Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, King Consort of Portugal

by Scott Mehl

source: Wikipedia

Prince Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, King Consort of Portugal

Prince Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha was the husband of Queen Maria II of Portugal and was created King Consort – as Fernando II – following the birth of their eldest son.

He was born Ferdinand August Franz Anton on October 29, 1816 in Vienna, the eldest child of Prince Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and Princess Maria Antonia Koháry de Csábrág. Ferdinand had three younger siblings:

Through his father, Ferdinand was a first cousin of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom and her future husband, Prince Albert, as well as King Leopold II of Belgium and Empress Carlota of Mexico.

Queen Maria II of Portugal, painted by John Simpson. source: Wikipedia

Ferdinand married Queen Maria II of Portugal in Lisbon on April 9, 1836, and was created Prince Consort. The marriage, arranged by Ferdinand’s uncle, King Leopold I of Belgium, proved to be a happy one. Over the next seventeen years, they had eleven children:

In keeping with tradition, Ferdinand was elevated to King Consort following the birth of their eldest son, the future King Pedro V. Although titled as King, Ferdinand preferred to stay out of politics and left the affairs of state to his wife. He instead focused his attention on the arts. However, like his cousin Albert, Ferdinand often stood in for his wife during her numerous pregnancies. The Queen supported Ferdinand’s love of the arts and his interest in maintaining and restoring the architectural heritage of many buildings and monuments in Portugal. In the late 1830s, Ferdinand purchased the former monastery of Our Lady of Pena and its surrounding land, as well as the nearby Castle of the Moors, located in the Sintra Mountains. Having stood unused for some time, the buildings at the monastery were in desperate need of repair. Ferdinand restored them, and also built around them a stunning palace which would serve as a summer residence for the royal family. The Pena National Palace is today a national monument and one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal. It is now used for State functions.

King Ferdinand with his daughter-in-law, Queen Maria Pia, and his sons Infante Augusto, and King Luís, 1862. source: Wikipedia

On November 15, 1853, Queen Maria II died after giving birth to their last child. Ferdinand served as Regent for his eldest son, the new King Pedro V, until he became of age. In 1862, after the overthrow of King Otto of Greece, Ferdinand was named as a candidate for the Greek throne, which he quickly declined. And several years later, after the overthrow of Queen Isabella II of Spain, he was offered the Spanish throne. Again, he declined, preferring to enjoy his private life.

King Ferdinand and The Countess of Edla, c1885. source: Wikipedia

On June 10, 1869, in Lisbon, Ferdinand married again. His wife, Elise Hensler, was a Swiss-born American actress, who he first met in 1860 when she was performing in an opera in Lisbon. A relationship quickly began, as the two found their shared passion for arts and gardening. Just before they married, Ferdinand’s cousin, Duke Ernst II of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, created Elise Countess of Edla in her own right. They had no children. Ferdinand and Elise lived at the Pena National Palace where the indulged their love of gardening and continued their unyielding support for the arts, including sponsoring several noted Portuguese artists and musicians.

King Ferdinand died in Lisbon on December 15, 1885, survived by only three of his children. He is buried beside his first wife in the Royal Pantheon of the House of Braganza, at the Monastery of São Vicente de Fora in Lisbon.

Several years after Ferdinand’s death, his widow sold his estates, including the Pena National Palace and the Palace of the Moors, to Ferdinand’s grandson, King Carlos I. The Countess of Edla survived her husband by 44 years. She passed away in Lisbon on May 21, 1929, and is buried in the Prazeres Cemetery in Lisbon.

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