Duke Franz Friedrich of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, Empress Catherine II of Russia, Grand Duke Constantine Pavlovich of Russia, Juliane of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, Leopold II of Belgium, Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom
Princess Juliane Henriette Ulrike of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld (September 23, 1781 – August 12, 1860), also known as Grand Duchess Anna Feodorovna of Russia was a German princess of the ducal house of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld (after 1826, the house of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha) who became the wife of Grand Duke Constantine Pavlovich of Russia.
Princess Juliane was the third daughter of Franz Friedrich, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld and Countess Augusta Caroline Reuss of Ebersdorf. She was named in honour of her grand-aunt, Queen Juliane Marie of Denmark and Norway. Juliane Marie was born a Princess of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, and was one of the 17 children of Ferdinand Albert II, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg and his wife Antoinette Amalie of Brunswick-Lüneburg (1696–1762), youngest daughter of his first cousin Louis Rudolph, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg and his wife Princess Christine Louise of Oettingen-Oettingen, she was queen of Denmark and Norway between 1752 and 1766, second consort of King Frederik V of Denmark and Norway.
Juliane Marie of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel sister, Sophie Antoinette of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel was Juliane of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld’s paternal grandmother. Sophie Antoinette of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel married Ernst Friedrich, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld on April 23, 1749 at Wolfenbüttel. Among her notable great-grandchildren were Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, his wife and cousin, Queen Victoria oftheUnitedKingdom, Ferdinand II of Portugal, Empress Carlota of Mexico and Leopold II of Belgium. Her eldest son was Franz Friedrich, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld father of Princess Juliane of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, the subject of this blog entry, bring her family information full circle.
Empress Catherine II of Russia began to search a suitable wife for her second grandson, Grand Duke Constantine Pavlovich after the marriage of her eldest grandson, Grand Duke Alexander, with Louise of Baden in 1793. The empress spoke of pride about the young grand duke as an enviable match for many brides in Europe, as he was the second in line to succession to the Russian Empire.
Soon a marriage offer arrived from the court of Naples: King Ferdinand I of the Two-Siciles and Queen Maria Carolina, the thirteenth child of Empress Maria Theresa and Holy Roman Emperor Franz I, (and a sister of France’s queen consort, Marie Antoinette) suggested a marriage between the Grand Duke and one of their many daughters, which the Empress immediately rejected.
In 1795, her General, Baron Andrei von Budberg-Bönninghausen was sent in a secret mission to the ruling European courts, to find a bride for Constantine. He had a huge list of candidates, but during his trip became ill and was forced to stay in Coburg. He was attended by the Ducal court doctor, Baron Stockmar, who, once he knew the real intention of his trip, drew the general’s attention to the daughters of Duke Franz. Budberg wrote to Saint Petersburg that he found the perfect candidates, without visiting any other courts.
After a little consideration, Empress Catherine II consented. Juliane’s mother, Duchess Augusta Caroline, once she knew that one of her daughters would be a Grand Duchess of Russia, was delighted with the idea: a marriage with the Imperial Russian dynasty could bring huge benefits for the relatively small German Duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld.
However, in Europe there were other views; for example, Charles-François-Philibert Masson, in his Secrets Memoirs of the court of Saint-Petersburg wrote about the unenviable role of German brides in the Russian court: Young touching victim, which Germany sends as a tribute to Russia, as did Greece who sent their maids to the Minotaur…
Life in Russia
Juliane, along with her mother and two elder sisters, Sophie and Antoinette, travelled to Saint Petersburg at the request of Empress Catherine II of Russia. After the first meeting, the Empress wrote: “The Duchess of Saxe-Coburg was beautiful and worthy of respect among women, and her daughters are pretty. It’s a pity that our groom must choose only one, would be good to keep all three. But it seems that our Paris give the apple to the younger one, you’ll see that he would prefer Julia among the sisters…she’s really the best choice.”
However, Prince Adam Czartoryski, in his Memoirs, wrote: Constantine was given an order by the Empress to marry one of the princesses, and he was given a choice of his future wife. This point of view was confirmed by Countess Varvara Golovina, who also wrote: After three weeks, the Grand Duke Constantine was forced to make a choice. I think that he did not want to marry anyone at all.
After the young Grand Duke chose Juliane, she began her training as a consort. On February 2, 1796, the 14-year-old German princess took the name of Anna Fyodorovna in a Russian Orthodox baptismal ceremony and 24 days later, on February 26, she and Constantine were married.
The Empress Catherine II died nine months later, on November 6, 1796. By virtue of her wedding, she was awarded with the Grand Cross of the Imperial Order of Saint Catherine and the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem.
This union, in connection with the wedding of her brother Leopold who had married Princess Charlotte Augusta of Wales, daughter of King George IV of the United Kingdom, made the little Duchy of Saxe-Coburg the dynastic heart of Europe. In addition, thanks to relations with the Russian Empire, Saxe-Coburg was relatively safe during the Napoleonic Wars. However, on a personal level, the marriage was deeply unhappy. Constantine, known to be a violent man and fully dedicated to his military career, made his young wife intensely miserable.