L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Alexandrine of Baden and her dear, wicked husband

Alexandrine of Baden, Duchess of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (artist unknown)

Alexandrine Luise Amalie Friederike Elisabeth Sophie of Baden, Duchess of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (Karlsruhe, 6 December 1820 - Schloss Callenberg, 20 December 1904)

The eldest daughter of Leopold, Grand Duke of Baden and Princess Sophie of Sweden, Alexandrine had been all but betrothed to the future Alexander II of Russia, but in 1842 she married the future Duke Ernst II of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.  Ernst was the elder bother and only sibling of Prince Albert - Queen Victoria's Prince Albert.  Taking after their father, Duke Ernst I, Ernst the son was known for his promiscuous lifestyle.  Prince Albert, after his own marriage in 1839, encouraged his brother to find a suitable bride; he also counseled him to wait until he was fully recovered from venereal disease - something Ernst had suffered from since his late teens - warning him that his continued reckless promiscuity might leave him unable to father children.  Venereal disease was not actually curable at that time and, as it turned out, after their marriage Alexandrine was unable to conceive, most likely as a result of her husband's disease rendering her infertile.

Alexandrine, a miniature by Sir William Charles Ross.

Ernst, a miniature by Sir William Charles Ross.

Alexandrine was forever devoted to her husband, but as the couple continued to remain childless - she always assumed their childlessness was her fault - Ernst resumed his former lifestyle and was continuously unfaithful.  During a marriage of fifty-one years, Alexandrine accepted her husband's infidelity completely, seemingly unconcerned, to the amazement of her relatives and the ridicule of others.  As Duchess of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, she dedicated much energy - and often her own personal funds - to the establishment and support of many charitable organizations, especially those that benefited children, the ill, and those that worked to improve the position of women in society.

Alexandrine, a portrait by Winterhalter in the year of her marriage, 1842.

Ernst in hunting attire, a portrait by Richard Lauchert.

In their later years they were both often objects of derision; the now-stout and gossipy Duke Ernst, the old débauché, squeezed into his dandyish attire, and his adoring wife trailing after him, addressing her husband as, "Ernst, my treasure".  Ernst died in 1893 and was succeeded by his nephew, Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, second son of Prince Albert and Queen Victoria.  Alexandrine lived to the age of eighty-four, outliving "her treasure" by eleven years.

Duke Ernst II in old age.

The Dowager Duchess Alexandrine, seated right, with her husband's successor, Alfred, Duke of Saxe-Coburg
and Gotha, his wife (née Grand Duchess Marie Alexandrovna of Russia), and their four daughters, L-R,
Beatrice, Victoria-Melita, Alexandra, and Marie.

1 comment: