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We should mention that the legal investigation from which the statement is derived, was carried on at three different assizes, each of which lasted many days. From peculiar circumstances, however, it happened that the same facts and parties were not collectively before the court on these several occasions, which somewhat disturbs the regularity of the disclosures. We proceed now to give a sketch of the family relations and private character of the more important persons connected with the transactions before us.
The noble family Sulkowski is of Silesian (Polish) origin, where it is known under the name of Lestwitz. In the middle of the sixteenth century it became divided into two distinct branches. The elder, founded by Francis de Paula, is that with which we are now concerned, and to which the title of Duke of Bielitz was attached in 1754, in consequence of its having taken to the estate in Austrian Silesia of this name. John, Prince Sulkowski, at the beginning of the present century, is represented as a bold enterprising man, not bound very closely by general laws or particular morals. Amongst other lawless acts recorded of him, we find that he ran away with his bride-one of the noble family of Larisch, which was averse to ally itself with a house of the reputation which Prince John now imparted to it. Politically, his sympathies and services were attached to Napoleon Buonaparte, and his fortunes followed those of the war; and thus it was that his duchy. was at one time confiscated by the Austrian authorities; but at the peace of Vienna, and by the intercession of Napoleon, it was restored to him. However, after the downfall of his Imperial patron, the fortune of the house of Bielitz altered for the worse. The prince was imprisoned in Austria, perhaps for many years. Wastefulness on the property produced poverty to the inheritance, and the duchy was laid under sequestration, and so remains to this day.
In addition to the anxieties thus arising from political relations, the family now found itself in straitened circumstances. During the married life of the duke and his wife, no offspring had hitherto blessed their union, and it was feared that the inheri
tance would eventually be diverted from the Bielitz family. About this time, however, it was observed that the princess was frequently on her journeys, it might be in connection with political exigencies, or possibly arise merely from visiting the favourite baths of Germany, to invigorate her failing health. However this might be, after one long journey she returned unexpectedly in 1814, bringing home with her“ a young prince, to which she had given birth during her absence.” General rumour, adds the chronicler of these events (who certainly permits of hearsay evidence to an extent which the Anglican jurisconsult would pronounce dangerous), and common talk, attributed this child to other parentage than that of the duke and his wife.
Whether supposititious or not, the child was received as the heir of the house, and was baptized by the name of Louis; and in 1816 another son was added to the family, about which scandal was also rife, but extended on this occasion only to the paternity of the child. The duke, no doubt, when it was born was in prison ; but on his release he was not known to have in any way repudiated the child, which was also received into the family circle, and received the name of Maximilian. A mystery is thus suggested in the outset, but whether as containing in itself a possible explanation of the low character of the offspring (which aristocratic pride might wish to refer to low birth), or to point tie moral of crime bringing its own punishment, it is hard to say. It was thought worth while by the legal authorities to enter upon the investigation, and we should follow them even if the facts were less interesting than they are.
The family, it seems, still kept up a certain state of court, and the two sons were educated therein—no very virtuous atmosphere. Eumity, too, seems to have sprung up between the brothers, which was so bitter that, with a view it would appear to secure peace, the intervention of the relations procured an arrangement to be entered into, with respect to the property, so that the elder son Louis should be the heir of the paternal, and the younger, Maximilian, of the maternal estates. In 1826, the duke, their father, died in the state prison of Spielberg, whi
ther he had been again consigned. When Louis succeeded to his estates, he found them so deeply mortgaged that he abandoned them, and emigrated to North America, where he still is (or very lately was) residing, and thus disappears from the more important part of our narrative. Maximilian, who was his mother's favourite, as he
older gave strong evidence of a violent and vicious temper. His lawless and abandoned pursuits raised frequent altercation between mother and son, which eventually led to his resolution also to quit home for North America. This occurred in the year 1844.
