by Scott Mehl
Adolf Friedrich V, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz
Adolf Friedrich V, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, was born on July 22, 1848 in Neustrelitz, the son of Friedrich Wilhelm, Hereditary Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz and Princess Augusta of Cambridge. At the time of his birth, he was 14th in line to the British throne, as his mother was a granddaughter of King George III of the United Kingdom. Adolf Friedrich was the highest ranking person in the British succession who did not hold any British titles. As the only surviving son (an elder brother had died hours after birth in 1845), Adolf Friedrich held the title Hereditary Prince of Mecklenburg-Strelitz from birth.
His christening took place at Schloss Neustrelitz on August 12, 1848. Given the names Adolf Friedrich August Viktor Ernst Adalbert Gustav Wilhelm Wellington, he had 12 godparents:
- Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom – his mother’s first cousin
- Dowager Queen Adelaide of the United Kingdom – his mother’s aunt
- King Ernst August of Hanover – his mother’s uncle
- Grand Duke Georg of Mecklenburg-Strelitz – his paternal grandfather
- Grand Duchess Marie of Mecklenburg-Strelitz – his paternal grandmother
- Friedrich Franz II, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin
- The Duke of Cambridge – his maternal grandfather
- The Duchess of Cambridge – his maternal grandmother
- The Duchess of Gloucester – his mother’s aunt
- Duke Gustav of Mecklenburg-Schwerin
- Landgrave Wilhelm of Hesse-Kassel – both his mother’s and father’s uncle
- Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington
At the age of 12, Adolf Friedrich became the Hereditary Grand Duke upon his father’s accession to the grand ducal throne. Initially educated privately at home, he later attended school in Dresden and then studied law at the University of Göttingen. After finishing his studies, he began a military career in the Prussian Army, where he fought during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 and served on the General Staff of King Wilhelm I of Prussia. The following year, he represented his father at the proclamation of King Wilhelm I as German Emperor at the Palace of Versailles.
In 1876, while traveling through Germany, he first met his future bride, Princess Elisabeth of Anhalt. She was the daughter of Friedrich I, Duke of Anhalt, and Princess Antoinette of Saxe-Altenburg. The two met again later that year while Adolf Friedrich was visiting some mutual relatives, and became engaged on December 29, 1876. The couple were second cousins once removed, through their mutual descent from Carl II, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.
Adolf Friedrich and Elisabeth married at Schloss Dessau on April 17, 1877. After a honeymoon at Lake Geneva in Switzerland, they took up residence at the Hereditary Grand Ducal Palace in Neustrelitz. They had four children:
- Duchess Marie of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1878) – married (1) Count Georges Jamatel, had issue; (2) Prince Julius Ernst of Lippe, had issue
- Duchess Jutta of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1880) – married Danilo, Crown Prince of Montenegro, no issue
- Adolf Friedrich VI, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1882) – unmarried
- Duke Karl Borwin of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1888) – unmarried
After being heir apparent for 43 years, Adolf Friedrich succeeded to the grand ducal throne on May 30, 1904 following his father’s death. He made efforts to soothe the rocky relationship with Prussia, and brought a more militaristic atmosphere to the grand ducal court. Much more liberal than his father, he made attempts to modernize the feudal system of government, in keeping with the rest of the German Empire. (Mecklenburg-Strelitz and Mecklenburg-Schwerin were the only two states which did not have an elected assembly at the time.) In 1908, he introduced a ministerial form of government, but continued to meet resistance from the nobility when trying to make further reforms – such as the introduction of a new constitution. Thwarted at every attempt, in 1912 the Grand Duke offered to donate $2.5 million of his own funds to the national treasury, and forfeit some of his sovereign rights, in exchange for a new constitution. But again, he was denied by the nobility. This was just a small example of his vast personal wealth. In January 1914, just months before his death, he was reported to be the second richest German sovereign, with a personal fortune of $88.75 million(over $2 billion today).
In March 1914, the Grand Duke fell ill and underwent an operation in a private hospital in Berlin. He never fully recovered and died at the hospital on July 11, 1914. He is buried in the New Crypt at the Johanniterkirche in Mirow.