Category Archives: Saxe-Meiningen 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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Bernhard III, Duke of Saxe-Meiningen

by Susan Flantzer

Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Bernhard III, Duke of Saxe-Meiningen, the last reigning Duke of Saxe-Meiningen, a scholar, and a Field Marshal in the Prussian army, was the husband of Queen Victoria’s granddaughter Princess Charlotte of Prussia. He was born on April 1, 1851 in Meiningen, the capital of the Duchy of Saxe-Meiningen, now in Germany. Bernhard was the eldest son of Georg II, Duke of Saxe-Meiningen and his first wife Princess Charlotte Frederica of Prussia.  Bernhard’s parents had three other children:

On January 27, 1855, Bernhard’s younger brother died. Three months later his mother died of childbirth complications, along with her newborn son. Bernhard’s father was inconsolable, but in 1858 he married Princess Feodora of Hohenlohe-Langenburg in order to provide a mother to his remaining children. Feodora’s mother, Feodora of Leiningen, was an older half-sister to Queen Victoria, making the younger Feodora a niece of the Queen. Bernhard’s father and stepmother had three sons:

  • Prince Ernst Bernhard of Saxe-Meiningen (1859 – 1941), married morganatically to Katharina Jensen; had issue
  • Prince Frederick Johann of Saxe-Meiningen (1861 – 1914), married Countess Adelaide of Lippe-Biesterfeld; had issue; killed in action during World War I in Tarcienne, France; grandfather of Princess Regina of Saxe-Meiningen, wife of Otto von Habsburg, last Crown Prince of Austria
  • Prince Viktor of Saxe-Meiningen (14 May 1865 – 17 May 1865), died as an infant

Bernhard began serving as second lieutenant in the Saxe-Meiningen Infantry Regiment in 1867. In 1869, he enrolled at Heidelberg University to study classical philology, the study of literary texts and written records to establish their authenticity, their original form, and determine their meaning. His education was interrupted by the Franco-Prussian War as he served as an aide with the 6th Thuringian Infantry Regiment Nr. 95 and the 6th Cavalry. After the war, he resumed his studies in Heidelberg and then studied in Leipzig. After graduating in 1873, Bernhard went for military training with the Fusilier Guards Regiment of the Prussian Army in Berlin.

Bernhard was interested in the Greek language and was the author and translator of several works. Between 1873 and 1894, he made numerous study trips to Greece and Asia Minor, where he visited archaeological sites and had worked with well-known archaeologists. For his work in archaeology, the University of Athens gave Bernard the title “Philhellene,” lover of Greece and Greek culture, in 1889 and in 1912, the University of Breslau awarded him an honorary doctorate.

On February 18, 1878 in Potsdam, Bernhard married, Princess Charlotte of Prussia, the eldest daughter of Friedrich III, German Emperor and King of Prussia and Victoria, Princess Royal, and the sister of Wilhelm II, German Emperor. Bernhard and Charlotte had one child, Feodora (1879-1945), who married Prince Henry XXX Reuss-Köstritz in 1898.

Bernhard and Charlotte in 1877; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Bernhard was transferred to the General Staff of the Prussian Army in 1882 and moved to Charlotte’s apartments at Charlottenburg Palace in Berlin. In 1889, he was appointed Major General and then Lieutenant General in 1891. The German Archaeological Institute appointed him an honorary member in 1892. In December of 1893, Bernhard and Charlotte took up permanent residence at the Große Palais (Great Palace) in Meiningen. (translation by Google Translator) This was due to the fact that Bernhard’s father Georg suffered from acute deafness and had retired from active life.

Bernhard’s rank and responsibility in the Prussian Army kept increasing. He became General of the Infantry and from 1896-1903 was Commanding General of the VI Army Corps in Breslau (now Wroclaw, Poland). On September 15, 1903, he was appointed Inspector General of the II Army Inspectorate and was stationed in Meiningen. With his wife Charlotte, he undertook numerous road trips throughout the Duchy of Saxe-Meiningen and the German Empire. In 1909, Bernhard received the rank of Field Marshal. Bernhard ended his military career 1912 and moved back to permanently to Meiningen.

Bernhard’s father died on June 25, 1914, just three days before the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, and Bernard became the reigning Duke of Saxe-Meiningen. Bernhard’s conservative Prussian views made him unpopular in the liberal Duchy of Saxe-Meiningen. After the start of World War I, Bernhard transferred his governing duties to his wife Charlotte and went to the front to visit Meiningen troops and military installations.

Bernhard with some other royalty circa 1913-1915; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

On November 9, 1918, his brother-in-law Wilhelm II abdicated as German Emperor and King of Prussia in the wake of the November Revolution.  Bernhard abdicated the next day due to pressure from the Meininger Workers and Soldiers Council. His half-brother Ernst waived his succession rights on November 12, 1918, officially ending the monarchy of the Duchy of Saxe-Meiningen.

