Monday, 24 October 2011

Bessler's defence statement

It has often been suggested that perhaps Bessler was not as innocent as he claimed, otherwise he would have done more to defend himself against the claims of the maid. Well he did, but the records of his defence are unpublished as yet.

On New Year's day in 1728, shortly after the maid's accusations were made, Bessler began writing a 60 page statement concerning the claims of his maid and others and answering all accusations with a strong and righteous defence. I have a copy which, unfortunately, is largely illegible (for me at least) as it is the version Bessler kept for his records. The clean copy is undergoing restoration currently and may not be available for some time to come.

The little I have been given reveals that he complains frequently about the 'evil maid' and also about a large group of conspirators who have acted against him. They include several of his first wife's in-laws, including his former mother-in-law, his sisters-in-law and their husbands and other hangers on. His father-in-law was dead and therefore his wife was left to her own devices and she had little or no money and so she headed for Kassel to ingratiate herself with her daughter, Barbara, who unfortunately died in May 1726. Apparently the mother-in-law, also called Barbara, tried to manipulate Bessler to her financial advantage. His official title of Commercial Councellor gave him access to a number of schemes, some of the funding of which, she tried to divert for her own purposes. It seems that the accusations of the maid may well have been instigated by Barbara senior in an effort to threaten/blackmail Bessler into giving in to her coercions.

If this seems unlikely, remember that the maid had already served two prison sentences - and Barbara senior was the subject of a thirteen year long investigation into an infanticide in which herself, her maid and two of her daughters was involved.  The legal investigators had been searching for the maid who was 'lost', and it is suggested that with Barabara senior's husband's death and therfore the withdrawal of his protection as Mayor of their towm she had to flee, and so she headed for the maid's home and her recently deceased daughter. The baby in question might have been Bessler's, conceived on an earlier visit, but there is no evidence yet to prove or disprove that possibility.

I look forward to the day when the cleaned document is available and we can at last get the other side of the story.

JC

3 comments:

  1. Goes to show that little has changed over the centuries, unfortunately - money and power brings out the worst in people. Nice family, btw, with all the prison sentences, infanticide and what not.

    That document should prove quite interesting. Bessler himself must have had good arguments for his defense, otherwise Karl would never given him his protection, endorsement and shelter.

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  2. Sounds like Bessler's in-laws smelled money when he managed to come into the employ of Carl. It's similar to what happens today when someone suddenly wins a lottery jackpot or collects a big inheritance. People he may never have met or only met casually suddenly come out of the woodwork to remind him how they think about him every day and how much they are suffering financially. One lottery winner said the first thing to do after a big win is to change your phone number immediately!

    I think there was another motivation for the maid to denounce Bessler other than to backup a blackmail threat by his "devoted" mother-in-law. Apparently, the maid expected to become Bessler's next wife after his wife died and then begin living a more lavish lifestyle as a result. When that did not happen, she decided to do everything possible to destroy him. As they say, "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned!" Even though Bessler was acquitted, she apparently effectively succeeded because there were no more "big" wheels after the trial and Bessler began to fade into obscuity thereafter.

    Yes, this is going to make a VERY interesting film someday!

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