Princess Alexandra Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg (April 21, 1887 – April 15, 1957).
House of Glücksburg
The family takes its ducal name from Glücksburg, a small coastal town in Schleswig, on the southern, German side of the fjord of Flensburg that divides Germany from Denmark. In 1460, Glücksburg came, as part of the conjoined Dano-German duchies of Schleswig and Holstein, to Count Christian of Oldenburg whom, in 1448, the Danes had elected their king as Christian I, the Norwegians likewise taking him as their hereditary king in 1450.
Princess Alexandra Victoria’s birthplace Grünholz Castle, photographed in 2010.
In 1564, King Christian I’s great-grandson, King Frederik II, in re-distributing Schleswig and Holstein’s fiefs, retained some lands for his own senior royal line while allocating Glücksburg to his brother Duke Johann the Younger (1545–1622), along with Sønderborg, in appanage. Johann’s heirs further sub-divided their share and created, among other branches, a line of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg Dukes at Beck (an estate near Minden bought by the family in 1605), who remained vassals of Denmark’s kings.
The House of Augustenburg
The House of Augustenburg was a branch of the dukes of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg of the House of Oldenburg. The line descended from Alexander, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg, who was the the third son of Johann II, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg and Elisabeth of Brunswick-Grubenhagen.
Duke Johann II was the fourth child and third son of King Christian III of Denmark and Norway and his wife, Dorothea of Saxe-Lauenburg.
Like all of the secondary lines from the Sonderburg branch, the heads of the House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg were first known as Dukes of Schleswig-Holstein and Dukes of Sonderburg. The family took its name from its ancestral home, Augustenborg Palace in Augustenborg, Denmark.
Ernst Günther, a member of the ducal house of Schleswig-Holstein (its branch of Sønderborg) and a cadet of the royal house of Denmark, was the third son of Alexander, 2nd Duke of Sonderborg (1573–1627), and thus a grandson of Johann II the Younger (1545–1622), the first duke, who was a son of King Christian III of Denmark.
Prince August Wilhelm of Prussia
Ernest Günther had a castle built in the years after 1651, which received the name of Augustenborg in honor of his wife, Auguste. She was also from a branch of the Dukes of Schleswig-Holstein as a daughter of Philip (1584–1663), Duke of Glücksburg. As that castle became the chief seat of their line, the family eventually used the name of Augustenborg as its branch name. As they were agnates of the ducal house, the title of duke belonged to every one of them (as is the Germanic custom).
The Dukes of Augustenburg were not sovereign rulers—they held their lands in fief to their dynastically-senior kinsmen, the sovereign Dukes of Schleswig and Holstein—who were the Oldenburg Kings of Denmark.
Princess Alexandra Victoria was born on April 21, 1887 at Grünholz Castle in Schleswig-Holstein, Prussia as the second-eldest child and daughter of Friedrich Ferdinand, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg and his wife Princess Caroline Mathilde of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg, a great-niece of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom.
Alexandra Victoria’s father, Friedrich Ferdinand, was the second-eldest son of Friedrich Wilhelm, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg and Princess Louise Caroline of Hesse-Cassel and an elder brother of Christian IX of Denmark.
Princess Augusta Victoria’s father, Friedrich Ferdinand had succeeded to the headship of the House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg and the title of duke upon the death of his father on November 27, 1885.
Augusta Victoria’s paternal grandmother, Princess Louise Caroline of Hesse-Cassel, was the daughter of Prince Charles of Hesse-Kassel (1744 – 1836) and his wife Princess Louise of Denmark (1750 – 1831). Her elder sister Marie Sophie of Hesse-Cassel (28 October 1767 – 21 March 1852) became Queen consort of Frederik VI of Denmark.
Therefore Augusta Victoria’s paternal great-grandmother, Princess Louise of Denmark, was the daughter of was King Frederik V of Denmark and Norway and Princess Louise of Great Britain.
Augusta Victoria’s mother was Princess Caroline Mathilde of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg (1860 – 1932) and she was the second-eldest daughter of Friedrich VIII, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein and his wife Princess Adelheid of Hohenlohe-Langenburg.
Princess Caroline Mathilde had a sister, Princess Augusta Victoria, who married Emperor Wilhelm II; who are Prince August Wilhelm’s parents.
Princess Adelheid of Hohenlohe-Langenburg (20 July 1835 – 25 January 1900) was Duchess of Schleswig-Holstein, a niece of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, first cousin of King Edward VII, and the mother-in-law of Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany. She is the most recent common matrilineal ancestress (directly through women only) of Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden and Felipe VI of Spain.
Princess Alexandra Victoria and her son Prince Alexander Ferdinand of Prussia
Marriages and issue
Alexandra Victoria’s first husband was her first cousin Prince August Wilhelm of Prussia, the son of Wilhelm II, German Emperor and his wife Augusta Victoria Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg, a sister of Alexandra Victoria’s mother.
They married on October 22, 1908 at the Royal Palace of Berlin. The marriage was arranged by the Emperor and Empress, but it was relatively happy. Alexandra was a great favorite of her mother-in-law, especially since the Empress was also her own aunt.
A contemporary of the court, Princess Catherine Radziwill, commented that Alexandra “had always shown herself willing to listen to her mother-in-law. She is a nice girl – fair, fat, and a perfect type of the ‘Deutsche Hausfrau’ dear to the souls of German novel-writers”. Another contemporary wrote that the marriage had been a love match, and that Alexandra was a “charmingly pretty, bright girl”.
The couple had planned to take up residence in Schönhausen Palace in Berlin, but changed their mind when August Wilhelm’s father decided to leave his son the Villa Liegnitz in the Sanssouci Park in Potsdam. Their residence developed into a meeting place for artists and scholars.
Alexandra Victoria and August Wilhelm had one son:
Prince Alexander Ferdinand of Prussia (December 26, 1912 – June 12, 1985).
During the First World War, August Wilhelm was made district administrator (Landrat) of the district of Ruppin; his office and residence was now Schloss Rheinsberg. His personal adjutant Hans Georg von Mackensen, with whom he had been close friends since his youth, played an important role in his life. These “pronounced homophilic tendencies” contributed to the failure of his marriage to Princess Alexandra Victoria. They never undertook a formal divorce due to the opposition of August Wilhelm’s father, Kaiser Wilhelm II.
After the fall of the German monarchy in 1918, the couple divorced on March 16, 1920.
Her second husband was Arnold Rümann, whom she married on January 7, 1922 at Grünholz Castle. In 1926, Alexandra moved for a time to New York City, where she worked as a painter. She and Arnold were divorced in 1933.
After World War II, Alexandra lived in a trailer near Wiesbaden, where she earned a living as a portrait and landscape painter. She died on April 14, 1957 in a hotel in Lyons, France.