by Emily McMahon and Scott Mehl
Marie of Prussia, Queen of Bavaria
Princess Marie of Prussia (Marie Friederike Franziska Hedwig) was the wife of King Maximilian II of Bavaria who reigned from 1848 until his death in 1864. Born at the Berlin City Palace on October 15, 1825, she was the youngest child of Prince Wilhelm of Prussia (a son of King Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia) and Landgravine Maria Anna of Hesse-Homburg. Marie had three siblings who lived to adulthood:
- Prince Adalbert (1811) married Therese Elssler, had issue
- Princess Elisabeth (1815) – married Prince Karl of Hesse and by Rhine, had issue
- Prince Waldemar (1817) – unmarried
Marie was raised primarily at Schloss Fischbach in Silesia, one of the many properties of the Prussian Royal Family. At one point, she was named as a potential bride for the future Ernst II, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, but his reputation caused her parents to look elsewhere for an appropriate spouse.
On January 23, 1842, Marie became engaged to the future King Maximilian II of Bavaria. He was the son of King Ludwig I of Bavaria and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. The couple married in Munich on October 12, 1842, just three days before Marie turned seventeen. They had two sons:
Like her two predecessors, Caroline of Baden and Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen, Marie did not convert to Catholicism upon marriage, choosing to retain her Lutheran faith. The marriage was a peaceful one, although the two shared few interests. Maximilian’s interests were primarily academic, whereas Marie had a great love of charity work and being among the people. Marie’s kind and open personality endeared her to the Bavarians, with whom she was quite popular. It was Marie who led the resurgence of the Bavarian Women’s Association, which later evolved into the Red Cross.
In March 1864, King Maximilian II died and the couple’s elder son took the throne as King Ludwig II. Both of Marie’s sons were thought to have suffered from mental illness that severely hampered their abilities to rule Bavaria. Marie was said to have taken the reality of this situation remarkably well, believing it to be God’s will. A deeply religious woman, Marie later converted to Catholicism on October 12, 1874 – what would have been her 32nd wedding anniversary.
She lived in relative seclusion, splitting her time between her country home in Elbigenalp and Hohenschwangau Castle in Füssen. In 1883, her elder son, King Ludwig II, was deemed incompetent, and Marie’s brother-in-law, Prince Luitpold of Bavaria, was appointed Prince Regent. Days later, King Ludwig II was found dead, and Marie’s younger son became King Otto I (also under the Regency of Prince Luitpold).
Queen Marie died at Hohenschwangau Castle on May 17, 1889. She is buried with her husband in a side chapel at the Theatinerkirche in Munich. Her heart is entombed at the Shrine of Our Lady of Altötting.