Confederation of the Rhine, Countess Palatine Amalie of Zweibrücken-Birkenfeld, Elector Frederick Augustus III of Saxony, Holy Roman Emperor Leopold II, King Frederick Augustus I of Saxony, King Stanislas II Augustus of Poland, Kingdom of Poland, Napoleon Bonaparte, Queen of Saxony
From the Emperor’s Desk: In this post I will be just dealing with how Friedrich August became King of Saxony. I will also reference his marriage and other family connections.
Friedrich August I (December 23, 1750 – May 5, 1827) was a member of the House of Wettin who reigned as the last Elector of Saxony from 1763 to 1806 (as Friedrich August III) and as King of Saxony from 1806 to 1827. He was also Duke of Warsaw from 1807 to 1815.
Throughout his political career Friedrich August tried to rehabilitate and recreate the Polish state that was torn apart and ceased to exist after the final partition of Poland in 1795. However he did not succeed, for which he blamed himself for the rest of his life. Nevertheless, his efforts at reestablishing an independent Polish nation did endear him to the Polish people.
Friedrich August was the second (but eldest surviving) son of Friedrich Christian, Elector of Saxony and Maria Antonia Walpurgis, Princess of Bavaria, Archduchess Maria Amalia of Austria and Elector Charles Albert of Bavaria who became Holy Roman Emperor Charles VII between 1742 and 1745.
Because he was underage at the time of his father’s death in 1763, Elector Friedrich August III’s mother served as Regent until 1768. His uncle, Prince Franz Xavier, functioned as his representative. Through his father’s side, he was descended from two kings of Poland, and through his mother’s side Siemowit, the first confirmed duke of Poland.
Renunciation of the Polish throne
In 1765 Prince Franz Xavier ceded the Polish throne to Stanislas II Augustus on behalf of the underage Elector. However, when a Polish Constitution was ratified by the Polish Sejm Elector Friedrich August III was named successor to Stanislas II Augustus.
At the same time, the head of the Saxon Royal House was established as heir to the Polish throne (Article VII of the Polish Constitution). Elector Friedrich August III declined to accept the crown upon Stanislas II Augustus’s death in 1798, because he feared becoming entangled in disputes with Austria, Prussia and Russia, who had begun to partition Poland in 1772.
In fact, a full partition of Poland among the neighboring powers of Austria, Prussia, and Russia had already taken place by 1795.
Foreign policy up to the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire
In August 1791, Elector Friedrich August III arranged a meeting with Holy Roman Emperor Leopold II and King Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia at Pillnitz Castle. The move was intended partly to offer support for the French monarchy in the face of revolutionary agitation in France.
The Declaration of Pillnitz warned of the possibility of military action against the French revolutionary government, a provocation that provided the latter with grounds to declare war on Austria in April 1792. Friedrich August III himself did not sign the Declaration.
Saxony wanted nothing to do with the defensive alliance against France formed between Austria and Prussia. Nonetheless, a proclamation of the Reichstag of the Holy Roman Empire issued in March 1793, obliged Elector Friedrich August III to take part.
There was great concern in Saxony in April 1795 when Prussia suddenly concluded a separate peace with France in order to facilitate the partition of Poland. Saxony dropped out of the coalition against France in August 1796 after France had advanced east into the German lands and additional conditions for the Holy Roman Empire to conclude a separate peace were agreed.
Both the peace agreement with France and Saxony’s participation in the Congress of Rastatt in 1797 served to demonstrate Elector Friedrich August III’s loyalty to the conventional constitutional principles of the Holy Roman Empire. The Congress of Rastatt was supposed to authorize the surrender to France of the territories on the left bank of the Rhine in return for compensation for the rulers relinquishing territory.
However, at Rastatt and again in 1803 at the issuance of the Final Report of the Empire Delegation [the law of the Holy Roman Empire that laid out the new order of the Empire], Saxony refused to agree to territorial adjustments, since these were designed to benefit Bavaria, Prussia, Württemberg, and Baden.
Foreign policy until the peace with Napoleon
Elector Friedrich August III also did not participate in the creation of the Confederation of the Rhine, which led to the final dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire. With respect to the Prussian idea of a north German empire, within which Saxony was supposed to be raised to a kingdom, he appeared reserved.
However, after September 1806, in response to the Berlin Ultimatum, which demanded the withdrawal of French troops from the left bank of the Rhine, Napoleon advanced as far as Thuringia. At that point, Friedrich August III joined with Prussia.
However, at the twin battles of Jena and Auerstedt in 1806 Napoleon inflicted a crushing defeat on the Prusso–Saxon troops. The Prussian government and army then withdrew headlong to the east. Friedrich August III, left without any information concerning Prussian intentions, and with Napoleon’s troops about to occupy Saxony, was forced to conclude peace.
On December 11, 1806 in Poznań a treaty was signed by authorized representatives of both sides. According to its terms, Saxony was forced to join the Confederation of the Rhine and to surrender parts of Thuringia to the recently organized Kingdom of Westphalia.
As compensation, Saxony was given the area around Cottbus and was raised to the status of a kingdom alongside the Confederation states of Bavaria and Württemberg. Elector Friedrich August III of Saxony became King Friedrich August I of Saxony.
In Mannheim on January 17, 1769 (by proxy) and again in Dresden on January 29, 1769 (in person), Friedrich August III married the Countess Palatine Amalie of Zweibrücken-Birkenfeld, sister of King Maximilian I Joseph of Bavaria. During their marriage, Amalia gave birth to four children, but only one daughter, Princess Maria Augusta of Saxony (1782 – 1863) survived to adulthood.
Countess Palatine Amalie of Zweibrücken-Birkenfeld was the daughter of Count Palatine Friedrich Michael of Palatinate-Zweibrücken-Birkenfeld-Bischweiler and his wife, Countess Palatine Maria Francisca of Palatinate-Sulzbach.
Friedrich August and Amalie (being the sister of King Maximilian I Joseph of Bavaria) were the Aunt and Uncle to the Bavarian Princesses that made important dynastic marriages with two of thier nieces marrying Kings of Saxony.
Maximilian I Joseph’s second wife was Caroline of Baden, eldest child of Charles Ludwig, Hereditary Prince of Baden, and his wife Amalie of Hesse-Darmstadt.
Princess Elisabeth Ludovika (“Elise”) (1801 – 1873) twin sister of Amalie Auguste. Married King Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia.
Princess Amalie Auguste (1801 – 1877) twin sister of Elisabeth Ludovika. Married Johann I of Saxony.
Princess Marie Anne (1805 – 1877) twin sister of Sophie. Married King Friedrich August II of Saxony.
Princess Sophie (1805 – 1872) twin sister of Marie Anna. Married Archduke Franz Charles of Austria, mother of Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria-Hungary and Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico.
Princess Ludovika (1808 – 1892), married Duke Maximilian Joseph in Bavaria. They were the parents of
Duchess Elisabeth in Bavaria wife of Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria-Hungary.