Thursday, June 23, 2016

Princess Augusta of Bavaria, Duchess of Leuchtenberg

Princess Augusta Amalia Ludovika of Bavaria was the second child and eldest daughter of Maximilian I Joseph, King of Bavaria and his first wife, Princess Augusta Wilhelmine of Hesse-Darmstadt. Augusta was born on June 21, 1788 in Strasbourg, a present-day French city close to the German border. Augusta had three other full-blooded surviving siblings, including: Ludwig I, King of Bavaria and Caroline Augusta, Empress of Austria. When Augusta was seven years old, her mother (who had always had weak lungs) died on March 30, 1796 at the age of thirty from tuberculosis. It wasn’t long before Augusta’s father married again a year later to Caroline of Baden, the daughter of the Hereditary Prince of Baden.

It took some time for young Augusta to accept her stepmother, who had eight children with the King (five of which survived infancy), including Princess Ludovika, the mother of the five famous Duchesses in Bavaria. As Augusta matured, she was praised for her beauty and her gentle character. One contemporary described her as “very gentle and very amiable, and, what was more, remarkably handsome. An indescribable charm emanated from this sweet young girl who was not yet eighteen years of age. She was very tall, well shaped and as slender as a nymph. She was gifted with a natural dignity which made everybody respect her; her face was more handsome than pretty, and her complexion was remarkably fresh, although perhaps a trifle highly-coloured. But the most pleasing thing about her was the air of kindness which won the love of everybody who had the honour of her acquaintance. These advantages were not all natural; education had done much for her; she had been brought up with extreme simplicity, and she always dressed remarkably plainly."

Princess Augusta of Bavaria
(Andrea Appiani, 1806-07)
Her father initially betrothed her to her stepmother’s youngest brother, the future Charles, Grand Duke of Baden. When the pair met, it was clear that the two were besotted with each other and were looking forward to their wedding day but things changed dramatically when the engagement was abruptly called off by the Emperor of France, Napoleon Bonaparte. Napoleon was searching for a respectable spouse for his stepson, Eugene de Beauharnais, Viceroy of Italy, and he was interested in matching Eugene with a Bavarian princess. When Napoleon came to Munich in search of the right Bavarian lady, he saw the seventeen year-old Augusta and was instantly enchanted by her beauty. He thought that this “pretty creature”, as he described Augusta in a letter to his brother, was as perfection in the form of a young woman and the right fit for Eugene. When Napoleon asked Augusta’s father to break off his daughter’s engagement so she could marry Eugene, he was very tentative at first since he knew of his daughter’s love for Charles. But when Napoleon sweetened the deal with the promise of making Bavaria a kingdom and Maximilian its king (at this time, Bavaria was just an electorate and Maximilian was the Elector), he agreed.

On Christmas Day of the year 1805, Augusta received a letter from her father, pleading with her to marry Eugene and detach herself from her beloved Charles. He wrote that although he knew how devastated she would be to have to give up her betrothed, she had to keep in mind what was best for her home, as it would not be wise to refuse the most powerful man in Europe at the time. Augusta, who broke into tears upon reading the letter, knew she had no choice but to do her duty as a daughter and marry Eugene. She wrote an poignant parting letter to Charles, in which her devastation and grief, as well as her sense of commitment to her father, is clear in her words: “My pain is indescribably great, but I must obey the command of my father, and the will of my country…”

Eugene de Beauharnais, Viceroy of Italy
(Andrea Appiani, 1810)
As soon as a tearful Augusta agreed to the match, Napoleon wasted no time in arranging the preparations for the wedding. While Augusta’s father was overjoyed that his daughter had consented to the union because of the benefits Bavaria would gain, her stepmother, Caroline of Baden, was not pleased at all with the match. She had an extreme dislike for Napoleon and his rule, not to mention the fact that Augusta’s former betrothed was her jilted little brother. The man in question, Charles, was played by Napoleon a second time when the French Emperor quickly arranged a marriage between his adopted daughter, Stéphanie de Beauharnais, and Charles not long after Charles received the heartbreaking news of his broken engagement with Augusta.

While the wedding ceremony was being arranged, Napoleon sent for Eugene to leave Milan for Munich so he could meet his lovely bride (he even told him to shave off his whiskers to make a better impression on Augusta). When the couple met not long before the wedding, Augusta’s grief over Charles was forgotten. It was love at first sight for both Eugene and Augusta, a love which would only further cement itself in both partners in the years to come. Eugene shared his betrothed’s gentle nature and was described as a modest, prudent man with a talent for battle and politics. The two were officially married on January 14, 1806 in Munich, the bride being just seventeen and the groom seven years her senior. Two days before the marriage, Napoleon had adopted Eugene, his stepson, as his own son and named him “Eugene Napoleon of France”. Two days after the ceremony, the love-struck couple left for their new home of Italy while the wedding celebrations continued in Bavaria for weeks. Napoleon stayed true to his word and thirteen days before the marriage, he made Augusta’s father the King of Bavaria, raising its status from that of an electorate to a royal kingdom. He could not be more pleased with the fact that Augusta and Eugene had fallen in love and her adored his new daughter-in-law, who he addressed as his own daughter, immensely.

Princess Augusta of Bavaria
(François Gérard, 1800-15)
Eugene and Augusta, now the Vicereine of Italy, were given a warm welcome by the people of Milan once they arrived. Eugene was already a popular leader and his new wife only boosted his popularity amongst the people, who adored her good-natured and amiable personality. The couple only fell more in love with each other as their marriage lengthened. Both become entirely devoted to one another through mutual respect, trust, and admiration. A year into the marriage, Augusta gave birth to her first child – a daughter named Princess Joséphine after her paternal grandmother by Napoleon’s request. In their eighteen years of marriage, Augusta ultimately had a total of seven children with her husband, five daughters and two sons, with just one daughter dying in infancy.

