Natalie (Tali) Brehmer was born on October 19, 1879 and grew up in a large patrician villa at Roeckstraße 6 in Lübeck, Germany. She was petite and slender with dark blond hair framing a heart shaped face with blue eyes.
Belonging to an old local family that had been involved in the pact with Swedish king Gustav Vasa who needed the support of Lübeck when he was fighting the Danes back in 1522, Tali’s father Adolph Brehmer was a wealthy merchant in Lűbeck. Several family members had served as senators and town mayors.
On a fateful day in 1895 Paul visited the Brehmer house. He was in Lűbeck to report on a Nordic seminar and for some unknown reason he visited the Brehmer home. Tali’s mother (also named Natalie) had opened the bible to read her daily verse. She came upon Matthew 7:15
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.”
Paul and Tali were left alone for a brief period and – love at first sight – they immediately became engaged. The parents didn’t know much about their 16-year old daughter’s fiance, and later used to joke about the false prophet in sheep’s clothing who had captivated their daughter’s heart.
Paul and Tali married on August 18, 1897 when she was 18 and he was 35. Paul believed that his wife’s one-million D-mark dowry would last a lifetime and rented an exclusive apartment in Berlin, overlooking Kurfűrstendam. “An ambassador’s residence,” one relative described the grand dwelling. Later the family resided in a grand villa in Charlottenburg in the outskirts of Berlin.
“He didn’t know how to count,” Tali’s niece Alén used to say. Within a couple of years, Paul’s lavish lifestyle had consumed most of Tali’s dowry. Tali did not mind. In the 1920s, when the hyperinflation struck and people lost every penny, she praised her husband who had made sure they had enjoyed her money while it was still worth something.
In a 1904 article in Idun, a now defunct Swedish magazine, the reporter described Paul’s villa in Charlottenburg in great detail. According to the article, art by Gallen-Kallela, Munch, Strindberg, Carl Larsson, Josef Sattler, Albert Engstrom, Albert Edefelt and Vigeland adorned the walls. Solid Scandinavian oak cabinets, hand-carved saint depictions, antique candle holders and laurels decorated with the Swedish, Finnish and German colors dominated the interior. Paul himself gave a somewhat slow first impression, which was soon replaced by a more animated persona. He was described as calm, short and stout with peppy blue eyes and a blond mustache.
All her life Natalie was proud of having been considered a good catch, and used to tell how she at age 24 was already a mother of four. Her role was to be her husband’s muse and inspiration. The household was taken care of by servants.