In December 1628, the Palace in Berlin cannot keep the cold out. Not completely. A hereditary haunting of the ruling family of Prussia sits in the walls of their castles. A bad omen. Most often just seen as a woman dressed in white. You can hear her sometimes, the clanking of the large keys around her waist. A young prince is next. She appeared to a him and said: – ‘Veni, judica vivos et mortuos’ which means ‘Come, I judge the living and the dead’. The day after, he died of an illness.

But who is it that haunts this old and noble family? Even the young princes? Years before the young person died, she was also spotted by three young pages in 1619. In one of Hohenzollern Castle’s halls, it doesn’t need to be the one in Berlin. As long as it is one of the ruling Hohenzollers. The young pages thought she was a living human being, and approached her. When he asked what she was doing here she turned to him and hit him with her keys, killing him. The two pages ran away, terrified. The Hohenzollers growing restless. She had been spotted, it was a bad omen. Something was about to happen. Three weeks later, John Sigismund Prince-Elector of the Margraviate of Brandenburg from the House of Hohenzollern, died.

House of Hohenzollern

The family is an old one. The House of Hohenzollern once ruled what is now known as Germany as a dynasty being princes, electors, kings and emperors. They ruled the lands of Brandenburg, Prussia, The German Empire and as far as to Romania.

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Burg Hohenzollern: The ancestral home constructed in the early 11th century. Photo: A. Kniesel

They began their ruling dynasty in Swabia, in a town called Hechingen during the 11th century and took their name from their ancestral Hohenzollern Castle. The first ancestors of the Hohenzollerns were mentioned in 1061.

They were the rulers of the lands, growing in power until 18 71 with the unification of the German Empire with the Hohenzollerns as hereditary German Emperors and Kings of Prussia. This title they held until Germany’s defeat in World War I in 1918 led to the German Revolution. The Hohenzollerns were overthrown and the Weimar Republic was established, thus bringing an end to the German monarchy.


Sure, they were powerful, and powerful families makes powerful enemies. Blue blood attracts bad blood. But who was so itent on following the family, haunting them for centuries? There have been many claims as to who exacltey is the woman behind the hauntings. And this here, is one of the more famed ones.

The Noble Killer Nun

Kunigunde von Orlamünde is a ghostly reminder of the past. And that is the ancient past. She was born in 1303 as the first child of Ulrich I, Landgrave of Leuchtenberg, and part of their Bavarian dynasty in the middle-ages.

The Abbess: Tombstone of Kunigunde von Orlamünde at Himmelskron,

According to legend, Kuningunde fell in love in a man called Albrecht the fair, the fourth son of Frederick IV, Burgrave of Nuremberg. A man of the House of Hohenzollern.

Albrecht had expressed that he would marry her, hadn’t it been for that “four eyes did not stand in the way”. Kunigunde thought he meant her son and daughter. Therefore, she stabbed their eyes out with a needle, and they died, freeing her to marry the man she loved.

Johann Löer made a verse about this in 1559:

And thought, those small children I wanted
Will certainly be the eyes that
Robs me of my love!
And if the woman even did
That murdered her own children
That misery robbed their life
That stabbed them with pins
Tender and soft all over

This is not what Albrecht meant though, as he was talking about his parents as they disapproved of their match. He refused to marry her after her actions. He married a woman named Sophie von Henneberg and got two daughters on his own.

Kuningunde was devastated and full of regret. She had murdered her own children for a man that didn’t even want her. Therefore she started on a pilgrimage to the Vatican to get absolution for her sins from the Pope himself. He ordered her to build a monastery and become a nun. She joined the Kloster Himmelkron

In some version she she was sentenced to life in prison for the murders, other tell of how she died on the way to the Vatican, not being able to beg of forgiveness.

Weiße Frauen

Iconic: From the opera, The White Lady.

Could this be the lady following the haunted house? Lurking along the walls with her keys, paying close attention on every male descendant? In any case, the legend of the Lady in White is old. Perhaps so old that even not history keeps it in its records?

Basking in the sunlight, hiding in the shadows, her dress is always white. In German legends and folklore the stories of the Weiße Frauen, meaning White Women used to be a name meant to the elven-spirits and the stories of the light elves from pagan times.

But that was so many years ago, centuries even. The legend has, as everything does, evolved from its elven origins. Now the name is also used on women dying in grief, of sorrow or with a urge of revenge. It has spread throughout Europe and is an image with strong connotations, even today.

The Family Curse

Some call her the White Lady, some call her ‘The Harbringer’. She brings bad luck to those seeing her. In 1667, Louise Henrietta of Orange, the wife of Elector Friedrich Wilhelm of Brandenburg, was lying ill. A few days before she passed away, she saw the White Lady, sitting by her desk.

The family members started to learn. In 1678, the Margrave Erdmann Philip of Brandenburg saw the White Lady in his armchair as he entered his chamber in Baireuth. He left the room, shocked and terrified. The next day he rode his horse out in the court and there was something weird going on. The horse was uneasy, as if seeing something that scared it and he threw the prince off. The Prince stood up, seemingly fine and he retired to his chamber. But after two hours, he was dead.


Even the dead ones seems to warn about the White Lady. She was supposedly absent during Frederick the Great’s reign, but in his death, he came back to warn them. In 1792 in Paris, his nephew Frederick William the Second was camped outside the city with his troops, ready to attack the next day. That night his uncle appeared before him, warning him about the seeing the White Lady if he didn’t call off the attack. His nephew listened and left France, avoiding the harbinger.

Even Napoleon tried to spend a night in one of Hohenzollern’s castles. In 1806 he had defeated Prussia and claimed some of its land as a French province. He left the next day, never to returned, calling it le maudit chateau, ‘the cursed castle’.

But today? Were is she? Just before World War I in 1914, she was last reported. Just before the Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated. After they lost the war Kaiser Wilhelm the Second was the last ruling Hohenzollern, and he later abdicated the throne.

And it is said as long as there is no Hohenzollern that rules, the White Lady will stay in the shadows, and hopefully, outside of the Hohenzollern castles.

What is the truth?

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Otto: Evangelisch-lutherische Klosterkirche Himmelkron, Epitaph. Source

Such a dramatic story, but does it ring any truth? What is true is that Kinigunde married Otto VI, Count of Weimar-Orlamünde. Historians refute the legend as according to record, their marriage produced no children. It is true that she and her husband adopted a daughter, Podika von Schaumnerg, but she grew up and married Poske Ritter von Schweritz in 1341.

There are also records of her dying in 29th of April in 1382. And if she really was born she would have been close to 80 and most likely in a comfortable home, not on the road to Rome or in prison.

Kinigunde’s husband died in 1340, leaving her with a vast inheritance. She spent it on the monastery she herself would join as a nun. Funnily enough, sources tells he actually bought the monastery from Albrecht.

But what about The House of Hohenzollern? All of their stories? Were they just that? Stories? Or is it that some details of the past is not for us to know. Not the living.


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