THE LIFE AND CHESS OF PAUL MORPHY                                                                                                                                                                              The Duke of Brunswick



Morphy's Opera Box Game


The Duke of Brunswick


According to an official source:
Andrew McNaughton, The Book of Kings: A Royal Genealogy, in 3 volumes (London, U.K.: Garnstone Press, 1973), volume 1, page 40.

He was:
"Karl III Friedrich Herzog von Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel was the son of Friedrich Wilhelm Herzog von Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel and Marie Elisabeth Wilhelmine Prinzessin von Baden.1 He was born on 30 October 1804.1 He died on 19 August 1873 at age 68 at Geneva, Switzerland, unmarried and in exile."



Tim Krabbé called him: Karl II, Herzog von Braunschweig.


The inscription on the Brunswick Monument reads:

The Duke of Brunswick, Charles Frederick August William, was a distinguished linguist, horsemen and musician was born 1804. He dethroned and chased out in 1830 and thus, took refuge in Paris, but spent his last three years back in Geneva. Mr. Charles Frederick August William was an eccentric and a paranoiac.

His death in 18 August 1873 provided a tidy sum for the city Geneva. But in his will, Geneva, as his residuary legatee must provide his final resting place that is in “an eminent and worthy location, executed according to the established concept by the finest artists of the time, without consideration of cost”.

He also stipulated that his mausoleum must be the exact replica of the Scaliger family tomb in Verona, Itay (circa 14th century).


Visit to the Napoleonic battlefield of Quatre Bras (1873). See the very imposing Brunswick monument (erected to commemorate the Duke of Brunswick who was killed during the battle)

from a Swiss online guide book:

the Brunswick Monument




This mauseoleum is located next to the Richemont Hotel, the Beau Rivage Hotel and the Hotel de la Paix, three of the city's five stars hotels. It was built in 1877 for an eccentric German nobleman, Charles II d'Este-Guelph, Duke of Brunswick, who came to live in Geneva to flee from political turmoil in Germany. He lived in one of the hotels and played chess with his guests. He once said that, were he not for his enormous wealth, he would already be in an insane asylum.

When he died in 1873 he gave all his money to the city of Geneva in exchange for the construction of this mausoleum, built in 1879 on the model of one in Italy. The city used the money to build the golden gates of Parc des Bastions and the city's opera, the Grand Theatre.



Anders Thulin offers this:

I've just come across some lines on the Duke
in The Problem, a periodical devoted to chess problems, published
in Pittsburgh. They're by J. F. Magee, Jr., in 1914, issue 17,
p. 133, and are said to be reprinted from Chess Amateur:

During the revolution of 1830, the Duke was compelled to  leave Brunswick and he sought refuge in Paris and Geneva. His
agent, Silberschmidt, the problemist, was imprisoned for political reasons, and whilst in confinement.  published in 1845 his collection of chess problems. In 1858 Paul Morphy played a blindfold game against  the Duke in the Paris Opera House,
during the intervals while the "Barber of Seville" was being played. Mr. Hopper, in "The Field", December 31st, 1910 gives
this interesting description of the Duke:
"Frederick the Great, of Prussia was a chess player, and so was the great Napolean [sic]. Prince Napolean [sic]  took regular lessons from Rosenthal, and so did the Duke of Brunswick, who left his millions to the town of Geneva. The Duke also visited the Cafe de la Régence on occasions of premieres at the Theatre Française, but passed most  of his time in playing chess with  Mr. Preti (the founder of "La Strategie") at the Régence. This was in the sixties, and we remember the eccentric old gentleman, arrayed in a suit of drab color, drab gaiters, drab gloves. He was adorned with a shining black wig, and  ditto beard a la Henry Quatre, and with an artificial youthful complexion to match. In spite of being profusely adorned with diamonds,  of which he had a fortune stowed away in a safe imbedded in the  wall of his bedroom, he only played the game for one franc with poor Preti, and that solitary coin passed to and fro during the whole séance. He looked grotesque in the unsuccessful endeavor to appear youthful, when frequent twinges reminded him of the futility of his endeavor."



Jerry Spinrad,  an Associate Professor of Computer Science at Vanderbilt University and amateur chess historian, deeply researched the Duke of Brunswick. He wrote about his findings in the following article (excerpted from a larger article called, Oddball Players).

used here by permission.


One player we will discuss is a fairly well known name in chess circles, for one specific game. This is the Duke of Brunswick, and we all know the famous story of how Morphy beat the Duke of Brunswick and Count Isouard in a game played while they were at the opera, and that while Morphy would have preferred to watch the opera he was instead forced to create one of the most beautiful games of all time. However, very few of us realize that the same Duke of Brunswick was one of the wealthiest lunatics of all time, and that his wealth and aspirations was rumored to have played a key role in an important historical event.

Technically, Charles d'Este-Guelph was no longer the Duke of Brunswick when he played Morphy in Paris, though it would not have been wise to mention it to him. Born in 1804, Charles was chased from his ancestral home in 1830 thanks to his spectacular "indiscretions". He was obsessively concerned about recovering his lands, trying to foment revolution and even considering using his vast funds to mount a naval expedition to take back his (landlocked) Duchy. This is not some weird slur, but part of his own rambling speech during his court case when he tried to win back his lands. He notes that his adversaries want to throw him into a madhouse, and emphasizes that his threat
of attempting to recover his territory by a naval expedition was not an idle or absurd one, and how he could land at Bremen, cross through Hanoverian territory, and get to Brunswick. As one writer from the Times described the courtroom scene, "After other remarks not quite relevant to the point at issue", the ex-Duke said he should have little honor left if he entered into relations with felons, traitors, and incendiaries (his description of his former subjects); he eventually was called to order by the President of the court.

