, , , , , ,

Princess Adelheid of Hohenlohe-Langenburg (July 20, 1835 – January 25, 1900) was Duchess of Schleswig-Holstein by marriage, a niece of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, first cousin of King Edward VII, and the mother-in-law of German Emperor Wilhelm II. She is the direct most recent common matrilineal ancestress (through women only) of Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden and Felipe VI of Spain.

Early life

Adelheid was born the second daughter of Ernst I, Prince of Hohenlohe-Langenburg by his wife Princess Feodora of Leiningen, the daughter of Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld and her first husband, Emich Carl, Prince of Leiningen. Therefore, Adelheid’s mother was the older, maternal half-sister of the British Queen Victoria.

Napoleon III’s proposal of marriage

In 1852, not long after Napoléon III became Emperor of France, he made a proposal of marriage to Adelheid’s parents after he had been rebuffed by Princess Carola of Sweden. Although he had never met her, the political advantages of the marriage for the Emperor were obvious.

It would provide dynastic respectability for the Bonaparte line, and could promote a closer alliance between France and Britain, because Adelheid was Queen Victoria’s niece. At the same time, she was not officially a member of the British royal family, so the risk of refusal was small. Adelheid could be expected to be grateful enough for her good fortune to convert to Roman Catholicism.

As it turned out, the proposal horrified Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, who preferred not to confer such hasty legitimacy upon France’s latest “revolutionary” regime — the durability of which was deemed dubious — nor to yield up a young kinswoman for the purpose.

The British court maintained a strict silence toward the Hohenlohes during the marriage negotiations, lest the Queen seem either eager for or repulsed by the prospect of Napoléon as a nephew-in-law.

The parents, accurately interpreting the British silence as disapproval, declined the French offer—to their sixteen-year-old daughter’s dismay. This may have been only a maneuver by the Hohenlohe family to obtain concessions from the French to secure their daughter’s future interests.

However, before his ministers could press his case with further inducements, Napoléon gave up pursuit of a royal consort. Instead he offered marriage to Eugénie de Montijo, Countess of Teba, whom he had been simultaneously soliciting to become his mistress, and who had refused his advances.

Marriage and children

On September 11, 1856 Adelheid married Friedrich VIII, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein (from the Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg line).

They were parents to seven children:

1. Prince Friedrich (August 3, 1857 – October 29, 1858)
2. Princess Augusta Viktoria (October 22, 1858 – April 11, 1921) she married Wilhelm II of Germany on February 27, 1881.
3. Princess Karoline Mathilde (January 25, 1860 – 20 February 20, 1932) she married Friedrich Ferdinand, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein on March 19, 1885.
4. Prince Gerhard (January 20, 1862 – April 11, 1862)
Ernst Gunther, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein (August 11, 1863 – February 21, 1921) he married Princess Dorothea of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha on August 2, 1898.
5. Princess Louise Sophie (April 8,1866 – April 28, 1952) she married Prince Friedrich Leopold of Prussia on 24 June 24, 1889.
6. Princess Feodora Adelheid (July 3, 1874 – June 21,1910).

Later life

With her husband, the Duchess first resided at Dolzig, in Lower Lusatia, but in 1863 moved to Kiel when Duke Friedrich became legitimate heir to the duchies of Schleswig-Holstein.

They returned to Dolzig only three years later, when after the Austrian-Prussian War the duchies were annexed by Prussia. In the following years the couple alternated between Dolzig, Gotha, and the family domains at Primkenau.

Duke Friedrich died in 1880, shortly before the couple’s eldest daughter was engaged to the Prussian heir. After the marriage in February 1881, Duchess Adelheid settled in Dresden, where she lived a retired life, interesting herself chiefly in painting and music.

The Duchess died at Dresden on January 25, 1900.