Saxony-Coburg and Gotha

Sachsen - Coburg und Gotha
The dukedom of Saxony-Coburg and Gotha: A short history in five chapters.
1. The origins up to the dukedom of Saxony-Coburg-Saalfeld
Coburg, mentioned in documents for the first time in 1056, becomes chartered in 1331.
Sachsen-Coburg und GothaTwo decades later, the region joined the dominion of the House of Wettin, which ascended to the dukes of Saxony in 1423. In 1485, the Wettin territories were divided between the Albertinians and the Ernestinians.  Since then Coburg has been part of the Ernestinians.
Under Duke Johann Casimir (1586-1633), the small town of Coburg became a residence city. One century after his death, Coburg was united with Saalfeld into the dukedom of Saxony-Coburg-Saalfeld.

2. Inclusion in European High Nobility
Duke Franz Friedrich Anton of Saxony-Coburg-Saalfeld (1750-1806) ruled at the beginning of the 19th century. With good reason, we can name him and his wife Duchess Auguste Caroline Sophie (1757-1831) the progenitors of the later dukedom of Coburg-Saxony and Gotha. This is because the children of the couple established the time of prosperity of the family. Through well thought out marriage politics, the dukedom ended up in remarkable splendor within just a few years.
The first kick-off of the Coburg "marriage offensive" will be associated with the name Juliane (1781-1860) for all time. When Russia's Tsarina Catharine the Great was looking for wife for her grandson, Grand Duke Constantine, Duchess Auguste Caroline Sophie traveled at short notice to the bride show in St. Petersburg with her three daughters. With success! This is because the 16 year-old Grand Duke selected Juliane, who was two years younger, and married her in 1796. Hence, the Coburg dukedom became "presentable" in the wide world of nobility. The other children of Franz Friedrich Anton and Auguste Caroline Sophie profited from the fact that their sister, now the Grand Duchess of Russia, was married to the brother of the future Tsar Alexander 1st. Just two years after the wedding of Juliane, their sister Antoinette (1779-1724) became Duchess of Württemberg. In turn, their brother Leopold (1790-1865) married the heiress to the British throne, Charlotte.  However, she died in 1817 during childbirth with her first son and Leopold remained a widower.

One year later, his sister Victoria (1786-1861) married Duke Eduard of Kent and gave birth to the future Queen Victoria in 1819, whom we have yet to discuss. At that time, Ferdinand August (1785-1851) was already married to Marie Antoine of Koháry, the daughter of a Hungarian magnate. Their son was to become king of Portugal.
Let's turn back once again to the young widower Leopold. After Charlotte's death, he left London and lived for some time in Niederfüllbach Castle by Coburg. A Greek royal dignitary was offered to him in 1830, however he declined. When shortly thereafter another empire offered its crown to him, he didn't decline a second time and became Leopold I, the first king of the Belgians.
Within a single generation, the dukedom of Saxony-Coburg-Saalfeld ascended into international importance. Oh, we didn't even mention a son of Duke Franz Friedrich Anton: Ernst (1784-1844).

3. The transition to the dukedom of Saxony-Coburg and Gotha
While his sister made her career in Europe, Ernst (Ernst I) took over the affairs of state as the eldest son after the sudden death of Franz Friedrich Anton (1806). Two decades later, Saalfeld was allotted to the dukedom of Saxony-Meiningen. As compensation, Saxony-Coburg received the dukedom of Saxony-Gotha in addition. Both "merged" into a double dukedom with a single ruler. The dominion ascended to the dukedom of Saxony-Coburg and Gotha. The duke was Ernst I until 1844.

4. The next generation: Ernst II and Prince Albert
The marriage between Duke Ernst I and Duchess Luise (1800-1831) was blessed with two sons. The eldest, Ernst (1818-1893) took over the affairs of state of Saxony-Coburg and Gotha in 1844 for almost a half a century as Ernst II. The most lasting fame, however, goes to his one year younger brother Albert (1819-1861). On February 10, 1840, Prince Albert of Saxony-Coburg and Gotha married his cousin Victoria (1819-1901), who at that time had already been Queen of Great Britain for three years. In a world of nobility in which marriage is not usually based on deep feelings but on political considerations, the bond for life between Victoria and Albert was more of an exception, because it was filled with mutual love. Even this situation doesn't change the fact that the union was arranged for strategic considerations - primarily by Albert's uncle Leopold I, the king of the Belgians.

The marriage between Victoria and Albert was extremely fruitful, both biologically as well as politically.  This is because several of their nine children ended up on European thrones later on. The eldest daughter, Victoria (1840-1901) became the Empress of Germany as the wife of Friedrich II; the eldest son, Eduard (1841-1910) ascended to the British throne in 1901 as Eduard VII. Alfred (1844-1900) became Duke of Saxony-Coburg and Gotha. Through the other children of Albert and the Queen, there were close relationships to the royal families in Greece and Spain, in Norway and Sweden as well as Russia and Rumania.
When Albert died of typhoid in 1861 at the age of 42, the Queen and the nation were deeply shaken.  Until her death in 1901, his widow only wore mourning garments and had innumerable monuments to Albert erected. The monument at Marktplatz in Coburg was unveiled in 1865 by Queen Victoria in person - it is still a reminder of the city's greatest son. By the way, it is only a stroke of historical fate that the British royal family is called "Windsor" today. Until the 1st World War, it was called "Saxony-Coburg in Great Britain"; however, they distanced themselves from the German name which ultimately was a reminder of a bitter wartime enemy.

5. The 20th Century
The marriage of Ernst II and Alexandrine (1820-1904) remained childless and hence without a successor to the throne. After the death of Ernst in the year 1893, a son of his brother Albert, i.e. Alfred (1844-1900) took over the reign.  He was followed by Carl Eduard (1884-1954), a grandson of Albert and Victoria.
However, times have changed thoroughly in the meantime. After the November Revolution of 1918, which led to Germany's surrender in the First World War and to the abdication of Emperor Wilhelm II, the Duke of Saxony-Coburg and Gotha also abdicated.  From then on, the family was to only to play a representative role on German soil. The head of the family today, Prince Andreas of Saxony-Coburg and Gotha, is a grandson of the last regent. He was born in 1943, married the untitled Carin Dabelstein in 1971 and lives in Coburg. Their marriage has produced three children: Stephanie (born in 1972), Hubertus (born in 1975) and Alexander (born in 1977).

It goes without saying that this is just a short highlight of the remarkable history of the dukedom. If you would like more detailed information, then we refer you to a book shop. There, you will also receive additional informational material on the history of the Coburg dukes.


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