Evelyn, Countess, later Princess, Blücher (1876–1960), née Evelyn Stapleton-Bretherton, was an English aristocrat and catholic, married to the German Count Gebhard Blücher. She was exiled with her husband at the outbreak of World War I and wrote a famous diary about her war experience in Berlin and the revolution that immediately followed the war in November 1918.
Narrowly escaping being torpedoed on the North Sea, and distraught at having been exiled with her husband, Countess Blücher’s (1876–1960) diary An English Wife in Berlin (1920) contains an account of a very specific experience: that of the aristocrat. The Blüchers spent the war with other cosmopolitan aristocratic exiles at the fashionable Hotel Esplanade near Potsdamer Platz. Dinners, parties, exchanging letters with family members and diplomats, and being waited on by servants made up her world, although she was also engaged in supporting English prisoners of war. The Blüchers moved to their sumptuous Palais Blücher, off Pariser Platz, next to the Brandenburg Gate, in the spring of 1917. From there they observed the unfolding of events during the November Revolution.
Evelyn Blücher was unable to leave the house unchaperoned for reasons of personal safety, and according resorted to going out in disguise. In her diary she gives accounts of their Jäger, their huntsman, from the country estate in Upper Silesia, now Poland, bringing food from the country. While she realised that the servants had less to eat than the aristocrats did, she still complained about the dearth of interesting food, and lamented the fate of the family of the German Kaiser. According to her diary, which is often read as an important eye-witness account of the war and the revolution, Gebhard von Blücher was largely spared revolutionary fervour because he was a member of the Catholic order of the Knights of Malta and, as such, had not actively promoted the war but rather had tended to the sick. Furthermore, he had argued for universal suffrage towards the end of the war and thus Palais Blücher was not raided.
Evelyn Blücher supported prisoners of war in Ruhleben Camp, which was situated in the far west of Berlin and was run by English prisoners almost as a model English settlement, with gardening clubs, musical societies, etc. She apparently also tried to bring her Anglo-German network into play and bridge rifts which had opened during the war, but if Helen D’Abernon’s memoir of their first encounter in Berlin in 1920 is anything to go by, she did not succeed very well. At least some members of the English aristocracy did not forgive her for having married a German and having spent the war in Berlin, even if that had not occurred voluntarily. Like D’Abernon, Evelyn Blücher was interested in social issues and, like D’Abernon, her powers of observation were well developed, even if her style of writing was unoriginal – in spite of the advice given to her by the former English diplomat and Irish revolutionary Sir Roger Casement to make it personal and interesting. Casement was later tried and hanged for treason. He had visited Countess Blücher in Berlin and exchanged letters with her. The Blüchers eventually left Berlin for England, and in 1922, Prince Blücher sold their palais. He died in England in 1931 and is buried next to his wife at Evelyn Blücher’s ancestral home in Rainhill, near Liverpool. Gesa Stedman
Evelyn, Princess Blücher, An English Wife in Berlin. A Private Memoir of Events, Politics, and Daily Life in Germany Throughout the War and the Social Revolution of 1918 (London: Constable and Company 1920)
Davis, Belinda J., “Home Fires Burning”, in The World War One Reader, ed. Michael S. Neiberg (New York and London: New York University Press 2007), pp. 252–71
Stedman, Gesa, ‘“Restoring Friendship and Confidence as far as possible between the Inimical Nations”: Post-World War I Berlin through English Eyes”, Journal for European Studies, November 2021 (forthcoming)
Williams, Annabel, “Touring Political Berlin: War, Tourism and Fascism”, in Happy in Berlin? English Writers in the City, The 1920s and Beyond, ed. Stefano Evangelista and Gesa Stedman (Göttingen: Wallstein Verlag, 2021)