Monday, 30 January 2017
A Saxe-Coburg / Romanov Marriage in 1840?
On August 22nd, 1840 Prince Albert wrote to his brother Ernest “… Papa again speaks about [Grand Duchess] Olga … For Papa she has everything he wants – great authority, a great deal of money, great beauty, and besides, for Mamma [step-mother Marie of Württemberg, niece of Empress Maria Feodorovna], dear remembrances of Russia …”
Later in the letter, Albert returns to the topic “… The enquires the Empress [Alexandra] made and which seem so important to Papa and Her von Stein, appear to me to be only dictated by her well known politeness and friendliness. Ladies in such high positions, who are received at strange places by strange people and are bored, cannot do anything else but enquire after the nearest relations, if they wish to be polite. When they have at length found something to talk about, they extend such a conversation for a long time …”
Daguerretype (below) of Grand Duchess Olga c1840s
Lithograph (below) of Ernest II c1842
Photograph (below) of Ernest II c1857
After the funeral of her father King Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia in June 1840, Empress Alexandra journeyed to Weimar with her daughter Olga. Nicholas I, who had joined the family in Berlin, went with them to visit his favorite sister Grand Duchess Marie Pavlovna and then left for Warsaw.
Meanwhile, Empress Alexandra and Olga traveled the road from Weimar to Bad Ems, stopping in Gotha, the duchy a part of the Saxe-Coburg lands since 1826. Alexandra’s visit with Ernest I at Schloss Friedenstein prompted his hope for a marriage with his son.
In her memoir, Grand Duchess Olga writes extensively of her suitors yet does not mention Ernest. Was she aware of the conversations between her mother and the Duke or failed to remember when writing her memoir in the early 1880s?
The lives of Olga (1822-1892) and Ernest II (1818-1893) paralleled in many ways. Both sets of parents had married in July 1817. In 1846, Olga married Prince Karl of Württemberg, becoming Queen in 1864. Ernest married Princess Alexandrine of Baden in 1843, becoming Duke in 1844. Both had no direct legal descendants to inherit their thrones.
The marriage between a Russian Grand Duchess and a Coburg Prince in 1840 would have mirrored the marriage between the Coburg Princess Julia and the Russian Grand Duke Konstantin in 1795. The affection Albert had for his brother Ernest and Alexander I for Konstantin is understandable; the fate of the wife is untenable.
Photographs (below) of Karl and Olga von Württemberg c1890s
Photograph (below) of Ernest and Alexandrine of Saxe-Coburg und Gotha c1890s