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his page contains the following Study Weekend reports in the following order:


2015  Cambridge

2014  Hanover

2013  Coburg

2012  Brixen

2011  Heidelberg


*For earlier GS Study weekend reports please contact the webmaster 

2015 GS study weekend in Cambridge


The Cambridge Society had invited the German Society to participate in a joint event; this third collaboration was a study weekend dedicated to a fascinating mixture of music and Gaelic language. The result of much thought and effort by Martin Pennock and Lucia Cavalli-Roberts from the Cambridge Society and input from Stephanie Tarling and Jadwiga Bobrowska of the German Society was a weekend that the close to 40 participants from both societies could only describe as “fantastic”, “beautiful” and something they were “so glad not to have missed.”


Early arrivals went on a guided tour of Cambridge and some even participated in the quintessential Oxbridge pastime of punting. By the evening most people had arrived and joined for an evening of networking in a local Cambridge pub (The Grain Store).


The venue for Saturday’s talks and performances was Ely, home to the glorious cathedral. Elfriede from the Cambridge Society showed the visitors around and pointed out many interesting details that would otherwise have been missed, such as the tiny carved mermaid in a side chapel. She also knew exactly where to stand to experience fully the awe-inspiring architecture of this soaring structure from various perspectives.


Former CEO of the CIOL, Alexandra Jones, or, to use her full (Scottish) Gaelic name, Sandaidh NicDhòmhnaill Jones, enthralled her audience from the start. In an amazingly short space of time Sandaidh imparted the basic features of Scottish Gaelic, which included the fact that it is an inflected language with four cases and a baffling orthography (not so positive for the learner) together with the comforting news that only 12 verbs are irregular. Scottish and Irish Gaelic belong, together with Manx, to the Q Celtic branch, whereas the P Celtic branch, i.e. the languages in which the labialized velar stop “q” [kw] has shifted to “p”, is represented by Welsh, Breton and Cornish. Despite the best efforts of their various enemies, not to mention inter-clan feuding, the Scottish clans’ love of poetry set to music and the patronage of the arts that was part of every clan chief’s mission in life served to keep the Gaelic language and musical heritage alive throughout the centuries. Although the language is now officially endangered, having fewer than 60,000 speakers, growing numbers of adult learners and revived interest in Britain’s rich cultural legacy have halted the decline. Attendees had to agree that harp music and Gaelic poetry are a marriage made in heaven.


Gaelic songs are, of course, an inherently oral tradition, but that does not mean that the forms are simple. Indeed, as Sandaidh showed, there is an astonishing array of intricate verse patterns and an equally complex range of musical settings and modes. The theoretical parts of the talk were beautifully illustrated with samples of songs that Sandaidh sang, either a cappella or to her own harp accompaniment. The words jig or reel in connection with bagpipes will conjure up images of people dancing for most of us. But when the bagpipes were banned, this instrument was replaced by a new sort of mouth-music, a kind of sung Gaelic nonsense rhyme to replicate the rhythms and feel of dance. Mary from the Cambridge Society and Mair from the German Society received enthusiastic applause for their spirited rendering of the dances to Sandaidh’s mouth music.


The afternoon’s concert echoed some of the issues already highlighted in the morning, such as the difficulties of translating poetry while preserving the original rhyme and metre without falsifying or trivializing the content. Barbara Wibbelmann, accompanied on keyboards by MarionTreby or Les Ray on guitar, explained the contents of each song before she performed it, seemingly effortlessly, with a simplicity and lack of pretension that did full justice to the lilting melodies, while creating a special mood for each piece.


The duo called Na Mara explored Gaelic and folk music ranging from Scotland, Ireland and Brittany, to Spain’s Galician and Asturian melodies. Na Mara said that in translating traditional lyrics into English they occasionally had to bend the rules to make the words fit the tunes, but because many of their songs told a story, as opposed to, for example, a lament that can be understood without knowing what each word means, this is a legitimate approach for an English-speaking audience. A new song set to traditional music revealed that folk music retains its immediacy and power, for the story it told moved everyone and some of the audience were spotted dabbing an eye at the end. Called “Solo por tres meses” (Only for three months) the words described young children fleeing the Spanish Civil War when the UK reluctantly, and after much hesitation, had agreed to accept a few thousand children. Their parents had to stay behind and told the young refugees boarding the ship leaving Bilbao that it would be only for three months. The parallels to the current refugee crisis were poignantly obvious.


