Stephanie de Beauharnais passes her time trying to avoid her enemies’ traps, and giving five children to Grand-Duke Karl-Louis of Bade, who adores her – three daughters of marvellous health and three sons… who die in infancy…
At the Palace, it is the wife of Grand-Duke Karl-Frederik who gives the orders. When Stephanie enters this family, the Grand-Duke is seventy-eight years old. Louise Geyer, his morganic wife, to whom he has given the title of Countess of Hochberg, has given him three sons who cannot succeed him.
But “the Hochberg”, as she is called, is madly cupid and ambitious. Napoleon is not yet at Saint Helena when she obtains the legitimization of her sons. Karl-Louis, who is weak, lets her…
The people of Bade, who don’t like the arrogant commoner, are asking questions. Why did this little Prince, born in 1812, a real force of Nature, to whom Stephanie had given birth in great suffering, die so suddenly? As well as her second son, four years later, who was just as vigorous?…
For Gaspard Hauser, the attempted murder of 1830 puts an end to his tranquillity. It is bad enough that the Municipality of Nuremberg pays for him to do nothing, but if, now, he becomes the man by whom scandal arrives…!
Strange Lord Stanhope, who is in fact notoriously introverted, refuses to receive him. He is entrusted to a certain Meyer, a brutal, suspicious teacher who holds him to be an imposter, to perfect his education.
His most constant protector, Feuerbach, dies, leaving him desperate.
On 14 December 1833, snow is falling heavily on the city. As he does every day, Gaspard has gone for an outing, accompanied, this particular afternoon, by Pastor Fuhrmann whom he leaves, saying that he has a rendez-vous with a lady.
Half an hour later, he presents himself before Meyer, pale, ruffled, speaking with difficulty. A stain of blood is spreading over his shirt.
He tells his host that a man had given him an appointment in the park at nightfall, to give him some decisive papers on his origin.
The stranger was dressed in a long cloak and a top-hat. He held out a blue purse which he dropped. While Gaspard was bending down to pick it up, the man knifed him and fled.
A few rare people file around Gaspard’s bed. He is ordered to tell the truth. He whispers:
“If only I knew who hurt me, I would willingly tell you! Do you think that I gave myself the knife wound? Ah! Soon you will think differently!”
Two days after that, in the evening, he raises himself up on his bed and cries out in a pitiful voice:
“Mother! Mother!… Come!”
A few moments later, he calms down and murmurs:
“I am tired, very tired. But I have such a big road to travel…”
He closes his eyes. They think that he is asleep. He is dead…
At the place where he was assassinated, there is still today a monument on which is engraved the following formula:
“Here an unknown man was killed by an unknown man.”
There have been hundreds of studies of Gaspard Hauser’s story.
Among the most serious of them can be cited those of Jean Mistler, Jacob Wassermann, Fritz Klee, or the articles of Alain Decaux and the admirable film of Werner Hertzog.
They opt for often contradictory theses, the first saying that Gaspard was an imposter. Louis Pauwels, whose work I have translated, is of the opinion that an imposter of sixteen who manages to fool everyone for five years, while he is submitted to thorough medical and Police examinations, is not believable.
In the opinion of the Medecine of the time, as well as our psychoanalysts today, Gaspard was not at all mad, clinicly speaking. His life is marked by no disturbing act, he is basically a peaceful being, preoccupied only with learning and finding the explanation of his origin…
The mystery of his origin has never been solved to everyone’s satisfaction. Far from it.
It is certain, and has been proven, that he was not, as was said for a time, Napoleon’s son…
It would seem more plausible that he was that of Stephanie. There are strong presumptions in favour of the hypothesis that her two male children had been poisoned, by order of the Hochberg. Or rather that there had been a substitution in his cradle , in 1812, of the son of Karl and Stephanie by the cadaver of a child of low birth, who had even been believed to have been identified.
The little Prince would have been taken to Beuggen in the South of the Grand-Duchy where he was well treated at first. In 1819, when one of the sons of the Grand-Duke mounted the throne, the child’s condition would have changed completely. The Hochberg had obtained from the new sovereign, whose mistress she was, the promise that he would never marry and that the way to the throne would remain open for her own sons.
From then on, Gaspard became an object of blackmail, directed against the Grand-Duke, if he forgot his promise. The surveillance around the child then tightened, and he was finally placed under the surveillance of a certain Richter, a guard in a castle where Gaspard occupied an attic. Out of fear of seeing him run away, Richter locked him up in a prison cell, but only for a few weeks. Terrified by his responsibility, Richter would have finally ridden himself of him in the way that we have seen.
The problem is that this thesis reposes on a series of hypotheses… some of which are more than hazardous.
All the explanations given do not, in Louis Pauwels’ opinion, take enough into account Gaspard’s attitude, when he is discovered in Nuremberg. All the testimonies agree that he is a completely disorientated being, totally untouched in intelligence, in sensitivity, even in behaviour…
He didn’t master language at all, had no experience of the most common objects, but it only took him a few months to learn to read, to speak, to play music. The latest Science proves that a being maintained until his sixteenth year in this state of ignorance is condemned to definitive idiocy. He hadn’t remained in either an attic or a prison cell either, for he would have rapidly died.
Louis Pauwels thinks that Gaspard’s brain was already “formed”, “programmed” as we say today. That it was enough to give it an initial jolt for this intelligence, catapulted amongst men, to start functioning and to achieve adult performances of an above-average intelligence…
Gaspard was not a simulator and he didn’t commit suicide. He was more likely the product of a mad scholar, a golem, one of those robots to whom life is temporarily given by attaching a verse from the Bible onto their foreheads. A being who came from somewhere else, in any case, which was also confirmed by the first medical examinations.
The doctors were astounded to note that his skin was that of a very young girl and that the skin on the soles of his feet was so soft and so smooth that Gaspard must have really taken his first “human” steps in Nuremberg.
What killed him, was the incomprehension of men, the unsurmountable laziness of their hearts. It is certain that Gaspard disturbed people, that he was different, totally unintelligible to his fellow men.
It takes less than that to throw the first stone…
Louis Pauwels thinks that the poet Verlaine had the best intuition of who Gaspard Hauser was. In a ballad which was dedicated to him, he puts these words in his mouth [my apologies to those who love Verlaine – I am about to try to translate him into English]:
“I came, calm orphan
Rich only by my tranquil eyes
Towards the men of the big cities…
Was I born too early or too late?
What am I doing in this world?
Oh! All of you, my suffering is deep
Pray for the poor Gaspard!”
Poetry is more and more indispensable to objective knowledge, as is shown by what is happening in the greatest American technological institutes which employ poets to contribute to the explanation and the representation of certain phenomena which are still inexplicable.
Louis Pauwels says that if you want a last argument, this one totally rational, know that the forensic doctors who practised Gaspard’s autopsy discovered that he didn’t have a human heart. Or rather that he had a totally inverted heart, as far as it’s position and its circulatory flow are concerned…