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From the Emperor’s desk: in my post about King Umberto I of Italy I mentioned the short life and tragic death of Archduchess Mathilde of Austria. Here is her biography.

Archduchess Mathilde of Austria (Mathilde Marie Adelgunde Alexandra; January 25, 1849 – June 6, 1867) was an Austrian noblewoman. She was the second daughter of Archduke Albrecht of Austria, Duke of Teschen and Princess Hildegard of Bavaria.

Archduchess Mathilde of Austria


Her father, Archduke Albrecht, Duke of Teschen (1817 – 1895) a grandson of the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold II, was the eldest son of Archduke Charles of Austria, (who defeated French Emperor Napoleon I at Aspern, 1809), and Princess Henrietta of Nassau-Weilburg. Archduke Albrecht was the nephew of the Holy Roman Emperor Franz II, and first cousin to Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria’s father, Archduke Franz Charles of Austria, and he also served under Emperor Franz Joseph.

Archduke Albrecht of Austria, Duke of Teschen

Her mother, Princess Hildegard of Bavaria (1825–1864) was the seventh child and fourth daughter of King Ludwig I of Bavaria and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. On May 1, 1844 in Munich, Hildegard married Archduke Albert of Austria, Duke of Teschen. She thereafter became known as Archduchess Hildegard. She and her husband had 3 children.

Princess Hildegard of Bavaria

Archduchess Mathilde‘s forenames were derived from her mother’s sisters, Princess Mathilde Caroline of Bavaria, Grand Duchess of Hesse (1813–1862), Princess Adelgunde of Bavaria Duchess of Modena (1823–1914) and Princess Alexandra of Bavaria (1826–1875), with whom Hildegard had a very close relationship.

Archduchess Mathilde had two elder siblings: Archduchess Maria Theresia (1845–1927), who married Duke Philipp of Württemberg (1838–1917) in 1865 and her only brother Archduke Charles Albrecht died of smallpox at the age of 18 months.

Archduchess Mathilde (right) and her sister Archduchess Maria Theresia (left)


In 1847 after the death of his father, Archduke Albrecht inherited the Weilburg Palace in Baden bei Wien, that Archduke Charles had built for his wife Princess Henrietta of Weilburg (1797–1829). Albrecht and his family usually spent summers there, Archduchess Hildegard being especially fond of its renowned public baths. Because of his charity, he was popularly named Engelsherz (Angel’s Heart). During the winter, the family lived in Vienna. Archduchess Mathilde‘s family was very close to the Austrian imperial family, and Empress Elisabeth of Austria greatly enjoyed the company of her cousin Archduchess Hildegard.

Among Mathilde’s circle of friends was the Archduchess Marie Therese (1849–1919), later Queen of Bavaria, (wife of King Ludwig III of Bavaria) who was of the same age and also the stepdaughter of Karl Ferdinand (1818–1874), Mathilde’s uncle.


A distant cousin, Archduke Ludwig Salvator of Austria (1847–1915), of the Italian Habsburg line, fell in love with Mathilde and sought to marry her, but they never became engaged. Mathilde was intended to become Queen of Italy as the wife of Umberto of Savoy (1844–1900) in order to improve the already tense relations between Austria-Hungary and Italy.

During her stay in Munich for the funeral of her brother King Maximilian II (1811–1864) in March 1864, Mathilde’s mother became ill with a lung inflammation and pleurisy, and died; Mathilde was then 15 years old.


Mathilde died at the age of 18 in Schloss Hetzendorf, the Viennese home of Empress Elisabeth, on June 6, 1867. The archduchess had put on a gauze dress to go to the theatre. Before leaving for the theatre, she wanted to smoke a cigarette but shortly thereafter her father, who had forbidden smoking, approached her, and she hid the cigarette behind her dress, immediately setting light to its very flammable material and giving her second and third-degree burns. Her death was witnessed by her whole family.


Archduchess Mathilde was buried in the imperial vault in the Imperial Crypt beside her mother and her brother Charles Albrecht.

In doing research on Archduchess Mathilde I learned she was a great-great granddaughter of King Carlos III of Spain (1734-1759) and through him a descendant King Louis XIV of France and Navarre (1743-1715).