Alexandrine of Baden, Duchess of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Duke Ernst II of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Ernst Ludwig of Hesse and by Rhine, Golden Jubilee, Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich of Russia, Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom
Prince Ernst succeeded his father, Ernst I, as Duke Ernst II of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in 1844. The couple traveled to Windsor to visit their relations. Lady Eleanor Stanley, one of Victoria’s maids-of-honour, commented to her mother:
“…the Duke is not well, they say, and he certainly looks dreadfully ill… he however shook hands with us very civilly at meeting, and seemed in great spirits at being with his brother. The Duchess [Alexandrine] told Lady Duoro she had been at Ems in hopes of producing a son and heir, but it had no effect as yet; we were rather amused at her saying it so simply, but she seems a very nice person and very pretty.”
The couple’s relationship at this stage was “as unclouded as it would ever be”, in the words of historian Charlotte Zeepvat. While touring some farms in Windsor, Alexandrine caught a cold; they left soon after. Lady Eleanor commented again that “[Alexandrine] was very sweet at parting, and kissed us all round; she looked very delicate, as white as a sheet, and more fit to be in her bed than undertaking a long journey.
The parting of the Royalty was not so sorrowful as I expected; plenty of kissing, but no tears”. Victoria was sorry to see them leave, as she loved Ernst loyally for Albert’s sake, and had come to see Alexandrine as a sister.
Victoria chose Ernst to be the godfather of her second daughter Princess Alice, and he was consequently expected in England in April 1859 for her confirmation. Though Victoria was eager to see his wife again, and though plans had been arranged the previous year for her to visit, Ernest chose to not bring her along. It was clear that as the chances of producing children had faded, Ernst was taking less and less interest in his wife.
The marriage proved to be childless. Though it was most likely that the fault lay with Ernest (due to the venereal disease he contracted before his marriage), Alexandrine seems to have accepted without question that their childlessness was her fault.
Before and during their marriage, Ernst carried on countless affairs. Alexandrine remained a loyal wife, however, and chose to ignore those relationships of which she was aware. At one point, Ernst had two mistresses, and was living with them and Alexandrine “in an improbable ménage which made the couple a laughing-stock to all but their family”. Although she loved Alexandrine, Victoria was appalled by her willingness to accept his affairs:
“Uncle E.’s conduct is perfectly monstrous and I must blame Aunt very much. They have not written to me yet – but when they do I shall have to write very strongly.”
As the years went by, Ernst’s behavior and manner of dress increasingly became a joke to younger generations. Marie of Edinburgh, a daughter of Ernst’s nephew and successor Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh later recalled Ernst as “an old beau, squeezed into a frock-coat too tight for his bulk and uncomfortably pinched in at the waist’, sporting a top hat, lemon-coloured gloves, and a rosebud in his lapel”.
Prince Ernst Ludwig of Hesse and by Rhine recalled how Alexandrine used to trail behind her husband calling, “Ernst, my treasure”; this caused particular embarrassment at the 1887 Windsor Golden Jubilee oV Queen Victoria when Prince Ernst Ludwig’s brother-in-law Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich of Russia mockingly imitated Alexandrine, calling out to Ernst Ludwig “Ernst, my treasure”, not realizing that the Duke was approaching from the other end of the room: “He saw my aghast expression and turned, then we both fled, escaping into different rooms. I burst out laughing but for a long time Sergei was desperately worried, because he didn’t know if Uncle had heard him.”
Ernst died on August 22, 1893 after a short illness. Next in line to the Ducal throne would have been HRH The Prince of Wales (future King Edward VII) but he had renounced his rights in favour of his brother, Prince Alfred, who became the new reigning Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.
Alexandrine died on December 20, 1904, having survived her husband by eleven years.
Alexandrine is buried in the ducal mausoleum at Friedhof am Glockenberg [de], Coburg.