In the hope of preserving the monarchy in the face of growing revolutionary unrest, Chancellor Prince Max of Baden announced Wilhelm’s abdication of both titles on November 9, 1918.
Despite the announcement of his abdication and subsequent flight to the Netherlands, Wilhelm II didn’t officially abdicate until November 28, 1918 when he signed a Statement of Abdication.
Statement of Abdication. I herewith renounce for all time claims to the throne of Prussia and to the German Imperial throne connected therewith…. ” November 28, 1918 German Emperor Wilhelm II gave up his claims in a letter signed in exile from Amerongen in the Netherlands.
On November 11th I wrote about the abdication of German Emperor Wilhelm II, the other kings and Grand Dukes within the German Empire.
Today I will focus on the abdication of the German monarchs who reigned as Dukes and Princes.
Duke of Saxe-Meiningen
Bernhard assumed the Duchy of Saxe-Meiningen as Bernhard III after the death of his father in 1914. With the start of World War I Bernhard hoped to be assigned command over an army but was disappointed. In reaction he also withdrew from his role in the Duchy’s government.
After Germany lost the war, the German revolution forced Bernhard to abdicate as duke on November 10, 1918. Like all the German princes he lost his title and state. He spent the rest of his life in his former country as a private citizen. Bernhard died on January 16, 1928 in Meiningen.
Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
Charles Eduard, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (1884 – 1954) was the last sovereign Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha from July 30, 1900 until 1918. A male-line grandson of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom and Prince Albert ofSaxe-Coburg-Gotha, he was also until 1919 a Prince of the United Kingdom and from birth held the British titles of Duke of Albany, Earl of Clarence and Baron Arklow.
Charles Eduard was a controversial figure in the United Kingdom due to his status as the sovereign Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, which was part of the German Empire, during World War I. On November 14, 1918, however, after a revolution in Germany, he was forced to abdicate as Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and lost his rights to the ducal throne. Under the Titles Deprivation Act of 1917 Charles Eduard also lost his British titles of Duke of Albany, Earl of Clarence and Baron Arklow.
Duke of Saxe-Altenburg
Ernst II of Saxe-Altenburg was the fourth child and only son of Prince Moritz, the youngest son of Georg, Duke of Saxe-Altenburg and Princess Augusta of Saxe-Meiningen.
The death of his father, on the May 13, 1907, made him first in the line of succession to the duchy of Saxe-Altenburg. He inherited the dukedom when his uncle and namesake, Ernst I, died without any surviving male issue.
World War I
During World War I, Ernst refused all honorary appointments at the Kaiser’s headquarters, which would have been considerably safer than other areas. Resigning from his courtesy rank of Generalleutnant, he requested and was granted the colonelcy and the command of his duchy’s regiment, the 153rd (8th Thuringian) Infantry.
Quickly promoted to General der Infanterie, Ernst II led several brigades on the western front. In 1915, he was awarded the Pour le Mérite award and was given command of the 8th Infantry Division, further distinguishing himself in the Battle of the Somme. In late 1916, he relinquished his field command because of illness and returned to Altenburg for the remainder of the war.
When Germany lost the war, all German princes lost their titles and states. Ernst was one of the first princes to realise that major changes were coming and quickly arrived at an amicable settlement with his subjects. He was forced to abdicate the government of the duchy on November 13, 1918 and spent the rest of his life as a private citizen.
After his abdication Ernst, with a moderate fortune, retired to a hotel in Berlin. Two years later, in 1920, his marriage ended in divorce. Later that year, Ernst announced his engagement to Helena Thomas, an opera singer. They had met while she was temporarily filling an engagement at the Ducal Theatre in Altenburg during the war. The marriage never took place, however.
On July 15, 1934 Ernst married his second wife, Maria Triebel, who had been his companion for many years, at his home, Schloss Fröhliche Wiederkunft (“Palace of Happy Returning”) at Wolfersdorf. It was a morganatic marriage, and she received only the title of “Baroness Reiseneck”. They had no children.
