Duchess Augusta Caroline Friederika Luise of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel (December 3, 1764 – September 27, 1788) was the first wife of King Friedrich of Württemberg and the mother of King Wilhelm I of Württemberg.
Like her sister, Caroline of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, Augusta had a scandalous personal life and an unhappy marriage.Early life Princess Augusta was born in Brunswick, the eldest child of Charles Wilhelm Ferdinand, Duke of Brunswick and Princess Augusta of Great Britain, the elder sister of George III of the United Kingdom. Augusta was a great-granddaughter of King George II of Great Britain.
She was named in honour of her mother and grandmother. Augusta was the eldest of seven children, and her younger sister, Princess Caroline, would marry the future George IV of the United Kingdom.
On October 15, 1780, at the age of 15, Augusta was married in Brunswick to the 6 foot 11 inch, 25 year old Duke Friedrich of Württemberg, eldest son of Duke Friedrich Eugene, himself the youngest brother of the reigning Charles Eugene, Duke of Württemberg. As neither the reigning Duke nor the middle brother had any sons, Friedrich’s father (and then Friedrich himself) were expected to succeed in time as Duke of Württemberg.
That eventuality was however many years in the future, and the birth of a legitimate heir would end Friedrich’s hopes conclusively. Moreover, his uncle the Duke was not disposed to give any member of his family any role in affairs of government. Friedrich was in Prussian employ as Major-general. After the wedding, Augusta followed him to Lüben, a small town in Eastern Prussia, where his regiment was stationed.
At that time, the Empress of Russia, Catherine II, and the Holy Roman Emperor, Joseph II, were forging a new alliance, which would be sealed by a marriage between Elisabeth of Württemberg (younger sister of both Friedrich and Maria Feodorovna (Sophie Dorothea of Württemberg), who was married to Tsesarevich Paul, future Emperor of Russia) and Archduke Franz, son of the Holy Roman Emperor’s brother and successor, Leopold II.
The King of Prussia, Friedrich II, was opposed to this alliance, which he accused Friedrich of supporting. Accordingly, the relations between Friedrich of Württemberg and King Friedrich II of Prussia soured to the point that Friedrich saw himself forced to leave Prussia. Prince Friedrich resigned in December 1781, sent Augusta and their baby son Wilhelm back to Brunswick and joined his sister Maria Feodorovna and her husband on the Italian leg of their extended tour through Europe.
While in Naples, in February 1782, Friedrich received an invitation from the Russian Empress to move to St Petersburg as Lieutenant-general in her army and Governor-General of Eastern Finland, with his seat at Viipuri. After spending the summer with Augusta in Montbéliard, his parents’ home, they finally arrived in St Petersburg in October 1782, where the Empress had renovated and lavishly furnished a mansion for them.
It was no secret that the marriage between Augusta and Friedrich was an unhappy union of two mismatched personalities. Already in the first year of marriage, there was talk of a divorce but Augusta’s father absolutely refused, threatening his daughter with social ostracization should she leave her husband. After secret investigations, Empress Catgerine II discovered that Prince Friedrich, whom she would call a ‘ferocious rogue’, was to blame for the discord.
The Russian Empress took it upon herself to protect Augusta, whose conduct she found ‘perfectly blameless’, from her husband’s violent nature. Over the next three years, three more children were born, of which the second daughter, Dorothée, would die at nine months. The relationship between Augusta and her abusive husband deteriorated to the point where Catherine wrote an urgent letter to Duke Charles Wilhelm Ferdinand of Brunswick that his daughter’s life was in danger.
When the Duke was hesitant to take action, Catherine urged Augusta to leave her husband and arranged for a police carriage to be on standby at all times. Eventually, on December 28, 1786 (new style), Augusta fled to the Hermitage, where Catherine gave her asylum and ordered Friedrich to leave Russia. When Maria Feodorovna protested at this treatment of her brother, Catherine replied curtly, ‘It is not I who covers the Prince of Württemberg with shame; instead, I try to cover up his appalling behaviour. It is my duty to suppress such things.’ It became known that shortly before Augusta fled, Frederick had plotted (unsuccessfully) to have his wife raped in order to have her reputation dishonoured.