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The strange story of the real Snow White

Does the lifeless body of the real Snow White lie beneath the famous Brussels Stock Exchange? This is the astonishing theory of some historians who believe that the Grimm brothers were directly inspired by a German princess buried in the 16th century at the location of the current monument.

At first glance, the information may seem far-fetched. And yet, it may well be that the lifeless body of the real Snow White is actually buried beneath the famous Brussels Stock Exchange, as reported by RTBF. Explanations.

It all starts with a segment aired on February 5, 2023 on the Dutch-speaking Belgian channel VRT. It reveals that a German princess from the 16th century, Margaretha von Waldeck, may have been buried at the current location of the Brussels Stock Exchange.

But what does this have to do with Snow White, the famous character from the Grimm brothers’ fairy tale? This is where the connection comes in. To create Snow White, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm may have drawn direct inspiration from the life of Margaretha von Waldeck.

According to Brussels historian Roel Jacob, several elements support this theory. Margaretha von Waldeck was “the daughter of a Protestant prince” from Hesse, a region in central Germany. After a battle between Protestants and Catholics in 1547, her father, a vassal of the imprisoned Protestant duke of Hesse, reportedly sent his daughter to Brussels for a “charm offensive” with the governess of the Netherlands, Mary of Hungary.

The princess tragically dies at 21

We know that Margaretha von Waldeck did indeed stay in Brussels and died there at only 21 years old. Some historians believe that her tragic story deeply influenced the Grimm brothers, who also hailed from Hesse, and that they drew heavily from it for their tale of Snow White.

Indeed, the resemblance between the two stories is striking: a very beautiful princess sent far from her kingdom for political reasons, the terrible jealousy of a wicked queen, a premature death at 21…

Roel Jacob confirms that “the Grimm brothers, when they created this tale, based it on an oral tradition that existed in this part of Hesse.” The German researcher who made the connection was “struck by the number of parallels between the life of this girl and other elements in the region and the tale.”

Where to look for the princess’s body?

But where could Margaretha von Waldeck’s body have been buried in Brussels in the 16th century? According to historians, two hypotheses are possible: the Franciscan convent or the adjacent church, at the exact location of the current Brussels Stock Exchange.

Taking advantage of renovation work in the adjacent street, a team of archaeologists is currently excavating the site’s underground. Do they have a chance of finding the remains of the mysterious princess?

Thousands of skeletons!

Marie Vanhuysse, the archaeologist leading the excavation, tempers hopes of this astonishing discovery: “There are nearly 10,000 mentions of burials among the Recollect brothers” in the sources at this site. Suffice it to say that identifying Margaretha von Waldeck’s skeleton among thousands of others is a nearly impossible mission!

Since the 1980s, only one hundredth of the convent’s burials have been excavated. And even if the princess were to be exhumed, attributing her with certainty to Margaretha von Waldeck would be a miracle given how tenuous the connections are.

Conclusion: the true Snow White’s body will remain forever mysterious

Ultimately, the likelihood of ever finding the remains of the real Snow White is extremely low. The archaeologist agrees: “looking for the remains of Margaretha Von Waldeck is a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack.”

We will therefore have to settle for the fictional character immortalized by the Grimm brothers and Disney rather than her unlikely historical model. The mystery surrounding the real body of the unfortunate German princess will likely remain forever under the cobblestones of the famous Brussels square.

Header image credit: Dall-E 3 / Magic Dream News