Category Archives: German Royals

Feodora of Saxe-Meiningen, Grand Duchess of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach

by Scott Mehl

source: Wikipedia

Feodora of Saxe-Meiningen was the last Grand Duchess of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, as the second wife of Grand Duke Wilhelm Ernst. She was born Princess Feodora Karola Charlotte Marie Adelheid Auguste Mathilde on May 29, 1890 in Hanover, the eldest child of Prince Friedrich Johann of Saxe-Meiningen and Countess Adelheid of Lippe-Biesterfeld. She was named for both her paternal grandmother and great-grandmother, the latter being Princess Feodora of Leiningen, the half-sister of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom. Feodora had five younger siblings:

Grand Duke Wilhelm Ernst. source: Wikipedia

On January 14, 1910 in Meiningen, Feodora married Grand Duke Wilhelm Ernst of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach. The marriage was encouraged by Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, as he was a close friend of Wilhelm Ernst, who had been widowed several years earlier. Feodora and Wilhelm Ernst had four children:

Feodora’s arrival in Weimar, 1910. source: Wikipedia

The marriage was unhappy, and Feodora struggled to cope with the strict etiquette and protocol of the Weimar court. She soon began to throw herself into charity work, working with organizations that helped the poor. She founded several asylums and hospitals, and served as Patroness of the Patriotic Institute of Women’s Associations. She also served as head of the central directorate of the Women’s Club of the Red Cross. Her efforts in these areas brought her great respect from the people of the Grand Duchy.

When the monarchy ended and her husband abdicated in November 1918, the family went into exile in Heinrichau, Silesia (now Henryków, Poland), where her husband died several years later. When the area fell under Soviet occupation in World War II, the family was again forced to flee, losing their estates and many of their assets. In a means of negotiating with the authorities, Grand Duchess Feodora agreed to sign over the Goethe and Schiller Archive (link in German), on the condition that it would be converted into a private foundation, and the family’s assets would be returned. Despite the written agreement, the government did not return many of the family’s assets, and the dispute continues to this day.

Grand Duchess Feodora settled in Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany, where she died on March 12, 1972. She is buried in Bad Krozingen.

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Caroline Reuss of Greiz, Grand Duchess of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach

by Scott Mehl

source: Wikipedia

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:

Wilhelm Ernst of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach. source: Wikipedia

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.

The Grand Duchess lying in state, 1905. source: Wikipedia

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.

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Wilhelm Ernst, Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach

by Scott Mehl

source: Wikipedia

Wilhelm Ernst was the last Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach. He was born Prince Wilhelm Ernst Karl Alexander Friedrich Heinrich Bernhard Albert Georg Hermann on June 10, 1876 in Weimar, the son of Karl August, Hereditary Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach and Princess Pauline of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach. Wilhelm Ernst had one younger brother:

Wilhelm Ernst became heir to his grandfather, Karl Alexander, in 1894 when his father died. He received a private education and military training, and served in the Prussian army. He became Grand Duke upon his grandfather’s death on January 5, 1901.

Caroline Reuss of Greiz. source: Wikipedia

Wilhelm Ernst married Princess Caroline Reuss of Greiz on April 30, 1903 in Bückeburg. She was the daughter of Heinrich XXII, Prince Reuss of Greiz and Princess Ida of Schaumburg-Lippe. They had no children, and Caroline died less than two years later.

Feodora of Saxe-Meiningen. source: Wikipedia

He remarried on January 21, 1910 in Meiningen, to Princess Feodora of Saxe-Meiningen. She was the daughter of Prince Friedrich Johann of Saxe-Meiningen and Countess Adelheid of Lippe-Biesterfeld. Wilhelm Ernst and Feodora had four children:

As Grand Duke, Wilhelm Ernst worked to promote the arts and culture. He established the new town center in Weimar, rebuilding the University of Jena and several of the town’s theaters. Despite these efforts, the Grand Duke was not very popular with the people of the grand duchy, or by many others throughout Europe. He was especially unpopular in the Netherlands, where the people feared he could ascend to the Dutch throne.

Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands. source: Wikipedia

From 1897 until 1909, Wilhelm Ernst was also the heir presumptive to the Dutch throne. King Willem III of the Netherlands died in 1890, leaving the throne to his ten-year old daughter Wilhelmina. As a grandson of Princess Sophie of the Netherlands (the younger sister of King Willem III), Wilhelm Ernst was the next person in the line of succession. This caused great panic in the Netherlands, where the people feared German influence, or the potential of being annexed by Germany. Several attempts were made to change the succession, or limit Wilhelm Ernst to holding only one throne should he succeed in the Netherlands. The succession crisis was lessened in 1909, when Wilhelmina gave birth to her daughter, the future Queen Juliana. Some years later, in 1922, the Dutch constitution was amended to limit the succession to the descendants of Queen Wilhelmina, thus eliminating the Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach family from any claim to the throne.