Still interested in science, Ernst established a modern observatory in Wolfersdorf, employing Kurd Kisshauer in 1922. On May 1, 1937, Ernst joined the Nazi Party.
Ernst became the only former reigning German prince who accepted German Democratic Republic citizenship after World War II, refusing an offer to leave his beloved “Palace of Happy Returning” and relocate to the British occupation zone.
The Schloß had been confiscated by the Soviet occupiers, but Ernst had been granted free use of it until his death. In March 1954, with the death of Charles Eduard, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, he became the last survivor of the German princes who had reigned until 1918. One year later, he died at the Schloß.
Duke of Brunswick
On October 27, 1913, Prince Ernst August of Great Britain and Hanover, Duke of Cumberland formally renounced his claims to the duchy of Brunswick in favor of his surviving son, also named ErnstAugust. The following day, the Federal Council voted to allow Ernst August to become the reigning Duke of Brunswick.
The new Duke of Brunswick formally took possession of his duchy on November 1, 1913. In 1913 Ernst August married Princess Victoria Louise of Prussia, the only daughter of German Emperor Wilhelm II and his wife Augusta Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg.
The new duke and duchess of Brunswick moved into Brunswick Palace in the capital of Brunswick and began their family with the birth of their eldest son, Prince Ernst August, less than a year after their wedding.
During the First World War, Ernst August rose to the rank of major-general.
Abdication and later life
In 1917, the British dukedom of Ernest Augustus’s father, and his own title as a Prince of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, were suspended by the Titles Deprivation Act 1917, as a result of the Duke’s service in the German army during the war.
On November 8, 1918, Ernest Augustus was forced to abdicate his throne, as were all the other German kings, grand dukes, dukes, and princes during the German Revolution of 1918–1919. Thus, when his father died in 1923, Ernst August did not succeed to his father’s title of Duke of Cumberland. For the next thirty years, Ernst August remained as head of the House of Hanover, living in retirement on his various estates, mainly Blankenburg Castle in Germany and Cumberland Castle in Gmunden, Austria. He also owned Marienburg Castle near Hanover, although rarely ever living there until 1945.
Duke of Anhalt
Eduard was born at Dessau, the capital of the Duchy, in 1861 as the third son of Duke Friedrich I of Anhalt (1831–1904) and his wife Princess Antoinette of Saxe-Altenburg (1838–1908). As Eduard’s eldest brother, Leopold, died without male offspring in 1886, and the next brother, Friedrich, had no issue, Eduard became heir presumptive and Hereditary Prince following the death of their father, Duke Friedrich I, in 1904.
Eduard succeeded his brother Duke Friedrich II of Anhalt on April 21, 1918, but his brief reign came to an end five months later with his own death on September 13, 1918. He was succeeded by his eldest surviving son Prince Joachim Ernst under the regency of Eduard’s younger brother, Prince Aribert.
Joachim Ernst, Duke of Anhalt, succeeded his father as Duke of Anhalt on September 13, 1918. However, due to his age, his uncle Prince Aribert of Anhalt was appointed regent. His brief reign came to an end on 12 November 12, 1918, with his uncle abdicating in his name following the German revolution. The duchy became the Free State of Anhalt and is today part of the state of Saxony-Anhalt.
Joachim Ernst died at the Buchenwald concentration camp after World War II as a prisoner of the Soviet Union, when it was called NKVD special camp Nr. 2. Following his death, the headship of the Ducal House of Anhalt was disputed between his elder son, Prince Friedrich, and brother Prince Eugen.
Adolf II of Schaumburg-Lippe
Principality of Lippe
The Counts of Lippe-Detmold were granted the title of Imperial prince in 1789.
Shortly after becoming a member state of the German Empire in 1871, the Lippe-Detmold line died out on July 20, 1895. This resulted in an inheritance dispute between the neighbouring principality of Schaumburg-Lippe and the Lippe-Biesterfeld line. The dispute was resolved by the Imperial Court in Leipzig in 1905, with the lands passing to the Lippe-Biesterfeld line who, until this point, had no territorial sovereignty.
