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Charles Edward, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (Leopold Charles Edward George Albert; ; 19 July 1884 – 6 March 1954) was the fourth and last reigning Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, two duchies in Germany (from 30 July 1900 to 14 November 1918), and the head of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha from 1900 until his death in 1954. A male-line grandson of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, he was also a Prince of the United Kingdom and held the British title of Duke of Albany.

The Duke was a controversial figure in the United Kingdommarker due to his status as Sovereign Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, part of the German Empiremarker, during World War I. He was deprived of his British peerages, his title of Prince and Royal Highness and his British honours in 1919. In 1918, he was forced to abdicate his ducal throne. He also later joined the German Nazi Party, and served in a number of positions in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s, including as President of the German Red Cross.

He is the maternal grandfather of King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden. He was also the younger brother of HRH Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone

Early life

Charles Edward was born at Claremont Housemarker near Eshermarker, Surreymarker. His father was Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany, the fourth son of Queen Victoria and Albert, Prince Consort. His mother was the Duchess of Albany (née Princess Helena of Waldeck and Pyrmont).

As his father died before his birth, Charles Edward succeeded to his titles immediately on his birth and was styled His Royal Highness The Duke of Albany.

After becoming sick, he was privately baptised at Claremont on 4 August 1884, two weeks after his birth and later baptised publicly in Esher Parish Church on 4 December 1884 four months later. His godparents were Queen Victoria, the Prince of Wales , Princess Christian of Schleswig-Holstein, the Marchioness of Lorne, Princess Frederica of Hanover and George Victor, Prince of Waldeck and Pyrmont. His uncle, Edward VII made him a Knight of the Garter on 15 July 1902.

As a grandson of Queen Victoria, the Duke was a first cousin of King George V of the United Kingdom, Queen Maud of Norway, Grand Duke Ernest Louis of Hesse, Empress Alexandra of Russia, Queen Marie of Romania, Crown Princess Margaret of Sweden, Queen Victoria Eugenia of Spain, Queen Sophia of Greece, Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, and Josias, Hereditary Prince of Waldeck and Pyrmont (the last two through his mother). The Duke was also a first cousin of the German Emperor William II, but such was the interest Wilhelm showed in his young cousin's upbringing that Carl Eduard was known as the Emperor's seventh son. His mother drummed into him endlessly the importance of "becoming a good man, so you bring no shame on Papa's name".Hitler's Favourite Royal (Channel 4 documentary) 6 December 2007.

He also studied in Bonn and was a member of Corps Borussia Bonn to which he was introduced by the Emperor.

Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha

In 1900, the sixteen-year-old Duke of Albany inherited the ducal throne of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha from his uncle Alfred, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, under direct orders from his grandmother Queen Victoria. The Duke of Edinburgh's only son, Prince Alfred ("Young Affie"), died in 1899, and the Duke of Connaught, the Queen's third son, renounced his claims to the duchy. Arthur's son, Prince Arthur of Connaught (who also renounced his claims), was attending school at Eton with Prince Charles, and threatened to beat his cousin up if Charles did not accept the duchy. While at school his mother would write to Charles instilling in him a profound sense of duty and obligation. With such strong influences from both his mother and grandmother, the young boy had no choice but to take up the seat of Coburg in order to save that line of Royal blood.
Charles Edward, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, 1900.
For the next five years, he reigned under the regency of the Hereditary Prince of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, the husband of Duke Alfred's third daughter Alexandra. The regent acted under the strict guidance of the Emperor, Wilhelm II. Upon coming of age on 19 July 1905, the Duke of Albany assumed full constitutional powers as Duke Carl Eduard of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.

Marriage

William picked out Charles's bride for him, his niece and on 11 October 1905, at Glücksburg Castle, Holstein, the Duke married Princess Victoria Adelaide of Schleswig-Holstein (31 December 1885 – 3 October 1970), the daughter of Duke Friedrich Ferdinand of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg. The Duke and Duchess of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha had five children.

Through his daughter Sibylla, Charles Edward was the maternal grandfather of Carl XVI Gustav of Sweden.

World War I

World War I caused a conflict of loyalties for Charles, but finally the Duke supported Germany and held a commission as a general in the German Army (although he never held a major command). Consequently, George V ordered his name removed from the register of the Knights of the Garter in 1915. In July 1917, in an effort to distance his dynasty from its German origins, George V changed the name of British Royal House from the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to the House of Windsor. That year, the British Parliament passed the Titles Deprivation Act which empowered the Privy Council to investigate "any persons enjoying any dignity or title as a peer or British prince who have, during the present war, borne arms against His Majesty or His Allies, or who have adhered to His Majesty's enemies." Under the terms of that act, an Order in Council on 28 March 1919 formally removed the Duke's British peerages, the Dukedom of Albany, Earldom of Clarence, and the Barony of Arklow. The Duke and his children also lost their entitlement to the titles of Prince and Princess of the United Kingdom and the styles Royal Highness and Highness.

Private citizen

The Russian Revolution of 1917 caused Charles much concern and he watched anxiously at the ensuing power struggles between the left- and right-wing parties in Germany. On 18 November 1918, the Workers' and Soldiers' Council of Gotha deposed the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Five days later, the Duke signed a declaration relinquishing his rights to the throne. Charles Edward, who by this time had been branded a traitor and effectively exiled from England, felt doubly betrayed, and as fearful as any Royal of the communist threat, he cast about for a new hero and found Hitler. Now a private citizen, the deposed Duke became associated with various right-wing paramilitary and political organizations. In 1932, he took part in the creation of the so-called Harzburg Front, through which the Deutschnationale Partei (lit: "German-national party") Conservative Party became associated with the Nazi Party. He joined the Nazi Party in 1935 and became a member of the SA marker, rising to the rank of Obergruppenführer. He also served as a member of the Reichstag from 1937 to 1945 and as president of the German Red Cross from 1933 to 1945.