At the end of a day full of intellectual and emotional challenge, Stephanie thanked Martin for organizing such a wonderful weekend and reiterated the German Society’s invitation to the Cambridge Society to attend the GS study weekend in Weimar, Sep. 9th-11th, 2016.


For those not leaving immediately, another tour of Cambridge, this time with a literary emphasis, was organized on Sunday morning. The city duly showcased its spires against a backdrop of blue sky and Beverley gave a lively presentation full of amusing anecdotes, thus bringing the weekend to a satisfying close for those unable to spare the time to visit Grantchester for lunch.




2014 GS study weekend in Hanover


Despite the best efforts of Deutsche Bahn and Lufthansa, we all made it to Hanover one way or another for a full, enjoyable and informative weekend (a tradition of over 20 years' standing now). After the usual happy get-together on the Friday evening, the programme proper kicked off on Saturday morning with our three excellent speakers.


The first was Nicola Hayton, President of the Deutsch-Britische Gesellschaft Rhein-Neckar, whom some of you will remember from the Study Weekend in Heidelberg in 2011. Nicola's talk was entitled 'From would-be monarch to a reluctant king: the role of family in the Hanoverian succession'. Her invaluable handout included a Stuart and Hanoverian family tree, to which I at least will continue to refer when memory fails and confusion intrudes. And the story began with Nicola's talk in Heidelberg in 2011, with 'The Winter Queen', daughter of James I, and her daughter Sophia, who against all the odds 'did well for herself', and was the mother of the man who became George I.

Our first George didn't speak English, and came to Britain as it were malgré soi, at a time when Europe was seriously divided along religious lines. Many other aspirants to the throne were cast aside simply because they were not Protestants, a major concern at the time being to ensure a Protestant succession. Incidentally, we learned that the Union flag dates back to 1606, showing the Scottish saltire cross firmly to the fore. More on this subject later on.


While Georges I and II visited Hanover, George III never did, perhaps making his statement that 'I wish I was back in Hanover to get myself a belly full' all the more remarkable. Dr. Thorsten Riotte of the history faculty at Frankfurt am Main's Goethe University spoke on whether this statement really did constitute a serious wish or intention to abdicate (a controversial issue in academic circles). At a time when Pitt the Younger was perceived as pulling the strings, and when 'Farmer George' was prey to recurrent and severe illness thought at the time to be insanity, both speculation and criticism were rife. While George III definitely saw himself as a Hanoverian prince, he was born and bred in England and 'gloried in the name of Briton'. It was said at one point indeed that 'Elector George was willing to declare war on King George'. However, Thorsten concluded that he did not think there had been a real threat of abdication.

Finally, Andrew Thompson, Director of Studies at Queen's College Cambridge, addressed us on 'Fathers and sons: politics, argument and family among the Hanoverians'. The backdrop to events and sentiment was the all-too-vivid and traumatic memory of regicide, the role of a strong, hierarchical church, and the equation of Catholicism with foreign rule. Andrew mentioned incidentally that the terms Whig and Tory, depicting the two mainstream political groupings of the time, were both insults from the Celtic fringe. It was generally perceived at the time, too, that Britain was different, liberal and separate (well the first and last points certainly still apply!). It is sometimes claimed that the Hanoverian father-son disagreements had purely psychological origins (George II for example responded strongly to George I's banishment of his wife), but Andrew saw other reasons as well. For one thing, there was no clearly defined role for the Prince of Wales, and each one sought to carve out his own particular niche, inevitably different from that of his father. And while disputes of this nature occur in many a family, the fall-out among Royals was a very different matter. Thus the strained relationship between family man George III and his wayward son, subsequently George IV, tended to push people into one or the other camp.


