The books and stories of the 1632-verse mostly deal with up-timers and German commoners. The German nobles are sometimes only a prop for the real action (like Gretchen’s and Hans’ thoughts before the Battle of the Crapper in 1632) or serve as The Final Enemy like Johann Georg of Saxony.
But they also were human beings and had a society of their own. Apart from hunting events and boozy sessions there was much more of social life. So let’s look to one special phenomenon of the seventeenth century, not restricted to Germany, the “language societies.”
History of Language Societies
Their original purpose was to fight for a common German language. Martin Luther had set a benchmark a hundred years earlier when translating the New Testament into German, and from the printed books, the lower class Germans could learn their own language.
But the patchwork of the Germanies with Lutheran, Calvinist and Catholic principalities, froze the development on that point. The German language could not evolve with the times.
So the new scientific class, the “humanists” chose the Latin language as their own. Many of them even changed their names into Latin variants. One guy, called Conrad Celtis, wrote: ” . . . drop the uneducated way of speech, sound and words of your mother language, sound of the barbarians.” And, by the way, his original name was Konrad Pickel (pimple). They even changed the German grammar to a Latin style.
With the start of the seventeenth century, a new fashion evolved in Germany ‘s courts and educated middle class: France. It even has a name, the “Alamodewesen” (á la mode—like the fashion). The princes used the French language to show their modernity. Their youth studied in “knight academies” in France, the middle class sent their children to universities, preferably in Paris. The German courts hired French private teachers, and also the emigrated Huguenots brought French culture into Germany.
The German language was demoted to the language of the vulgar and the military. Ten percent of all books in Germany and not fewer than nineteen newspapers in Berlin were published in French.
But then a counter-movement emerged; a theologian and author named Hermann Fabronius (Faber) wrote “How would it be, if the French would use German words in their mother language. It is incredible for them. Speak like your grandfather spoke!” and members of the middle class and the nobility heard it and reacted.
They founded the first Sprachgesellschaften to save the German language. But that wasn’t the sole purpose. They also served as a base for social networking with much more transparency between higher and lower nobility and sometimes even commoners than the normal court life.
The Fruitbearing Society
Die Fruchtbringende Gesellschaft was the first and largest German language society. It was founded in 1617 at the funeral of Dorothea Maria von Sachsen-Weimar (the mother of the Saxe-Weimar brothers). From the current developments in the German language mentioned above, it was hardly surprising that the chatting of the high nobility at that funeral at one point revolved around that problem.
Fürst Ludwig I von Anhalt-Köthen, who also attended the funeral, had already joined a similar society in Italy as their first German member. The Accademia della Crusca ( Academy of Bran —not brain), which still exists today, had been founded in 1585, with the same purpose regarding the Italian language. It was only the largest of about seven hundred Italian clubs with this purpose.
So he proposed the same for Germany and was quickly appointed the leader of the new society. They chose the coconut palm as their symbol, which was at that time a very exotic tree, but well-known for its multitude of different uses, and thus the society was also known as the Palmenorden (Order of the Palm).
They chose the slogan Alles zu Nutzen (All for benefit) based on the statement that everyone attending the society should be “eager to create fruit.”
Each member—they were open to everyone except, of course, women—got a society name by which he was exclusively addressed in society meetings and correspondence, and a slogan, the latter rather difficult to understand today. Ludwig himself was known as Der Nährende (the Nurturing). His slogan—the only Latin one of all the members—was Vita mihi Christus, mors lucrum (Christ means life to me, death is a gain).
Although the leader was the only one who could accept new members, the society quickly grew with a total of 890 registered (a large list can be found here). Notable members were Axel Oxenstierna (the Desired), and the four duke-brothers Wilhelm (the Delicious), Albrecht (the Unattractive), Ernst (the Bittersweet) and Bernhard (the Expressive) of Saxe-Weimar.
After Ludwig I died in 1650, our friend Wilhelm von Sachsen-Weimar was elected as the new leader, but the society degraded rather quickly to a simple order with no real purpose. After the death of its third leader, August von Sachsen-Weißenfels, in 1680 no new leader was elected and the society died out. Hieronymus Ambrosius Langenmantel (the Least) was the last member and died in 1718.
On January 18, 2007 the New Fruitbearing Society was founded in Köthen “to keep, cherish, protect and develop” the German language.
The Virtuous Society
The founding of Die Tugendliche Gesellschaft was a direct consequence of the existence of the Fruitbearing Society. As I already mentioned, the latter was a male-only club, although rumors exist that women sometimes attended the meetings using the names of their husbands.
Ludwig’s sister, Anna Sophia von Anhalt, known to the readers of the 1632-verse as “Anna Sofie of Anhalt-Zerbst and Dessau,” who is socially active in Magdeburg, is known as one of the best-educated women of her time. So it’s easy to understand why she wanted to have a similar intellectual circle for women.
As early as 1619 she organized the foundation meeting in the castle of her husband, Karl Günther, Graf von Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt (died in 1630). Together with her brother’s wife, Amoena (or Anna) Amalie, Gräfin von Bentheim-Tecklenburg und Steinfurt, she invited several female nobles and founded a “rival” organization.
The society had the purpose to promote the female virtues in Germany, especially in the cultural sector. Although both their husbands attended the first meeting, only noble women were allowed as members.
