DESCRIPTION: Here is the ultimate in royal gifts when it comes to weapons -- this is the actual falconry dagger that was presented to Prince Adalbert of Prussia 1884-1948 by his mother, the wife of Kaiser Wilhelm II (Empress Auguste Victoria) of Schleswig Holstein 1858-1921. She gave birth to seven children by Kaiser Wilhelm II, German Emperor and King of Prussia: Crown Prince Wilhelm 1882-1951, Prince Eitel Fredrich 1883-1942, Prince Adalbert 1884-1948, Prince August Wilhelm 1887-1949, Prince Oskar 1888-1958, Prince Joachim 1890-1920, and Princess Viktoria Luise 1892-1980.
The Kaiserin dearly loved all of her children and she absolutely hero worshipped her husband, but the child she seemed to favor most was Prince Adalbert and she was often seen with him at Royal occasions and rallies prior to the war years and during WWI as well. They were often seen together at major events and even at minor fund raisers, etc. She was a good mother and wife and she was extremely conscientious in carrying out the public relations, plus charitable and welfare work that of course was an expected part of Royal duties. She had great interest in German cultural pursuits and a definite engrossment and actually a vivid affection for the arts. There was a genuine and widespread sense of loss and mourning amongst ordinary Germans when she died. Her funeral was marked with much spontaneous public grieving as well as the more formal solemn rituals of the Imperial Prussian state.
Prince Adalbert, the third eldest son of Wilhelm and Auguste Victoria was born in the Hohenzollern Palace at Potsdam on 22 September 1884 and died in Switzerland 22 April 1948. He married Princess Adelheid (Adi) of Saxe Meninigen (1891-1971) on the 3rd of August 1914 in Wilhelmshaven, Germany. The young Prince had a passion for the tales and swashbuckling sagas of the sea and of course we know he was named after the earlier Prince Adalbert (1811-1873) who through the Hohenzollern Hierarchy was his distant relative. This Prince Heinrich Wilhelm Adalbert was the commander in chief of the Prussian Navy, as well as a great naval theorist and admiral of great renown in the turbulent 1840's and 50's. He was instrumental in the revolutions of 1848 and in founding the first unified German fleet, the Reichsflotte. During the 1850's he did much to form and establish the Prussian Navy as an independent naval power.
The dream of our young Prince Adalbert, Ferdinand, Berenger Viktor, “Hohenzollern” was to become a naval officer in the tradition of his illustrious ancestor and he was ever cognizant of the fact that the Kaiser, his father was extremely obsessed with the sea and naval affairs. In 1889 at the inauguration of a new seaport in Stettin on September 1898, the Kaiser stated these prophetic words: "Unser Zukunft Liegt auf dem Wasser." (Our future lies on the water!”) And three years later Prince Adalbert officially joined the Kaiserliche Imperial Marine. It was the greatest day of his life and he entered as an officer having earned his rank in the naval reserve. On this auspicious occasion his father, the exceedingly proud Kaiser, presented him with a magnificent (one of a kind) cased and heavy naval dagger and ‘What a dagger’!!! Unlike any other dagger of the Imperial Navy, this one was entirely constructed in silver (800), not brass as would be usual and it had a genuine ivory grip. The blade was made by the WKC Company - “Weyersberg und Kirschbaum” who were so proud of it that they featured it in their turn of the century catalog as a prime example of their mastery of the art in the production of swords and daggers. The fittings and scabbard were by the famed Berlin jeweler to the royal palace, Sy & Wagner. In very highly raised letters the legend on the blade said “Meinem Lieben Sohn Adalbert Bei Seinem Entritt In Die Marine." Even the scabbard is a work of art. In the mid-section of the scabbard is the letter (A) and above it the typical crown of the Prussian prince. Originally Prince Adalbert was presented to the German admiralty on 24 June 1894 at the tender age of 10 years old. On this occasion the Kaiser said of his son “This moment when Prince Adalbert becomes one of you is of the most eminent importance to the entire history of the Fatherland!” One can only imagine the effect such a statement must have had on the formation of such a young mind. Thomas Wittmann in his book Collecting the Edged Weapons of Imperial Germany Volume One is to be credited with some of this information. Wittmann also said of the Prince that when Adalbert was an unmarried officer he traveled extensively throughout the world on German war ships as well as on the Royal Yacht “Hohenzollern.” It is said that the Prince was rather a rake with the ladies in his seafaring days, but please understand this activity was absolutely not approved nor condoned by the Kaiser or the royal house of Hohenzollern! Later when his earlier passions cooled, he married Princess Adelaide and he became a Korvetten Kapitan and was the Commander of His majesty’s ship, the Dresden, at war’s end in 1918. At one point in his naval career, he led a German Naval Marine landing party in heavy hand-to-hand combat action, thus he won the Iron Cross. This was worn by him at all times after it was ceremoniously awarded personally by his father along with an impressive scattering of Royal orders that he received from many of the countries allied with Germany. We counted 20 to include of course the Prussian Black Eagle, Red Eagle, House Order of Hohenzollern and Order of the Prussian Crown. Besides these he received the highest decorations of Italy, Netherlands, Austria-Hungary, Portugal, Romania, Imperial Russia, Turkey, Zanzibar, etc. He was a genuine hero and probably the noblest son of the German Hohenzollern Dynasty.