On October 1, 1919, Bernhard’s wife Charlotte died at the age of 59 while taking a cure in Baden-Baden. Bernhard lived his remaining years at Schloss Altenstein in Bad Liebenstein, now in Germany. After his death on January 16, 1928 at the age of 76, Bernhard’s coffin lay in state at the Große Palais (Great Palace) in Meiningen. On January 20, 1928, with great interest from the local population, a funeral procession brought his coffin to the train station for the journey to Schloss Altenstein, where he was buried on January 21, 1928 next to his wife Charlotte in the castle park.

Burial site of Bernhard and his wife Charlotte; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Wikipedia: Bernhard III, Duke of Saxe-Meiningen

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Charlotte of Prussia, Duchess of Saxe-Meiningen

by Susan Flantzer

Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Princess Charlotte of Prussia (Viktoria Elisabeth Auguste Charlotte) was the second child and eldest daughter of Friedrich III, German Emperor and King of Prussia and his wife Victoria, Princess Royal, the eldest child of Queen Victoria. She was born on July 24, 1860 and christened Victoria Elisabeth Augusta Charlotte. Charlotte’s mother considered her the most difficult of all her children. As a toddler, Charlotte started to bite her nails and pull at her clothes and was forced to wear gloves or stand with her hands tied together. Charlotte also seemed to have learning difficulties. Her governess and tutors told her mother that they had never had such difficulties as with Charlotte. Charlotte was a favorite of her paternal grandparents whose spoiling did not help the situation.

Charlotte had seven siblings:

Charlotte’s mother and siblings in 1900: Sophia, Victoria, Wilhelm, their mother Empress Frederick, Charlotte, Heinrich, and Margaret; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Charlotte wanted to leave home as quickly as possible. As a marriage offered her the only way out, Charlotte found herself a prince, her shy and well educated second cousin Bernhard, Hereditary Prince of Saxe-Meiningen. Because the prince was a suitable marriage candidate and their daughter caused much unrest at home, Charlotte’s parents agreed to the marriage. Charlotte and Bernhard were engaged in 1876 and married in Berlin on February 18, 1878 when Charlotte was not quite 18.

Charlotte of Prussia with Bernhard of Saxe-Meiningen around the time of the engagement; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Charlotte and Bernhard had one child, the first great grandchild of Queen Victoria:

Feodora circa 1900; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

After the birth of her only child, Charlotte neglected her daughter in favor of society life in Berlin which caused Feodora to be cared for by nannies and servants and her maternal grandmother. Feodora was a long-term houseguest at her grandmother’s home Friedrichshof. Her grandmother said of her, “She is really a good little child and far easier to manage than her Mama…The atmosphere of her home is not the best for a child her age.”

In 1891, Charlotte was involved in the Kotze Affair, a scandal in which several members of the aristocracy and members of Kaiser Wilhelm II’s family were accused in anonymous letters of sexual debauchery.

In 1914, Charlotte’s husband became the last reigning Duke of Saxe-Meiningen. His reign was short as Bernhard was forced to abdicate on November 10, 1918, and spent the rest of his life in his former country as a private citizen.

Charlotte was a chain smoker and had suffered ill health her entire life. She died on October 1, 1919 at the age of 59. Charlotte was buried at Schloss Altenstein, the summer residence of the Dukes of Saxe-Meiningen.

Burial site of Charlotte and her husband; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Charlotte’s daughter Feodora also was ill much of her life and spent her last years in a sanatorium. Tired of years of illness and ineffective treatments, Feodora committed suicide on August 26, 1945. Historian John Rohl, author of Purple Secret: Genes, ‘Madness’ and the Royal Houses of Europe believes that the stomach pains, rashes, and urinary problems both Charlotte and her daughter Feodora exhibited were signs of porphyria, the genetic disease that their ancestor King George III possibly had.

Wikipedia: Charlotte of Prussia, Duchess of Saxe-Meiningen

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Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen, Queen of the United Kingdom

by Susan Flantzer

Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen, Photo Credit – Wikipedia

On November 6, 1817, a great tragedy struck the British Royal Family. Twenty-one year old Princess Charlotte, the only child of George, Prince of Wales, died after delivering a stillborn son. At the time of her death, Charlotte, who was second in line to the throne, was the only legitimate grandchild of King George III, despite the fact that thirteen of his fifteen children were still alive. Her death left no legitimate heir in the second generation and prompted the aging sons of King George III to begin a frantic search for brides to provide for the succession.

