by Scott Mehl
Karl, Grand Duke of Baden, reigned from 1811 until 1818. He was born Karl Ludwig Friedrich on July 8, 1786, the son of Karl Ludwig, Hereditary Prince of Baden and Amalie of Hesse-Darmstadt. Karl 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
- Wilhelmine (1788) – married Grand Duke Ludwig II of Hesse and by Rhine, had issue
Upon his father’s death in 1801, Karl became heir-apparent to his grandfather, Karl Friedrich, Margrave of Baden. Over the next five years, Baden would become an Electorate and then a Grand Duchy in 1806.
That same year, on April 8, 1806, Karl married Stéphanie de Beauharnais, the daughter of Claude de Beauharnais and Claudine Françoise de Lézay-Marnézia. She was also the adopted daughter of the French Emperor Napoléon I. Napoléon, wanting to secure an alliance with the Electorate of Baden, arranged for the marriage, despite neither Karl nor Stéphanie wanting to marry each other. For several years, the two lived separately, and it wasn’t until Karl’s grandfather was nearing death that they came together and began a family. They had five children:
- Princess Luise Amelie (1811) – married Gustav, Prince of Vasa, had issue
- unnamed son (1812) – died within weeks of birth
- Princess Josephine (1813) – married Karl Anton of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, had issue (including King Carol I of Romania)
- Alexander, Hereditary Grand Duke of Baden (1816) – died within a week of birth
- Princess Marie (1817) – married William Hamilton, 11th Duke of Hamilton, had issue
Karl became Grand Duke upon his grandfather’s death in 1811. In 1817, with no living male heirs, and only one unmarried uncle to succeed him, Karl formally gave dynastic rights to his half-uncles – the sons of his grandfather from his second, morganatic, marriage. This kept the Grand Ducal throne of Baden from passing to Karl’s brother-in-law, the King of Bavaria. In 1818, Karl oversaw the passing of a new and much more liberal constitution.
Grand Duke Karl died at Schloss Rastatt on December 8, 1818. He is buried in St. Michael’s Church in Pforzheim. As he had no male heirs, the throne of Baden passed to his uncle, Ludwig I. However, his descendants include the former Kings of Romania and Yugoslavia, the current King of the Belgians, the Grand Duke of Luxembourg and the Sovereign Prince of Monaco.