by Scott Mehl
Adolf Friedrich VI, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz
Adolf Friedrich VI was the last Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. He was born on June 17, 1882 in Neustrelitz, the elder son of Adolf Friedrich V, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz and Princess Elisabeth of Anhalt. He had three siblings:
- 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
- Duke Karl Borwin of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1888) – unmarried
At his christening on July 19, 1882, he was given the names Adolf Friedrich Georg Ernst Albert Eduard. He had 12 godparents:
- Grand Duke Friedrich Wilhelm of Mecklenburg-Strelitz – his paternal grandfather
- Duke Friedrich I of Anhalt – his maternal grandfather
- Prince Eduard of Anhalt – his paternal uncle
- Duchess Ekaterina of Mecklenburg-Strelitz – his paternal great-aunt
- Princess Maria Anna of Prussia – his maternal great-aunt
- Duchess Agnes of Saxe-Altenburg – his maternal great-aunt
- The Duke of Cambridge – his paternal great-uncle
- Duke Ernst I of Saxe-Altenburg – his maternal great-uncle
- The Prince of Wales
- Princess Helena of Schleswig-Holstein
- Crown Prince Friedrich of Prussia
- Grand Duke Friedrich Franz II of Mecklenburg-Schwerin
Adolf Friedrich was educated privately at home, tutored for several years by the Protestant theologian Carl Horn. He then attended the Vitzthum-Gymnasium in Dresden along with his relative, and close friend, Grand Duke Friedrich Franz IV of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, and in 1902, moved to Munich to study law.
During this time, he was made a Lieutenant in the Prussian Army’s Grand Ducal Mecklenburg Grenadier Regiment No. 89. However, his active military career didn’t begin until after he’d finished his studies – joining the Prussian Army’s 1st Uhlan Guards Regiment in Potsdam. Just two years later, he became Hereditary Grand Duke upon his grandfather’s death and his father’s accession the grand ducal throne.
In 1911, he resigned his army commission and returned to Neustrelitz to prepare for his future role. He also spent several summers living in the United Kingdom, having developed a strong love for the country – likely influenced by his grandmother, who was born Princess Augusta of Cambridge, and was a granddaughter of King George III of the United Kingdom. Adolf Friedrich took every opportunity to visit Britain, and often represented his father and grandfather at official functions, such as the funerals of Queen Victoria and King Edward VII, and the coronations of King Edward VII and King George V.
Upon his father’s death in June 1914, he became the reigning Grand Duke as Adolf Friedrich VI. He had little time to adjust to his role as World War I was breaking out in Europe. He was given a commission as a colonel on the staff of the German 17th Division and served on the Western front through much of the war. In 1917, he was promoted to Major General.
After years of being linked to various princesses throughout Europe – including Viktoria Luise of Prussia, Patricia of Connaught, and Mary, Princess Royal – Adolf Friedrich’s close friend, Princess Daisy of Pless, set out to find him a bride. Soon it was settled that he would marry Princess Beninga Reuss of Köstritz, and negotiations began. However, there was a scandal brewing which needed to be dealt with first. Years earlier, when based in Potsdam, Adolf Friedrich had a relationship with a woman named Margit Höllrigl. Allegedly, he had proposed to her so that he could renounce his succession rights in favor of his younger brother. But his brother had since died, and he attempted to pay off Höllrigl to release him from any obligation of marriage. Höllrigl, however, had other plans. She claimed to have correspondence which linked Adolf Friedrich to “certain homosexual circles” and threatened to release them to the public unless he gave into her demands for more money.
With the war still raging, and the possibility of these letters being made public, Grand Duke Adolf Friedrich VI left his home on the evening of February 23, 1918 to take his dog for a walk. The following morning, his body was found in a nearby canal with a gunshot wound to his head. He left behind a suicide note which suggested that a woman was attempting to smear his name. However, his close friend, Princess Daisy of Pless suggested that he had developed severe depression over the war and the loss of his beloved grandmother.
In his will, he had requested that Duke Christian Ludwig of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, the son of his good friend Grand Duke Friedrich Franz IV, become the new Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. The heir presumptive – Duke Carl Michael – lived in Russia and had previously indicated that he wished to renounce his rights to the grand ducal throne. However, before the matter could be resolved, Germany became a republic and the various sovereigns lost their thrones.
Following his funeral, Adolf Friedrich VI was buried on Love Island, a small island off Castle Island in Mirow. Castle Island is the site of the Grand Ducal Palace as well as the Johanniterkirche, the traditional burial place of the Mecklenburg-Strelitz grand ducal family.