One of the sons was William, Duke of Clarence (the future King William IV).  William had never married, but had lived for 20 years with actress Dorothea Jordan.  Together they had ten illegitimate children, all of whom used the surname FitzClarence.  William and Dorothea had separated in 1811 and Dorothea received a yearly allowance and the custody of their daughters, while William received the custody of their sons.  There was a stipulation that Dorothea not return to acting to retain the allowance and the custody of her daughters.  However, she did return to acting to help a son-in-law with a debt.  William then got custody of their remaining daughters and Dorothea lost her allowance.  She moved to France to escape creditors and died in poverty in 1816.  Soon after the death of Princess Charlotte of Wales, negotiations began for the marriage of William to Princess Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen and the engagement was announced on April 19, 1818. William was 52 and Adelaide was 25.

Adelaide Louisa Theresa Caroline Amelia (in German Adelheid Luise Therese Karoline Amalie) was born in the Elisabethenburg Palace in Meiningen (now in Germany) on August 13, 1792.  She was the elder daughter and first child of George I, reigning Duke of Saxe-Meiningen and Princess Louise Eleanore of Hohenlohe-Langenburg.  Adelaide’s father died when she was 11 years old and she, along with her younger siblings Ida and Bernhard, who became the reigning duke, were carefully raised by their mother and received an excellent education.

Adelaide’s siblings:

Adelaide and her mother traveled to England for her wedding and arrived in London on July 4, 1818. They stayed at Grillon’s Hotel where they were visited an hour after their arrival by the Prince Regent (the future King George IV) and William, who met his bride for the first time.  William and Adelaide were married on July 14, 1818, at Kew Palace in the presence of an ailing Queen Charlotte who died in November of the same year.  It was a double wedding as William’s brother Edward, Duke of Kent and Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, who had married in May at Coburg, were remarried by the Anglican rite at the same time.  Despite the age difference, William and Adelaide’s marriage was a happy one.  Adelaide was a good influence on William keeping his eating, drinking, and behavior in line.  She was also a kind stepmother to the six children of William and Dorothea Jordan who were still at home.

Adelaide loved children, but was destined not to have one of her own.  Her first child was born prematurely on March 27, 1819, as a result of Adelaide being ill with pleurisy.  The baby girl was baptized Charlotte Augusta Louisa and died the same day.  Adelaide suffered a miscarriage on September 5, 1819.  On December 19, 1820, Adelaide gave birth to a girl, Elizabeth Georgiana Adelaide, six weeks prematurely.  Princess Elizabeth, who had been healthy despite being premature, died 12 weeks later on March 4, 1821, of the then inoperable condition of a strangulated hernia.  Twin boys were stillborn on April 23, 1822.   A child of William and Adelaide would have succeeded to the throne as William’s two elder brothers (George IV and Frederick, Duke of York) had no surviving children.  Adelaide wrote to her widowed sister-in-law the Duchess of Kent, “My children are dead, but your child lives, and she is mine too.”  That child was Queen Victoria.  Adelaide had close and loving relationships with her stepchildren and step-grandchildren, with her brother and sister’s children, and with William’s nieces and nephews, the future Queen Victoria and the Cambridge children.  Queen Victoria used the name Adelaide in honor of her aunt when she gave birth to her first child Victoria Adelaide Mary Louise and Adelaide was one of the godparents.

Recumbent effigy of Princess Elizabeth of Clarence in the Grand Corridor of Windsor Castle, Photo Credit – Wikipedia

William succeeded to the throne when his brother King George IV died on June 26, 1830, and both William and Adelaide were crowned on September 8, 1831.  During William’s reign, Adelaide was admired by the British people and helped her husband with the proper etiquette and often covered many of his gaffes.   Both William and Adelaide were very fond of their niece Princess Victoria of Kent who was the heiress presumptive and wanted to be closer to her.  However, the Duchess of Kent did not allow this. In addition, she was rude to Queen Adelaide by refusing to recognize the Queen’s precedence, ignoring her letters, and taking space in royal stables and apartments for her own use.  At a dinner, in front of Queen Adelaide, the Duchess of Kent, Princess Victoria of Kent and many guests, King William announced that the Duchess of Kent did not know how to behave and he was insulted by her behavior. He further said that he hoped he did not die until Victoria was 18 so that the Duchess would not serve as Regent.  The King, Queen, and Duchess never fully reconciled, but Victoria always viewed the King and Queen with kindness.

King William IV and Queen Adelaide, Photo Credit – Wikipedia

King William IV died of heart failure on June 20, 1837, at Windsor Castle and Victoria had turned 18 on May 24.  Adelaide had stayed at her husband’s side for three weeks, not sleeping in her bed for the last 10 days.  Adelaide was the first Queen Dowager in more than a century, the last one being Catherine of Braganza, King Charles II’s widow.  She survived William by 12 years, dying on December 2, 1849, at the age of 57.    She was buried after a simple funeral in accordance with her wishes in the Royal Tomb House beneath St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle where her husband had been buried.

Wikipedia: Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen

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