The above obviously does not do justice to the topics or the speakers, who as far as I was concerned could all have talked for much longer, and the subjects all merit more reading. Moreover, it is hardly surprising, with mention being made of the Act of Union of 1707 and the Jacobite rebellions, that there was subsequent discussion then and throughout the weekend of the upcoming Scottish referendum, the results of which are meantime known. There was also very much a sense throughout the talks and at some of the exhibitions visited (for example of political cartoons from the Hanoverian age and the present day, at the Wilhelm Busch museum) of 'plus ça change' in the world of Royalty and politics!


After lunch we made our way to Herrenhausen palace and its beautiful gardens and dispersed according to interests and energy (palace grounds, botanical garden, exhibition on Hannovers Herrscher auf Englands Thron). Dinner at the side of the Maschsee concluded a highly pleasant day (and a few returned to Herrenhausen to enjoy the spectacular firework display). On Sunday morning, we met at the Landesmuseum for an excellently presented exhibition on Als die Royals aus Hannover kamen. The 'rump' of our party enjoyed a last meal together before we all left for home, heads reeling with Georges, wives and mistresses (this last group often quasi official and frequently consulted by government ministers).


Ursula and Brian Rouvray had organised everything to perfection, and everyone expressed thanks for their enabling us all to have such a wonderful weekend. There is, alas, insufficient space to cover the clash between a strong-willed satnav and a strong-willed driver, lenient local police, the mystery of the missing garments, or the candlelight breakfast in one hotel when 'the lamps went out'.


And on a serious note again, our distinguished speaker at Coburg last year, Lord Lexden, has written an illuminating essay on the lead-in to the establishment of the Hanoverian dynasty, and he has kindly consented to our including it via the link given below. Lord Lexden will be giving a lecture based on this essay on 20 November to the British-German Association in London at the German Historical Institute in Bloomsbury Square.




A final footnote to all the above, as a matter of interest: A special service is to be held in London in October to commemorate the Hanoverian accession and the coronation of George I. It will include music and readings from the actual coronation 300 years ago, and is to reflect and celebrate the rich heritage of the Georgian legacy as well as the cultural links between Britain and Germany.




2013 Study Weekend in Coburg


 On 6 September, in tropical temperatures, we came from the four points of the compass to gather in the historic and beautiful town of Coburg in Franconia (northern Bavaria, they were bribed into joining the Free State). It was a special pleasure to welcome Soheila Dayani, Membership Secretary of the CIoL in London, and committee discussions with her were highly fruitful. We were also delighted to see again an old friend from Cambridge, Martin Pennock, and indeed look forward to returning to Cambridge before too long. Sadly, the person whose initial idea it had been to come to Coburg and who had done an enormous amount of ground work, Heidi English, was prevented from being there by an unfortunate accident, but she is now on the mend. 


Bavaria is renowned for its cuisine and hospitality, and this was our first concern on the Friday evening. But on Saturday morning we turned to the topic of our weekend, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg und Gotha. We began with a guided tour of Schloss Rosenau on the outskirts of the town, the palace in which the prince was born. Our witty and informative guide, who was to accompany us round the Veste on Sunday morning, made history palatable and made many apposite comparisons with the present day. 


We were then honoured to hear talks on Prince Albert by two highly knowledgeable speakers who might perhaps be described as Prince Albert's greatest fans (although he undoubtedly has many). First, Baron Lexden of Lexden and Strangford, a political historian and official historian to the Conservative Party and the Carlton Club, spoke on the topic of Prince Albert and politics.


Beginning with constitutional monarchy and the shift in the roles played by the monarch and political parties, Lord Lexden stressed the important part played by Prince Albert in this transition – a contribution much discussed in his liftime. While the young Queen Victoria initially paid little attention to constitutional matters, showing a marked preference for the Whigs, Albert was only too aware how injurious her behaviour was to the monarchy. He was able to check her impetuousness and lift the monarchy above party politics, while maintaining a strong interest in political matters. This was not always welcome, and the Prince was often subjected to harsh criticism. However, he was clearly opposed to the notion of a totally powerless monarchy and made an eloquent plea for the monarch's right and duty to take a keen interest in affairs of state in the interest of the monarch's subjects. Albert also introduced the Queen to the concept of following what her ministers were doing, a tradition that has persisted to this day, with the monarch devoting many hours of the day to affairs of state. By the time of his death, Prince Albert had won the respect of politicians on account of his great intellect, and widely mourned (see extract from Tennyson's poem below).