This was just the start of a long and outrageous life of exile. I base much of my knowledge of the Duke on an article which appeared shortly after his death (which came in the middle of a chess game; he got up, told his opponent not to cheat him, and went to his room and died). The article, which appeared in Appleton's Journal, November 20, 1875, starts with a quick summary which is worth repeating here.

"There are but few person who have resided in Paris for any length of time who do not remember the late Duke of Brunswick, that painted, bewigged Lothario, whose follies, eccentricities, and diamonds made him the talk of Europe."

The strangeness started very early indeed. When he was born, the ceremonial cannons announcing the royal birth beheaded an artilleryman. He came to the throne at an early age, his grandfather and father dying heroically in the battles of Jena and Waterloo respectively.

After losing his throne in 1830 as described above, he allied himself with anyone he could to get it back. The most important of these attempts is said to have come when Prince Louis Napoleon was imprisoned. The Duke's chief treasurer visited Prince Louis, and left a package carrying 800,000 francs in return for a signed document promising to get the Duke back his throne. This money was used to help the Prince buy his way to freedom, and the Duke thus had a great influence in "conferring upon France the doubtful blessing of the late empire." The Prince became emperor, but he never did get the Duke his throne, a fact that the Duke was quite willing to publicly rebuke him for.

The Duke built a huge palace in Paris which mixed aspects of fairy tale and horror story. It combined rose colored walls and profuse gilding with security features that appear quite paranoid. There were huge walls with gilded spikes, electric apparatuses (very early for these!) to warn
of intruders, complicated machinery to defy thieves and assassins, entrance only with a password, and many other oddities. He kept his strong-box suspended by four chains, which were suspended in a well, needing devices to bring it into view; if you attempted to open the lock to where the Duke viewed this without the code, concealed gun barrels would blow you away, just like in some Indiana Jones movie.

The Duke did not employ a cook, always eating out at one of the great restaurants. At home, he would only have hot chocolate; the milk for this was brought from the country directly and kept in a locked box, and he trusted no one else to prepare it, but still had his valet taste it first.
His eating patterns were very strange; he ate enormous amounts of sweets, sometimes paying sweet shops large sums of money for the privilege of coming in and eating as much as he could stomach at once. I am no doctor, but I imagine this could be related to his "extreme corpulence" in his later years.

He was also famous for his eccentric and gaudy appearance. The Duke stayed in bed until the late afternoon, and started his immensely long preparations for going out around 4 PM; he rarely saw the sun during winter months. He was famous for using an the enormous amount of face paint; he also dyed his beard every day, and had different wigs arranged for each variety of facial coloring he assumed. But most of all, the Duke was known for his diamonds.

To this day, the Duke is remembered fondly in the diamond trade. He was apparently the greatest collector of colored diamonds in history; having been owned by the Duke of Brunswick is part of a diamond's provenance. He would wear ridiculously elaborate costumes, such as dressing as a Brunswickian general, decorated head to toe with diamonds. In fact, he told several ladies at a party that his undergarments were also festooned with wondrous diamonds, but none took up his offer to show them these particular crown jewels.

He is also remembered fondly by one other group other than chess players. To understand why the city of Geneva has a large memorial to the Duke of Brunswick, we first must understand his passion for lawsuits. He filed hundreds of lawsuits, once suing a washer-woman over a seven franc bill, and filing at least twelve lawsuits over the repair of a single watch. His greatest lawsuits, however, involved his (illegitimate, but acknowledged) daughter, who he cut off completely after she converted to Catholicism. He lost a lawsuit ordering him to support his daughter and her children, and fled his palace in Paris to avoid the consequences, eventually ending up in Geneva. After several changes of his will, he bequeathed his entire estate to the city of Geneva, due to the wonderful condition of the tombs in the church of St. Peters; he wanted his monument to be eternal. Shortly before his death, he changed his mind again; he had thrown some water out his window and the water drenched a passerby, who threatened a lawsuit. He was preparing to go back to his palace in Paris, but before he could change the will he died. His huge estate went to Geneva, in return for a grandiose monument which they erected according to his wishes.

We all know the opera-box game; here is a game in which the semi-Duke draws Harrwitz (Harrwitz playing a blindfold simul). If you believe that all chess games should be decided on positional niceties, you should not be reading about 19th century chess. Our antihero finds a nice shot to force a draw in this game. Harrwitz probably would have won earlier if he had not been playing blindfold, but this shows that the Duke was not such a patzer as you might have been led to believe by the more famous game.

Harrwitz - Duke of Brunswick, Harrwitz playing a blindfold simul:
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bc4 Bc5 4. b4 Bxb4 5. c3 Ba5 6. d4 exd4 7. Qb3 Qe7
8. O-O h6 9. Ba3 d6 10. e5 Qd7 11. cxd4 Nd8 12. exd6 c6 13. Ne5 Qf5
14. Qe3 Ne6 15. Bxe6 Qxe6 16. f4 f5 17. Nc3 Bxc3 18. Qxc3 Nf6 19. d7+ Bxd7
20. Rfe1 Ne4 21. Qb4 b5 22. Qa5 g5 23. Rac1 gxf4 24. Qc7 Rc8 25. Qxa7 Rg8
26. Rc5 Rxg2+ 1/2-1/2

I am jealous of the Duke, and not for his diamond studded underwear. He played at least 11 games in consultation against Morphy (of which he drew 1, in consultation with Isouard again and Count Casabianca), he played Kolisch, he played Harrwitz; I guess money gives opportunities, even in chess.