As the German Empire was crumbling, Wilhelm Ernst was forced to abdicate on November 9, 1918. He was stripped of his throne and his properties, and forced into exile. With his family, he took up residence at Schloss Heinrichau, the family’s estate in Heinrichau, Silesia (now Henryków, Poland). He died there less than five years later, on April 24, 1923, and is buried in the park at Schloss Heinrichau.

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Sophie of the Netherlands, Grand Duchess of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach

by Scott Mehl

source: Wikipedia

Princess Sophie of the Netherlands was the wife of Grand Duke Karl Alexander of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach. She was born Princess Wilhelmine Marie Sophie Luise on April 8, 1824 at Lange Voorhout Palace in The Hague, the youngest child of King Willem II of the Netherlands and Grand Duchess Anna Pavlovna of Russia.

Sophie (second from right) with her parents and siblings, painted by Jan Baptist van der Hulst, 1832. source: Wikipedia

Sophie had four elder siblings:

Karl Alexander of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach. source: Wikipedia

At the Kneuterdijk Palace in The Hague, on October 8, 1842, Sophie married Karl Alexander. The two were first cousins as their mothers were both daughters of Tsar Paul I of Russia. Sophie and Karl Alexander had four children:

In her new homeland, Sophie quickly threw herself into charity work. With her own significant wealth, she founded numerous schools and hospitals throughout the grand duchy. These included the first girls’ high school in Weimar, a training school for nurses, an institute for the blind and deaf, and numerous schools and shelters. She also – much more privately – supported countless churches and religious organizations.

The Goethe-Schiller Archive, Weimar. photo by Michael Sander – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6502671

In 1885, Sophie inherited the works of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, following the death of his youngest grandson, and she established the Goethe Society in Weimar. Four years later, she also inherited the works of Friedrich von Schiller from his descendants. She established the Goethe and Schiller Archive, and had a large building constructed on the banks of the Ilm river to house and display the works.

The Dowager Queen Emma and Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, 1890. source: Wikipedia

When Sophie’s brother, King Willem III of the Netherlands, died in 1890, the Dutch throne passed to his young daughter, Queen Wilhelmina. As Wilhelmina was only ten years old and had no younger siblings, Grand Duchess Sophie was first in line to inherit the Dutch throne. She was very close with her niece Wilhelmina, and her sister-in-law, Queen Emma, and made regular visits to the Netherlands to see them. Both Wilhelmina and Emma viewed Sophie as one of their closest confidantes and advisors, and took comfort in knowing that the throne would pass to her should something happen to Wilhelmina. (That sense of comfort did not extend, however, to Sophie’s grandson, the future Grand Duke Wilhelm Ernst of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach. Following Sophie’s death, he became heir-presumptive until the birth of Wilhelmina’s daughter, Juliana in 1909.)

Sophie and Karl Alexander on their 50th anniversary, 1892. source: Wikipedia

Sophie was also instrumental, in a way, in the marriage of her niece. It was at Sophie and Karl Alexander’s 50th anniversary celebrations in 1892 that Wilhelmina first met her future husband, Duke Heinrich of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. His elder half-brother was married to Sophie’s daughter, Elisabeth. Wilhelmina and Heinrich went on to marry in 1901.

After the death of her son in 1894, Sophie’s health began to deteriorate. The Grand Duchess died in Weimar on March 23, 1897. She is buried in the Weimarer Fürstengruft in the Historical Cemetery in Weimar.

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Karl Alexander, Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach

by Scott Mehl

source: Wikipedia

Grand Duke Karl Alexander was born in Weimar on June 24, 1818, the second son of Karl Friedrich, Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach and Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna of Russia. He had three siblings:

Carl Alexander began his education being privately tutored by noted Swiss educator, Frédéric Soret. A good student, he particularly excelled at foreign languages, becoming fluent in several at a very young age. He then studied at the universities in Leipzig and Jena, along with receiving military training. He received his law degree in 1841.

Sophie of the Netherlands. source: Wikipedia

On October 8, 1842, at the Kneuterdijk Palace in The Hague, Karl Alexander married Princess Sophie of the Netherlands. She was the daughter of King Willem II of the Netherlands and Grand Duchess Anna Pavlovna of Russia. As their mothers were sisters, Karl Alexander and Sophie were first cousins. They had four children:

Carl Alexander became Grand Duke upon his father’s death in 1853. He was a great supporter of the arts, and developed numerous friendships with some of the greatest writers, poets and musicians of the day. These included Richard Wagner, Franz Liszt, Fanny Lewald and Hans Christian Andersen, although his friendship with Andersen ended in the late 1840s due to Carl Alexander’s support for Germany’s acquisition of Schleswig-Holstein from Denmark.

