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Alexandrine of Prussia, Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Schwerin

by Scott Mehl

Alexandrine of Prussia, Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Schwerin

Princess Alexandrine of Prussia was the wife of Grand Duke Paul Friedrich of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. She was born in Berlin on February 23, 1803, the daughter of King Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia and Princess Luise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, and was given the names Friederike Wilhelmine Alexandrine Marie Helene. She was known as Alexandrine, a name given to her in honor of her godfather, Tsar Alexander I of Russia. Alexandrine had eight siblings:

Paul Friedrich of Mecklenburg-Schwerin

After rejecting a marriage proposal from the future King Oscar I of Sweden, Alexandrine married the future Grand Duke Paul Friedrich of Mecklenburg-Schwerin in Berlin on May 25, 1822. The couple took up residence at Ludwigslust Palace, and although the marriage was not a happy one, they had three children:

  • Friedrich Franz II, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin (1823) – married (1) Princess Auguste of Reuss-Köstritz, had issue; (2) Princess Anne of Hesse and by Rhine, had issue; (3) Princess Marie of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt, had issue
  • Princess Luise (1824) – married Hugo, Prince of Windisch-Grätz, had issue
  • Prince Wilhelm (1827) – married Princess Alexandrine of Prussia, had issue

The Alexandrine Cottage in Heiligendamm. photo: Von Niteshift – Selbst fotografiert, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10361282

After her husband’s accession in 1837, he moved the court to Schwerin, leaving Ludwigslust to serve as a summer residence. They took up residence at the Altes Palais (link in German) in the center of the city. Just five years later, Paul Friedrich died and was succeeded by the couple’s son, Friedrich Franz II. Now the Dowager Duchess, Alexandrine retained the Altes Palais as her residence in Schwerin, as well as living at the Alexandrine Cottage in Heiligendamm (link in German).

Alexandrine in her later years, c1891

The Dowager Grand Duchess Alexandrine died in Schwerin on April 21, 1892. By that time, she had been widowed for fifty years, lived through the reign of her son, and saw her grandson succeed to the grand ducal throne in 1883. She was also the last living grandchild of King Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia, and had seen the Prussian throne held by her father, two brothers, a nephew and a great-nephew. She is buried beside her husband in the Schwerin Cathedral.

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Royal News: Tuesday 23 January 2018

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Paul Friedrich, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin

by Scott Mehl

Paul Friedrich, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin

Grand Duke Paul Friedrich was born in Ludwigslust on September 15, 1800, the eldest son of Friedrich Ludwig, Hereditary Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and his first wife, Grand Duchess Elena Pavlovna of Russia. Paul Friedrich had one younger sister, as well as three half-siblings from his father’s second marriage:

His education began at home before studying in Geneva, Jena and Rostock. However, his studies came to an end when his father died in 1819, making Paul Friedrich heir-apparent to his grandfather. Having been a member of the Mecklenburg military since the age of 10, Paul Friedrich was appointed Major General in 1822. He was also created Major General in the Prussian Army following his marriage two years later. Beginning in 1830, he served as Inspector General of the Mecklenburg-Schwerin forces, and served until his accession in 1837.

Alexandrine with the couple’s two eldest children, 1825.

On May 25, 1822 in Berlin, Paul Friedrich married Princess Alexandrine of Prussia. She was the daughter of King Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia and Princess Luise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. They had six children:

  • Friedrich Franz II, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin (1823) – married (1) Princess Augusta of Reuss-Köstritz, had issue; (2) Princess Anna of Hesse and by Rhine, had issue; (3) Princess Marie of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt, had issue
  • Luise (1824) – married Hugo, Prince of Windisch-Grätz, had issue
  • Wilhelm (1827) – married Princess Alexandrine of Prussia, had issue
  • Helene (1829) – died in childhood
  • Marie (1831) – died in childhood
  • Pauline (1833) – unmarried

Paul Friedrich also had several children with his mistress, Countess Catarina Hauke. She was the sister of Julia Hauke, later Princess of Battenberg.