The Prince’s Falconry dagger: We have said previously that the Empress favored Prince Adalbert as the dearest of all her children. Not to say that she didn’t love each and every one of them individually but Adalbert possessed the distinct possibility that his ecstatic love of the sea and his great fervent ambition to be a naval officer that was always first and foremost in his young mind, somewhat advanced him in the great favor of his mother. The Kaiser rather favored the Crown Prince Wilhelm, his namesake and heir to the throne, but he lavished attention all over his young sailor son as well. The Prince yearned to gain this nautical dream of his so adamantly that both mother and father thought him to be the most ambitious and dedicated of all their sons. His impassioned aspiration was most genuine and this young lad was admired by all in the Imperial court who knew him. Thus when the Kaiser gave him the fantastic naval dagger, the Empress was so impressed having seen the great joy it brought to the prince she immediately decided she would also present him a dagger that would have appeal to him as a royal Hohenzolleren prince! When Adalbert was still a child it was toy ships, toy sailors, that were his favorite playthings and he had his personal pond on the Imperial palace grounds where he could sail his tiny ships. But his greatest prizes later as an adult were these daggers presented by his loving parents to celebrate his reaching his ever present dream. Adalbert was a noble seaman and a true gentleman. However, his one vice seems to have been his consistent seeking of rather amorous adventures in his various travels even though these were before his marriage. Eventually there were more amorous conquests; unfortunately for him the word got back to Papa. We are all unfortunately subject to human frailties! *Authors note! His father we know was a very strict religious Lutheran adherent and a very strict authoritarian and he insisted that his sons “tow the mark”! Discipline and order were implemented in them from an early age and he expected that this rigid discipline would continue to be observed throughout their entire lives. Adalbert, however, was the only sailor in the family and maybe the lust of those who “go down to the sea in ships” was acquired in his many cruises to foreign lands. He was handsome, rich, regal, and important and the girls flocked to him like the mermaids of the deep flocked to Poseidon! Unfortunately, this led to his downfall not so different than if he had been shipwrecked by the beckoned call of the beautiful siren known as the Lorelei of the Rhine! Today we look at this as rather risqué but forgivable, after all it was just a young man sewing his oats! But at the Royal Hohenzollern palace in Berlin, this turned out to be a scandal of gigantic proportion!
When news of his more infamous intimate escapades got back to the Kaiser even while the war was raging, the Emperor was livid and Prince Adalbert was banished from the Palace. He never saw his father again, and the only one contact (a sad one) was when he came to Haus Doorn in Holland where the Kaiser who was exiled there in 1918 died June 4, 1941. The Prince arrived there and we are told he did not speak to his brothers and sister but simply went to the bed that the Kaiser died upon (then empty) and placed a single red rose upon the pillow with a note that said: “Gott Segnen Meinen Vater Das Kaiser- Sein Sohn Adalbert.”(“God bless my father the Kaiser - His son Adalbert”). After this he turned and immediately left and did not visit the Bier of his father. Before this he actually sold his entire estate, his house, his other possessions, his medals, his naval uniform, and obviously this included the two beloved daggers and several swords. He then moved to Switzerland where he lived in seclusion for many years. The Prince died in the Swiss Canton of La Tour de Peilz on 22 September 1948. His wife, Adi, lived until 1971 and while she had always hoped a spirit of forgiveness would be forthcoming from the German Emperor during her husband’s lifetime but it was simply not to be.
How the daggers finally came to the U.S. is still a mystery to us. The naval dagger has a fascinating post-war history to it but the fascinating story is just too lengthy for us to unravel here, but it involved the grandson of Prince Adalbert who unfortunately is not particularly a credit to the family name. It involves one of our chief historical advisors in an intriguing adventure 25 years ago who by the way was one of the last custodians of both daggers. It is a story of international intrigue, attempted fraud on the part of “sub-royalty” and rather high adventure that must be reveled someday. We have the highest respect and regard for the memory of Prince Adalbert and his Hohenzollern family but in my estimation he was not really the black sheep of the dynasty -- it was much later that a said to be royal personage entered the picture who still carries the family name (a fascinating story that will be tabled for now!).
