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Details

In 1827 the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm III demanded that any form of carnival celebration, especially the associational organisation shall be banned and prevented from happening. The Carnival festivities of the Rhinelander were incomprehensible to the King and many of his officials in Berlin, whereas his sons had taken part in the Cologne and Koblenz festivities a couple of times since 1823.

The king’s decree however took some time to be published officially as administrative officials in the Rhineprovince held back, which meant a lot of carnival celebrations continued. This misunderstanding also lead to a revision of the decree. Rural carnival was fully prohibited, however those cities that could proof a history of carnival previous to French occupation in 1790s were allowed to continue with their celebrations. Many of the Rhenish cities like Cologne, Düsseldorf, Koblenz were able to provide such proof. Bonn, newly made university city, was not allowed to continue its carnival festivities due to fear of students’subversiveness and political instrumentalisation of the assemblies.

Pictorial parallels existed between the carnival journal of Cologne and Koblenz, highlighting how carnival practices as well as imagery spread across the Rhineland. The covers depict a Mercury-fool clad in harlequin-like dress greeting the reader. This may also allude to the fool bringing not only news but also the truth in the season where the world was turned upside down. The journals share similarities in content as well, reporting on weekly events and committee decisions but also publishing essays and poems on wine, song and the Rhine, which were typical topics for songs and narratives of masquerade processions and assemblies. This dialogue of illustrations and carnival practices suggests a seemingly united front of Rhinelanders, which must have been perceived as dangerous and subversive behaviour by Prussian officials in Berlin, who had little understanding of Rhenish culture and people and still suspected French influence there.