On July 14, 1775, the Hereditary Prince of Baden – Charles Louis – married his first cousin, Princess Amalie of Hesse-Darmstadt. At the time of her marriage, Amalie was the twenty-one-year-old daughter of Ludwig IX, Landgrave of Hesse-Darmstadt and Henriette Karoline of Palatine-Zweibrücken, a woman so respected for her intellect that she was known as "The Great Landgräfin." As the sister of a Queen consort of Prussia and a Tsesarevna of Russia, it was only fitting that Amalie was given an impressive husband as well. Although the newlyweds were just one year apart at the time of their wedding, Amalie did not find much happiness in her cousin-husband due to her father-in-law's rather cold treatment of her and her husband's immaturity. However, she inherited her mother's wit and intelligence and soon used these qualities to her advantage by becoming the fully dominant partner in the marriage. Despite Amalie's dislike for her husband (who did not outlive his father and thus, did not succeed him as the Grand Duke of Baden), the two did produce eight children, six daughters and two sons, with just one son dying in infancy.
Despite the family's rather modest lifestyle compared to other noble families, Charles Louis and Amalie made the best of their situation by arranging brilliant matches for their children (especially their daughters) largely due to Amalie's astute political judgment and fortitude on the European scene. By the time of her death in 1832, just one day after her seventy-eighth birthday, she was the mother of a Queen of Bavaria, an Empress of Russia, a Queen of Sweden, a Duchess of Brunswick-Lüneburg, and a Grand Duchess of Hesse and by Rhine. Amalie maintained a steady correspondence with her daughters throughout their lives and gave them invaluable advice in regards to their lives as wives and mothers in foreign courts while also constantly reminding them of their duties towards their adoptive lands.
Princess Caroline of Baden, Queen of Bavaria
by Johann Christian von Mannlich, 1817.
The first notable daughter of the Hereditary Prince and Princess of Baden was born Friederike Karoline Wilhelmine in July of 1776 but was later simply known as Caroline. Caroline was the younger twin of another girl, the couple's first child Amalie, but as this daughter never married, not much is known of her life. The Hereditary Princess of Baden was a strict but warm and loving mother to her children, resulting in a comfortable family environment where all her daughters were very close and referred to her as their "dear beloved Mama." Like her mother, Caroline adored the arts and was a talented painter. Once she came of age, she was considered as a possible match for Louis Antoine Henri de Bourbon, Duke of Enghien, a descendant of the French royal family through the Bourbon line. However, the match was quickly dropped out of fear of French opposition. While they were never engaged, it was said that the young and impressionable Caroline fell in love with the handsome French duke and when he was executed on charges of aiding Britain and plotting against Napoleon I in 1804, Caroline adopted a strong dislike for anything French and especially Napoleon himself.
|Caroline of Baden around the time of her marriage|
by Philip Jacob Becker, 1797.
In 1796, as Napoleon's armies spread into France and drove many German nobles away from their hereditary lands, including Caroline's, she met Maximilian, Duke of Zweibrucken, in Ansbach, a forty-year-old widower with four young children, the twenty-one-year-old girl was shocked to learn he had fallen in love with her. At first, she hesitated to accept his offer of marriage but eventually, due to her mother's persuading and Maximilian's kind nature, she gave in. The two were married in Caroline's home of Karlsruhe on March 9, 1797, and settled down in Maximilian's ducal palace in Mannheim. Caroline got along well with her young stepchildren and became the mother figure they so sorely needed, as they had only lost their mother - Princess Augusta Wilhelmine of Hesse-Darmstadt (who was actually Caroline's first cousin once-removed, making her stepchildren her second cousins) – a few months before Maximilian and Caroline met. While Caroline got along with the youngest children, Princess Augusta (the future wife of Napoleon's stepson, Eugène de Beauharnais), Caroline Augusta (the future wife of the Crown Prince of Württemberg and later, Emperor Francis I of Austria), and Karl Theodor, she found that her eldest stepson, the ten-year-old Louis (later Ludwig I of Bavaria) was always strained. This was probably due to the fact that unlike his younger siblings, Louis was old enough to remember his mother vividly and Caroline could never replace her in his eyes.
