by Scott Mehl
Wilhelmine of Baden was the second Grand Duchess of Hesse and by Rhine, as the wife of Grand Duke Ludwig II. She was born in Karlsruhe on September 21, 1788, the youngest child of Karl Ludwig, Hereditary Prince of Baden and Amalie of Hesse-Darmstadt. Wilhelmine had seven siblings:
- Amalie (1776) – unmarried
- Karoline (1776) – married King Maximilian I Joseph of Bavaria, had issue
- Luise – (1779) – married Tsar Alexander I of Russia, had issue
- Friederike (1781) – married King Gustav IV Adolf of Sweden, had issue
- Marie (1782) – married Friedrich Wilhelm, Duke of Brunswick, had issue
- Karl Friedrich (1784) – died in childhood
- Karl, Grand Duke of Baden (1786) – married Stéphanie de Beauharnais, had issue
On June 19, 1804 in Karlsruhe, Wilhelmine married her first cousin, the future Ludwig II of Hesse and by Rhine. They had seven children:
- Ludwig III, Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine (1806) – married Mathilde Karoline of Bavaria, no issue
- stillborn son (1807)
- Prince Karl (1809) – married Princess Elisabeth of Prussia, had issue
- Princess Elisabeth (1821) – died in childhood
- stillborn daughter (1822)
- Prince Alexander (1823) – married Countess Julia Hauke, had issue
- Princess Marie (1824) – married Tsar Alexander II of Russia, had issue
In 1810, Wilhelmine had a large garden – called the Rosenhöhe (link in German) – built on a hill in Darmstadt. Soon, she added several buildings, including a summer residence and a tea house. When her daughter Elisabeth died in 1826, Wilhelmine decided to have a mausoleum built in the park instead of using the traditional grand ducal tomb in the Darmstadt Stadtkirche. It is because of this that the Rosenhöhe has become the traditional burial site for the Grand Ducal Family.
Wilhelmine’s marriage was never happy, and she separated from her husband after the birth of their first three children. In the 1820s, Wilhelmine purchased Schloss Heiligenberg in Jugenheim and expanded and designed the grounds just as she had done at Rosenhöhe. It was here where she met her chamberlain, Baron August von Searclens de Grancy and began a longtime affair. While her husband recognized their younger children as his own, it is believed that they were actually fathered by de Grancy.
Despite her separation, Wilhelmine became Grand Duchess upon her husband’s accession in 1830. With the increased means now at her disposal, she set about expanding Heiligenberg, and avoiding the court in Darmstadt as much as possible.
Grand Duchess Wilhelmine died in Darmstadt on January 27, 1836 after contracting typhoid. She is buried in the Altes Mausoleum in the Rosenhöhe in Darmstadt.