Augusta and Eugene’s children:
  • Princess Joséphine of Leuchtenberg (1807-1876) married: Oscar I, King of Sweden and Norway – had issue
  • Princess Eugénie de Beauharnais (1808-1847) married: Constantine, Prince of Hohenzollern-Hechingen – no issue
  • Prince Auguste de Beauharnais, 2nd Duke of Leuchtenberg (1810-1835) married: Maria II, Queen of Portugal – no issue
  • Princess Amélie of Leuchtenberg (1812-1873) married: Pedro I and IV, Emperor of Brazil and King of Portugal – had issue
  • Princess Théodolinde de Beauharnais (1814-1857) married: Wilhelm, Duke of Urach – had issue
  • Princess Carolina de Beauharnais (1816) died in infancy
  • Prince Maximilian de Beauharnais, 3rd Duke of Leuchtenberg (1817-1852) married: Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna of Russia – had issue

Augusta of Bavaria, Duchess of Lecuchtenberg
(Joseph Karl Stieler, 1820)
In 1809, Eugene became the commander of the Italian Army during the War of the Fifth Coalition, which initially began well for him until he eventually experienced his first defeat. The loss was a bitter blow and it shook him tremendously. He constantly wrote to his beloved wife during the war and their time apart, either telling her about the conflict’s developments or expressing his frustration and gloom about problems affecting his own progress, including his first defeat. In his absence, Augusta ruled adeptly as regent and kept the peace in Italy while also maintaining stability throughout the land. Eugene greatly missed his wife and children during their time apart, which made their reunion six months after his departure that much more satisfying.

Things took a turn for the worst in 1814 when Napoleon was forced to abdicate his crown and Milan teetered on the brink of revolution. Eugene tried everything to prevent an uprising but despite his efforts, he had to give up his position in Italy and leave the country with his family. They fled to Munich to be welcomed by Augusta’s father and relatives, who treated the couple and their children with great kindness. Though Eugene and Augusta had lost their home and power in Italy, they managed to create a new, happy life for their young family in Augusta’s native land. In 1817, King Maximilian gave the couple the state of Eichstätt and named them the Duke and Duchess of Leuchtenberg. With their new lands and titles, they had a palace built for them called the Leuchtenberg Palace where they would reside for the rest of their lives raising their much-loved offspring.
Augusta's eldest daughter -
Josephine, Crown Princess of Sweden
(Fredric Westin, 1825)

On June 19, 1823, the couple’s eldest daughter, Princess Joséphine (who held the titles of Princess of Bologna and Duchess of Galliera), made an advantageous marriage to the Crown Prince of Sweden and Norway, the future King Oscar I. Coincidently enough, Oscar was the son of Napoleon’s old love, Queen Désirée Clary. Right after the wedding, Eugene suffered an attack of apoplexy and was constricted to his bed for some time. He recovered, much to the relief of his wife, but just a month later he had yet another attack that was far more severe than the first. His health began to fall apart completely and Augusta, who remained loyal to the end, cared for him unfailingly until he died on February 21, 1824 at the age of forty-two.

Augusta's second daughter -
Eugénie de Beauharnais
(Joseph Karl Stieler, 1826)
Augusta suffered immensely from the loss of her treasured husband and it was said that she never got over his death. In the twenty years she survived him, she would sob each time she remembered Eugene, especially his smile. Two years after her husband’s passing, their second daughter, Eugénie, married Constantine, Prince of Hohenzollern-Hechingen and three years after that, her daughter Amélie, married Pedro I and IV, Emperor of Brazil and King of Portugal. In the remaining years before her death, she witnessed the marriages of the rest of her children as well as the birth of some grandchildren. She lived to see her eldest daughter, Joséphine, became the Queen Consort of Sweden and Norway when her husband ascended to the throne in 1844. On May 13, 1851, Princess Augusta of Bavaria, the Duchess of Leuchtenberg, died at the age of sixty-two in her home of Munich.

Augusta and Eugene’s eldest child, Queen Joséphine, had five children with her husband, four sons and one daughter, including: King Charles XV and IV of Sweden and Norway and King Oscar II of Sweden. Augusta’s eldest son, Auguste, became the Duke of Leuchtenberg and Santa Cruz, as well as the 2nd Prince of Eichstätt. He made an expedient marriage to Queen Maria II of Portugal, becoming the Prince Consort, but the marriage only lasted for two months before his unexpected death. Princess Amélie became an Empress and Queen when she became the second wife of Pedro I and IV, Emperor of Brazil and King of Portugal, who was the father of Maria II of Portugal by his first marriage. The couple had just one daughter together before Pedro’s early death five years after the wedding. Augusta’s youngest child, Prince Maximilian, became the 3rd Duke of Leuchtenberg after his brother’s death and married Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna of Russia, the first cousin of Emperor Napoleon III of the French and Francis Joseph I of Austria. They had seven children together, four sons and three daughters, with just one daughter dying in infancy. 

Augusta's youngest daughters (left to right) -
Amélie of Leuchtenberg and Théodolinde de Beauharnais
Augusta entered her marriage with a heavy sense of trepidation and misery, as she had been compelled to give up the man she loved and who she wanted to spend the rest of her life with to do her duty for her country. However, the union between her and Eugene proved to be stronger than Augusta could have ever imagined. Their situation was extremely rare; most royal matches made for purely dynastic or political reasons rarely resulted in true love or even mutual respect. But Augusta and Eugene had all of this and more. Before they met, neither could have been aware of how deeply they would fall for each other. And yet, though Augusta thought she was being forced to give up the love of her life to marry Eugene, it turned out that he, the man she would commit herself to entirely in body and soul, was her actual soul mate.

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