|An older Caroline, now Queen of Bavaria|
In 1825, Maximilian died, leaving the forty-nine-year-old widow at the mercy of her stepson Louis, now Ludwig I of Bavaria. His childhood dislike for the well-loved Bavarian queen still firmly in place, Ludwig tried to send her away from Munich. Caroline fought this but eventually compromised by moving to Tegernsee Castle in the country, which Maximillian had built for her before his death. She remained here until her death in 1841 at the age of sixty-five. Although Ludwig I never had much love for his stepmother, he was outraged at the lack of respect she received from the Catholic clergy at her funeral due to her Protestant faith. The Protestant clergy was not allowed to enter the church, so the funeral service had to be conducted outside and the visiting Catholic clergy wore ordinary clothes instead of their religious vestments. When the service reached its climax, the coffin of the Bavarian queen was placed in its tomb with no ceremony whatsoever. Ludwig was so angered at this insult to a member of the royal family that he softened his staunch pro-Catholic views and took a more adaptable approach to Protestantism that would last throughout his reign.
|Empress Elizabeth Alexeivna of Russia (Borovikovsky, 1813)|
Caroline's next youngest sister, Princess Louise Maria Auguste, was born on January 24, 1779, and at her birth, she arrived into the world so small and frail that the doctors who delivered her warned her parents that she might not live long. They were proven wrong, as Louise managed to hang onto life and gain strength in the loving family environment her parents created for their children. Arguably her mother's favorite daughter, she would remain close to her throughout her entire life, from the happy days of her childhood to her death. Like the rest of her siblings, her mother ensured she had a well-rounded education. She studied history, geography, philosophy, literature, and could speak both French and German. She was known for her beauty and was acknowledged as the most handsome of her sisters. Described as having a "soft, melodious voice, and a beautiful oval face, with delicate features, a Greek profile, large almond-shaped blue eyes and curly ash blond hair," it was no wonder she was regarded as one of the most beautiful women in Europe at the time.
When word of Louise's beauty reached the ears of Catherine the Great of Russia, who was in the process of searching for a bride for her favorite grandson – the Tsarevich Alexander – she quickly invited the thirteen-year-old Louise to the Russian court along with her younger sister, the eleven-year-old Frederica. Louise already had familial connections to the Russian royal family – her aunt, the late Wilhelmina Louisa of Hesse-Darmstadt (known as the Grand Duchess Natalia Alexeievna in Russia) had been the first wife of Catherine the Great's son, Grand Duke Paul.With no one but her younger sister to accompany her, the naïve and inexperienced Louise was immediately successful at charming the Russian Empress, who was taken by the young girl's beauty and charm. Even better, Louise quickly took to the tall and handsome Alexander, who was at first very reluctant to marry and extremely shy around his possible betrothed. At first, Louise mistook his remoteness for dislike but eventually, the young teenagers moved past this awkwardness and warmed to each other. Soon, Alexander was telling his parents and grandmother that he would like to marry Louise and the betrothal was underway.
|The Tsarita Elizabeth of Russia (Le Brun, 1795)|
She supposedly found her comfort in the arms of no other than Alexander's best friend, the debonair and witty Polish prince, Adam Czartoryski, who was nearly ten years her senior. It was after her possible dalliance with Czartoryski began that Elizabeth, who had been unable to conceive with Alexander for five years, she became pregnant and gave birth to a daughter, the Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna, in May of 1799. The court and Paul himself wasted no time in acknowledging the impossibility of how two blonde-haired, blue-eyed parents could produce a dark-haired child and identified Czartoryski as the father through gossip. While there was no concrete proof that Elizabeth and the Polish prince had engaged or were engaging in a sexual tryst, it was said that Alexander encouraged his best friend's passion for his wife so Alexander could freely chase after other women. While it is unknown how strongly Elizabeth felt for Czartoryski, he did admit his love for her in his journals and his feelings were threatening enough for Paul to send him away on a diplomatic mission to Italy. Unfortunately, the little Maria did not live for long. Just a little over a year after her birth, she died of a teething infection, much to Elizabeth's sorrow, as evident by a letter to her mother, "Not an hour of the day passes without my thinking of her, and certainly not a day without my giving her bitter tears. It cannot be otherwise so long as I live, even if she were to be replaced by two dozen children." The marriage of Alexander and Elizabeth, although still cordial, grew further emotionally distant.
