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Author photo. Portrait of Wilhelmine Encke, since 1794 countess Wilhelmine von Lichtenau. Mistress of Frederick William II. of Prussia, Wikipedia

Portrait of Wilhelmine Encke, since 1794 countess Wilhelmine von Lichtenau. Mistress of Frederick William II. of Prussia, Wikipedia

Wilhelmine von Lichtenau (1753–1820)

Author of Memoiren der Gräfin Lichtenau. Ein Sittenbild vom Hofe der Hohenzollern

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Wilhelmine Gräfin (Countess) von Lichtenau, born Wilhelmine Enke or Encke, was born in Dessau and grew up in Potsdam, where her father, Johann Elias Enke, was a musician in the service of King Frederick the Great of Prussia. In 1764, her beauty caught the attention of Crown Prince Frederick William (the future King Frederick William II), who read classic literature with her and tutored her in history and geography before sending her at age 15 to Paris for a few more years of education. In 1770, they exchanged rings and vows and began living together. From then on, she was the prince's official mistress, and they had five children together. The prince arranged a marriage of convenience for her to his councillor and chamberlain Johann Friedrich Rietz, and later later gave her the rank and title Countess von Lichtenau. She was his political confidante and influenced his policy decisions. She also was influential on the interior design of the palaces they lived in, causing some to call her the Madame de Pompadour of Prussia. After he died, she was exiled and her property confiscated, although she was granted a pension. In 1802, after a divorce from her husband, she remarried to Franz Ignaz von Holbein, an Austrian playwright and theater director 26 years her junior. She was allowed to return to Berlin in 1811 with the permission of the Emperor Napoleon and resumed living in her house in Unter den Linden.
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