 For further information on Lord Lexden's career, including his address to the GS in full, please see his website www.alistairlexden.org.uk. Incidentally, I was delighted to discover that Lord Lexden is a keen advocate of the franchise being extended to all British citizens, to bring the United Kingdom into line with most of the rest of Europe.


Our second speaker was Professor John Davis, Head of the School of Social Sciences and Professor of History and International Relations at Kingston University. He is also a Corresponding Guest of the Advisory of the Prince Albert Society, which was founded in 1981 with the aim of enabling interested academics from Germany and the UK to meet. For further details of the society, see www.prinz-albert-gesellschaft.de. Professor Davis started by saying that Germany had already had a strong cultural impact in Britain in the 19th century by the time Albert arrived there, thanks in part to impressions gained on the Grand Tour German artists were consulted on the interior decoration of the Palace of Westminster during its rebuilding following a fire in 1834, and Prince Albert was the moving force behind this rebuilding. German science, likewise, was a strong influence in Britain, and many British scientists went to Germany to study. And it was against this backdrop that Prince Albert, upon his arrival, took a keen interest in education in the wider sense. In 1843 he was awarded an honorary doctorate by Cambridge University, and then set about reforming it. When he subsequently became chancellor, he had the outmoded curriculum reviewed and was able to have a number of subjects added, for which he was widely praised.


Looking beyond England, Albert also advocated education reform in Ireland, and was instrumental in the establishment of Queens University. History and modern languages were taken onto the curriculum, but not two other subjects whose study he advocated, namely Celtic languages and English history.


Among Albert's many achievements was the Great Exhibition of 1851, a resounding success. He supported the abolition of slavery and the repeal of the Corn Laws, made Buckingham Palace efficient, and his Oxbridge reforms relaxed the theological hold on the curriculum.


Inevitably, and happily, there was a degree of overlapping and interaction between the two topics and speakers. I wished (as others will have done) that there had been more time for both speakers to address us, and for questions and discussion, but 'twas ever thus. After lunch we enjoyed a stroll around the grounds of Schloss Rosenau, before returning to Coburg for a short respite. After dinner in town, there was ample opportunity to sample the cultural delights of the town on the night when all the museums remained open to a late hour and offered a broad spectrum of entertainment. All this in delightfully balmy weather.


But this changed overnight, and we set off on Sunday morning in rain and cooler temperatures for the Veste fortress, which was the winter residence of the Saxe-Coburg und Gotha family. Known as the Crown of Franconia, it is visible from all directions from miles around. The hardy majority walked up the steep approach, while the less resolute of us were driven up. Our kind guide welcomed us and took us round this huge and impressive edifice, which has so many interesting exhibits and associations. It was, for example, one of the places in which Martin Luther was given refuge following his stand against Rome and subsequent banishment. The museum's collection of paintings, glass and weaponry merits a far longer visit than we were able to make. 


A final meal in yet another of the town's excellent restaurants, then off we went to our various destinations after a most enjoyable and informative weekend. Thanks to Heidi English, and to Jadwiga Bobrowska for taking over and coping calmly and efficiently with all the wobblies thrown at her over the weekend. She deserves a medal for services rendered. 


Alas, there isn't sufficient space to cover the challenging locks to the hotel rooms, the surprise appearance of the fire brigade during our visit to Schloss Rosenau, the blushing brides dotted around Rosenau Park, or why Johann Strauss was in fact a Coburger. Yes, dear reader, you should have been there. But let me end this report with a quotation from a poem written by Tennyson following the death of the Prince Consort, with thanks to Lord Lexden for drawing my attention to it:


 Not swaying to this faction or to that

 Not making his high place the lawless perch

 Of wing’d ambitions, nor a vantage-ground

 For pleasure; but thro’ all this tract of years

 Wearing the white flower of a blameless life

 Before a thousand peering witnesses

 In that fierce light which beats upon a throne

 And blackens every blot...

 Thou noble Father of her Kings to be

 Laborious for her people and her poor...