|Empress Elizabeth Alexeievna of Russia (Mosnier, 1806)|
Everything changed for the young couple when Paul was murdered in his bedroom by a group of conspirators the night of March 23, 1801, and it was said that both Alexander and Elizabeth knew about the conspirators' plans before the assassination took place, leaving Alexander with a deep sense of guilt that would remain with him until his death. Now, the politically inexperienced Alexander and Elizabeth, both still in their early twenties, were Emperor and Empress of Russia. The weight of their new responsibilities developed further cracks in their relationship, as Alexander was too possessed by his guilt to truly love his wife and the gentle Elizabeth could only watch as he moved further and further away from her. Elizabeth, although desiring of a more simple and tranquil lifestyle than the one she was thrust into, did her best to be the calm, steady rock her husband sorely needed while doing her duty to preside over court ceremonies and engage in charitable efforts. While Alexander treated his wife in an offhand manner, he was civil towards her in public ceremonies and made sure to take his meals with her. And yet, it was another further blow to Elizabeth when he began a romantic affair in 1803 with the Polish noblewoman Maria Naryshkina, who became the Emperor's mistress for fifteen years with the blessing of her own husband. Known as "The Aspasia of the North" and described as a woman "without any merit other than the charm of her beauty", she paraded her position openly for all the Court and Elizabeth to see and even tried to have Alexander divorce his wife and marry her instead. While this stunt failed, she did have at least four illegitimate daughters by Alexander, all of them dying young (the eldest reached the age of sixteen). She also had a son who she claimed was Alexander's child but he never admitted paternity, casting doubt on the child's true parenthood. While Alexander was convinced to set her aside in 1818 and go back to his wife, he would always refer to her as family.
Poor, jilted Elizabeth became withdrawn and resolved to withstand this humiliation in silence, as befitted her gentle nature. Although Alexander was never faithful to her, it was his interactions with her that resolved him of some of the guilt raging about his tormented psyche. It was Elizabeth he went to when he was conflicted on a specific matter and it was Elizabeth he relied on for knowledge of current events as, in his words, "she was more of a reader than him." But this did not stop Elizabeth from engaging in an affair of her own with a handsome staff captain, Alexis Okhotnikov, in 1804 when she was twenty-four and he was just one year her junior. Like Czartoryski, Alexis fell deeply in love with the beautiful Russian empress, calling her his "little wife" and his "goddess". According to Elizabeth's sister-in-law, the future Empress Alexandra Feodorovna, Alexei would sneak into Elizabeth's room through a window during the day and the pair would spend nearly three hours together behind closed doors. It was soon after her affair with Okhotnikov began that once again, Elizabeth became pregnant. In November of 1806, Elizabeth gave birth to a second daughter, the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Alexandrovna, and again rumors swirled that the child was not Alexander's. Although Alexander recognized that in all likelihood, the girl wasn't his, he claimed paternity, yet was supposedly distant and uncaring towards the baby girl.
|Elizbeth in her later years, her beauty largely faded (1821)|
As the years passed by, Alexander became engrossed in religious mysticism and tried to make an effort towards redemption by forsaking Maria Naryshkina and spending more time with his wife. The reconciliation between husband and wife surprised many, even the Empress herself. By this time, as she entered her forties, her famed beauty had faded and her health had begun to take a drastic turn for the worse. She suffered from a lung condition and a nervous indisposition by 1825 and at the recommendation of her doctors, she traveled to Taganrog with Alexander in hopes that its temperate climate might cure her. It was here that Alexander and Elizabeth had their last moments of happiness together, harkening back to their childhood romance all those years ago. While Elizabeth's health did not improve, Alexander suddenly came down with a cold a month after they arrived in Taganrog, which developed into typhus in a matter of weeks. On December 1, 1825, Emperor Alexander I of Russia died in the arms of his wife at the age of forty-seven. Despite their tumultuous relationship, the loss of her husband sapped what little energy Elizabeth had left and truly broke her spirits. She wrote, again to her mother, "I do not understand myself, I do not understand my destiny... What am I to do with my will, which was entirely subjected to him, with my life, which I loved to devote to him?" Three days after his death, she wrote to her, "Do not worry too much about me, but if I dared, I would like to follow the one who has been my very life."