He worked to preserve the classic look of Weimar’s old town, and founded the Grand Ducal School of Art in 1860, and the Weimar School of Music in 1876. He later established the Carl Alexander Library in Eisenach in 1889. His reign is often referred to as the Silver Age of Weimar.

Karl Alexander in later life. source: Wikipedia

Grand Duke Karl Alexander died in Weimar on January 5, 1901. He is buried in the Weimarer Fürstengruft in the Historical Cemetery in Weimar. As his son had predeceased him, he was succeeded by his grandson, Wilhelm Ernst.

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Maria Pavlovna of Russia, Grand Duchess of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach

by Scott Mehl

source: Wikipedia

Maria Pavlovna of Russia was the wife of Grand Duke Karl Friedrich of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach. She was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, on February 16, 1786, the daughter of Tsar Paul I of Russia and his second wife, Sophie Dorothea of Württemberg.

Tsar Paul I of Russia and his family. Maria is depicted in the center, playing the harp. source: Wikipedia

Maria had nine siblings:

Karl Friedrich of Saxe-Weimar and Saxe-Eisenach. source: Wikipedia

After the marriages of her two elder sisters, the focus turned to finding a suitable husband for Marie. By 1800, there were already discussions about a marriage to the Saxe-Weimar heir, Karl Friedrich. The two met in July 1803 when he came to St. Petersburg, and after getting acquainted and spending some time together, their engagement was announced.

Maria married Karl Friedrich, then the Hereditary Duke of Saxe-Weimar and Saxe-Eisenach, in St. Petersburg on August 3, 1804. In May of the following year, they made their return to Weimar, where they were greeted with great celebrations. The couple had four children:

Grand Duchess Maria in later life. source: Wikipedia

Maria strongly supported and promoted the arts in Weimar, and her patronages included the noted composer, Franz Liszt who was appointed to her court. She maintained lifelong correspondences with several prominent writers, poets and musicians, including Vasily Zhukovsky, Johann Wofgang von Goethe, and Friedrich Schiller. She also focused much of her efforts on social welfare, establishing hospitals and homes for the poor and unwell. She also helped to establish the Falk Institute in Weimar.

The Russian Orthodox Chapel (with the Weimarer Fürstengruft seen behind it). photo: by © R.Möhler – Originally posted to Panoramio as Russisch-Orthodoxe Kapelle, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5252819

Following her husband’s death in 1853, Maria retired from public life. Two years later, she returned to Russia for the last time, for the coronation of her nephew, Tsar Alexander II. The Dowager Grand Duchess died at Schloss Belvedere in Weimar on June 23, 1859. A new Russian Orthodox Chapel was built adjoining the Weimarer Fürstengruft in the Historical Cemetery in Weimar. In the early 1900s, the foundation wall between the two buildings was opened up, creating a passageway.  Grand Duchess Maria’s tomb lies in this passageway, just next to her husband’s, each placed beneath their individual mausoleums.

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Karl Friedrich, Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach

by Scott Mehl

source: Wikipedia

Karl Friedrich was Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach from 1828 until 1853. He was born in Weimar on February 2, 1783, the eldest son of Karl August, Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach and Luise Auguste of Hesse-Darmstadt. He had three siblings who lived past birth:

Maria Pavlovna of Russia. source: Wikipedia

After finishing his education, Karl Friedrich embarked on a Grand Tour of Europe. While visiting St. Petersburg in July 1803, Karl Friedrich met his future wife, Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna of Russia. She was the daughter of Tsar Paul I of Russia and Sophie Dorothea of Württemberg. They married in St. Petersburg on August 3, 1804 and had four children:

As Grand Duke, Karl Friedrich instituted the first savings bank in the Grand Duchy, and promoted many charitable and welfare organizations. He also promoted trade, joining the German Customs Union, and was instrumental in the building of the Thuringian Railway in collaboration with the Kingdom of Prussia and the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. During his reign, he was forced to issue a more liberal constitution and introduce many new reforms, including freedom of the press.

source: Wikipedia

Grand Duke Karl Friedrich died at Schloss Belvedere in Weimar on July 8, 1853. He is buried in the Weimarer Fürstengruft in the Historical Cemetery in Weimar.

