by Scott Mehl
Princess Caroline Reuss of Greiz was the first wife of Wilhelm Ernst, Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach. She was born Caroline Elisabeth Ida on July 13, 1884 in Greiz, the daughter of Heinrich XXII, Prince Reuss of Greiz and Princess Ida of Schaumburg-Lippe. Caroline had four siblings:
- Heinrich XXIV, Prince Reuss of Greiz (1878) – unmarried
- Princess Emma (1881) – married Count Erich von Ehrenburg
- Princess Marie (1882) – married Baron Ferdinand von Gnagnoni
- Princess Hermine (1887) – married (1) Prince Johann Georg of Schoenaich-Carolath, had issue; (2) Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, no issue
On April 30, 1903, Caroline married Grand Duke Wilhelm Ernst of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach at Schloss Bückeburg. The wedding was attended by the groom’s second cousin, Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany and his wife, Augusta Viktoria, as well as his first cousin, Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands and her husband, Prince Hendrik. Caroline was against the arranged marriage, and it was only through the insistence of Kaiser Wilhelm and his wife that she went through with the ceremony. They had no children.
After a honeymoon in Austria, Caroline and her husband returned to Weimar in June 1903. Upon settling in, Caroline began plans to redecorate her apartments in the palace, removing much of the old furniture and bringing in new and more modern pieces. Her court – mostly older women who had worked for years in the Saxe-Weimar household – insisted that it would be inappropriate, and they were supported by her husband. This would be the first of several times that her husband refused to support or side with her. After several weeks of this, Caroline left and fled to Switzerland. She was quickly followed by her husband who tried to get her to return to Weimar, but she refused to return until he removed the women from her court and agreed to let her control her own household. After several weeks, the couple returned and silenced the rumors and scandal over her quick departure.
Caroline was a strong supporter of the arts, and become much-admired by the people of the grand duchy for her work with charitable and social organizations. Despite this public affection, however, she remained miserable due to the stifling protocol of the court.
Grand Duchess Caroline died in Meiningen on January 17, 1905, at just 20 years old. Officially, the cause of death was pneumonia, but there were many rumors that she had committed suicide. She was buried in the Weimarer Fürstengruft in the Historical Cemetery of Weimar, the last member of the grand ducal family to be interred there.