By Emily Neutron, Fifth Year, Ravenclaw
Subject of the Portrait: General Leonhardt Gustav Thedel, Graf von Caprio
Location of the portrait: First Floor, The Grand Staircase, next to the first floor doorway (on the opposite side of the Grand Staircase from the steps to the Great Hall)
One of the more mysterious paintings at Hogwarts must be that of General Leonhardt Gustav Thedel, Graf von Caprio. It might not seem obvious to have a wizarding painting of an Austrian Muggle general of the 19th century here at Hogwarts in the UK. If you ask General von Caprio directly how he got here, he won’t have a very good answer for you, though he does in fact speak perfect English. But the General’s presence here is no real mystery: supposedly the first Thedel to come to Hogwarts, who was the son of the Graf, started here in the Fall of 1829. Generations of Thedel children have attended here since. The painting was apparently a gift of Flavius Gustavus Thedel (1852 – 1975), the General’s grandson. Graf von Caprio is painted wearing his General’s uniform. It is likely that the General’s mother had this painting done in secret at the same time an official portrait of him was done, as it is certain that this wizarding portrait would not have been suitable for view by Muggles. Why? Who knows.
General Leonhardt, Graf von Caprio (1774 – 1817) is said to have been born in Liechtenstein, the son of Gustav Augustus Thedel, Graf von Caprio, a Muggle, who was the rumoured illegitimate son of the Prince of Liechtenstein, and an Italian witch by the name of Fiorella Heloise Grinaldi da Caprio. Though she very fondly called him Leonardo, he demanded that everyone else call him Leonhardt, secretly hating the “ugly Italianization” (his words) of his name. Wizard historians are said to now believe that Fiorella was actually a hag who took Beautification potions; contemporary sources state that von Caprio also took some sort of regular draught, but the nature of the potion has never been thoroughly surmised. General von Caprio joined the Army of the Holy Roman Empire (later the Austro-Hungarian Empire) as an Ensign in 1788, and served for the rest of his life. He fought bravely in many battles, including against Napoleon’s forces, eventually rising to the rank “General of Cavalry” or so the story goes. He died in a shipwreck in 1817.
Von Caprio was said to be a stoic, thoughtful man, not given over to charm or wit. He was considered a brilliant strategist, but not terribly capable of carrying on a ‘normal conversation.’ He married late, nearly at the end of his life in 1817. His young wife was Katherine Rose, an English witch. It is thought that Graf von Caprio was not aware of his wife’s magical background, nor indeed of his own mother’s.
After the Battle of Waterloo, the General is said to have been sent to London as a representative of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in the court of King George III (as then headed by the Prince Regent). Though not much of a conversationalist, the dashing General was supposedly considered one of the more eligible bachelors in London society at the time, according to his portrait anyhow. In part to escape all of this (for him) unwanted attention, von Caprio apparently joined a diplomatic mission as adjutant to Ambassador Lord William Amherst to China aboard HMS Alceste in 1816. The General was said to have traveled to China, escorting the Ambassador to Peking to meet with the Chinese Emperor. While in Peking, von Caprio discovered a young Englishwoman, Katherine Rose, apparently working in a laundry. In reality, she was a witch studying Chinese magic; the laundry was merely a convenient front. The two were, in any event, quite taken with each other, and Katherine (“Kate” to her friends) decided to accompany General von Caprio on his journey.
During their sojourn “with the Ambassador” in China, Kate and Leonhardt fell in love, and were married by Murray Maxwell, Captain of the Alceste, when they all finally boarded the vessel at Whampoa in January 1817. Unfortunately, their domestic bliss was to be quite short-lived indeed: barely four weeks later, on the 18th of February, 1817, HMS Alceste struck a reef in the South China Sea and sank or so the story goes. General Leonhardt von Caprio’s portrait claims he heroically died saving Kate, the love of his life. Though she grieved his loss, she declared that her heart would go on, and she traveled back to England supposedly with Lord Amherst. On the way home, Kate realized she was pregnant. Her son, whom in honor of the Captain and Ambassador she named Leonhardt William Murray Thedel, turned out to be a wizard, and is said to have come to Hogwarts in 1829. Kate would go on to marry again, this time to a wizard; she had several more children. By the time of her death in 1912 (in another shipwreck, oddly enough — this time in the Arctic), Kate was great-great grandmother.
Interacting with the portrait
The historical General was somewhat dour, even socially awkward. By contrast, the portrait is quite gregarious, even charming. He always has an easy smile, and is a brilliant conversationalist. He is known to visit with other portraits all over the castle. Leonhardt shares his namesake’s scorn for the Italianization of his name, so don’t ever call him Leonardo or he may just ignore you (you might get away with calling him Leo, but try only if you’re brave). Likewise, be careful to call him “General” or “Graf von Caprio” instead of the Italian “Barone di Caprio” or he will likewise take offense. He loves to tell stories; one of the stories he loves the most is actually from General von Caprio’s life: apparently the General acquired a fabulous jewel necklace called “the Star of Formosa” when he was in China. He gave it to Katherine Rose when they boarded the Alceste, and she kept it with her for the rest of her life. The necklace was lost in the shipwreck that took Kate’s life in 1912.