Neues Schloss Meersburg, Statthalter empfängt Gesandte, Details aus einer Supraporte, Öl auf Leinwand, Anfang 18. Jahrhundert

Reprimand of a subordinateA “Moor” at court

A “Moorish valet”, or dark-skinned servant, was an exotic status symbol and was an overt demonstration of a ruler's wealth. Prince-Bishop Maximilian Christoph von Rodt also had such a servant. But what became of him after his master's death?

Stucco detail on the side of Meersburg New Palace facing town

James worked as a footman at Meersburg New Palace.

A former slave as valet?

Old documents from the prince-bishopric legal office make reference to a “Moorish valet” by the name of James. Was this “Moorish valet” a former slave from Africa, brought to Meersburg via British stations? He is likely the same Adam James, a footman who, nearly 25 years later in March 1800, petitioned the incoming Prince-Bishop Carl Theodor von Dalberg.

The vicegerent receives an envoy at Meersburg Palace, detail from an overdoor at Meersburg New Palace, oil on canvas, early 18th century

Not unusual: a “Moor” is included in the image.

An unemployed servant

James reported that he was now 40 years old and had not had any income since the death of his prince-bishop, Maximilian Christoph von Rodt. The new prince-bishop had now inherited him. Since he had no financial means of his own, he now no longer had any hope of seeing his distant homeland ever again.

Portrait of Prince-Bishop Carl Theodor von Dalberg, oil on canvas, 1803, today in Meersburg Town Hall

Carl Theodor was in charge of the “Moor.”

A retiree's first warnings

Prince-Bishop von Dalberg ordered that the “Moor” be paid a footman's salary henceforth and that he be granted housing in Meersburg. However, otherwise, he should “be strongly instructed that the same should no longer, as had been previously done, visit taverns and inns, but rather that he should make an effort to lead a more modest life, but at the very least refrain from contracting innkeepers, craftsmen, tradesmen, or private citizens through loan or debt in the name of his Grace or his Grace's subordinate court officer.”

 Old and New Meersburg Castle from the lake side, watercolour copperplate engraving by Heinrich Bleuler c. 1800

The castle in the days of the "Moor" James.

The trail is lost

A later residential record for Meersburg lists a “Moor”, “Ischannes” (James?) Adam Africanus, as living in the Old Castle. According to the entry, he lived there until 1817.

Learn more


Work & play

Please select a maximum of 5 keywords.