Monday, October 29, 2012

"A Sacrifice for My Country" - Princess Augusta of Bavaria

Princess Augusta Amalia Ludovika Georgia of Bavaria was the wife of Eugene de Beauharnais, stepson of Napoleon Bonaparte. She was born in Strasbourg in 1788, the eldest daughter of the future King Maximilian I of Bavaria and his first wife, Princess Auguste Wilhelmine of Hesse-Darmstadt. Augusta's childhood was marked by many unhappy events. Before the French Revolution, Augusta's father was serving in the French army, but after its outbreak, he changed sides, choosing to serve under the Austrian army in order for him to be able to take part at the French Revolutionary Wars. Maximilian became the Duke of Zweibrucken after the death of his older brother, and decided to return to Germany to oversee his new duchy. But upon his return, he saw his duchy being occupied by the French army. Riots broke out, and the situation became so tense and dangerous that he and his family were forced to flee to his wife's homeland, Darmstadt. Then they moved to Mannheim, where they lived in modest circumstances for the next five years.When the French started attacking Mannheim, the family was forced to flee once again. They seek refuge in Ansbach, but Princess Auguste-Wilhelmine's health was greatly undermine by the stresses of war and five pregnancies. After giving birth to her fifth child, she died in Castle Heidelberg.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Frederica of Baden, Queen of Sweden

Princess Frederica was one of the many daughters of Karl Ludwig, Hereditary Prince of Baden and Princess Amalie of Hesse-Darmstadt. She was born in Karlsruhe on March 12, 1781, the fourth daughter of the grand ducal couple.

Frederica grew up in an idyllic and happy family life. She and her sisters enjoyed a close and warm relationship with each other, and they were particularly close to their mother. Throughout their adult lives, their correspondence with their mother was incessant, and they always confide in her about their joy and unhappiness, and even the political situation in their respective countries. Amalie was a strong and formidable woman, and she was always sympathetic to her daughters' plight. She gave them valuable advice and kept reminding them that their duties to their respective countries and husbands must be foremost in their minds.

Portrait of Queen Frederica of Sweden
by Johan Erik Bolinder.
Frederica studied together with her sister Louise, who was only two years older than Frederica. They were taught about history, art, music, dancing, and etiquette. Their first language was German, but they also learned fluent French. When Louise and Frederica were 14 and 12 respectively, an unexpected proposal came from Russia. Empress Catherine II was looking for brides for her grandsons Alexander and Constantine, and after receiving favourable reports about the Princesses of Baden, she agreed to invite them to Russia. Louise and Frederica duly arrived in St. Petersburg in the autumn of 1792, and after meeting them, Catherine was impressed with their appearance and manners. She thought them well-educated and with high morals. The arrival of these two very young but pretty princesses caused so much celebration and sensation in the Russian court. Louise was a blond and shy beauty while Frederica was a brunette and more animated than her older sister. In the end, it was Louise who captured the heart of the heir to the Russian throne, Alexander, and she and Alexander were subsequently engaged and married. Louise became the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Alexeievna after her conversion to the Orthodox faith. Catherine was hoping that Constantine would like Frederica, but he did not want anything to do with her. She was sent back to Baden, loaded with expensive gifts and praises from Russia. But her touching farewell to her sister Louise was still etched in their memories even years after.

For the time being, Frederica contented herself with her life in Baden with her mother. But one day, news came to Baden from Sweden that would eventually turn Frederica's fate. She was selected by King Gustav IV Adolf to be his wife.

There was an interesting story about how King Gustav IV Adolf came to know about Frederica. The young king, who always wanted to have a beautiful wife, was first betrothed to Princess Louise-Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Schwerin when he was 16 years old. He haven't had met Louise-Charlotte, but he was initially positive about the engagement. However, when he started receiving reports that she was not beautiful, he broke off the engagement. Almost immediately, the King and the Swedish court looked for another candidate. This time the girl was from Russia. She was the Grand Duchess Alexandra Pavlovna, the granddaughter of Empress Catherine. Catherine was very keen on marrying off her eldest granddaughter to the Swedish king. Gustav went to Russia to meet and 'inspect' the princess, but before meeting her in person, he saw a portrait of Alexandra in the studio of the painter Mme. Vigee Le Brun. He was so captivated by her beauty that he fixed his gaze at the portrait for such a long time that his hat, which he held with his hand, fell on the floor. After meeting and spending time with Alexandra, he asked for her hand, and announced that he was in love. Unfortunately, there was no wedding to be concluded. Gustav found out from the engagement contract that Alexandra would not change her religion even after she became Queen. Gustav was incensed and remained adamant that he would not give his people an Orthodox queen. He broke the engagement, and he refused to see Alexandra from then on. Later on, before Gustav left Russia, he had a conversation with Alexandra's sister-in-law, the Grand Duchess Elizabeth, the former Princess Louise of Baden and Frederica's sister. The king thought Elizabeth remarkably beautiful, and he felt 'a little in love' with her. But Elizabeth laughed off the king's little attention for her, and sympathetic as ever, tried to comfort him by showing him a portrait her sister Frederica. Upon seeing Frederica's beautiful face, Gustav's expression brighten and thenceforth became resolved in marrying her.