 Sweet nature gilded by the gracious gleam

 Of letters, dear to science, dear to art

 Dear to thy land and ours, a prince indeed

 Beyond all titles, and a household name

 Hereafter, through all times, Albert the Good                                             Sally Lamm





2012 GS Study Weekend in Brixen - "Delicious Uncertainty"


Last October, on a day when Britain was bracing itself for another autumn storm, Brixen, bathed in sunshine, was bracing itself for the influx of a large number of CIOL GS members and their guests. Guglielmo Fittante, a GS member, was the inspiration and the driving force behind the weekend.


Brixen is right in the centre of South Tyrol – once an Imperial Austrian province ceded to Italy in 1919. The population of around 500,000 inhabitants consists of three language groups: about 70% are German speakers, 26% Italian speakers and around 4% Ladin (or Rhaeto-Romance) speakers. Today, South Tyrol is an autonomous region and its inhabitants live, more or less, in peace. However, the different language groups tend to lead parallel lives. Eva Pföstl, an academic, describes this situation as "tolerance established by law". It was not always thus, but our study weekend did not dwell on the sometimes cruel and violent past of this region. Instead, we looked at how the linguistic heritage of the peoples in the region is being preserved today. This means that when you travel here, there is what Leslie Bright, one of our study weekend participants, called a "delicious uncertainty" as to what language you will encounter in any given situation.


The weekend started on Friday evening with the usual get-together, in a restaurant, for the participants who had travelled from all over Germany as well as the UK. Our conference began on Saturday morning as we gathered to listen to, and discuss with, a variety of speakers who had been invited by Guglielmo.


We kicked off with a talk by emeritus Prof. Doyé, who told us about "Intercomprehension", the subject of an EU project on which he had worked as an external evaluator. Intercomprehension is an attempt to preserve the multi-lingual and hence the multi-cultural heritage of the EU. Within this concept, all languages receive equal treatment, and it is an attempt to move away from the lingua franca approach to communication. Intercomprehension relies on people's previous experience, their passive knowledge and their interpretative faculty to comprehend messages. A discussion partner's language is never used actively. All counterparties use their own language. This approach is a basis for intercultural learning and it can work within the same language families.


Next on the packed agenda we heard from Dr Carlotte Ranigler, a school principal, responsible for several German-speaking schools in Glurns, Schluderns and Taufers. Dr Ranigler took us through the details of the school system in South Tyrol as well as its development over time. One statistic that stood out – there are 45,000 pupils and 5,500 teachers, so it is little wonder that this region scores highly in the Pisa surveys. Italian is taught in the schools and as many hours are devoted to Italian language lessons as to German language lessons, but as the rest of the subjects are taught in German the pupils do not, usually, emerge with native speaker competence in Italian. This is not a problem as the region also has German-speaking vocational schools and a multilingual university in Bozen. Moreover, pupils can go on to do degrees at Austrian universities, as there is a special agreement with Austria whereby qualifications from South Tyrol schools are recognised. It is hoped that the provision of education in German at all levels will encourage the younger generation to remain in the region and carry on the running of businesses based there.


Then we heard from Dr Leander Moroder, Director of the Ladin Institut, whose purpose is to safeguard and promote the Ladin language. The Ladin people have lived in the area around the Dolomites for centuries (other groups of Ladins live in Switzerland and the Friul region of Italy). In the Dolomites, traditionally, the Ladin have lived in the mountains, at between 1,200 and 1,500m, and have worked in agriculture. Today, the Ladin peoples in South Tyrol are split between three administrative districts, which means that any measures proposed have to clear three different bureaucracies. However, unlike the German speakers in the region, the Ladin do not consider themselves to be a minority. Indeed, Dr Moroder highlighted that the place names Tyrol and Meran are, in fact, old Ladin words.


The Ladin language is an old form of Latin but some 800 years older than Italian. Ladin is also taught in schools, and while in nursery schools the learning is in Ladin, at primary and secondary level teaching is based on the principle of “teaching parity”, with the same number of hours being given in German and Italian, while Ladin generally is used as an assistant language. However, since the late 80s Ladin has also become the language of instruction for some subjects in lower secondary schools.


