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Wagners Last Flowermaiden: Carrie Pringle

Written By The Wagnerian on Monday, 13 June 2011 | 2:25:00 am

From Stephen Gadd's blog: a marvellous piece of wagnerian research.

Carrie Pringle – some answers
Posted on June 4, 2011 by Stephen Gadd

Written in response to the excellent article by David Cormack, ‘Wir welken und sterben dahinnen’: Carrie Pringle and the Solo Flowermaidens of 1882 [Source: The Musical Times, Vol. 146, No. 1890 (Spring, 2005), pp. 16-31]

This article caught my attention because:
  • Carrie Pringle was one of the original flowermaidens in Wagner’s Parsifal, and is said to have been his last lover, and
  • My wife, Claire Rutter, also an opera singer of some note, had a grandfather whose middle name (from his mother) was Pringle, and
  • Both Carrie Pringle and Claire’s grandfather were in the same part of Brighton, England in the late 1920′s.

Well, I’ve established that this is entirely coincidental, but along the way have made some interesting discoveries about Carrie Pringle’s family, and found some evidence that she continued to perform after settling in England. These findings answer questions raised by David Cormack, and previously by Stewart Spencer, who in 2005 lacked some of the invaluable resources which have since come online.

Cormack is correct to assume some Dutch family connection. Carrie’s great-grandfather, John Pringle, served in the Scots Brigade of the British Army’s Dutch Service. While stationed at Venlo in Holland, his wife (Mary Hope) gave birth in 1782 to Volkier Rudolph Pringle. He was the last of their 9 children, dropped at various points around Holland since 1761. (They are listed along with John’s other descendants at the bottom of this page).

Rudolph and his brother Colin, like their father, were also military men. When Hanover was overrun by Napoleon’s troops in 1803, they joined the exodus of soldiers from continental Europe to England, and took commissions in the King’s German Legion.
Rudolph resigned from the Army just a few weeks before the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, whereas Colin by this time was a Major, and is quoted in written accounts of the battle. Colin Pringle had married well in 1813 (to a lawyer’s daughter), retired to Dunkerque on an army pension, and died in 1857 leaving the bulk of his not inconsiderable estate to Rudolph and to his spinster niece Mary Home (daughter of their sister, Margaret). Alone, the cash sum inherited by Rudolph amounted to the modern equivalent of about £125,000.

Yet this was not the main source of Carrie’s family’s wealth. Rudolph had been able to take early retirement thanks to his marriage in 1809 to Caroline Townley, who brought with her a dowry equivalent now to a little under a quarter of a million pounds. More on the illustrious Townleys in a moment.
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