The Dowager Empress was much too weak to leave Taganrog for her husband's funeral in St. Petersburg. When she finally attempted to make the journey back months later, she felt so sick she had to stop at Belyov. It was here that in the early hours of May 16, 1826, one of her lady's maids found her bed in her bed from heart failure, aged forty-seven. She was put to rest beside her husband in the St. Peter and Paul Fortress and St. Petersburg after years of endless suffering and sorrow, tragedy and resilience.
The third daughter of the Charles Louise of Baden and Amalie of Hesse-Darmstadt was Princess Friederike Dorothea Wilhelmina, known as Frederica (and affectionately as "Frick" by her family), born on March 12, 1781. Like her sisters, she was given a well-rounded education in subjects like history, literature, the arts, dancing, and etiquette but unlike her other sisters, she was described as "intellectually shallow". Regardless, she was still a beauty, which seemed to run in the family, but she was also said to have a weak constitution, as she suffered from rheumatism from the age of two. When she was eleven, she accompanied her sister Louise to the court of Catherine the Great of Russia to be inspected as possible brides for her grandsons, Alexander and Constantine. The Empress was duly impressed with the young girls' beauty, intelligence, morals, and manners and in the end, it was the shy, blonde Louise who snagged the heir to the throne, Alexander, while Frederica failed to capture the interest of the brunette, bubbly Frederica. Frederica went home to Baden laden with expensive gifts and compliments from the formidable, old Empress while Louise remained behind to marry Alexander. Although Frederica failed to gain the affection of Grand Duke Constantine, she probably benefited in the end, as evident by the horrible treatment Princess Juliane of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, the eventual wife of Constantine, would suffer at his hands. Eventually, Frederica would marry even higher than that of being a Grand Duchess of Russia – she would wed the King of Sweden.
King Gustav IV Adolf of Sweden had been crowned at the age of just fourteen when his father, Gustav III was assassinated in early 1792. Descended from the Prussian royal family through his paternal grandmother and the British and Danish royal families through his mother, Gustav had a certainly impressive bloodline compared to the Grand Dukes of Russia. When he was sixteen, he was betrothed to Princess Louise-Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Schwerin but the engagement fell through when the young, impetuous king fell in love with a beautiful Swedish noblewoman and broke off the engagement in an effort to abdicate and elope with her. This plan fell through when the astute woman declined this offer. With the engagement to the Princess of Mecklenburg-Schwerin now null, Gustav was encouraged by his family to visit the court of Catherine the Great so that a betrothal between himself and one of her granddaughters, the Grand Duchess Anna Pavolovna, might be arranged. However, although he at first desired to wed the Russian princess, he broke off all talks of an engagement when he learned that the Grand Duchess would not convert from Russian Orthodoxy to Lutheranism upon becoming queen. But it was here at the Russian court, upon meeting the beautiful Louise of Baden (now the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Alexeievna) the impressionable Swedish king, who always had a weakness for beautiful women, fell in love with Elizabeth's sister, Frederica, upon being presented a portrait of her and resolved to take her as his wife.
|The King and Queen of Sweden (Forsslund, 1797-1800)|
Gustav traveled to Erfurt to see Frederica for himself in August of 1797 and was so taken with her that a marriage was arranged immediately, much to the surprise of Frederica's family. The eighteen-year-old King and his sixteen-year-old bride were married in Stockholm in late October of 1797 and settled in the Haga Palace, which was much to Frederica's taste. She became beloved by the Swedish people for her beauty and had no trouble getting along with her husband's family, especially her kind mother-in-law, unlike her older sister Elizabeth Alexeivna, who had a turbulent relationship with her in-laws. Nevertheless, like nearly all girls in her position, Frederica was homesick at first and had a difficult time adjusting to the strict decorum of the Swedish court. This caused her to isolate herself and become quite shy during formal occasions, as she preferred solitude over ceremony. Her marriage suffered at first, with the inexperienced Frederica being unaccustomed to her husband's intense sexual needs, frustrating him and causing her to become even further introverted. While the marriage improved once she began to deliver children, she would always believe that they were not sexually compatible, as the king was in her bedroom so much (his devoutness prevented him from engaging in extramarital affairs) that members of the royal council felt obligated to ask the king directly to "spare the queen's health." Gustav was overprotective of his wife's sexual innocence and went as far as to replace all her young maids of honor with older, married ladies in 1800 due to their "frivolous behavior".