In 1936, Adolf Hitler sent the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to Britain as president of the Anglo-German Friendship Society. His mission was to improve Anglo-German relations and to explore the possibility of a pact between the two countries. The Duke, who attended the funeral of George V in his SA uniform (his English ceremonial robes having been taken away from him), approached the new king, Edward VIII, about the possibility of a pact. Nothing came of these talks. Nonetheless, he continued to send Hitler encouraging reports about the strength of pro-German sentiment among the British aristocracy. After the abdication crisis, he played host to the former king and his wife, by then the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, during their official tour of Germany in 1937.

World War II

Although Carl Eduard was too old for active service during World War II, his three sons served in Germany's armed forces. His second son, Hubertus, was killed in action in 1943 on the eastern front in a plane crash.

When World War II ended, the American Military Government in Bavaria, under the command of General George S. Patton, placed the Duke under house arrest because of his Nazi sympathies and later imprisoned him with other Nazi officials. His sister, Princess Alice, learning of her brother's incarceration, came to Germany with her husband to plead for his release with his American captors. Princess Alice and the Earl of Athlone dined with the American generals holding her brother, but they declined to release him. In 1946, he was "sentenced" by a denazification court, heavily fined and almost bankrupted. Since Gotha was part of Thuringia and therefore of the Soviet occupation zone, the Soviet Army confiscated much of the family's property in Gotha, whereas Coburg has became part of Bavaria in 1920 and the family kept property there and in other parts of Germany and abroad.

The former Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha spent the last years of his life in seclusion. In 1953, he travelled to a local cinema to watch the coronation of his cousin's granddaughter, Elizabeth II. He died in 1954 as the elder of only two surviving male grandchildren of Queen Victoria.

Titles, styles, honours and arms

Titles and styles

  • 19 July 1884 – 30 July 1900: His Royal Highness The Duke of Albany
  • 30 July 1900 – 28 March 1919: His Royal Highness The Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
  • 28 March 1919 – 6 March 1954: His Highness The Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha


While Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, his full style was, in , which translates to the

Honours



Arms

The Duke's coats of arms, at any point in his life, are quite hard to discern. Apparently, he was never granted arms in the United Kingdom – he certainly later had the use of the arms of the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, but he may also have inherited, or used regardless, his father's arms (which were the British royal arms, with an inescutcheon of the shield of Saxony, altogether differenced by a three-point label argent bearing hearts and a cross all gules; George V of the United Kingdom removed the inescutcheon from the royal arms in 1917, but whether this removal would affect the hypothesis is hard to posit).

In the media

On 2 June 2008, British Channel 4 aired an hour-length documentary concerning Charles Edward called "Hitler's Favourite Royal". It featured re-coloured original footage and photos from all stages of Charles Edward's private and public life, his troubled conversion to the National-Socialist regime and other aspects. Various international historians commented on the events and issues revolving around his life, reminding the public of his existence and reviving the public debate once again.

Issue

Name Birth Death Notes
Johann Leopold, Hereditary Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha 2 August 1906 4 May 1972 married (1) unequally, renouncing his rights to the headship of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha), 9 March 1932, Baroness Feodora von der Horst; divorced 1962; had issue

(2), 5 May 1963, Maria Theresia Reindl; no issue
Princess Sibylla of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha 18 January 1908 28 November 1972 married, 20 October 1932, Prince Gustaf Adolf of Sweden, Duke of Västerbotten; had issue, Princess Margaretha, Princess Birgitta, Princess Désirée, Princess Christina and King Carl XVI Gustaf
Prince Hubertus of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha 24 August 1909 26 November 1943
Princess Caroline Mathilde of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha 22 June 1912 5 September 1983 married (1), 14 December 1931, Friedrich Wolfgang Otto, Count of Castell-Rüdenhausen; divorced 2 May 1938; had issue

(2), 22 June 1938, Captain Max Schnirring; he died 1944; had issue

(3), 23 December 1946, Karl Andree; divorced 27 December 1947; no issue
Friedrich Josias, Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha 29 November 1918 23 January 1998 married (1), 25 January 1942, Victoria Louisa, Countess of Solms-Baruth; divorced 19 September 1947; had issue

(2), 14 February 1948, Denyse Henrietta de Muralt; divorced 17 September 1964; had issue

(3), 30 October 1964, Katrin Bremme; no issue


Ancestry




Succession

References

  1. As a male-line grandson of the British Sovereign, Prince Carl Eduard was a Prince of the United Kingdom with the qualification of Royal Highness, in accordance with Queen Victoria's Letters Patent of 30 January 1864 and of 27 May 1898. The suspension of his peerages under the Title Deprivation Act, did not affect the Duke's place in the line of succession to the British throne. Under settled practice dating to 1714, Duke Carl Eduard's children, as legitimate male-line great-grandchildren of the British Sovereign, were Princes and Princesses of the United Kingdom with the qualification of Highness. However, their right to use these British titles and styles ceased with George V's Letters Patent of 30 November 1917.
  2. Hitler's Favourite Royal (Channel 4 documentary) 6 December 2007.
  3. The hereditary and legal privileges of the various German Royal, Princely, Ducal, and Noble families ended in August 1919 when the constitution of the Weimar Republic went into effect. However, the Weimar Republic did not ban the use of titles and the designations of nobility, as did Austria. Instead, the Reichstag passed legislation that made the former Royal and Noble titles part of these families' surname. Legally, the former reigning Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha became Carl Eduard, Herzog von Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha.
  4. Heraldica – British Royalty Cadency
  5. night on television Hitler's Favourite Royal" telegraph.co.uk 3 July 2008 Link accessed 3/06/08



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