Concerning the stigma the lady's maid declares that this has been caused by hot porridge fallen upon him.

Staets, the third part in the process, is not very active; at least we don't hear very much any more of his arguments.

At last, in 1706, Arragoni gains some success for his pupil: the Court attributes provisionally the paternal inheritance in Holland to Alexander, but many years of process had to follow. On the calender of the Court the affair returns often. The baroness von Burkersrode had already died in 1705; her heirs substituted her. Also Staets died and his widow and sons step in his rights. Finally, the 13th of October 1713, after more than twenty years, the inheritance is definitively attributed to Alexander. The considerations, which have led to this verdict, are unfortunately not preserved. The other parties bring the affair however before the Supreme Court and than the whole case starts anew.

Finally Alexander transports in 1722 his pretentions on the part of his fathers inheritance in Holland for f. 180.000 to Christoph baron von Wambold von Umstadt, who, as being married to a granddaughter, acted for the heirs of the baroness von Burkersrode. The fight about the inheritance of the old count Christoph von Ranzow is than continued between the heirs of Staets and the heirs of Mrs. von Burkersrode. I did not find a final sentence of the Supreme Court.

The town archives of Amsterdam contain Staets papers and there I found an inventory of the absent family archive from 1734, in which first is mentioned: Anno 1734 stored in the cupboard all the papers concerning Ranzow, settled with a receipt of the Supreme Court. These Staets papers in the town archives of Amsterdam originate from the archives of the bishopric of Haaarlem, but also there the Ranzow process dossier is absent. If it would have been there, I should have done much work for nothing, but the tension of the investigation would have lacked also.

I mentioned already that the inheritance process was about the - for the rest very important - goods in Holland of count Christoph. Also in Cologne Alexander had to fight a same long process about the goods in Germany, which were many more. There the affairs were more difficult because, as I read in the memoirs of one of Alexander's sons, he had to sell his rights on his fathers German possessions far below the real estimation.

After all these expiations I have to return to Alexander, whom we left in 1699, when he was brought by the resident Siegel from the house of correction in Houdekerk to Brunswick to have his education finished at the court of his uncle, the reigning duke. This disciple from the Jesuit college, this surgeons apprentice in Nijmegen, this vagabond with sailors in Cadiz, this idler in Amsterdam, formerly confined in the house of correction in Koudelkerk, entered military service there. He rises from an ensign to be chef of the 8th company of the life battalion and finishes his eventful life on the 25th of October 1747 as general in the service of Brunswick.

In the year 1702 he married Catharina Sophia baroness von Hoym-Rhoden, who gave birth to several sons. The wild blood of the father was inherited by these sons. His son Ferdinand Anthon, hold at the font in Wolfenbuttel by the dukes of Bavaria and Brunswick and by the prince of Schwarzburg-Arnstadt, embarked as a corporal on the age of 22 under the name of Ferdinand Anthon Scholtz to the East, makes his career in the Dutch East India Company and asks in 1749 the general governor to be allowed to use his proper name again, which has been allowed. He repatriates in 1751 with his first wife Josina Schokman, whom he had married in Colombo, remarries after her death in 1759 a morganatic daughter of the prince of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt and dies himself, nearly 90 years of age, in 1802 in Brunswick, after having procreated with his two wifes 25 children.

It is understandable that under these circumstances he was not able to give enough attention to the education of his sons and it is not amazing that in 1766 we find his son Julius Ferdinand in the house of correction named Padua in Rotterdam. He is the father of Georg Ludwig Carl Heinrich, lord of Meinerswijk near Arnhem, who became a state paymaster in Arnhem and was there the founder of the Ranzow bank.

From the two eldest sons from his marriage with Josina Schokman descend both Dutch branches von Ranzow, of which the youngest is extinct and of which the eldest was settled during some generations in the Indies and has survived nowadays in the Netherlands. So far Alexander's son Ferdinand Anthon and his descendants.

Also another son had inherited many of Alexander's qualities and not the best. This was Georg Ludwig Albrecht von Ranzow, born 21 March 1714, over whom stood as sponsors the later king of Hanovre, the reigning duke of Brunswick and the prince of Oettingen. About his young years we are very well informed by his autobiography, which he had appear in 1741 in Amsterdam, dedicated to his cousins Charles and Anton Ulrich dukes of Brunswick, older brothers of the in our national history well known "fat duke" of Brunswick in the time of the stadholders William IV and V.

I was so lucky to find a copy of this rare booklet "Mémoires du Comte de Rantzow ou les heures de récréation à l'usage de la Noblesse de l'Europe" at the Royal Library in The Hague.

