by Scott Mehl
Friedrich Franz IV, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin
Grand Duke Friedrich Franz IV was the last reigning Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. He was born in Palermo, Italy on April 9, 1882, the only son of Grand Duke Friedrich Franz III of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Grand Duchess Anastasia Mikhailovna of Russia. He had two sisters:
- Duchess Alexandrine (1879) – married King Christian X of Denmark, had issue
- Duchess Cecilie (1886) – married Wilhelm, German Crown Prince, had issue
He also had a half-brother – Alexis Louis de Wenden – his mother’s illegitimate son, born in 1902.
Friedrich Franz attended the Vitzthum Gymnasium in Dresden, and then studied law at the University of Bonn. He became Grand Duke upon his father’s death in April 1897. Because he was still a minor at the time, his uncle Duke Johann Albrecht, served as regent until Friedrich Franz came of age in 1901. One he’d taken control of his government, the young Grand Duke attempted to reform the Mecklenburg constitution. However, his efforts failed when the government of Mecklenburg-Strelitz refused to agree to his ideas.
Encouraged to marry young by his mother, Friedrich Franz married Princess Alexandra of Hanover and Cumberland in Gmunden, Austria on June 7, 1904. She was the daughter of Ernst August, Crown Prince of Hanover and Princess Thyra of Denmark. The couple had five children:
- Hereditary Grand Duke Friedrich Franz (1910) – married Karin Elisabeth von Schaper, no issue
- Duke Christian Ludwig (1912) – married Princess Barbara of Prussia, had issue
- Duchess Olga (1916) – died in infancy
- Duchess Thyra (1919) – unmarried
- Duchess Anastasia (1922) – married Prince Friedrich Ferdinand of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, had issue
In February 1918, Friedrich Franz IV began to serve as Regent for the Grand Duchy of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. The reigning Grand Duke, Adolf Friedrich VI, committed suicide, and the heir presumptive was serving with the Russian military, and had made it known that he wished to renounce his rights of succession. The regency lasted only nine months, as on November 14, 1918, Friedrich Franz IV was forced to abdicate as Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, as well as the regency in Strelitz.
Forced to leave the grand duchy, Friedrich Franz and his family traveled to Denmark at the invitation of his sister, Queen Alexandrine. There, they lived at Sorgenfri Palace for a year, before being permitted to return to Mecklenburg and recovering several of the family’s properties. They lived for two years at the Gelbensande hunting lodge (link in German), and then in 1921, took up residence at Ludwigslust Palace. They also spent their summers at the Alexandrinen Cottage (link in German) in Heiligendamm.
With the advance of the Red Army, the Grand Duke, along with his wife and son Christian Ludwig, fled to Glücksburg Castle, the home of his youngest daughter and her husband, with the intention of returning to Denmark. However, the Grand Duke became ill, and while under house arrest at the Castle, he died there on November 17, 1945. He is buried in the New Cemetery in Glücksburg.