Paul Friedrich became Grand Duke upon his grandfather’s death on February 1, 1837. He moved the official Grand Ducal residence from Ludwigslust to Schwerin, and worked to improve the judicial system and the infrastructure of the Grand Duchy. Using his experience with the Prussian military, the Grand Duke made efforts to modernize the Mecklenburg-Schwerin military, basing many of his reforms on the Prussian forces. As his reign continued, he became more reclusive, often shunning his family and spending time quietly with his mistress.

Tomb of Grand Duke Paul Friedrich, in Schwerin Cathedral. photo: by Niteshift – Self-photographed, CC BY 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3019662

Grand Duke Paul Friedrich died in Schwerin on March 7, 1842. Several weeks earlier, he had contracted a cold while helping to battle a great fire in Schwerin, and never recovered. Following his funeral later that month, he was buried in the Schwerin Cathedral.

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Luise of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg, Duchess of Mecklenburg-Schwerin

by Scott Mehl

Luise of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg, Duchess of Mecklenburg-Schwerin

Luise of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg was the wife of the future Grand Duke Friedrich Franz I of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. She was born on March 9, 1756 in Roda in the Duchy of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg, the younger daughter of Prince Johann August of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg and Countess Luise Reuss of Schleiz. Luise had one older sister:

Upon the death of their mother, Luise and her sister became co-Countesses of Limpurg-Gaildorf, a title which their mother had inherited from her own mother in 1734. Luise and Auguste later sold their shares of the Limpurg-Gaildorf inheritance to Karl Eugen, Duke of Württemberg in 1780.

Friedrich Franz of Mecklenburg-Schwerin

On June 1, 1775, Luise married Friedrich Franz, then the Hereditary Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, at Friedenstein Palace in Gotha. They went on to have six children:

The Luise Mausoleum at Ludwigslust Palace. photo: Von Niteshift – Selbst fotografiert, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3359830

She became the Duchess of Mecklenburg-Schwerin upon her husband’s accession in 1785. The Duchess died at Ludwigslust Palace on January 1, 1808, and is buried in the Luise Mausoleum (link in German) which was built for her in the palace grounds.

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Royal News: Thursday 18 January 2018

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Friedrich Franz I, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin

by Scott Mehl

Friedrich Franz I, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin

Friedrich Franz I was the first Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. He was born in Schwerin on December 10, 1756, the only son of Duke Ludwig of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Princess Charlotte Sophie of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld. He had one younger sister:

Friedrich Franz was initially educated at home before studying in Switzerland in 1766. Five years later, after having fallen in love with a woman considered far beneath his station, his father had him return to Ludwigslust to avoid any thoughts of pursuing the relationship. Soon, he was sent on a tour of Europe to find a suitable bride.

Luise of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg

After being refused by his favorite – Luise of Hesse-Darmstadt (who went on to marry the future Grand Duke Karl August of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach), he met Princess Luise of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg. She was the daughter of Prince Johann August of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg and Countess Luise Reuss of Schleiz. A relationship quickly developed, and the two were married at Friedenstein Palace in Gotha on June 1, 1775. Friedrich Franz and Luise had six children:

He also had numerous mistresses and fathered at least 15 illegitimate children. He maintained close contact with all of them, providing financial support and arranging for the best education possible for his sons.

Friedrich Franz became the reigning Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin on April 24, 1785, following the death of his childless uncle, Friedrich II. As reigning Duke, Friedrich Franz worked to be a peacemaker within the Duchy, helping to resolve conflicts between the classes. He entered into a treaty with the Netherlands – deploying several battalions of soldiers in exchange for income which financed hospitals, schools and other institutions. In 1793, he founded Germany’s first seaside resort – Heiligendamm – in Bad Doberan, which became a popular holiday spot for many of the other German rulers.

Initially remaining neutral during the Napoleonic wars, Mecklenburg-Schwerin was occupied by French forces in December 1806, and the Duke was forced to flee. The following year, through the intervention of the Russian Tsar Alexander I, Friedrich Franz I was able to return on the condition that he would join Napoleon’s Confederation of the Rhine, which he did in March 1808. However, in March 1813, he became the first German ruler to leave the Confederation, having decided to join with the Russians to fight against Napoleon. He rallied the people of Mecklenburg-Schwerin to gather arms and equipment to join the fight, and by November of that year, the French forces had been forced out of the duchy. After Napoleon’s defeat, Friedrich Franz was raised to Grand Duke on June 17, 1815, following the Congress of Vienna. The remaining years of his reign were focused on strengthening the education system in the Grand Duchy, as well as pushing for legal reforms and the abolishment of serfdom.