About his infancy and his parents he says little, about the scandal concerning his father's birth and the wild youth of him not a word. About the inheritance process, his father had to carry out on his whole life, he speaks however. Georg continues his memoirs with the description of his own young years. It appears that he was treated on the same foot with the princes, his playmates and was judged by the duke totally as belonging to the princely family. When matriculating at the university of Helmstedt, he protests that in the lecture-room no arm-chair is placed as was done for two princes' sons, who followed the lessons there, and the academic senate hurries to procure also such a seat for the count von Ranzow.

Already at the age of thirteen he is appointed an officer and, when one of the older officers of the small garrison Blankenburg mocks about this, von Ranzow challenges him to a duel in which he carries away the victory. A second duel took place when he, just sixteen years old, enters university and also this time he is a victor.

In Helmstedt von Ranzow lives with his governor at an old 'Hofrat' and professor; his father Alexander had selected this house with care for him: the young, smart and solid professor's wife had to teach his son respect for her sex. The sixteen years old boy loses however his heart to his hostess and the consequences don't stay away.

Inbetween a new incident took place. When he returns home at night, accompanied by his servants with torches, he hears in a passage crying for help. He rushes and is just able to liberate a girl, who struggles in a dark lane behind the houses with a man, not however before he has laid down this man with his sword. She appears to be the daughter of the rich local banker Lintner.

Shortly afterwards the governor perceives which relationship von Ranzow has with his hostess. He takes his leave and von Ranzow gets another boarding house: at the rector's, who takes the precaution to send his daughter away, which fact von Ranzow takes him very much amiss. He cannot forget the smart wife of the professor and he corresponds with her by way of the laundry woman, to whom he gives his letters. One time, when getting back his stockings, he doesn't find in them a letter of the professor's wife but of the smart banker's daughter miss Lintner and also with her he starts a relationship.

In 1731, seventeen years old, he graduates on a thesis titled De jure et praerogativa comitum Imperii. He returns to the court of Brunswick where the duke likes to unlearn him his student-like behaviour by the court-life. Quickly he knows how to adapt himself to his changed circumstances and soon he looses his heart to the daughter of one of the chamberlains. A marriage however is not possible, because she is judged not to be a party for a count von Ranzow and shortly afterwards she dies under tragic circumstances. He returns to Helmstedt again, but his love for the professor's wife has vanished.

By a next duel he comes again to difficulties, from which he knows to withdraw by flight, dressed in the livery of his servant. When shortly afterwards he makes a trip to the small town of Harbek on the territory of Brunswick, the gatekeeper asks his name. His return question is: From which time does one ask foreigners for their name? The gate-keeper answers: From the time the young count von Ranzow has vanished. Take care then, sais von Ranzow, because the count is said to come here today; the government has ordered me to find him. In this way he knows to escape from this danger. Finally the affair is concluded with a fine.

On the next trip he meets the daughter of a baron von Spiegel, promises of marriage are exchanged, but shortly before the marriage she dies suddenly. The duke then sends him away on a voyage along many foreign courts, where he also has many strange adventures. Returned he falls in the arms of the banker's daughter, whose life he has saved, when she was waylaid. The father goes on resisting the marriage and anew starts the wandering. In Paris he obtains an appointment as captain in the regiment Dauphin, where he could stand it for three months and at that moment the diary ends. From other sources we know that finally he marries a 'Fräulein' von Nerlich in Germany.

The remarkable thing is, that these memoirs, which are written very captivatingly, descend into all the details, with which he describes all his encounters with his friends and, because these were certainly daring, that he dedicated them openly to two dukes of Brunswick. From the dedication, partly in verses, appears that he had self- knowledge, while he writes:
    "D'un âge un peu plus mûr je médite mon sort:
    J'aimais des passions le plus bruiant accord.
    Dominé par l'Amour, j'aimais à me séduire,
    Et malade en santé je mourais de délire:
    Mais a la Réflexion dont les fruits viennent tard,
    D'un jeune fou peut faire un très sage Vieillard.
    Heureux quand, comme VOUS, on est né sans faiblesse,
    Et dès son plus tendre âge on aime la Sagesse.
The second remarkable thing is, that from the memoirs of the son appears, that at all the escapades the then being old Alexander always tries to intervene as a dignified old man. 'Le vieux comte, mon pêre', as the son calls him always, distributes wise lessons and one sees - so to say - the dignified feature shake his head about his licentious sons.

The question arises then if the sons had knowledge of the fact, that this old general had been guilty in his youth of hooliganism in many towns of Europe and that he had been confined in a house of correction. Unfortunately we do not know. Nor do we know if they knew about the mystery of his birth, a mystery that even nowadays has nor been solved, but what we know is that the life of Alexander Leopold Anthon count of the Holy Roman Empire von Ranzow has been a subject of amazement for his contemporaries, a life which I have tried by the language of the archives and papers left behind, to bring a bit nearer to the public.

Sept. 1980

William Addams Reitwiesner