The Stormy Relationship Between Beethoven and His Young Nephew Karl

It can be stated with relative ease that Beethoven’s life was not easy. Throughout all his troubles however one situation in particular stands out, his relationship with his nephew Karl. It was the source of much misery, wasted energy and lost time.

Beethoven’s relationship with his brothers, of which he had 2, was never a peaceful one. When Beethoven’s brother, Kaspar, died in 1815 Ludwig took on the responsibility of taking full time care of his young nephew Karl. A number of bitter custody battles ensued with the boys natural mother however Beethoven was successful in the courts to secure the full and exclusive rights for the guardianship of Karl.

Beethoven poured many of this future hopes, dreams and plans into making the boy something he was simply not. It is said that Karl had a difficult personality anyway and there was always a lot of friction between the two causing them both much pain and heartache. It was a case of two immovable objects colliding.

The combined pressure of failing to live up to his uncles grand expectations along with gambling debts he couldn’t pay led Karl to attempt suicide at the age of 22 by shooting himself. He survived but the relationship between them had been damaged forever. In the saddest of endings Karl joined the Austrian army and it was the last time Beethoven would ever see him.

There is in fact a famous book which demonstrates there relationship living in a house together. The book is entirely fact and made up of the scrapbooks Karl would write on in order to communicate with his deaf uncle. They reveal a stormy relationship but also show genuine moments of loving care and consideration plus no small amount of humor. For much of the time that Beethoven devoted himself to bringing up Karl he composed nothing, not a single note for years.