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Princess Augusta of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach (Augusta Marie Luise Katharina; September 30, 1811 – January 7, 1890)1AB3444D-4ECF-4E95-B0B2-46949D49A20B
Princess Augusta of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach

Augusta was the second daughter of Charles-Friedrich, Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach and Maria Pavlovna of Russia, a daughter of Paul I of Russia and Sophie-Dorothea of Württemberg.

Wilhelm I (Wilhelm Friedrich Ludwig; March 22, 1797 – March 9, 1888) of the House of Hohenzollern was King of Prussia from January 2, 1861 and the first German Emperor from 18 January 18, 1871 to his death. Wilhelm was the first head of state of a united Germany, and was also de facto head of state of Prussia from 1858 to 1861, serving as regent for his brother, Friedrich-Wilhelm IV.

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Princess Marie of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach

Meeting with Wilhelm

Augusta was only fifteen years old when, in 1826, she first met her future husband, Prince Wilhelm of Prussia who was more than fourteen years older than her. Wilhelm thought the young Augusta had an “excellent personality,” yet was less attractive than her older sister Marie, whom Wilhelm’s younger brother, Charles of Prussia, had already married. Above all, it was Wilhelm’s father who pressed him to consider Augusta as a potential wife.

While the marriage of Augusta and Willem was bumpy the marriage of Marie and Charles was happy. Although they had married for family and dynastic reasons, their marriage had been happy and harmonious, and they had been deeply attached to each other.

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Princess Marie of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach

At this time, Wilhelm was in love with the Polish Princess Elisa Radziwill. The Crown Prince at the time was Wilhelm’s elder brother, Crown Prince Friedrich WilhelM (later King Friedrich-Wilhelm IV). He and his wife Elisabeth Ludovika, daughter of King Maximilian I Joseph of Bavaria and his Queen Friederike, Margravine of Baden, had been married three years and had no children. Although it was not anticipated that they would remain childless (which turned out to be the case), the court did expect that Wilhelm, as heir presumptive to the throne, should make a dynastic marriage and produce further heirs.

King Friedrich-Wilhelm III was indulgent of the relationship between his son Wilhelm and Elisa, but the Prussian court had discovered that her ancestors had purchased their princely title from Emperor Maximilian I, and she was not deemed noble enough to marry a potential King of Prussia. Ironically, Crown Princess Elisabeth Ludovika, who as a Bavarian princess was considered to be of correct rank, counted both Bogusław Radziwiłł and Janusz Radziwiłł among her ancestors, albeit through female descent.

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Princess Augusta of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach

It was suggested by some courtiers that if Eliza Radziwill was adopted by a family of adequate rank, then a marriage with Prince Wilhelm was possible. In 1824, the Prussians turned to the childless Emperor Alexander I of Russia to adopt Elisa, but the Russian Emperor declined. The second adoption plan by Elisa’s uncle, Prince August of Prussia, likewise failed because the responsible committee considered that adoption does not change “the blood.” Another factor was the Mecklenburg relations of the deceased Queen Louise’s influence in the German and Russian courts (she was not fond of Elisa’s father).

Thus, in June 1826, Wilhelm’s father felt compelled to demand the renunciation of a potential marriage to Elisa. Thus, Wilhelm spent the next few months looking for a more suitable bride, but did not relinquish his emotional ties to Elisa. Eventually, Wilhelm asked for Augusta’s hand in marriage on August 29, (in writing and through the intervention of his father). Augusta agreed and on October 25, 1828, they were engaged.

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Princess Augusta of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach

Historian Karin Feuerstein-Prasser has pointed out on the basis of evaluations of the correspondence between both fiancées, what different expectations Wilhelm had of both marriages: He wrote to his sister Charlotte, the wife of Emperor Nicholas I of Russia, with reference to Elisa Radziwill: “One can love only once in life, really” and confessed with regard to Augusta, that “the Princess is nice and clever, but she leaves me cold.” Augusta liked her future husband and hoped for a happy marriage, in the end, it was an inwardly happy marriage despite outward appearances.

On June 11, 1829, Wilhelm married his fiancée in the chapel of Schloss Charlottenburg.

Married life

The first weeks of marriage were harmonious; Augusta was taken favorably in the Prussian King’s court, however, Augusta soon started to be bored with its military sobriety, and most courtly duties (which may have counteracted this boredom) were reserved to her sister-in-law, Crown Princess Elisabeth.

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Princess Augusta of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, Queen of Prussia and German Empress

In a letter which Wilhelm wrote on January 22, 1831 to his sister Charlotte, he has mixed feelings of his wife’s “lack of femininity”. Prince Friedrich (later Emperor Frederick III of Germany), was born later that year on October 18, 1831, three years after their marriage and Louise, was born on December 3, 1838, seven years later.