The Principality of Lippe came to an end on November 12, 1918 with the abdication of Leopold IV, with Lippe becoming a Free State. In 1947, Lippe merged into the state of North Rhine-Westphalia. The princely family still owns the estate and Fürstliches Residenzschloss [de] in Detmold.
Principality of Reuss-Gera (Junior Line) and Reuss-Greiz (Senior Line)
At the death of his father on March 29, 1913 Prince Heinrich XXVII of Reuss-Gera inherited the throne of the Principality. He also continued as regent of Reuss Elder Line, because of a physical and mental disability of Prince Heinrich XXIV of Reuss-Greiz due to an accident in his childhood.
Prince Heinrich XXVII abdicated in 1918 after the German Revolution of 1918–19, when all German monarchies were abolished.
With the death of Heinrich XXIV in 1927, the Elder Line became extinct and its titles passed to Heinrich XXVII, who thus became the sole Prince Reuss.
Principality of Schaumburg-Lippe
Adolf II of Schaumburg-Lippe was born in Stadthagen to the then hereditary Prince Georg (1846–1911) and Princess Marie Anne of Saxe-Altenburg (1864–1918) during the reign of his grandfather Prince Adolf I.
He became heir apparent to Schaumburg-Lippe on May 8, 1893 following the death of his grandfather, and the accession of his father. He succeeded his father as prince on April 29, 1911, and reigned until he was forced to abdicate on November 15, 1918 following the German revolution: the principality became the Free State of Schaumburg-Lippe. Adolf was exiled to Brioni in Istria. During his reign he developed the spa of Bad Eilsen and was responsible for many buildings there.
Adolf married Ellen Bischoff-Korthaus (1894–1936, previously married to Prince Eberwyn, son of Alexis, Prince of Bentheim and Steinfurt) in Berlin on January 20, 1920.
They were both killed in a plane crash in Zumpango, Mexico, on March 26, 1936, while flying from Mexico City to Guatemala City in a Ford Trimotor airplane.
His youngest brother Prince Friedrich Christian of Schaumburg-Lippe, who served as an adjutant to Joseph Goebbels, spoke out against letting Ellen be buried in Bückeburger Mausoleum next to her husband, because she was not of “Aryan origin”. He was succeeded as head of the House of Schaumburg-Lippe by his brother Wolrad.
Principality of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt & Schwarzburg-Sondershausen
With the death of Prince Leopold of Schwarzburg-Sondershausen on 20 April 20, 1906 Prince Günther Victor then became heir presumptive to the other Schwarzburg principality. The death of the prince of Schwarzburg-Sondershausen, Charles Günther on March 28, 1909 united the two Schwarzburg principalities under Prince Günther in a personal union. This was the first time the two principalities had been united under the same ruler since the 16th century when the Sondershausen and Rudolstadt lines had been formed. Following his succession in Sondershausen Prince Günther Victor dropped the name Rudolstadt from his title and assumed the title Prince of Schwarzburg.
Following the outbreak of the German revolution Prince Günther Victor abdicated on November 25, 1918. Following his death in Sondershausen in the spring of 1925, he was succeeded as head of the House of Schwarzburg by Prince Sizzo.
Principality of Waldeck and Pyrmont
Friedrich, Prince of Waldeck and Pyrmont (1865 – 1946) was the last reigning Prince of Waldeck and Pyrmont from May 12, 1893 to 13 November 13, 1918.
He was the only son and sixth child of George Victor, Prince of Waldeck and Pyrmont and his first wife Princess Helena of Nassau. He was a brother of the Dutch Queen consort Emma and Princess Helena, Duchess of Albany.
His maternal grandparents were Wilhelm, Duke of Nassau and his second wife Princess Pauline of Württemberg. Pauline was a daughter of Prince Paul of Württemberg and his wife Charlotte of Saxe-Hildburghausen.
Paul was a son of Friedrich I of Württemberg and his wife Duchess Augusta of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel. Augusta was the eldest daughter of Charles Wilhelm Ferdinand, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg and Princess Augusta of Great Britain, elder sister of George III of the United Kingdom.