Sophie Charlotte Augustine, Duchess in Bavaria, was the fifth and youngest daughter of Duke Maximilian Joseph in Bavaria and Princess Ludovika of Bavaria, herself the daughter of King Maximilian Joseph I of Bavaria. Sophie Charlotte was also the ninth child out of ten in her family. She was born on February 23, 1847 at her childhood home of Possenhofen Castle. Her siblings included: Helene, Princess of Thurn and Taxis, Empress Elisabeth of Austria, Queen Maria Sophie of the Two Sicilies, and Mathilde Ludovika, Countess of Trani. Sophie and her sisters were all known for their beautiful features, though Elisabeth and Maria Sophie were remembered as the most gorgeous of the five girls.
Sophie Charlotte’s parents began to search for a suitor for their youngest daughter’s hand after the marriage of her older sister, Mathilde Ludovika, to Prince Louis of the Two Sicilies in 1861. With Mathilde’s marriage, Sophie was the only unmarried daughter in the household. On January 22, 1867, “Sopherl”, as she was known by her family, became engaged to her maternal first cousin, Ludwig II, King of Bavaria. Ludwig had succeeded to the throne of Bavaria when he was just eighteen years old in 1864 and now found himself fighting alongside Austria against Prussia in the Austro-Prussian War, a conflict which resulted in a Prussian victory. Ludwig was not well prepared for his position as a monarch but was popular with his people because of his dark, handsome features and youth. But Ludwig, despite his popularity, was never suited for the throne. His eccentric behavior soon became difficult for his dignified role as king, for he disliked public events, avoided social functions whenever he could, and was an extremely introverted young man who spent most of his time day-dreaming or engaging in creative activities rather than participating as the head of government.
After a few years on the throne, Ludwig came under pressure from his ministers to marry and have an heir. But, as we now know from Ludwig’s personal writings, he was secretly a homosexual. In fact, it appears as though the young king never had a relationship with a woman during his reign, as he took no mistresses. Ludwig faced a very personal challenge of hiding his true desires and staying faithful to his Catholic religion while also wearing the crown. Now, however, he was pressured into doing his royal duty of finding a wife, so he decided to propose to his cousin, Sophie Charlotte. He most likely chose Sophie Charlotte as his future wife due to his close friendship with her sister, Empress Elisabeth of Austria, who favored Sophie Charlotte above all her other sisters.
The two did not seem to have much in common other than a love for Wagner. In fact, Ludwig once wrote to Sophie that, “the main substance of our relationship has always been…Richard Wagner’s remarkable and deeply moving destiny”. The fact that Ludwig was not attracted to the female sex whatsoever didn’t aid the relationship either. Ludwig was distinctly aware of this and was worried that because of his homosexual desires, Sophie Charlotte would never be happy with him. But Sophie Charlotte’s father had arranged the marriage and Ludwig was under immense public strain to have children. So, the marriage would have to go through.
|Sophie Charlotte of Bavaria|
|Sophie Charlotte and Prince Ferdinand|
The Duke and his new Duchess had a happy marriage and a year after the wedding, they moved from Bavaria to the town of Teddington in London where they resided in their new home of Bushy House. Here, Sophie Charlotte gave birth to her first child, a daughter named Princess Louise d'Orléans, on July 19, 1869. Less than three years later, on January 18, 1872, Sophie Charlotte had her second and final child, a son named Prince Emmanuel d’Orléans. Not only did Sophie Charlotte get along well with her husband, she also had a good relationship with her sister-in-law, Princess Marguerite Adélaïde of Orléans. Sophie Charlotte never knew her husband’s mother, Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, as she had died in 1857 two months after giving birth to her last child. The Duchess of Alençon didn’t get along with her husband’s father, the haughty and standoffish Prince Louis, Duke of Nemours.
Sophie Charlotte's and Ferdinand's children:
|Sophie Charlotte and Ferdinand's children - Princess Louise d'Orléans|
and Prince Emmanuel, Duke of Vendôme
Sophie Charlotte's and Ferdinand's children:
- Princess Louise d'Orléans (1869-1952) married: Prince Alfons of Bavaria - had issue
- Prince Emmanuel, Duke of Vendôme (1872-1931) married: Princess Henriette of Belgium - had issue
|Sophie Charlotte and Prince Ferdinand with their children|