The Green Princes of Lake Constance

Park Arenenberg. Napoleon Museum. Foto/Photo: Museum Thurgau

The Napoleon Museum Arenenberg and the (museum) Island of Mainau GmbH and partners are organising the exhibition Grüne Fürsten am Bodensee (Green Princes on Lake Constance).

The focus is on personalities who shaped the history of gardening in Europe in the nineteeth century through their parks and innovations: Prince Nicholas II Esterházy (1765-1833) on the island of Mainau in Lake Constance and Prince c.q. Emperor Napoleon III (1808-1873) on Arenenberg (Canton of Thurgau) on Lake Constance and in Paris.

Exhibitions at the Nature Museum Thurgau, the Archaeology Museum Thurgau and the Museum Ittingen show further aspects of garden and landscape design and use in this period of the 19th century.

The occasion for the exhibition is the 150th anniversary of the year of death of French Emperor Napoleon III, who grew up on Lake Constance, and the 190th anniversary of the year of death of Prince Nicholas Esterházy.

The exhibitions on the Arenenberg and the Mainau (Museum) Island are dedicated to these “green” monarchs and their botanical interests and creations and the (early) understanding of the importance of these green oases as public recreation areas and the function of gardens as places of agricultural innovation. 

A lively exchange soon developed between the aristocratic gardeners on Lake Constance. They visited each other and presented the progress of their projects, exchanging botanical experiences, knowledge and plants. The green princes’ gardens and way of life also attracted a scene of writers, artists, researchers and social innovators. 

Franz Xavier Winterhalter (1805-1873), Emperor Napoleon III, 1855. Collection: Arenenberg, Napoleon Museum.

Emperor Napoleon III

The Napoleon Museum focuses on the parks created by Louis Napoleon, the later Emperor Napoleon III, in Arenenberg and Paris. The young Prince Louis Napoleon was instilled with a passion for gardening. His grandmother Empress Josephine de Beauharnais (1763-1814) set standards throughout Europe by creating her park around the Malmaison chateau near Paris. She made gardening en vogue.

In his exile at Lake Constance in Arenenberg, the prince was also inspired by the interest of his mother, Hortense de Beauharnais (1783-1837). They developed the park around the Arenenberg castle.

Martin Knoller (1725-1804), Nikolaus II. Esterházy, 1793. Collection: Fürst Esterházy Privatstiftung Eistenstadt.

Nicholas II Esterházy

 It is little known that Nicholas II Esterházy bought the island of Mainau from the state of Baden in 1827. He transformed the park, designed in the Baroque style, into a modern English landscape garden with a network of paths.

Picture: Napoleon Museum Arenenberg.