After lunch it was the turn of Alexandra (Sandy) Jones, who gave us a very interesting talk entitled "Multilingualism in Britain - Paradox and Prospects". Sandy started off by making a distinction between a multilingual country at national and individual levels (a country in which many languages are spoken vs. a country with a supportive culture towards, and/or widespread actual practice of, multilingualism). Britain is and historically has always been the former but there has been a decline in the latter, as the UK increasingly relies on the rest of the world to speak English. Very few British people speak or even understand more than one language and many immigrant communities remain isolated (‘ghetto demographics’). Consequently, the UK is at a competitive disadvantage because of the high number of monolinguals. For example, it is under-represented in the EU not only in the area of translation but also in the various functions. In terms of business, 75% of small and medium sized enterprises have missed or have lost export opportunities because of a lack of language skills. Sandy didn't leave us with a gloomy outlook, but discussed the various initiatives currently underway (e.g. "Speak to the Future" campaign) that should start to remedy the situation in the UK in the foreseeable future.


Later on we went to the abbey of Novacella/Kloster Neustift where we had an interesting tour of the abbey. Novacella is still home to 18 Augustinian canons who work in the surrounding parishes and are only together in the abbey on 28th August, St Augustine’s feast day. After the tour we went wine-tasting, trying four of the abbey’s wines, two white (Silvaner and Kerner) and two red (Vernatsch and Lagrein).


Opinions varied, but the Vernatsch proved the most popular wine at dinner in the evening. On Sunday morning we had a guided tour of the old town of Brixen and the study weekend finished with lunch.


Our thanks to Guglielmo for inspiring and indulging us, and to Stephanie Tarling and Norman Ellis for their invaluable logistical input.


(Editor's note: Jadwiga's account makes no mention of cricket in Clausen, mealtime muddles or the mystery of the missing hairdryer. You should have been there.)




2011 A Sparkling Weekend in Heidelberg

GS autumn study weekend


Everything sparkled at this year's study weekend in Heidelberg: the illustrious speakers, the conversation over lunch and dinner, the sunshine on the Neckar river, the fireworks over the castle ruin and, of course, the wine.


On the Friday evening, those of us lucky enough to be staying at the Hotelo hotel were invited to a Prosecco reception by Norman Ellis, hosted in his bijou room. We then set off by tram and bus for dinner at the historical Heidelberger Kulturbrauerei. More than twenty GS members and guests enjoyed a balmy evening in the beer garden catching up with old friends and making new ones. We were particularly pleased to welcome several CIOL members from the UK, including our new CEO Alexandra Jones.


On Saturday, the sun rose and shone again all day for us. Our morning study session was held in the library of Heidelberg University's law faculty. This is housed in a neo-baroque building, which was once a bank. While the marble walls kept us nice and cool we were warmly welcomed by Prof Müller-Graff, Managing Director of the law faculty. He started off his brief presentation by giving us a potted history of Heidelberg University's six centuries of higher education and research activities and then talked about its 21st century global network.


In particular, Prof Müller-Graff is responsible for Heidelberg's exchange programme with Cambridge University. For 35 years there have been student exchanges between the two universities. The partners are individual colleges and the exchange programme covers all disciplines except medicine. German students going over to Cambridge are required to study something specific to that university, such as Wittgenstein.

Over the years other ancient universities have joined the Heidelberg network, which now includes Cracow, Montpellier and other universities in Hungary, Russia and China to name just a few.


Our next speaker, Dr Bahls, a historical guide, explained that there were three aspects to Heidelberg: the university, Heidelberg's history as the capital of the Lower Palatinate (until 1720) and Romantic Heidelberg. To illustrate the last he quoted a verse of an English translation of 'Alt Heidelberg du feine' , a famous German poem by Joseph Victor von Scheffel:


Old Heidelberg                                                      Alt Heidelberg du feine


Old Heidelberg, dear city,                                       Alt Heidelberg du feine

With honors crowned, and rare                                Du Stadt an Ehren reich

O'er Rhine and Neckar rising,                                 Am Neckar und am Rheine

None can with thee compare.                                  Kein andre kommt dir gleich.