From the inquiries entered upon by the judicial authorities (who turned themselves occasionally into a psychological committee), they inferred that this son Maximilian was not naturally positively vicious and wicked, but that he had a strong predisposition to cultivate low and vulgar companionship, by which he was led into criminal pursuits. His career, from the time he left his home, is represented as being very eventful and errant, and in a certain sense romantic; but it need not be narrated, except, so far as it led him to become acquainted in America with a Creole woman, possessed neither of birth nor wealth, whom he married, and by whom he had a son. She exercised on the whole a beneficial influence over him, and he became more domestic in his habits. He returned home, after a considerable interval, with his wife and child—and a certain Richard Meyer accompanied them as a friend and companion. This person was, after the murder of the princess, sent back at the instance and through the agency of Maximilian, “probably to prevent him being summoned to give evidence of what he had seen and knew of the doings at the residence.” The princess welcomed kindly her son, his wife and child, on their return home; and for two years nothing remarkable transpired in the relationship between the different members of the household ; but, after the expiration of that time, the old stain showed itself, and a fresh scandal was exposed to view. It appeared that this Prince Maximilian Sulkowski, when on his travels, was always accompanied by a page of the name of Baron Gustavus-who, in fact, was a girl in male
costume, and who, thus disguised, was introduced into his mother's house by the prince. When his wife discovered what was going on, it produced scenes of grief and indignation, and eventually an estrangement between husband and wife. The poor wife soon fell a victim to her grief, or—as suggested to the minds of the judges, from the fact of certain talk current about poison, and a supposed subsequent confession on the part of the princewas destroyed by the hands of her own husband. After her death, however, all restraint seems to have been lost over Maximilian-he surrendered himself to an utterly dissolute life, plunged into debt deeper and deeper, and extorted violently from his mother, who was often too weak to refuse, her own money, property, and valuables.
Although Prince Maximilian resided at his mother's castle, he had, however, made a sort of establishment for himself, consisting of the lowest characters, male and female, who resorted to his quarters clandestinely. He had appropriated an out-building of the castle for his own use one side of which stretched towards the river (Przmsa), the other to the mansion. It is to be observed that none of these low associates were Poles.
Besides the Richard Meyer, whom we have before mentioned, certain others should be named who were important persons in this vile household. One named Passy, a sort of master of the household—cunning and sharp in nature-was put in great trust by the prince. Another was Flora Tschaskalek, who was in 1847 his reigning favourite. She was sister-in-law to one Joseph Franke, the treasurer, who plays a very important part in this drama-being suitable thereto, in that he seems to have been a great adept in villany and roguery, which his personal appearance moreover bore out. He, too, stood high in his master's confidence.
Having introduced these worthies to the reader's notice, we may relieve him of further bearing the “Baron Gustavus” in memory. The poor girl-neglected, insulted, and flogged by
VOL. VIII, NO. XV.
her former protector, Maximilian-in a moment of desperation shot herself.
During all this time the wretched man was harassing his mother to obtain money. Twice had the unnatural son raised his hand against his mother to overcome her reluctance to impoverish herself to supply his vices. The interference of third parties alone prevented him on this occasion from murdering his mother; and on a third occasion he bad levelled a loaded weapon at her, when Passy interfered and saved her life. But now began consultations, as it is believed, and plans were laid, for the successful and immediate destruction of the aged mother. Poison was provided from Vienna with this object; but the princess received information, and took precautions as to her food. In the presence of Passy (who strove afterwards to deny what he had on one occasion admitted), the prince lamented his mother's still living Flora suggested in reply, that he should get some one to put her out of the way; and the conspiracy to effect this object was now begun to be projected, Franke being active therein. On one evening in February, 1848, the princess was attacked by two persons, but managed by great effort to escape, and, help arriving, her life this time was saved.
At the end of the month, Prince Maximilian travelled to Vienna and staid there ; so too, Franke had, a few weeks before, procured a passport, and arranged to travel to Austria. The former actually did depart to Vienna, the latter only feigned it.
On the 3rd of March, 1848, about nine o'clock, the princess was in her bed-chamber. With her was her lady of the chamber, Rosalie Reindel by name, and her adopted daughter Julia Welzig. The princess feeling unwell, was retiring thus early to bed, though the window-shutters were not yet closed, and one Polizer (the factor on the estate) having completed some business with her, had just quitted her presence. Rosalie was placing her mistress's shawls in the wardrobe, whilst Julie had retired for the moment out of the room. At the princess's request, Rosalie was about to close the shutters when a flash was seen at the window, and the poor princess, who was standing in the middle of the