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

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Princess Caroline Reuss zu Greiz, Grand Duchess of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach

Princess Caroline Reuss zu Greiz (Caroline Elisabeth Ida, 13 July 1884, Greiz – 17 January 1905, Weimar), first wife of Wilhelm Ernst, Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach. She was the fourth child and third of five daughters of the reigning Prince Heinrich XXII Reuss zu Greiz and his wife Princess Ida of Schaumburg-Lippe. Her mother died in 1891 when Caroline was only seven, and her father in 1902, when she was seventeen. (Her brother, Prince Heinrich XXIV, who succeeded their father, was mentally and physically disabled as a result of a childhood accident, and ruled under a regency; at his death the older Reuss line became extinct.)

Caroline in the year she turned sixteen.
The five Reuss sisters.  Hermine, at far right, would become the second wife of Ex-Kaiser Wilhelm in 1922.
Caroline when Grand Duchess, with her sisters.

In December of 1902, eight months after her father's death, Caroline became engaged to twenty-four year old Wilhelm Ernst, the reigning Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach (10 June 1876, Weimar – 24 April 1923, Heinrichau, Silesia).

Four postcards celebrating the engagement.

Caroline was apparently quite opposed to the marriage, which had been arranged by a maternal uncle since both her parents were deceased. And on the eve of the wedding in April 1903, with a great throng of royalties already gathered, she attempted to back out of the ceremony. But the Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany and his empress were especially outraged by this turn of events, which they felt was an affront to their dignity, and forced through the proceedings.

The new Grand Duchess in court dress.
Her husband, Wilhelm Ernst, Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach.

Not surprisingly, the marriage was very unhappy right from the beginning. Caroline was made miserable by the stifling etiquette of the Weimar court, held to be the most rigid and crushingly dull court in Germany. Her husband, though an attentive ruler was, by all accounts, extremely unpleasant and generally loathed by the populace of Weimar; he is always referred to in histories as a "sadist" in his private life. Caroline eventually fled to Switzerland. This caused a great scandal, and her husband soon followed and she was convinced to return to Weimar. But her health rapidly declined and she sank into a deep depression. Only a year and a half after her marriage, she died in January of 1905, at the age of twenty. The circumstances of her death have always been considered suspicious; the official cause of death was pneumonia following influenza, but many believe it was suicide.

Caroline on her deathbed.
The funeral procession.

Her husband married again five years later. He and his second wife, Feodora of Saxe-Meiningen, would have four children. At the conclusion of World War I, he was forced to abdicate, and fled with his family to their estate in Silesia, where he died four years later.

The black-bordered postcard commemorating Caroline's death.

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