Friday, April 11, 2014

The First Bavarian Queen: Princess Caroline of Baden

Princess Caroline of Baden, Queen of Bavaria
by Johann Christian von Mannlich, 1817.
Princess Caroline of Baden was born on July 13, 1776 in Karlsruhe. She and her twin sister Amalie were the oldest daughters of Hereditary Grand Duke Charles Louis of Baden and Princess Amalie of Hesse-Darmstadt. Caroline had one surviving brother, Charles, and four younger sisters: Louise, Frederica, Marie, and Wilhelmine. All the children of Charles Louis made grand marriages to the different royal houses of Europe and this success was largely attributed to his wife's wise political judgment and strength of character. Amalie was certainly a force to be reckoned with; she made sure that all of her children were highly educated and prepared for their future roles, but at the same time, she was also a caring and devoted mother who fostered a warm and close relationship among her children.

Caroline grew up in a warm and close-knit family. She was very close to her sisters and they would always call and refer to their mother as "my dear beloved Mama". Caroline inherited her mother's love for the arts and talent for painting, but she also developed a strong dislike for anything French. And this was further reinforced by her personal dislike for Napoleon Bonaparte, who was said to be involved with the murder of the Duke of Enghien.

As a teenager, Caroline was considered to be a potential wife for Louis Antoine Henri de Bourbon, Duke of Enghien, a relative of the Bourbon monarchs of France. She was said to be very much in love with him, but before any marriage negotiation began, Caroline's family dropped the matter for fear of French opposition.

In 1796, Caroline met Maximilian, Duke of Zweibrucken, in Ansbach, while both their families were on the run from the advancing French army. Maximilian was a 40-year-old widower with four children, and he fell in love with the 21-year-old Caroline. At first, Caroline hesitated, but due to her mother's cajoling and her budding feelings for Maximilian, who was said to be "kind and simple", made her accept him. They married in Karlsruhe on March 9, 1797 and the family settled in Mannheim.

As a young stepmother, Caroline got on quite well with her stepchildren, Augusta (aged 8), Caroline (age 4) and Karl Theodore (age 2). The children lost their mother just over a year ago and Caroline provided all the maternal love and affection they need. Despite her determination to build a strong relationship with them, she had a great difficulty getting along with her eldest stepson, Ludwig, who couldn't completely accept his stepmother. She would have a lifelong strained relationship with him.

Maximilian became Elector of Bavaria in 1799 and he, Caroline and the children moved to Munich in the spring of 1799. That September, Caroline gave birth to a stillborn son and was followed by another son a year later. She would give birth to six daughters: the first set of twins Elisabeth and Amalie, followed by another twins Sophie and Maria Anna, and then daughters Ludovika, and Maximiliana. She and Maximilian's marriage was considered to be happy and harmonious and Caroline was a supportive wife to her husband. She was also a devoted and loving mother to her children and stepchildren; she carefully supervised their education and upbringing and raised them with a deep sense of duty.

Maximilian maintained a close relationship with France and its emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte, and because of this support, Bavaria was elevated into a kingdom by the Treaty of Pressburg, thus Caroline and Maximilian became the first King and Queen of Bavaria. Caroline had a strong sense of duty and relished in her role as Queen. She was a clever and able consort and she used her position and influence for the welfare of the people. As a lover of the arts, she helped her husband in transforming Munich into a cultural center.

When her beloved stepdaughter Augusta was eyed by Napoleon as wife for his stepson, Eugene de Beauharnais, Caroline was against the match. She disliked Napoleon, and sensing this, the French emperor went out his way to gain her favor. He and Josephine showered many presents to Caroline and Augusta, but when Caroline realized that Augusta and Eugene were in love, she finally gave her blessing to the couple.

An older Queen Caroline.
Caroline was allowed to remain a Protestant even after she married Maximilian and had her own pastor. Since the Bavarian court was predominantly Catholic, a new wave of religious tolerance was established in Bavaria and this led to an increased influx of Protestant traders and dealers in the country. This, and the many charitable institution established by the Queen made Caroline popular and well-loved by the people.

King Maximilian died in 1825. Before he died, he made his eldest son and successor, Ludwig I, to promise to take care of his stepmother and siblings. As a youth, Ludwig had an uneasy relationship with Caroline and when he became King, he tried to send her away from Munich. She resisted but decided to stay in Tegernsee Castle, a country seat built by Maximilian for her. Caroline died in 1841, 16 years after her husband. Due to her Protestant faith, her funeral was conducted with little dignity as befitted a Queen. The Protestant clergy were not allowed to enter the church, so the funeral service was given outside. Meanwhile, the attending Catholic clergy wore ordinary clothes rather than their religious vestments. When the funeral procession was dissipated, the coffin was placed in the tomb without any ceremony. This undignified treatment of her stepmother by the Catholic clergy greatly angered Ludwig I. His strong pro-Catholic views were changed forever and his attitude towards Protestant softened permanently.

Read about Queen Caroline's daughters here:
The Daughters of King Maximilian I
Princess Elisabeth Ludovika of Bavaria, Queen of Prussia

Read about Queen Caroline's two sisters here:
Empress Elizabeth Alexeievna of Russia
Queen Frederica of Sweden


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