Stein of the Month: May 2002

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Stein from the Stephen L. Smith Collection
Photograph by Norman Paratore
~ A Royal Student Stein ~

by Master Steinologists
Stephen Lee Smith and Walter B. Vogdes

The stein shown to the right is a custom-decorated form 285 by Villeroy & Boch. Despite the relatively under-stated decoration, this is a very interesting and unusual stein, with historic provenance.

German natives and students of heraldry might recognize the coat-of-arms immediately, but we will seek understanding of this stein by examining the inscription on the pewter rim:

Joachim Albrecht Prinz von Preussen Z! CK. s/l R von Hantelmann Z! z. fr. Erg. Bonn S1896S

(By convention, the "Z!" in the above transcription stands for a Zirkel, the special and unique insignia of each German student society.)

Most inscriptions on student steins are readily translated. In this case, Joachim Albrecht, Prince of Prussia, presented this stein to his cherished friend, R. von Hantelmann in fond remembrance of the summer semester at university in Bonn, 1896. Both gentlemen belonged to the same student association, as indicated by the Zirkel following each name. This gives us many additional hints to pursue in trying to understand this stein.

Thankfully, Joachim Albrecht, Prince of Prussia, is readily identified. Born in 1876, he was a great-grandson of Frederick Wilhelm III, King of Prussia from 1797 to 1840. His grandfather, Albrecht, was the younger brother of Wilhelm I, King of Prussia and first Kaiser of Germany (1871). At the time of his studies in Bonn, 20-year old Joachim Albrecht was a cousin of Emperor Wilhelm II.

The royal family of Hohenzollern, established in the early 12th century, became rulers of Brandenburg and later Prussia. In 1192 they adopted a simple shield of four silver and black quarterings as their family arms, and in 1317 Frederick von Hohenzollern acquired the legal ownership of a helm and crest consisting of the head and shoulder of a hound, as shown on this stein.

Turning now to the challenge of identifying the student association to which these gentlemen belonged we are greatly helped by the reference to Bonn in the inscription. We could search the literature (or the Internet) for all student associations in Bonn to try to match the Zirkel, which would normally be both tedious and frustrating. The fact that the Zirkel contains a prominent letter B narrows the field and helped us to make an informed guess: The nobility generally belong to a Corps, the student association name Borussia is a Latinized form of Prussia, and there is a Corps Borussia in Bonn. Their Wappen is shown to the right, and the Zirkel does in fact match the inscription on the stein. Note also the use of the colors of the Hohenzollern family in the shield and the feathered plumes of the crest (black, white and black). (In heraldry, white is frequently substituted for silver.) The Hohenzollerns apparently had strong ties with this society. The records of the association indicate that by 1928 eleven Prussian princes had been members, including the future Kaiser Wilhelm II, as well as two Grand-dukes and two dukes of Mecklenberg. Wilhelm II was a student in Bonn from 1877 to 1879, being initiated into Corps Borussia in 1878.

The "CK." in this inscription defied understanding until some expert help was offered by Michael Streit, a visitor to the SCI web site and an Alter Herr of two Corps, Frankonia Prag and Franconia Tübingen. The abbreviation stands for "Conkneipant", a term signifying a restricted form of membership and privilege within the Corps. This special form of membership may be extended by the Corps to someone with whom they have a close relationship, but who has not - and will not - complete the requirements for full membership. The Conkneipant is a regular and welcomed guest at the Corps Kneipen, the traditional festivities involving ceremonies, rituals, song and drink, and he may be extended other privileges of membership, depending upon the rules of each individual Corps. For example, a Conkneipant is allowed to use the Zirkel following his signature, but is expected to indicate that he is a "CK", not a fully qualified member. A Conkneipant is not permitted to wear the Band (colored sash) of the association, and although he may wear a student cap, the colors will be restricted. When a Conkneipant finishes his studies and leaves the university this special status is ended.

Why would Joachim Albrecht become a Conkneipant? Members of ruling royal families were frequently not permitted to take part in student fencing activities (Mensuren), which for the Corps were an essential part of the membership requirements. This form of participation in a student association would also be a very natural way to include visiting foreign students in the richness of student life during the period of their studies.

In summary, this stein was presented to a brother in Corps Borussia Bonn by a member of the Prussian royal family Hohenzollern, in 1896. Arthur Maethner notes that "it was customary in those days for the aristocracy to present tokens of friendship to their subjects. And of course, customized and personalized beer steins were favorite presentation pieces among university students. A stein with the coat-of-arms of the House of Hohenzollern would have been considered as a most appropriate token of friendship from a member of the royal Hohenzollern family to a Corpsbruder and worthy subject."

Note:  The identify of R von Hantelmann is as yet unknown. Recent information adds that Rudolph von Hantelmann died in 1926 (citation: "Koesener Corpsliste 1960").
Heraldry of the Royal Families of Europe, Jiří Louda & Michael Maclagan, Clarkson N. Potter, New York, 1981.
Heraldry: Sources, Symbols and Meaning, Ottfried Neubecker, McGraw-Hill, Maidenhead, England, 1976.
Gaudeamus igitur, Die studentischen Verbindungen einst und jetzt, Paulgerhard Gladen, Verlag Callwey, Munich, 1986.

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