Saturday, September 9, 2017

The Austrian Empress and the Russian Grand Duchess


"The Grand Duchess was always terribly interested in everything that concerned the Austrian Empress. Perhaps, some envy played a part in this, since the Empress was famous for her beauty. So, for example, the Grand Duchess often asked: "Is my hair as beautiful as the Empress? Do you not find that I am like her?" I remember how she once interrogated someone who has newly returned from Vienna, where he was traveling with an order to Emperor Franz Joseph, Adjutant-General von Stühler: "Who is more beautiful, the Austrian empress or I?" General Stühler, slightly embarrassed, replied: "If the Austrian empress is the most beautiful woman on Earth, your Highness is undoubtedly the most beautiful princess! "The Grand Duchess was satisfied with this answer."

--From the "Memories of a Shipwrecked World" by Countess Kleinmichel.

Monday, September 4, 2017

The idol of Moscow

"As for Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna, she was the idol of Moscow, the soul of every charitable enterprise and the ornament of every meeting. She was not shy, like her sister, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, she knew how to talk to anyone about anything. She was everywhere, she knew everyone, and if her help was needed, she would render it with both hands. She had a rare gift of sympathy and understanding, which enabled her to enter into the position of each person."
-From the memoirs of Princess Lydia Leonidovna Vasilchikova, 1886-1919

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Marie of Baden, Duchess of Brunswick

I have always found the daughters of Charles Louis, Hereditary Prince of Baden quite interesting. In the past, I wrote several articles about his daughters, Caroline, Louise, and Frederica, and now I'll be continuing with Marie, second to the youngest daughter in the family.

Marie was born in 1782, the fifth daughter in a family of 7 children. Marie's family had a rather modest lifestyle as opposed to other noble houses of Europe, so her parents had to made up with this by ensuring that their children receive an excellent education which will strengthen their marriage prospects. Both Charles Louis and Amalie were politically astute individuals who tried to make the most out of their circumstances. As a result, Marie’s eldest sister, Caroline, would eventually become Queen of Bavaria, while her other sisters, Louise and Frederika would become, Empress of Russia and Queen of Sweden, respectively. Her younger sister Wilhelmine would become Grand Duchess of Hesse. Another sister, Amalie, who was the identical twin of Caroline, remained unmarried and would settle permanently in Russia with their sister Louise. Their brother Charles would marry Napoleon's step-niece, Stephanie de Beauharnais.

With her sisters and brother made brilliant marriages, it was also imperative for Marie to have the same brilliant marriage. She was suggested as a prospective bride to one of the sons of Charles William, Duke of Brunswick, Prince Frederick William

Like Marie, Frederick William also came from a large family. As the fourth son and since his eldest brother was already married, much cannot be expected of him inheriting his father's title. However, with his eldest brother proved to be incapable of having an issue and his two elder brothers declared invalid and excluded from the succession, Frederick William was now seen as the hope of the House of Brunswick in continuing the family line. His father began to put pressure on him to marry. On his part, Frederick William felt that there was no need for him to marry right away.

At the same time, Marie was not fond of the idea of marriage to Frederick William, since he already had a reputation of leading a rather “fast” life. However, Frederick William's family continued to put pressure on him to marry and he finally agreed to woo the young princess. Fortunately, he and Marie became fond of each other and they were married in Karslruhe on 1 November 1802. Their eldest child, Karl, was born two years later and they had another son, William, in 1806.

Marie's quiet family life in Brunswick was interrupted by the war against Napoleonic France. As her husband was a major-general in the Prussian army, he actively participated in the war zone. When Frederick William's father died from a wound he sustained in the battlefield, Marie and her mother-in-law, Augusta, went to his deathbed despite the danger. They were not allowed to remain for a long time and they were advised to flee. Marie's husband was captured and with two very young children with her, she had no choice but to flee in Northern Europe. She and her children accepted the offer of her brother-in-law, King Gustav IV Adolf of Sweden to take up residence with the royal family in Malmo. 

Marie with her eldest son, Karl
While in Sweden, Marie was constantly worried about the whereabouts of her husband and the future of their duchy. They were finally allowed to return to Germany in 1807 and she was reunited with her husband. Since Brunswick was now under Napoleon's control, they were not able to go back there and they stayed with Marie's family in Karlsruhe. While in Karlsruhe, Marie became pregnant with her third child, However, when she gave birth, the baby was stillborn, and Marie succumbed to puerperal fever. She died four days later, on December 8, 1808 at the age of 25.

Marie's life was short, but she led an exemplary life dedicated to, to her husband, and to the preservation of her duchy. After her death, Frederick William became a freedom-fighter and formed a corps raised from volunteers. They wore black uniforms which earned them the name "the Black Brunswickers". Frederick William, the Black Duke of Brunswick, became a local hero and a living legend. Perhaps as a way to give tribute to the memory of his wife, several streets, places and churches in Brunswick were named after. 

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