City of merry fellows,                                             Stadt fröhlicher Gesellen,

With wisdom lad'n and wine;                                  An Weisheit schwer und Wein

Clear flow the river wavelets                                  Klar ziehen des Stromes Wellen

Where blue eyes flash and shine.                            Blauäuglein blitzen drein.


(Translated by Jacob Gould Schurrmann, US Ambassador to Germany, in 1928.)


Dr Bahls then talked about how Heidelberg's university as we know it today had its roots in the beginning of the 19th century. He told us about Burschenschaften or fraternities (which can't be compared with US fraternities). These were founded throughout Germany after the Napoleonic wars, which had sparked nationalist sentiment. Students organized themselves in this way to prepare for a revolution to unify Germany. They felt they had to be able to fight. Gradually, the Burschenschaften moved away from their political roots and became a way of organising a community. They named themselves after the various German tribes (e.g., Rhenania after the Rhine) and their members wore different coloured caps and sashes (e.g. blue for the river Rhine).


Over time, the fraternities became more institutionalised and membership was for life. The number of fraternities mushroomed and became centred on the various university subjects. Today, fraternities have largely died out and only 5% of students are organised in fraternities, and only one-third of these still fence (but as always not against each other but with each other). Among the remaining fraternities old traditions are maintained, such as the Kneip, disciplined drinking sessions, and communal singing. Dr Bahl passed round the special song books with studs in the front and back covers which prevent the book getting wet when it is put down on the beer soaked tables.


There is now even one Damenverbindung, or sorority, which calls itself Nausikaa and was founded in 1987. They wear dark suits, white shirts and drink champagne and are considered to be a moderating influence on the all-male Burschenschaften.


In the past, membership of a Burschenschaft was considered essential for people seeking careers in public administration and Dr Bahls feels that they still have a role to play in teaching young men how to behave.


Our next speaker, Nicola Hayton, related the story of three queens who have a link to the Palatinate and Britain. Her story was told in the manner of a historical thriller with lots of twists and turns, political intrigue, battles, mistresses - but all true.


The first queen was Blanche of England, an English princess of the House of Lancaster. She was the eldest daughter of King Henry IV, who deposed Richard II and then sought important alliances in order to maintain and legitimize his rule. One needed ally was King Rupert of Germany who started off as Elector of the Palatinate but went on to take the German throne after the deposition of King Wenceslaus. A marriage between Rupert's eldest surviving son Louis and Blanche was soon arranged. The marriage contract was signed in 1401 in London and the marriage ceremony took place one year later in Cologne. As part of her dowry Blanche was given the oldest surviving crown in England. (Today it can be viewed in Munich at the Residenzmuseum). Four years later, in Heidelberg, Blanche gave birth to a son, called Rupert. Sadly, Blanche died just two years later aged 17.


The story of the second of the three queens - Elizabeth Stuart - is much more dramatic and even sadder. Princess Elizabeth was the daughter of James I of England. Her father was considering marrying her off to Louis XIII of France, a Catholic king. This worried the advisers of the young Frederick V, Elector Palatine and head of the Protestant League. They feared that such a move would upset the confessional balance of Europe, so emissaries of the Elector were sent to the English court and, after intense negotiations (Frederick, after all was only an Elector and not a king), a marriage contract was signed in 1612.


The marriage ceremony was held in Whitehall Chapel in 1613 on St Valentine's day and the celebrations carried on for weeks afterwards. The alliance was feted as the marriage of the Thames and the Rhine. It is said that Shakespeare's Tempest was written especially for the wedding. However, by April the celebrations had bankrupted the court and the happy couple (she was known as the Queen of Hearts) sailed away on honeymoon from Margate. The story of the nuptial journey was very well documented and published. So we know that Frederick disembarked early so that he could rush to the castle in Heidelberg and oversee preparations. When Elizabeth disembarked in Ladenburg she was greeted by a huge welcome party, four triumphal arches, flowers, music and, for the first time, fireworks.