The Royal Falconry Dagger of Prince Adelbert: It should first be noted that the dagger has a pommel that has the carved head of a hunting falcon that is fashioned in genuine green jade. Now as we have noted that our Prince Adalbert was named after the great Prince Adalbert who was the Supreme Commander of the Prussian Navy in the 1850’s and the young son of the Kaiser attempted to emulate this eminent naval hero in every way he could. In 20 July 1853 the naval commander Prince Heinrich Adelbert worked diligently to bring about a superior German navy and he arranged for the hand-over of 340 hectares of Oldenburg territory at what is now Wilhelmshaven to the Kingdom of Prussia. This is in the eastern shore of the “Jade” estuary east of Bremerhaven; it was considered the best natural deep water port in the German North Sea coast and a good place for the naval base Prussia wished to build. The “jade bay” area offered deep water, a good base and anchorage and no ice in the winter. Oldenburg welcomed the idea of Prussia as a powerful ally. This was a major event that went far in securing practically the entire North Sea coast for German shipping and harbors for war ships. It was an event celebrated by the Prussian people as a major event in their history. We do not know how the estuary received this name but the spelling of jade is the same in English as it is in German and it refers to a metamorphic rock that is found mostly in the Orient and is considered a sacred stone in China. It is a gemstone of unique symbolic energy and also unique in the myths that surround it. With its beauty and wide ranging expressiveness, jade has held a special attraction for mankind for thousands of years. The other place where fine jade was found and revered was in the South American Amazon region with the Pre-Columbian people of the Mesoamerica regions and especially among the Mayan people , the “Ya’ax” chick or Jade meant life, fertility and power; it was considered greater and more valuable than gold. Could the fact that the royal mother chose to have the pommel decorated with jade have any connection with the first Prince Adalbert's accomplishments in securing this exceedingly important acquisition for Germany? Did the name of the Jade estuary influence her artistic and historical thinking and final decision in design? Always remember that “tradition” has been ever sacrosanct in the hearts of Imperial German rulers.
Now, like his namesake, the young Price Adalbert was a world traveler vising many countries. One of the most noteworthy voyages made by the earlier Prince Adalbert was his expedition up the Amazon River and the Xingu in 1849. It is said that when he returned from this intriguing journey he brought many souvenirs and important relics home with him to include some examples of Brazilian jade carved by the ancient Mayas. Also, he brought some perfect examples of uncut jade. It does not take much speculation or extrapolation to figure out who might have acquired some of these treasures. His most ardent admirer, the young son of the Kaiser, Prince Adelbert was elated to finally receive these gifts that had belonged to his illustrious relative. It is also not difficult to imagine that the Prince bequeathed a spectacular piece of this jade down through the family and that it very well could have eventually became the property of Kaiser Wilhelm II and the Empress Auguste Victoria who no doubt turned it over to an extremely talented carver who fashioned the Falcon's head to be the crowning finial to the fantastic dagger. Yes, this theory is extrapolation from several sources but we believe it is logical for we know that in our cumulative historical knowledge amassed over periods of many long years in pursuit of such items and learning about them we can say that we know of absolutely no instance other than this one where jade was utilized in the construction of a German edged weapon. This piece is unambiguously and consummately unique and unprecedented in the history of edged weaponry. It emblematizes Royalty like no other edged weapon that we have ever heard of. It actually seems to emit power, majesty, Imperial dynamism and seeming omnipotence. To hold it in one’s hand brings about in the mind of true Germanophiles an extrasensory perception, a distinct feeling and sensation born of passion for the aesthetically beautiful and the profoundly important. But what would George Bush or Al Frankin get out of holding it? (Answer- Nothing!) The dagger with the Falcon's head pommel has glass eyes and a very pronounced beak and has gorgeous carved feathering throughout. The gilt bronze feathered grip works down to the cross guard that has the claws open to clutch the prey! The very pronounced clam shell also has fine simulated feathering. The blade measures 13-1/16" in length with the monogram set in gold that depicts the Crown of the Kaiserin and that is centered over the cyphers (AV) Auguste Victoria and on the reverse side is the (A) for Adalbert under a typical Prussian Princes crown also set in gold lettering.
The spine is marked M. Neumann Hoflieferant-Berlin. The word Hoflieferant means that Herr Neumann was a maker to the royal palace or Hof. The scabbard is in high quality brown leather with a gold bronze two ring throat with an engraved mosaic like pattern and matching boot (or tip). The entire dagger is in excellent plus condition including the fabulous Damascus blade that is an example of the ultimate in German Damascus mastery. The dagger was certainly a regal gift by an adoring Mother but what of its general usage? Falconry was practiced and enjoyed by the European nobility for centuries but especially and notably in Germany. We know that Prince Adalbert was an aficionado extraordinaire in this the sport of kings. When he was not sailing he was the ultimate falconer! The dagger certainly does take on the outward appearance of a medieval falconer’s weapon as seen in museums in Europe. This without a doubt would have been the ultimate gift to this young practitioner of falconry. Certainly the dagger had no actual utilitarian use but was proudly worn as a resplendent part of the outfit that was donned when the Prussian Prince would be indulging in this his favorite pastime.
So in closing this narrative, the longest description we have ever given on any dagger or sword, we can only say we are practically euphoric to be privileged to handle this awesome and priceless relic of the history of the age of great opulence, refinement, pomp, glory and high adventure! However we now have to sadly say that the days of the proud and glorious Hohenzollern regime are now past tense never to return! If any priceless relic would unequivocally summon up memories of that eloquent era of Teutonic Imperial glory and splendor it would have to be this dagger since we don’t have the Royal Prussian Hohenzollern crown to offer. When I view this magnificent relic, I am reminded of the wonderful book by author Margaret Mitchell about the fall of the noble Antebellum South and the subsequent film that evolved. The quote was: “Look for it only in books for it is no more than a dream remembered. A civilization GONE WITH THE WIND”!