Therese van Beethoven (1787-1828) Beethoven's sister-in-law

Beethoven's brother Johann, having moved to Linz in 1808 after buying his apothecary shop, lived in a house too large for his needs, and so decided to rent part of it out to a physician from Vienna.

This man's sister-in-law, Therese Obermeyer - mother of an illegitimate daughter - came often to stay. Johann took a liking to her and made her his housekeeper. Soon after this she became his mistress.

In 1812 he decided to marry Therese, causing Beethoven - appalled that his younger brother was also about to marry an immoral woman - to rush to Linz from Teplitz to try to prevent the marriage. He was unsuccessful (see Nikolaus Johann Beethoven).

The marriage between Therese and Johann was unhappy and produced no children. Although Therese was obviously aware of her brother-in-law's antagonism towards her - she knew, for instance, that he had applied to the bishop and then the police in Linz to try to prevent the marriage - there is no overt evidence that she bore him ill will.

In fact when Beethoven came to stay with his nephew Karl at Johann and Therese's estate at Gneixendorf (pictured) in 1826, she did all she could to make him comfortable, assigning the son of one of the estate's vinedressers - Michael Krenn - to look after him.

For many years it was believed Therese van Beethoven was a witness to Beethoven's death, since another witness identified her as being present. It is now thought certain this witness - Anselm Hüttenbrenner - mistook her for Beethoven's housekeeper Sali.

There is no contemporary image of Therese. She is described in Thayer/Forbes as 'possessing a very graceful and finely proportioned figure, and a pleasing, though not beautiful, face'.

I have been unable to establish why she died at the young age of 41, the year after Beethoven's death.

Author's note -

Since writing this page, I have had the good fortune to be contacted by a direct descendant of Therese Obermeyer. I am most grateful to Adrian Hay from Manchester, England, now a police officer in London, who has traced his ancestry back to Therese. She was his great-great-great-great grandmother. From what he has told me, we can establish the following facts, which as far as I know have never before been in the public domain.

Therese’s name was Therese Waldmann. She gave birth to her illegitimate daughter Amalia in Vienna on 30 January 1807 . For a reason unknown to us, Therese then took the name of the godparent, Katherina Obermeyer, and dropped her own name Waldmann. Could Waldmann have been the biological father of Amalia? It’s unlikely, since Katherina was godmother.

Amalia had a short life. She was a housekeeper in Vienna, and married Karl Stölzle, a forester, on 11 February 1830. She gave birth to a son – named Karl after his father – in November of that year. She died the following year at the age of 31. Interestingly, Karl had no fewer than 10 children. Of these, the eldest married an English woman, Elizabeth Wallis, who was Adrian’s great grandmother.

As I have stated above, I have not been able to find a contemporary image of Therese. However, Adrian has supplied me with an enchanting engraving of Amalia (left). From this we can surmise how her mother might have looked – and easily understand the attraction Johann van Beethoven felt towards her!