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Loki
Saturday, July 23rd, 2005, 11:21 PM
Dark-haired Germanic nobility?


RM picked up this theme from Greek CompSci student "Dienekes Pontikos", who some time ago decided (apparently based on a fictional movie he saw) that northern European aristocrats have dark hair and therefore he has something in common with them. Pontikos clings to this idea and uncritically appeals to the authority of H.S. Chamberlain to support his view. Here, Karl Earlson responds:

RM states: "even the old Germanic nobility was predominantly dark-haired." Here, he is ultimately citing Chamberlain, via Hankins, via Pontikos:

http://www.dienekes.com/blog/archives/000157.html

The text in question, concerning "Fair Hair", can be found in Chamberlain's "Foundations of the Nineteenth Century", Vol. I, pp. 522-526:
http://www.hschamberlain.net/grundlagen/division2_chapter6.html (http://www.hschamberlain.net/grundlagen/division2_chapter6.html)

But there is nothing to any of this. I'll pick it apart just to show how empty these statements are, and reveal how nothing is proven.
[1] Chamberlain states: "Eckermann was struck by the brown eyes of Wellington."
But Wellington WASN'T brown-eyed! Please read this quote, describing Wellington's appearance in 1814:

"He was just forty-five, in the pride of manhood: lean, springy, his hair still brown, his eyes whether frozen over or sparkling as blue as ever, [...] and his profile impressively Roman." Lady Elizabeth Longford, Wellington: The Years of the Sword (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1972), p. 415.

Lady Longford was not only a descendant of Wellington's, but her biography of the Duke is considered to be a standard work on the subject. Incidentally, German anthropologists (e.g. Guenther and Fischer) routinely classified Wellington as a Nordic type.
[2] Chamberlain states: "poets from the extreme north of Germany pretty frequently speak of dark hair as a characteristic feature not only of the nobility but also of the people".
But the examples he provides, Theodor Storm's "Hans und Heinz Kirch", as well as the works of Goethe, are VERY late in composition (18th & 19th Century works). Similarly, the Storm examples he gives decribe "defiant Germanic seamen" and "another daring figure, Hasselfritz"; in other words, COMMON people of recent times, not the "old Germanic nobility". Chamberlain goes on to state that "those genuine Teutons therefore resemble Achilles with his 'brown hair'." But Achilles was depicted by the ancient Hellenic authors as yellow-, red-, and even golden-haired! See Sieglin (1935) for the details about this. [Sieglin, W. (1935) Die blonden Haare der indogermanischen Völker des Altertums (Munich: J. F. Lehmanns Verlag).] Equally, Chamberlain relies on anonymous authority when he says: "How often, too, in the folksongs do 'dark brown eyes' occur!" No examples are cited, so the statement lacks any real value. In direct contrast to this, Biehahn (1964) has collected a range of descriptions from various German poets, which talk approvingly of blond hair and blue eyes, praising such features as beautiful, truly Germanic, heroic characteristics, etc. Indeed, Biehahn even refers to a "cult of blondness" in German literature.
Biehahn, E. (1964) "Blondheit und Blondheitskult in der deutschen Literatur." Archiv für Kulturgeschichte, 46, 309-333.

[3] Chamberlain states that the predominant type "in German Tyrol, whose inhabitants Henke says 'represent the true type of the primeval Teuton'", for the most part, have "dark and often black hair".
However, this is wrong on several points. The ancient Germanics were fair-haired and long-headed. On the contrary, the modern Tyroleans are largely dark-haired and broad-headed. This question is discussed and proved at length in Schwidetzky (1979). Even Chamberlain acknowledges this in his next section, titled "The Shape of the Skull". He mentions that "Germanic peoples, wherever they have not crossed with others or only to a small extent, as in the north, are long-skulled and fair" and in contrast to this, the "Un-Germanic, short-skulled, dark type" reveals that "in these phenomena we see the effects of the infiltration of an Un-Germanic race, a race which does not belong at all to the Indo-European circle, but to the raceless chaos". I wouldn't go as far as Chamberlain in his polemic, but the point is made nonetheless.
Schwidetzky, I. (1979) "Rassengeschichte von Deutschland." I. Schwidetzky [ed.], Rassengeschichte der Menschheit, 7. Lieferung. Europa V: Schweiz, Deutschland, Belgien und Luxemburg, Niederlande (Munich: R. Oldenbourg Verlag), 45-101.

[4] Chamberlain mentions several times the so-called "Moltke type (or, as the English say, the Wellington type)", to which he attributes dark hair. Wellington has already been dealt with above. As for Moltke, he was fair-complexioned, and various German physical anthropologists (Guenther, von Eickstedt, etc.), classified him as Nordic. See the picture of Moltke here (Fig. 300):
http://www.white-history.com/earlson/hfk/reoehchap10.htm (http://www.white-history.com/earlson/hfk/reoehchap10.htm)

[5] Chamberlain refers to: "the prevalence of dark colour among the members of the most genuine old Germanic nobility." Once again, this is simply an opinion, and since no evidence is adduced in its favour, none is needed to refute it. Chamberlain also claims that: "In England this is quite striking." However, Chamberlain was not a professional physical anthropologist, and in the opinion of a genuine anthropologist, namely Coon:

"In general, differences in social level and in occupation reflect racial differences, which show themselves to a certain extent in pigmentation. The upper social strata, being on the whole blonder, follow the pigment pattern of the Saxons, Danes, and Normans. This differentiation may well have been even stronger in the Middle Ages, when social lines were more strictly and overtly drawn than today. The Englishman who travels abroad and is seen by foreigners, and the one whose photograph frequently appears in the London Illustrated News, is more likely to be blond than the general run of his more obscure compatriots who stay at home, and whose faces are publicly depicted only when they have committed crimes." http://www.skadi.net/snpa/chapter-X3.htm (http://www.skadi.net/snpa/chapter-X3.htm)

Wurm (1993) has collated a list of the earliest descriptions of the highest Germanic nobility, and from these he has compiled a composite portrait of the typical German nobleman. The nobles are described as being tall and athletic in form, with handsome facial features, bright and flashing eyes, a fair or florid complexion, and fair hair and beard. Wurm mentions specific references to white-blond, golden-blond and reddish-blond hair colours, and only one (possible) brown-haired individual. Wurm concludes by noting that the Germanic nobility belonged to the tall, muscular, long-headed, sharply-profiled, Nordic-Germanic racial type of the Reihengräber.
[Wurm, H. (1993) "Menschentyp und Macht im Früh- und beginnenden Hochmittelalter (750 bis 1000 n. Chr.)." Würzburger medizinhistorische Mitteilungen, 11, 235-260.]
One must always bear in mind the fact that Chamberlain was in many senses a polemicist: all Germans are equally Germanic, both blond and brunet, Celts and Slavs are Germanic, Jesus was an Aryan, so Christianity is also Germanic, etc. His work undoubtably contains much of value, but his opinions must always be carefully sifted, and not accepted at face value. Finally, note this quote by Chamberlain, on the early Germanen:

"the great radiant heavenly eyes, the golden hair, the gigantic stature, the symmetrical muscular development, the lengthened skull (which an ever-active brain, tortured by longing, had changed from the round lines of animal contentedness and extended towards the front), the lofty countenance, required by an elevated spiritual life as the seat of its expression". [p. 535] http://www.hschamberlain.net/grundlagen/division2_chapter6.html (http://www.hschamberlain.net/grundlagen/division2_chapter6.html)
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