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Friedrich IV, Duke of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg (November 28, 1774 – February 11, 1825), was the last duke of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg.

He was the third but second surviving son of Ernst II, Duke of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg and Princess Charlotte Amalie of Saxe-Meiningen, the eldest child and daughter of Anton Ulrich, Duke of Saxe-Meiningen and his second wife, Landgravine Charlotte Amalie of Hesse-Philippsthal.

Princess Charlotte Amalie of Saxe-Meiningen was an elder sister of Charles Wilhelm, Duke of Saxe-Meiningen and Georg I, Duke of Saxe-Meiningen.

Friedrich IV, Duke of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg

Friedrich IV’s father, Ernst II, Duke of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg was the third but second surviving son of Friedrich III, Duke of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg and Luise Dorothea of Saxe-Meiningen, daughter of Ernst Ludwig I, Duke of Saxe-Meiningen and Dorothea Marie of Saxe-Gotha.

After the death of his older brother Prince August without sons (1822), Friedrich (the only surviving male of the house) inherited the duchy of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg upon his father’s death in

Duke Friedrich IV fought – after military training – in the Napoleonic campaigns and was heavily wounded. As a consequence of these injuries, he was constantly ill until his death.

Because of his illness, he traveled for a long time seeking a cure. During these stays outside of his duchy, he left the government in hands of his secret advisor Bernhard August von Lindenau.

He only reigned three years and died unmarried; with him, the line of Dukes of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg ended. After his death without an heir it resulted in the necessity to rearrangement of the Ernestine duchies.

Rearrangement of the Ernestine Duchies

One of the heirs of the Duchy of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg was Duke Ernst III of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld.

Although the late Friedrich IV, Duke of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg, was the uncle of Ernest’s first wife, Louise, his claim to the Duchy stemmed from Duke Ernst III being a member of the Ernestine branch of the Wettin dynasty (and not as Louise’s husband).

Ernst III, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld

Duke Ernst’s first wife Princess Louise of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg was the only daughter of August, Duke of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg and his first wife Louise Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, the daughter of Friedrich Franz I, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Princess Louise of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg…whom Princess Louise was named after.

On July 31, 1817 in Gotha, 16-year-old Louise married her 33-year-old kinsman Ernst III, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, after he failed to win the hand of a Russian grand duchess. Louise was considered “young, clever, and beautiful”.

They had two children: Ernst, who inherited his father’s lands and titles, and Albert, who was later the husband of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom.

However, Duke Ernst III was, at the time of the death of Friedrich IV in the process of divorcing Princess Louise and the other branches of the Wettin family used this as a leverage to drive a better bargain for themselves by insisting that he should not inherit the Duchy of Gotha.

Princess Louise of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg

They reached a compromise on November 12, 1826: Ernst received Gotha, but had to cede Saalfeld to Saxe-Meiningen. He subsequently became “Ernest I, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha”.

Although he had given a constitution to Coburg in 1821, he did not interfere in the system of government in Gotha. In reality Coburg and Gotha were not politically united duchies but were ruled in personal union by the Duke.

Altenburg was thereafter ruled by the Duke of Saxe-Hildburghausen, who became the Duke of Altenburg, and the Duchy of Hildburghausen was transferred to Saxe-Meiningen along with Saalfeld as previously mentioned.