As part of the marriage negotiations Frederick had agreed to expand Heidelberg castle and, in the months that followed the couple's arrival, a so-called English wing was added which housed, among other things, a globe theatre. Extensive gardens were laid out which, although never finished, came to be called the 8th wonder of the world. The entrance to the new elaborate castle was dedicated to Elizabeth - the Elisabeth-Tor. In 1614 the couple's first son - Frederick Henry - was born.


The young couple were very much in love and went on to have 13 children altogether. At court they enjoyed all sorts of pastimes such as hunting and dressing up. However, in 1619 everything changed when, for reasons far too complicated to explain here, the states of the Bohemian Confederacy elected Frederick as the new King of Bohemia (and Elizabeth as his Queen).


Frederick assumed a weak crown and a state torn with internal divisions and, in 1620, the Holy Roman Emperor sent in his armies to overthrow Frederick V. No help was forthcoming from any of the Protestant allies and Frederick and Elizabeth had to leave in a hurry. They lived out the rest of their days in exile in the Netherlands. Frederick lost not only Bohemia but all of the Palatinate. In 1632 Frederick died of a fever aged just 36. Elizabeth spent the next 30 years until her death in 1662 grieving for her husband and for several of her children who also pre-deceased her.


However, the story didn't die with Elizabeth. In 1658, her youngest daughter, Sophia, married Ernest Augustus, the future Elector of Hanover. The Electress Sophia became the nearest Protestant relative to the British crown. Under the English Act of Settlement, the succession was settled on Sophia and her children, so that all monarchs of Great Britain from George I onward are descendants of Elizabeth Stuart. Which brings us to the third queen, who was christened Alexandrina Victoria but came to be known as Queen Victoria. Her father, Edward, Duke of Kent, was a son of George III. She inherited the throne at the age of 18 after her father's three elder brothers died without any surviving legitimate children.


Our last speaker of the day was the CIOL's very own CEO - Alexandra Jones, or Sandy as she likes to be called. Sandy was delighted that we had invited her to Heidelberg of all places, as this is where she spent six months of her gap year before going up to Oxford to study German and Greek. Sandy gave us a quick update on the Institute, which had been through a difficult patch, but that is behind it now. Some of the difficulties had arisen, in part, from antiquated administrative practices. Sandy has spent her first six months bringing procedures up-to-date.


Sandy then went on to speak about one of her passions, the Scottish Gaelic language, which she took up 10 years ago. There are fewer than 60,000 speakers of the language today and they are very scattered throughout Scotland. Nevertheless, the language is staging a revival. Sandy believes in language bio-diversity and the benefits of plurilingualism and, therefore, that all languages have a right to be supported.


Sandy went on to tell us that Scottish Gaelic is made for music, and one of the things that Sandy does when in London is conduct the London Gaelic choir. Not only does she conduct, she is also a composer and arranger. Indeed, she composed a song in Gaelic to celebrate the choir's 120th anniversary this year.


Sandy also told us that she enjoys translating poems from German and Gaelic into English. She spoke about the challenges of translating poetry. She read out (and also sang beautifully) some of her translations and remarked that they were always a work in progress. We can't publish any of the examples as Sandy is in the throes of compiling a book of her poetry translations. Watch out for it next spring.


The morning's study session was followed by lunch in the famous Perkeo tavern. After this everyone split up and enjoyed the sunny afternoon in different ways (visits to the castle, shopping etc.). We met again in the evening for dinner and then, after dark, spilled out on to the meadows by the Neckar river to marvel at the castle illuminations and the fireworks let off from the Alte Brücke.


On Sunday morning our amazing weekend was rounded off with a tour of the centre of Heidelberg with none other than Mark Twain! He told us about his forthcoming book - A Tramp Abroad - and then took us around the city and told us tales of learned professors, famous students, old churches, ancient tomes and Heidelberg's famous sons and daughters (e.g. did you know that Friedrich Ebert, Germany's first president, was born and lived in Heidelberg?). Our tour ended in Heidelberg's cobblestone market place.


Then it was time to turn homewards. We said our goodbyes and looked forward to next year's study weekend in Brixen, South Tyrol.


Our thanks to Judith Gabler and Gabriele Matthey from the GS Committee for all their hard work putting together such a great weekend. Thanks also to all the speakers.


Jadwiga Bobrowska