The tomb of Grand Duke Friedrich Franz I. source: Doberan Minster

Grand Duke Friedrich Franz I died of lung disease at Ludwigslust Palace on February 1, 1837, and was succeeded by his grandson, Paul Friedrich. He was buried in the vault at the Doberan Minster in Bad Doberan. His sarcophagus – which he had personally commissioned in 1831 – was not completed until six years after his death. In December 1843, the Grand Duke’s remains were moved to the large granite tomb just in front of the high altar. In 1976, the tomb was moved to a side aisle in the western part of the Minster.

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Royal News: Tuesday 16 January 2018

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Marie of Hesse-Kassel, Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz

by Scott Mehl

Marie of Hesse-Kassel, Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz

Princess Marie of Hesse-Kassel was the wife of Grand Duke Georg of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. She was born Princess Marie Wilhelmine Friederike on January 21, 1796 in Hanau, Hesse-Kassel, the second daughter of Landgrave Friedrich of Hesse-Kassel and Princess Karoline of Nassau-Usingen. Marie had seven siblings:

Georg of Mecklenburg-Strelitz

On August 12, 1817, Marie married Grand Duke Georg of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, in Kassel. They had four children:

Marie’s copy of Raphael’s ‘Christ Falling on the Way to Calvary’, painted in 1856, used on the altar at the town church in Neustrelitz. photo: Von Concord – Eigenes Werk, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20264996

A talented painter, Marie often painted copies of famous paintings. Many were used as altarpieces in churches within Mecklenburg, including the town churches in Schönberg and Neustrelitz – both of which still exist. Another, which was used in the Johanniterkirche in Mirow, was destroyed when the church burned in 1945.

Marie in her later years. source: Wikipedia

Having survived her husband by just three months, the Dowager Grand Duchess Marie died in Neustrelitz on December 30, 1880. She is buried in the New Crypt at the Johanniterkirche in Mirow.

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Royal News: Sunday 14 January 2018

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Georg, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz

by Scott Mehl

Georg, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz

Grand Duke Georg was born in Hanover on August 12, 1779 to the future Carl II, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz and his first wife, Friederike of Hesse-Darmstadt. He had nine siblings, as well as one half-brother from his father’s second marriage:

Georg’s early years were spent in Hanover, where his father served as Governor-General. Following the death of his step-mother, the family moved to Darmstadt, where Georg and his siblings were raised primarily by their maternal grandmother. As second in line for the ducal throne, Georg was education with the expectation of one day assuming the throne. In 1794, his childless uncle, Duke Adolf Friedrich IV, died. Georg’s father became the reigning Duke, while Georg took on the title of Hereditary Prince. Georg began studying at the University of Rostock, before moving to Berlin to continue his education. He later spent two years travelling before returning to become involved in the running of the government.

In 1807, he represented his father in Paris to negotiate the duchy’s entry into the Confederation of the Rhine. He again represented his father seven years later at the Congress of Vienna. Through his efforts, Mecklenburg-Strelitz was raised to a Grand Duchy, with Georg becoming the Hereditary Grand Duke. He became Grand Duke on November 6, 1816, upon his father’s death.

Marie of Hesse-Kassel

The following year, on August 12, 1817, Georg married Princess Marie of Hesse-Kassel. She was the daughter of Landgrave Freidrich of Hesse-Kassel and Princess Caroline of Nassau-Usingen. Georg and Marie had four children:

Coming to the grand ducal throne, Georg found Mecklenburg-Strelitz in great debt and in need of much rebuilding. To eliminated much of the debt, he sold several towns to Prussia – towns which had been given to the Grand Duchy at the Congress of Vienna. He abolished serfdom in 1820 and throughout his reign worked to raise the standards of education, building schools and instituting compulsory education. He made vast improvements to the infrastructure which would help to energize the grand duchy’s economy.

After a reign of nearly 54 years, Grand Duke Georg died in Neustrelitz on September 6, 1860 at the age of 81. He is buried in the New Crypt at the Johanniterkirche in Mirow. He was succeeded by his son, Friedrich Wilhelm.

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