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House of Augustenburg

The House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg (Danish: Slesvig-Holsten-Sønderborg-Augustenborg) was a branch of the dukes of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg of the House of Oldenburg. The line descended from Alexander, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg. Like all of the secondary lines from the Sonderburg branch, the heads of the House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg were first known as Dukes of Schleswig-Holstein and Dukes of Sonderburg. The family took its name from its ancestral home, Augustenborg Palace in Augustenborg, Denmark.

The branch originated with Alexander, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg (20 January 20, 1573 – May 13, 1627), was a Danish nobleman the third son of Johann II, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg and Elisabeth of Brunswick-Grubenhagen. In my last blog entry in this series I pointed out that the older Glücksburg line descends from Philip of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg (1584–1663) a younger son of Johann II the Younger of Denmark (a son of King Christian III of Denmark), and therefore brother of Alexander, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg.

Alexander, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg married Dorothea of Schwarzburg-Sondershausen, daughter of Johan Günther I, Count of Schwarzburg-Sondershausen, on 26 November 1604 in Oldenburg. They had eleven children, among them Ernest Günther.

Alexander, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg and his wife Dorothea of Schwarzburg-Sondershausen, had as their fifth son August Philipp, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Beck (November 11, 1612 – May 6, 1675) who, after acquiring the estate of Beck in Westfalen in 1646, took the title of Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Beck. August Philipp is the ancestor of the younger Glücksburg Line.

Ernest Günther had a castle built in the years after 1651, which received the name of Augustenborg in honor of his wife, Auguste. She was also from a branch of the Dukes of Schleswig-Holstein as a daughter of Philip (1584–1663), Duke of Glücksburg. As that castle became the chief seat of their line, the family eventually used the name of Augustenborg as its branch name. As they were agnates of the ducal house, the title of duke belonged to every one of them (as is the Germanic custom).

Ernest Günther I, Duke of Augustenburg.

The Dukes of Augustenburg were not sovereign rulers—they held their lands in fief to their dynastically-senior kinsmen, the sovereign Dukes of Schleswig and Holstein—who were the Oldenburg Kings of Denmark.

Later, a Danish king made the head of that line specifically Duke of Augustenborg. In the late 18th century, since 1764, the branch of Schleswig-Holsten-Sønderborg-Augustenborg was genealogically the next senior branch immediately after the main line of Danish kings. King Frederik VI of Denmark (or, rather, his chief adviser Andreas Peter Bernstorff), made his only sister Louise Auguste of Denmark marry the then Hereditary Prince Christian of Augustenborg.

In 1764, Sønderborg castle, the seat of that elder Schleswig-Holstein branch, passed upon its owners’ extinction into the hands of the Duke of Augustenborg, but against expectations it did not became a residence (they remained at Augustenborg). Instead it was rented out as a warehouse. The penultimate Duke of Augustenborg, also named Ernst Günther, allowed Sønderborg County Museum to move into a part of the castle in 1920. The next year the Danish state bought the castle from the Duke.

August Philipp, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Beck

In 1810, a younger scion of the family, Prince Christian August, was chosen as the Crown Prince of Sweden, and adopted by king Carl XIII of Sweden. An Augustenborg dynasty on a royal throne was however not to be, as Prince Christian August died a couple of months after his arrival in Sweden.

In the early 19th century, the Danish royal line started to go extinct. The Duke of Augustenburg was the next male-line heir to the royal house, though not descended in male line from Frederik III of Denmark and Norway. This made the duke a player in the convoluted Schleswig-Holstein Question, as well as a candidate in the Danish succession. Friedrich August of Augustenburg attempted to proclaim himself reigning Duke Friedrich VIII of Schleswig-Holstein in 1864, upon the final extinction of the senior branch of the Danish kings. His daughter, Augusta Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein, became German Empress as consort of Wilhelm II.

Augusta Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg

Friedrich August of Augustenburg was the eldest son of Christian August II, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg and Countess Louise Sophie of Danneskiold-Samsøe. He was ethnically perhaps the most Danish Prince of the Danish Royal dynasty in his generation (at the time of Denmark’s most recent succession crisis). Friedrich August died January 14, 1880

His son, Ernst Günther II, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein (August 11, 1863 – February 22, 1921) inherited his father’s title as titular duke of Schleswig-Holstein. On August 2, 1898 in Coburg, he married Princess Dorothea of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, daughter of Prince Philipp of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and Princess Louise of Belgium. The couple had no children. However, on 11 November 1920, Ernst Günther II adopted Prince Johann Georg of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg (July 21, 1911 – June 23, 1941) and his sister Princess Marie Luise, children of Prince Albrecht of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, nephew of Christian IX of Denmark. Prince Johann Georg was killed in action at the age of twenty-nine.

In 1921, the Prince Albert of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg succeeded as the head of the of the House of Schleswig-Holstein, following his childless cousin Duke Ernst Günther II of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg. Prince Albert (February 26, 1869 – April 27, 1931), was a grandson of Queen Victoria, through her second daughter, Princess Helena, by her husband Prince Christian of Schleswig Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg Albert was the head of the House of Oldenburg and also head of the House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg and the Duke of Schleswig-Holstein between 1921 and 1931.

Prince Albert of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein


The ducal line died out in 1931 with Albert’s death.

Duke Albert never married and was succeeded by his distant cousin Friedrich Ferdinand, Duke of Glücksburg (who happened to also be the husband of a Princess Karoline Mathilde of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg [sister of the previously mentioned Empress Augusta Victoria and brother of his immediate predecessor, Ernst Günther II, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein] and daughter of Albert’s uncle Frederick August of Augustenburg). Is your head spinning yet?

The After Augustenburg’s line became extinct in 1931 seniority fell to the line of the Dukes of Glücksburg, heads of the second line of Holstein, known in German as Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg and in Danish as Slesvig-Holsten-Sønderborg-Lyksborg.