King Gustav IV Adolf 
and Queen Frederica.
Gustav's interest on Frederica was a surprise for Princess Amalie. She wrote to her daughter, the Grand Duchess Elizabeth, about the Swedish king's proposal to Frederica: "Judge of my surprise: M. de Taube, who is here, has just asked, on behalf of the King of Sweden, for the hand of one of your younger sisters in marriage. I am so astounded that I do not know what to reply."

Gustav came to Germany to personally see Frederica, and they met in Erhfurt. They were married in Stockholm on October 1797, and later settled in Haga Palace, which Frederica really liked. She was quite popular with the people, and she had no difficulty in getting along with her in-laws, especially her mother-in-law, who treated Frederica with great kindness. But she had a difficult time adjusting to the rigid etiquette of the Swedish court, and felt lonely and homesick in the first few years of her marriage. Gustav was very much in love with his wife, and he often exhaust her with his sexual needs. But his behaviour towards her was very formal, especially in the presence of other people.

Frederica gave birth to the couple's first child, Gustav, in 1799, and he was followed by 4 more children: Sophie, Carl Gustav, Amalia, and Cecilia. Like her sister, now the Empress Elizabeth, Frederica kept a detailed correspondence about her life in Sweden to her mother in Baden.

Gustav and Frederica's marriage started off quite well; Frederica genuinely loved her husband despite his difficult character, but differences in their lifestyle and point of view, and not to mention, the tense political situation in Sweden during those times, greatly strained the couple's marriage. Her letters to her sister Elizabeth paints a woman who had to undergo many difficulties in her life in Sweden. But Frederica possessed a very determined character which would be of great use to her in facing her misfortunes in life. Countess Golovina wrote about her: "She was full of wit and ingenuity... Alas! Her destiny, though brilliant, exposed her to great trials, and the crown placed on her head was woven with many thorns."

These words by Countess Golovina perfectly portrayed Frederica's fate as Queen of Sweden. She was a well-liked queen, but Gustav was an unpopular king, and his inept leadership and the failure of his policies caused him and Frederica the throne. In 1809, the King and Queen were deposed by a coup d'etat of army officers. Gustav was arrested and incarcerated in the Castle of Gripsholm, while Frederica and her children were allowed to remain in Haga Palace. In order to ensure his son's succession as the next king, Gustav abdicated, but the Swedish government announced that he and all his descendants were deprived of the right to succeed the Swedish throne. It was a devastating news for Gustav and Frederica. Gustav's uncle was proclaimed as the new king under the name of Charles XIII, thus giving way to another Swedish dynasty, the Bernadottes.

Queen Frederica in exile. Painted by
Karl Stieler in 1810.
During Frederica and her children's house arrest, her dignity and fortitude earned her the people's respect, sympathy and admiration. The new queen, Hedvig Elizabeth Charlotte, treated her with kindness and respect, and sympathize with her. She wanted to help Frederica to preserve her son's right to be king, but Frederica refused. All she ever wanted, she said, was to keep her son and be reunited with her husband. She also firmly explained that "her duty as a wife and mother told her to share the exile with her husband and children". Upon Frederica's request, and with Hedvig's intervention, Gustav was reunited with his family.

Gustav, Frederica, and all their children were allowed to leave the country and lived in exile in Germany. They first settled in Baden with Frederica's mother, but Gustav, restless as ever, did not want to remain there. The couple's relationship greatly deteriorated after their exile, and they eventually divorced in 1812. Gustav settled in St. Gallen in Switzerland until his death in 1837, while Frederica and her children settled in Lausanne. Despite her frail health, she travelled extensively under the name Countess of Itterburg. She died in 1826 of heart failure, and was buried in Schloss und Stiftskirche in the small town of Pforzheim, Germany.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Powered by Blogger