The symbol of the society was a well-laid table, a crown and a scepter. The slogan was Tugend bringt Ehre (Virtue brings honor).
They copied the customs of giving each member a society name and a slogan. Anna Sophia was called Die Getreue (the Faithful) and had the slogan “with unloosened tie.”
Unlike the men, they limited the number of members after they reached seventy-three and afterwards only replaced deceased members. They maintained a total of one hundred and three members until 1652, when Anna Sophia died. No further leader was elected and the society ceased to exist.
A complete membership list can be found in a book available here at Google books. Notable members were Dorothea Sophie von Sachsen-Altenburg (the Blissful), the abbess of Quedlinburg, and Christine von Hessen-Kassel (the Generous), wife of Johann Ernst von Sachsen-Eisenach.
The two societies mentioned above were the only larger ones at the timeframe of our stories in Germany. The Noble Académie des Loyales was another society for women, founded in 1617 by Anna von Anhalt-Bernburg, sister-in-law of Ludwig I. It was also known by the name L’Ordre de la Palme d’Or (Order of the Golden Palm) and had a fixed limit of twenty members from the high and middle Calvinist nobility. And their faible for the French language contradicted the original purpose of these societies.
Six of Anna’s daughters, who were members of this society, stayed unmarried, so it seems that this order was seen as something like a convent. The society died around 1640; its twenty-six members mostly from Anhalt-Bernburg are listed here.
Several more language societies were founded after 1640, which are not relevant here. The influence of Grantville on German society is more interesting than the societies themselves.
Grantville’s Influence on the Fruitbearing Society
It’s obvious that the appearance of Grantville must have had a shocking and shaking influence on the Fruitbearing Society. The first meeting after the Ring of Fire—perhaps at Johann Casimir von Sachsen-Coburg’s funeral in 1633—must have been frustrating. It was clearly visible—and hearable—that the purity of the German language had received a deathblow.
The development of Amideutsch was not caused by the above mentioned fashion of Germans in all centuries to adopt nice words from other languages. It was outright necessary to use the up-timer terms for things and concepts that didn’t even exist in the seventeenth century.
As a German born during the Wirtschaftswunder, and grown up in the cold war with American troops all around and especially all those TV-shows—starting with Fury, Lassie and Rin Tin Tin, containing several years of Dallas, and not ending with Eureka and the CSI franchise—I think I’m in the happy position to judge how much the German language was “tainted” by them.
Our counterattack with kindergarten, autobahn and sauerkraut was not remotely as effective. Imagine all shops on Fifth Avenue using only German slogans in all their windows, then you have an idea of how Germany ‘s shopping streets and malls look in the twenty-first century.
So the Fruitbearing Society loses its main official purpose to keep the German language clean, but it keeps its unofficial agenda for social networking. Here the nobles with direct contact to the up-timers can talk about their experiences, regardless of their ranks. Since they all know each other, they can be sure that no up-timer spy can overhear them.
It’s rather probably that in those meetings, and not in the official meetings of the House of Lords in Magdeburg, the “counterrevolution” of the crown loyalists was planned.
Grantville’s Influence on the Virtuous Society
Their official agenda of cultural development got a real boost from new techniques and fashions of painting, new instruments and new musical scales. They have to read and discuss the literature of nearly four hundred years to catch up with styles and fashions. So when they concentrate on culture in the future, they are fully occupied for the next decades.
But do they want this? What about these new ideas of “gender equality” which arise from Grantville? There have already been strong female figures in the past, Elisabeth I of England to mention the newest example. But these were the exceptions to the rule that women have to accept a subordinate role to men.
“Women are created for no other purpose than to serve men and be their helpers. If women grow weary or even die while bearing children, that doesn’t harm anything. Let them bear children to death; they are created for that.”
It’s not one of the big chauvinists of the modern time who wrote this, but the adored Martin Luther.
And now the women of Grantville play a new and completely different role. They are craftswomen, doctors, scientists, soldiers and political leaders, not subordinated but equal to their husbands, not as exceptions to the rule, but as a new rule. A complete new role model, socially and politically.
There will certainly be many members of the Virtuous Society not interested in these developments. Since many of them are unmarried Fräuleins from Anhalt in Saxony, their contacts with up-timers are more or less peripheral.
But what about the high nobility women in the vicinity of Grantville, all members of the society? There is Anna Sophia living in Kranichfeld, only twenty miles from Grantville and with relatives at the border of the Ring of Fire; Christine von Hessen-Kassel living in Eisenach, a highly educated and scientifically interested woman; Elisabeth von Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel (the Pious) in Altenburg, married to duke Johann Philipp of Saxe-Altenburg; Dorothea von Sachsen-Altenburg (the Joyful), sister of Dorothea Sophie, married to duke Albrecht in Weimar, and the young Emilie Antonia von Oldenburg (will later enter the society as “the Blessing One”), married to count Ludwig Günther of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt.
They will at least found a new regiment within the Virtuous Society for discussion of the consequences Grantville’s women provoke. Perhaps they might found a completely new real fruitbearing society, dedicated to initiate and support women’s liberation in the seventeenth century, and open to commoners and perhaps even up-timers.
Who knows? Time will tell.