Frederica would give her husband a total of five children, with just one son dying in infancy. Their first child, the Crown Prince Gustav, was born in late 1799 and was followed by three sisters – Sophie in 1801, Amalia in 1805, and Cecilia in 1807. The Crown Prince would go on to marry Princess Louise Amelie of Baden, the daughter of Charles, Grand Duke of Baden and Stéphanie de Beauharnais (niece of Josephine de Beauharnais, the wife of Napoleon Bonaparte). Louise's father, Charles, was the younger brother of Frederica, making the Crown Prince Gustav his wife's first cousin. They had one surviving daughter together, Carola of Vasa, who would marry the last King of Saxony. Meanwhile, Princess Sophie would marry her half grand-uncle, Prince Leopold of Baden, who would become the Grand Duke in 1830. Princess Amalia would die unmarried while Princess Cecilia would wed Augusts, the Grand Duke of Oldenburg, her distant cousin. While Frederica was a generally well-liked queen and garnered the public's sympathy due to her obvious sorrow when her husband left for Germany to fight in the War of the Fourth Coalition in late 1805, her husband was unpopular due to his incompetent take on ruling and the failure of his policies.
|Queen Frederica in exile (Stieler, 1810)|
Gustav's unpopularity came to a head in March of 1809 when he was deposed by a coup d'etat in favor of his uncle, who succeeded him as Charles XIII of Sweden. While Frederica and her children were kept under house arrest at Haga Palace, she was not allowed to see her husband – imprisoned at Gipsholm Castle – out of suspicion of her planning a coup. However, pity for her plight allowed her to keep the title of queen according to terms of the deposition. It was only after Charles XIII's coronation that Frederica and the children reunited with Gustav at Gripsholm, but the whole royal family was still under house arrest. Soldiers still loyal to the former king approached Frederica with the option to have her on declared monarch with her as his regent during his minority but she refused these plans, as "her duty as a wife and mother told her to share the exile with her husband and children." Nevertheless, she still viewed her husband's deposition and her son's exclusion from the line of succession as legally wrongful. In December of 1809, the family finally left Sweden for Germany and settled in the duchy of Baden in February of 1810.
Here was where the true discordance between the couple emerged – Gustav wished for the family to have a simple life in a congregation of the Moravian church in Slesvig or Switzerland while Frederica wanted to settle down in the palace Meersburg at Bodensee, which had been gifted to her by her family. By now, Frederica also refused all of her husband's sexual advances because she didn't want to give birth to exiled royal children. All of this didn't take much for Gustav to decide to go alone to Switzerland in April of 1810, demanding a divorce. While the couple tried to reconcile two further times, once in July and another in September, both failed. Gustav, still admit for a divorce, arranged a proper settlement in February of 1812, renouncing all his assets in both Sweden and abroad along with the custody and guardianship of his children. Thus, Gustav settled permanently in St. Gallen, Switzerland until his death in 1837 at the age of fifty-eight while Frederica remained in the castle Bruchsal in Baden, spending her final years traveling around Germany, Switzerland, and Italy. In her last years, her health weakened greatly until finally, on September 25, 1826, she died at the age of forty-five in Lausanne of a heart disease. She was buried in Schloss and Stifskirche in the small town of Pforzheim, Germany, never to see her adoptive kingdom of Sweden again.
|Marie of Baden, Duchess of Brunswick (Artist and Date Unknown)|
|Wilhelmine of Baden, Grand Duchess of Hesse and by Rhine (1810-20)|
The last and youngest notable daughters of the Hereditary Prince and Princess of Baden were Princess Marie (born Marie Elisabeth Wilhelmine on September 7, 1782) and Princess Wilhelmine (born Wilhelmine Luise on September 21, 1788). Like their elder siblings, they were given a well-rounded, morally significant education and although both were not as beautiful as their eldest sisters, they were certainly still attractive in the eyes of many. When Marie came of age, she was suggested as a possible spouse for one of the sons of the Duke of Brunswick Wolfenbüttel – specifically, Prince Frederick William.
