Wednesday, January 2, 2013

"The Four Lovely and Noble Sisters on the Throne"

"Aphrodite, Aglaia, Euphrosyne, and Thalia once looked down into the clear-obscure of earth, and, weary of the ever-bright but cold Olympus, yearned to enter in beneath the clouds of our world. ... Then they determined to take the earthly veil, and to clothe themselves in our mortal form. They came down from Olympus...and our nightingales fluttered to meet them out of the bosom of May. But, as they touched the first flowers of earth...Fate raised her eternal scepter and said: "The immortal becomes mortal upon the earth, and every spirit becomes a human being!" So they became human beings and sisters, and were called Louisa, Charlotte, Theresa, Frederica... And the dream was ended and fulfilled... Therefore, be it consecrated to the four fair and noble sisters..."  
--Jean Paul Fr. Richter.

This was how German Romantic writer Jean Paul dedicated his work, Titan, to the four beautiful daughters of Charles II, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. The sisters were Louise, Queen of Prussia, Charlotte, Duchess of Saxe-Hildburghausen, Therese, Princess of Thurn-Taxis, and Frederica, Queen of Hanover. 

Charlotte, Therese, Louise and Frederica were all born and raised in Hanover, where the princesses's father served as governor. Their mother, Princess Friederike, died when the princesses where still very young. Grand Duke Charles remarried, and his second wife was the princesses' maternal aunt, Charlotte. Princess Charlotte was a loving and devoted stepmother, and her stepchildren dearly loved her. Unfortunately, she died a year later, shortly after giving birth to her son. 

With no mother to look after his daughters, Charles decided that his daughters would received proper education and have better upbringing if they live with their grandmother in Darmstadt. And so in 1785, all sisters, except the eldest, Charlotte, went to Darmstadt to be brought up by their grandmother, Princess George. There they were given the kind of education suitable for their position, and this would be of great use to them once they married into the different royal houses of Europe.

Charlotte Georgine, Duchess of Saxe-Hildburghausen

Born in 1769, Charlotte was the eldest of the four sisters. At the 16, he married Frederick, Duke of Saxe-Hildburghausen, and together they had 12 children! It was not a happy marriage, however. Charlotte was far more intelligent than her husband, and he treated her with indifference. The couple was also plagued by financial problems, and had to live in a reduced civil list. When Charlotte's grandmother came over to Hildburghausen, she noticed the cold relationship between husband and wife. She wrote: "Of all his duties, he only fulfills his marital duties with zeal. Charlotte, who never loved this man, is always pregnant." Despite her country's financial problems, Charlotte gave half of her annual income to charity and educational institutions, and she provided support to poor families and women. Under Frederick and Charlotte, Saxe-Hildburghusen prospered, and its cultural life reached its peak. As a result, poets and artists called Hildburghausen "little Weimar". Charlotte had a beautiful singing voice, and her remarkable talent for singing earned her the nickname "Singlotte". Writer Jean Paul Richter wrote about Charlotte to a friend: "Paint to yourself the heavenly Duchess, with her childlike eyes, her whole face full of love and the charm of youth, her voice like the nightingale's..."

Therese, Princess of Thurn and Taxis

Therese was the second daughter, and she was born 4 years after Charlotte. While she and her sisters Louise and Frederica were living in Darmstadt, they received as their guest the Prince Carl of Thurn and Taxis. His parents were planning to marry him off to a British princess, but upon meeting Therese, he declare that he would not marry no one else but her. They were allowed to get married, on the condition that after marriage, Therese would not convert to Roman Catholic and remain a Lutheran. She was married to Carl at the age of 16 in Neustrelitz, and together they settled down in the Palais Thurn und Taxis in Frankfurt. Therese was very interested in the arts and literature. Possessing political acumen like her sister Louise, she made efforts to reinforce the sovereignty of the Princely House of Thurn and Taxis, and staunchly defended its interest at the Congress of Vienna in 1815. Therese's marriage with Prince Carl was greatly strained by her husband's "political incompetence". He was far more interested in hunting than in the affairs of the government. As a result, she embarked in an affair with a Bavarian diplomat, Count Maximilian von Lerchenfeld, and Therese gave birth to two illegitimate children: George and Amalie, Baroness von Krudener. Because of her contributions to her adopted country, historians viewed Therese as "one of the great women of Thurn and Taxis".

Louise, Queen of Prussia

The most famous of the four sisters, Louise was destined to be a queen and a legend. She married the heir to the Prussian throne, Frederick William, and when he became king, and she, a queen, she used her beauty, influence, charm, determination, and political savviness to ensure Prussia's honor. Her love and devotion to her husband, family, country, and people greatly endeared her to the masses, and she was regarded as the personification of German nationalism. Her influence was greatly feared by even Napoleon Bonaparte who called her his "beautiful enemy". She openly encouraged her husband to declare war on France, and favor a Russian alliance. The queen had many admirers, and it was said that the Prussian soldiers were ready to sacrifice their life in war for their beautiful queen. Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun described Louise in her memoirs: "...but here my pen must remain powerless for it cannot convey the impression that my first meeting with the Princess made upon me. her charming and heavenly face shone with an expression of gentle virtue and she possessed the finest and most regular features. The beauty of her figure, her neck, her arms, the dazzling freshness of her complexion, everything about her surpassed the most perfect ideal. She was in deep mourning and wore a crown made with spikes of jet which, far from unbecoming, gave her palid cheeks a certain radiance."

Frederica, Queen of Hanover

Frederica was the youngest of the sisters, and the closest to Louise. As a young girl, she caught the eye of Prince Louis of Prussia, the younger brother of the Crown Prince of Prussia. They had a double wedding; her sister Louise married the Crown Prince. But while Louise's marriage was happy, Frederica's was not. Prince Louis had many mistresses and preferred their company to that of his wife. The neglected wife was hurt and soon tried to find solace elsewhere. Three years later, Prince Louis died, and Frederica was now a young widow with three children. Still very beautiful, she was unofficially engaged to her cousin, Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge, but she later became pregnant by the Prince Frederick of Solms-Braunfels. To avoid a scandal, the Prince married her, but after their daughter died, he became disappointed and embittered, and soon resumed his usual dissipated lifestyle of alcohol and mistresses. The couple lived  separate lives, and by this time, Frederica had become notorious in Europe for her life and affairs. When the Duke of Cumberland came to Mecklenburg on a visit, he met Frederica and fell in love with her. She and the Prince of Solms-Braunfels were allowed to divorce, but before divorce proceedings could start, the Prince suddenly died. His death was regarded as a "little too convenient", and some suspected Frederica that she had something to do with his death. Nevertheless, Frederica and Ernest Augustus, Duke of Cumberland were married in 1815. They traveled back to England and had a place of their own, Carlton House. Queen Charlotte, Ernest Augustus's mother, didn't like her new daughter-in-law and refused to receive her. When Ernest Augustus became King of Hanover, he and Frederica, now Queen of Hanover, moved to Hanover where they held court at Altes Palace. Despite Ernest Augustus's difficult personality and Frederica's checkered past, fortunately for the couple, they had a happy and harmonious marriage.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year

New beginnings, new hopes, new challenges, new life... 
A Prosperous and a Happy New Year to all! 

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