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Luise of Hesse-Darmstadt, Grand Duchess of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach

by Scott Mehl

source: Wikipedia

Luise Auguste of Hesse-Darmstadt was the first Grand Duchess of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach through her marriage to Grand Duke Karl August. She was born in Berlin on January 30, 1757, the daughter of Ludwig IX, Landgrave of Hesse-Darmstadt and Caroline of Zweibrücken. Luise had seven siblings:

Karl August of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach. source: Wikipedia

In the early 1770s, Luise’s mother took Luise and two of her sisters to St. Petersburg to be presented to the Russian Empress Catherine the Great as potential brides for the future Tsar Paul. Luise’s sister Wilhelmine was chosen, but on the journey home, Luise’s future would be arranged thanks to a chance meeting with Anna Amalia of Saxe-Weimar and Saxe-Eisenach, who was serving as Regent for her young son, Karl August. An engagement was soon arranged, and Luise and Karl August were married in Karlsruhe on October 3, 1775, just a month after he reached his majority. Luise became the Duchess of Saxe-Weimar and Duchess of Saxe-Eisenach upon her marriage, and the couple had seven children:

The arranged marriage was purely dynastic and there was not much love between the two. Karl August had a long-term and very public affair with an actress, and gave his wife little emotional support. Despite this, she was devoted to her husband’s position, as well as her new homeland. When French forces advanced on Weimar in 1806, Luise stood firm and remained there while most of the family fled or were off fighting in the war. She would take it upon herself to stand up to Napoleon himself and protect Weimar and its people from the fighting. Her efforts were successful, and Weimar remained mostly untouched. Several years later, at the Congress of Vienna in 1815, Luise’s efforts ensured that the duchy did not have to cede any territory, and was instead elevated to a Grand Duchy. Those efforts also earned her the love and complete devotion of the people.

Luise stepped away from public duties after being widowed in 1828. The Dowager Grand Duchess died nearly two years later, on February 14, 1830 at the age of 73. She is buried in the Weimarer Fürstengruft in the Historical Cemetery in Weimar.

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Karl August, Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach

by Scott Mehl

source: Wikipedia

Karl August was the first Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, reigning from 1815 until 1828. He wa born in Weimar on September 3, 1757, the eldest son of Ernst August II, Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach and Anna Amalia of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel. He had one younger sibling:

When his father died in May 1758, Karl August became Duke of Saxe-Weimar and Duke of Saxe-Eisenach at just nine months old. His mother served as regent, and is recognized for having built up the resources and strength of the duchies during her son’s youth. Meanwhile, Karl August was educated privately by several tutors, and then made a grand tour of Europe along with his younger brother. It was on this trip that he met Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who would become a close friend, confidante and advisor.

Luise of Hesse-Darmstadt. source: Wikipedia

Shortly after reaching his majority and taking control of the government of the two duchies, Karl August married Luise of Hesse-Darmstadt in Karlsruhe on October 3, 1775. Luise was the daughter of Ludwig IX, Landgrave of Hesse-Darmstadt and Caroline of Zweibrücken. They had seven children:

Karl August’s surviving children – Bernhard, Karoline Luise and Karl Friedrich. source: Wikipedia

One of his first official acts was appointing Goethe to his privy council. It is perhaps through Goethe’s influence and support that Karl August worked to promote education and the arts. He established the Weimar Princely Free Drawing School in 1776, and was instrumental in reforming the education system and promoting the University of Jena.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. source: Wikipedia

A firm supporter of a unified Germany, Karl August was one of the leading forces behind the establishment of the League of Princes in 1785. Two years later, he was offered the Hungarian crown, but refused. He took up service with the Prussian Army, serving as major-general and leading his regiment into several battles in 1792. After the disastrous Battle of Jena in 1806, Karl August was forced to join Napoleon’s Confederation of the Rhine, to avoid losing his territories.

In 1809, the two duchies were united as one, and Karl August became Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach. Six years later, following the Congress of Vienna, Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach was elevated to a Grand Duchy with Karl August as its first Grand Duke. Much more liberal than many of his contemporaries, Karl August was the first German prince to grant a liberal constitution, and promoted the freedom of the press.

Grand Duke Karl August died in Graditz, Saxony on June 14, 1828, and is buried in the Weimarer Fürstengruft in the Historical Cemetery in Weimar.

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Mathilde Karoline of Bavaria, Grand Duchess of Hesse and by Rhine

by Scott Mehl

source: Wikipedia

Mathilde Caroline of Bavaria was Grand Duchess of Hesse and by Rhine, through her marriage to Grand Duke Ludwig III. She was born in Augsburg on August 30, 1813, the eldest daughter of King Ludwig I of Bavaria and Therese of Saxe-Hildburgausen. Mathilde Karoline had eight siblings:

Ludwig III. source: Wikipedia

On December 26, 1833, Mathilde Karoline married the future Grand Duke Ludwig II of Hesse and by Rhine. They had no children. She became Grand Duchess upon her husband’s accession in 1848.

Grand Duchess Mathilde Karoline died in Darmstadt on May 25, 1862. Because she had remained Catholic after her marriage into the grand ducal family who were Lutheran, she is buried at St. Ludwig’s Catholic Church (link in German) in Darmstadt. One other member of the grand ducal family, her husband’s uncle, Prince Friedrich, was also Catholic and is buried at St. Ludwig’s as well.

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