The fourth son of Charles William Ferdinand, Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel and Princess Augusta of Great Britain, a granddaughter of George II of Great Britain and the sister of George III, he was not expected to inherit much of anything as his oldest brother was already married, despite being mentally restricted as well as blind. However, once it became apparent that his eldest brother would have no children and his other two brothers, both older than him, were declared invalids and excluded from the succession, it became apparent that Frederick would be his father's successor. His other siblings included Princess Augusta, the first wife of the future Frederick I of Württemberg, and Princess Caroline, the infamous wife of George IV of the U.K. By the age of eighteen, he had joined the Prussian army as captain and fought in battles against Revolutionary France. He even inherited some land of his own in 1805 when his uncle, the Duke of Oels, died childless and bequeathed his small principality to Frederick.
|Marie of Baden around the time of her marraige (around 1800)|
Pressured to marry by his father in order to continue the family line, he agreed to pursue the twenty-year-old Marie in 1802. While at first, Marie was not keen on marrying Frederick William (who was eleven years her senior) due to his reputation for leading a "fast" life, the two eventually warmed to each other and Marie agreed to wed him. They were married on November 1, 1802, in Karlsruhe, Marie's home, but settled in her husband's homeland soon after. She gave him three children, two sons and a stillborn daughter from the years of 1804 to 1808. The eldest, Charles, eventually succeeded his father as Duke of Brunswick (who became the duke himself upon his father's death in 1806) and as he never married or had children, he was succeeded by his younger brother William, who also died unmarried but with a number of illegitimate children.
Two years after Marie's wedding, her younger sister Wilhelmine married her maternal first cousin, the future Ludwig II of Hesse and by Rhine on June 19, 1804, in Karlsruhe. At the time of their wedding, Wilhelmine was just fifteen years old and Ludwig was over ten years her senior. Their marriage would prove to be extremely unhappy, as Louis was never loyal to cousin-wife. Nevertheless, Wilhelmine would successfully produce seven children – with three sons and one daughter surviving to adulthood. Her children were: the future Louis III, Grand Duke of Hesse, Prince Charles, Prince Alexander (whose morganatic marriage would result in the Battenberg/Mountbatten family), and Princess Marie (later known as Maria Alexandrovna as the wife of Emperor Alexander II of Russia). It was openly rumored that Alexander and Marie were not the children of Ludwig II, as Wilhelmine had been living separately from her husband since the birth of their first three children and in 1820 she began a lifelong affair with her chamberlain, Baron August von Senarclens de Grancy, which would explain the twelve year gap between the birth of her third child and the birth of her fourth child from 1809 to 1821.
|A young Princess Wilhelmine of Baden (1810)|
During the course of the Napoleonic Wars, Marie's husband, who actively fought as a major-general in the Prussian army, was defeated by the enemy and his duchy fell under French control. Marie and her children fled to the safety of Sweden, taking up the offer of her brother-in-law, King Gustav IV Adolf (the husband of her sister Frederica) to live as guests with his family in Malmo. The family was only allowed to return to Germany in 1807 and while they could not return to the French-controlled Brunswick, they did go back to Karlsruhe to stay with Marie's family. It was here that she became pregnant with her third child, but when she gave birth on December 4, 1808, the child – a girl – was stillborn. Four days later, Marie herself died of puerperal fever at the age of just twenty-five. Her husband eventually became the commander of a corps of freedom-fighters known as "the Black Brunswick" for their black uniforms and gave Frederick the epithet of "The Black Duke." Eventually, Frederick gained back control of his duchy after the first fall of Napoleon in 1813 but his reign did not last long, as he was killed in the Battle of Quatre Bras during the course of the Hundred Days at the age of forty-three. Before his death, to commemorate the memory of his wife, he named several streets, places, and churches in Brunswick after her.
Meanwhile, Wilhelmine – still living separately from her husband – became Grand Duchess of Hesse and by Rhine in 1830 when her father-in-law died and her husband succeeded him. Her tenure did not last long, as she died on January 27, 1836, at the age of just forty-seven after contracting typhoid. She was buried in Darmstadt along with her husband, who died twelve years after her at the age of seventy.