Princess Augusta of Prussia (Christine Friederike Auguste; May 1, 1780 – February 19, 1841) was a German salonist, painter, and Electress Consort of Electoral Hesse by marriage to Wilhelm II, Elector of Hesse.
Augusta was the third daughter and fifth child of King Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia and Frederika Louisa of Hesse-Darmstadt, the daughter of Ludwig IX, Landgrave of Hesse-Darmstadt, and Countess Palatine Caroline of Zweibrücken
On February 13, 1797 in Berlin, Augusta married Prince Wilhelm of Hesse-Cassel, eldest surviving son of Wilhelm IX, Landgrave of Hesse-Cassel.
Following the reorganization of the German states during the German mediatisation of 1803, the Landgraviate of Hesse-Cassel was raised to the Electorate of Hesse and Landgrave Wilhelm IX was elevated to Imperial Elector, taking the title Wilhelm I, Elector of Hesse.
Prince Wilhelm of Hesse-Cassel succeeded on his father’s death in 1821 and became Wilhelm II, Elector of Hesse.
Elector Wilhelm II of Hesse was also the grandson of
Landgrave Friedrich II of Hesse-Cassel, and his wife Princess Mary of Great Britain, daughter of King George II of Great Britain.
The marriage of Augusta was politically arranged and unhappy. Augusta and Wilhelm often came into conflict with one another, which led to aggressive confrontations.
In 1806, Hesse was occupied by France. Augusta was in Berlin with her children at the time, having remained in the Prussian capital due to her pregnancy when Napoleon’s army took the Electorate for France.
Napoleon put guards around her house and gave orders that she should not be disturbed. With Hesse and Prussia occupied and her family in exile, Augusta lacked money, and after her child’s birth she asked for a meeting with Napoleon.
Augusta appeared before him with her newborn baby on her arm and one of her children by the hand and asked him for an allowance, which he granted her.
After the birth of her last child in 1806, the relationship between Augusta and Wilhelm was unofficially terminated.
In 1812, Emilie Ortlöpp met Elector Wilhelm II during a stay in Berlin and soon became his mistress. Wilhelm II brought Emilie to Cassel in 1813, leading to a de facto termination of his marriage with Princess Augusta of Prussia, but for political reasons, he was not allowed to divorce his wife.
In 1815, Wilhelm and Augusta agreed to keep separate households. Augusta lived in Schoenfeld Palace, where she became a celebrated salonist and the centre of the romantic Schoenfelder-circle, which included Ludwig Hassenpflug, Joseph von Radowitz and the Grimm brothers, while Elector Wilhelm lived in a different residence with his mistress, Emilie Ortlöpp.
Augusta closed her salon in 1823, and between 1826 and 1831 she lived in The Hague, Koblenz, Bonn and Fulda. She returned to Cassel in 1831. Augusta was regarded as a skillful painter, whose works included self-portraits.
Augusta died on February 19, 1841 and several months after her death, Wilhelm II morganatically married his longtime mistress Emilie Ortlöpp, ennobled as Countess von Reichenbach-Lessonitz, by whom he had an additional eight children.
The relationship between Wilhelm II and Emilie caused a scandal; they even received death threats. The Countess was probably unpopular and was alleged to have had a negative impact on Wilhelm’s politics, or at least some of his political failures were attributed to her.
The relationship was one of the reasons why the Wilhelm did not return to his capital Kassel after the 1830 revolution.