Blog 105 25/3/2021 A LITERARY WORLD: Katerina “Rosa” Botsaris
A LITERARY WORLD:
Katerina “Rosa” Botsaris
Katerina “Rosa” Botsaris (Κατερίνα Μπότσαρη: 1818/20–1872) was a Greek courtier and member of the famous Botsaris family. She was the daughter of Markos Botsaris, one of the most revered national heroes of the Greek War of Independence. He was the Commanding General of Western Central Greece and captain of the Souliotes in the region of Albania, north of Ioannina. On the night of 21 August 1823 Botsaris was shot in the head and killed when he led an attack on Karpenisi by 350 Souliotes against approximately 4,000 Albanian troops who formed the vanguard of the army which Mustafa Pasha, the Pasha of Shkoder (modern northern Albania) was sending for the defense of Missolonghi.
After his death, members of his family became key figures of the Greek political establishment. Markos’ brother, Kostas (Constantine), who also fought at Karpenisi and completed the victory, lived on to become a respected Greek general and parliamentarian in the Greek kingdom, and his daughter, Katerina, was in the service of Queen Amalia of Greece. Markos’ son, Dimitrios, born in 1813, was three times minister of war under Kings Otto and George I
When the Greek Revolution broke out, Katerina was in Ioannina and she and other women were captured by the authorities and placed under captivity within the Ottoman Empire. During this period, she was put under the protection of upper class Ottoman women and was so well-liked it seems that one of them wanted to adopt her. In the end, after a prisoner exchange, Katerina returned to her family and went to live in the newly created Greek state. As the daughter of such an eminent Greek, she was appointed lady-in-waiting to Queen Amalia after her marriage to King Otto in 1838. She was one of only a handful of Greek courtiers in the court of Otto and Amalia, which was mostly composed of Germans before 1843. At this time, Queen Amalia, who ruled as wife of King Otto from 1837 until their expulsion following an uprising in Athens in 1862, often wore a type of Greek ensemble which became known as the “Amalia” costume and was an attempt to establish a unifying symbol of Greek identity. Although she preferred wearing the latest Parisian fashions in her day-to-day life, she requested that her female court wear the new costume as well. It includes a long dress – called foustani or kavadi – inspired by the Biedermeir style, a central European silhouette popular in Germany and the surrounding countries, with a bodice based on the model of the Greek traditional kavadi (a local long-sleeved dress). The dress was open to the front to reveal an embroidered chemise. The kontogouni or zipouni is the short, tight-fitting velvet jacket worn over the foustani. It was usually embroidered with intricate gold patterns. The ensemble is worn with a red fez adorned with a tassel of braided gold threads.
The diarist Christiane Lüth (1817–1900), whose husband was appointed personal chaplain to Queen Amalia wrote about Katerina in her diaries:
“Of the two young ladies-in-waiting, Miss von Wiesenthau was not very well mannered, Catholic and not very pretty, although she talked constantly. The Greek, very beautiful Rosa Botzaris was not agreeable, but stingy and hated everything German. She was poor, but the glory which surrounded the name of her father, the freedom hero, Marko Botzaris, shone its light over her. When she travelled with the Queen, she was much celebrated for her beauty, which was highlighted by her national costume. She hid the fact that she understood the German language and spread dangerous political comments around her which much damaged Their Majesties, her benefactors.“
As lady-in-waiting, Katerina accompanied Amalia on her official visits in the royal courts of various European Countries and in 1844, she was honoured by the king of Bavaria, Ludwig I, with a Golden Cross. During her stay in Bavaria, she won the admiration of the public, not only for her beauty, but also for being the daughter of the famous Markos Botsaris. At the same time, the German painter Joseph Karl Stieler painted her portrait which now resides at the so-called Gallery of Beauties, in Nymphenburg Palace, in Munich.
Katerina left her service at court in 1844 when she married, and was replaced as lady-in-waiting by Fotini Mavromichalis, the granddaughter of Petrobey Mavromichalis, another famous Greek general, politician and the leader of the Maniot people during the first half of the 19th century. His family had a long history of revolts against the Ottomans. On March 17, 1821, Petrobey raised his war flag in Areopolis, effectively signaling the start of the Greek War of Independence and his troops marched into Kalamata, and took the city on March 23. Fotini was also described as a great beauty and became a popular figure at court, probably too popular as she is known to be the only confirmed extramarital love affair of King Otto. The affair resulted in a conflict between her and the queen which ended with Fotini’s dismissal from the court.
Katerina in the meantime, married General Georgios Karatzas and together they had four children, two of which died at a young age. A Damask rose species bred in 1856 was named Rosa Botsaris after her.