Hortense de Beauharnais
In February 1817, Hortense de Beauharnais, the former Queen of Holland, purchased Arenenberg Manor. She had not only brought her family’s exclusive taste for works of art and palaces with her from France to Lake Constance, but also her love for the art of landscaping.
It was in the palace of her mother Joséphine, Malmaison, where Queen Hortense developed her own great passion for nature which is reflected in the creation of many landscaped parks. Unfortunately, only Malmaison Palace, the great prototype of all continental parks in the English style, and Arenenberg Palace, its smaller copy at Lake Constance, have survived. How much the Queen loved gardens is best demonstrated by the fact that she was already planning Arenenberg’s gardens before she even owned the estate.
The Palace Park
1817 – 1906
At the moment, it is not yet known for sure who might have been the landscape architect of the grounds at Arenenberg. There is a lot of evidence that Queen Hortense had her ideas checked and revised by Louis Martin Berthault, the great landscape architect of France, before she had the design implemented a few months later. Starting in 1834, her son Louis Napoléon together with Hermann von Pückler-Muskau redesigned the park and gave it today’s appearance.
It goes without saying that the visitors to the imperial court at the Lower Lake described and praised the grounds again and again. Spread throughout the park are springs transformed into fountains, imperial “romantic grottoes,” hermitages, a reproduction of Napoleon I’s tomb as well as meadows made for picnics. And a mooring place located at today’s beach on the lake rounds off the estate.
The many poplar trees along the Lower Lake shore point towards a comprehensive landscaping concept that goes well beyond the borders of the estate at Arenenberg. We know that Queen Hortense had introduced the tree to the region around 1830. She wanted to reinforce the similarity of the bays and coves of the Lower Lake with the Gulf of Naples as her many guests had constantly noted.
Development between 1906 and Today
In 1906, Empress Eugénie donated Arenenberg Palace to the Canton of Thurgau as a token of her appreciation for its hospitality. The Canton divided the estate and opened a museum in the palace and an agricultural school in the annex. It seemed as if there was no further interest in or need for the imperial park. But Georg Alphons Simon, the last imperial and first head gardener in the employ of the Canton, didn’t destroy the grounds, deliberately burying all fixtures; thus, protecting them from further vandalism. Thanks to him, it’s possible to see the park once again in its original splendor today.
The Park Has Been Sparkling in Its Former Glory since 2008!
Thanks to the Napoleon III Foundation, it was possible to pursue the idea of a complete investigation and restoration of the park at the beginning of the 21st century. 2008 saw the festive opening ceremony of the restored heart of the park. More steps will follow in the coming years which will ultimately culminate in the complete restoration of the park as it was around 1835/1855.