This ultra rare banner was draped around the Gardes du Corps regimental band’s kettle drum. The very ornate item is the rarest article Der Rittmeister Militaria has offered, to date. The following anecdote reveals even more about the stunning “pièce de résistance.”
On Monday, 30 May 1904, Kaiser Wilhelm II ordered the Imperial German Army’s premier cavalry regiment, the Gardes du Corps, to report to him prior to its Annual Spring Parade behind Potsdam’s Neues Palais (New Palace). The regiment formed up on Kurfürsten Street around six in the morning. Everyone was clad in their dress uniforms, including their kollers (tunics), Hohenzollern Eagle-topped metal helmets and Spring-Parade-ONLY black küraßes. [The latter originally were presented to the GdC by Russia’s Tsar Alexander I in appreciation of his Prussian allies’ efforts against Napoleon in 1815]. Led by their kettle drummer, Master Sergeant (Vizewachtmeister) Gommelt, the regimental band (conducted by its famous director, Louis Lehmann), and the rest of the formation moved out toward the Neues Palais. Gommelt was a large, knightly figure (then weighing 265 pounds), and the only soldier in the army permitted the high honor of wearing a full beard. As the regiment reached historic Mopke Platz [the parade grounds located between the Neues Palais and the Communs, two buildings that housed the GdC, other palace staff, and guests], they shifted into a “pass-in-review” formation. It was here that the Kaiser ordered Gommelt to enter the Neues Palais, where Wilhelm received him in a friendly, jesting manner. The Kaiser who greeted Gommelt with “Well, chubby, how are you doing?” followed by “How much are you weighing these days?”
After a brief conversation, the Kaiser informed Gommelt that he had a surprise for him. The surprise presented to Gommelt is one of the finest militaria items ever created: the final Regiment der Gardes du Corps’ kettledrum parade banner. It is one of TWO banners presented that day by the Kaiser to the German Army’s preeminent regiment (the other is in a private collection). The banner was created by Berlin’s famous royal embroidery firm, P. Bessert & Nettlebeck. The latter enjoyed a worldwide reputation as an exceptional uniform, church and artistic decorations producer. [It was equally well known for producing military flags and banners]. The drum banners were designed by Hermine Unterstein and stitched by Rudolf Thiele.
Our banner is approximately 60 inches wide and 14 inches high. The five upper panels are made of exquisite, poppy-red velvet, while the four lower and two half panels are made of white silk. Each panel is separated by embroidered, silver, arabesque designs that feature red tassels suspended by silk cords through an opening at their base. Each of the two outer panels displays a Prussian Eagle against a silver shield topped by a silver crown, and surrounded by an Order of the Black Eagle collar. [The Black Eagle Order is so expertly embroidered that at first glance one could mistake it for a true version of the order]! The embroidery is exquisitely detailed and the end panels’ use of color is simply incredible. The eagles’ wings are expertly shaded to suggest feathers and flight. A masterfully-rendered scepter and orb are accented by a yellow crown, as well as the eagle’s yellow talons and beak.
The next inner panel sets display large, beautifully-embroidered, highly-detailed Black Eagle Orders (Garde Stars) in their centers, with magnificent oak leaf clusters at the base. Their silver bullion is so expertly woven that the Garde Stars appear to be made of metal. The central panel features the Kaiser’s FWR (Friedrich Wilhelm Rex II) cypher. The cypher is embedded with small silver-toned beads/stones and topped by a silver crown, as are the other panels.
The banner is backed by poppy-red Moroccan leather, with Russian leather attachment straps. A deluxe pad that protected the banner when it was attached to the kettle drum is also included. The pad has straps to secure it (and the banner) to the kettle drum’s exterior.
This banner has been in private collections since it was offered by Berlin’s Oskar Scharbow auction firm in 1960. Once it is sold, the chances of it coming to light again within the next 50+ years are fairly slim. This ONCE-IN-A-LIFETIME offering crosses the collecting fields of Kaiser Wilhelm II and Garde-Regiments, specifically the Regiment der Gardes du Corps.