Charles II, Duke of Brunswick

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Charles II
Duke of Brunswick
Reign16 June 1815 – 9 September 1830
PredecessorFrederick William
Born(1804-10-30)30 October 1804
Brunswick, Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel
Died19 August 1873(1873-08-19) (aged 68)
Geneva, Switzerland
Full name
Charles Frederick Augustus William
German: Karl Friedrich
HouseHouse of Brunswick-Bevern
FatherFrederick William, Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel
MotherPrincess Marie of Baden

Charles II, Duke of Brunswick (German: Karl II.; 30 October 1804 – 18 August 1873), ruled the Duchy of Brunswick from 1815 until 1830.


Charles was born in Brunswick, the eldest son of Frederick William, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg. In April 1808, his mother, Princess Marie of Baden (1782–1808), died shortly after giving birth to a stillborn daughter when Charles was only three years old. Charles and his younger brother William, went to live with their maternal grandmother, Princess Amalie of Hesse-Darmstadt, in Glückstadt, while his father raised a volunteer corps, the Black Brunswickers, to fight with the Austrians against Napoleon. In the Autumn of 1809, to avoid capture the duke had conducted a remarkable fighting march across Germany and escaped to Britain with his troops; on his arrival in London he sent for his sons who then lived with their paternal grandmother, Princess Augusta of Great Britain at Blackheath and later at Vauxhall.[1] The young princes were treated as celebrities in London, with William being given the honour of laying a foundation stone for Vauxhall Bridge in 1814.[2]

After the death of his father in 1815, Charles inherited the Duchy, but since he was still underage, he was put under the guardianship of George, the Prince Regent of the United Kingdom and Hanover. When Charles neared his 18th birthday, a dispute over the date of his majority erupted; Charles claimed majority at the age of 18, while George considered the age of majority to be 21 years. A compromise was made, and Charles reached his majority at the age of 19, and took over government on 30 October 1823.

During his 18th year, Hanover speedily rushed in a new constitution which limited his powers, redefined his duchy, hereditary lands, and his due income as head of the house of Este-Guelph. As from 1546 forwards Hanover also paid the Dynastic fidei commis payments to the Wolfenbuettel princes, as heads of house. Until this new redefinition, all of Hanover was considered sub-principalities that conditionally governed in the name of the Wolfenbuettel ruling prince. These sub-principalities included Hanover-Calenberg and Luneburg, the new council of Vienna creation of Kingdom of Hanover in 1814 notwithstanding.

On May 10th, 1827, Charles declared in an edict that the new constitution of redefining his sovereignty was invalid. Passing a new constitution during a Regency was also protested for him by Austria. These had gone against all the norms of international law. In the edict Hanover was called a "usurper", and this caused outrage in Hanover and England. The German Confederation that same year attempted to intervene in this matter and ordered Charles to accept the new constitution from his minority. Charles disregarded it, and continued governing as his father had. He did not have his decrees cosigned, but continued as an absolute monarch, as the Guelphs had been for more than 1,000 years.

The ownership of the printing presses ultimately won the battle as the popular opinion was turned against their monarch. Charles' administration was maligned as being corrupt and misguided.[3] When in 1830 the July Revolution broke out, Charles happened to be in Paris. He hurriedly returned to Brunswick, where he announced his intention to suppress all revolutionary tendencies by force. But on 6 September, he was attacked by stone throwers while riding home from the theatre; on the next day, a large mob tried to break into the palace. Charles fled and [4] the palace was completely destroyed by fire. When Charles' brother, William, arrived in Brunswick on 10 September, he was received joyfully by the people. William originally considered himself only his brother's regent, but after a year declared himself ruling duke. Charles made several desperate attempts to depose his brother by diplomacy and by force, but they were unsuccessful. Charles reportedly had agreements from the French King to send a mercenary army to retake the duchy.

Charles continued to be active in his office as ruling prince in exile. He filed many protests against Hanover, against his brother, and against Prussia's violent annexation of the Duchy[further explanation needed]. In his later letters he predicted communism would take the lands from the Prussians.

Charles spent the rest of his life outside of Germany, mostly in Paris and London. While he lived in London he engaged in a high-profile feud with the publisher Barnard Gregory due to articles published about the Duke in The Satirist.[5] After the war between France and Germany broke out, he moved to Geneva, where he died in the Beau-Rivage Hotel in 1873, aged 68. He left his considerable wealth to the City of Geneva which, at his request, built the Brunswick Monument to his memory.


A contemporary obituarist referred to the Duke as "that painted, bewigged Lothario, whose follies, eccentricities, and diamonds made him the talk of Europe."[6] During his lifetime he sued several newspaper publishers for libel when they alleged that, among other things, he solicited homosexual encounters.[7] However, in 1849 he won a defamation case for the publication of an article by a newspaper, The Weekly Dispatch, in 1830, after sending a manservant to procure archive copies of the edition from the publishers and the British Museum. No copies now survive, although given the Duke's other legal cases, the nature of the libel may be assumed. However this case (Brunswick v Harmer) established a precedent in English defamation law, as the ruling was interpreted by courts to allow defamation plaintiffs to sue if there was a “new publication” of the original libel. It was used, for example, in 2009 to decree that internet company Google, who made historical libels available on their web pages, could be liable for damages. The multiple publication rule was finally curtailed in the UK by The Defamation Act 2013.[8]

Titles, styles, honours and arms[edit]

Titles and styles[edit]

  • 30 October 1804 – 16 October 1806: His Serene Highness Duke Charles Frederick of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel
  • 16 October 1806 – 16 June 1815: His Highness The Hereditary Duke of Brunswick
  • 16 June 1815 – 9 September 1830: His Highness The Duke of Brunswick
  • 9 September 1830 – 18 August 1873: His Highness Duke Charles II of Brunswick


See also[edit]

Charles was on the losing side of the Opera game, a famous chess game against Paul Morphy.


  1. ^ Fraser, Flora (1996). The Unruly Queen: The Life of Queen Caroline. Anchor Books. ISBN 978-0307456366. (Chapter 10)
  2. ^ Duncombe, Thomas H., ed. (1868). The Life and Correspondence of Thomas Slingsby Duncombe: Late M.P. for Finsbury, Volume II. London: Hurst and Blackett. p. 45.
  3. ^ O. Hohnstein: Geschichte des Herzogtums Braunschweig, Braunschweig 1908, pp. 465–474.
  4. ^ Gerhard Schildt: Von der Restauration zur Reichsgründungszeit, in Horst-Rüdiger Jarck / Gerhard Schildt (eds.), Die Braunschweigische Landesgeschichte. Jahrtausendrückblick einer Region, Braunschweig 2000, pp. 753–766.
  5. ^ Boase, G. C. (1885–1900). "Gregory, Barnard" . Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  6. ^ "Duke of Brunswick". Appleton's Journal. 20 November 1875.
  7. ^ Norton, Rictor. "Homosexuality in 19th-cent. England: Libels against the Duke of Brunwick, 1840s". Retrieved 16 August 2016.
  8. ^ Agate, Jennifer (September 2013). "The Defamation Act 2013 – key changes for online" (PDF). Farrer.
Charles II, Duke of Brunswick
Cadet branch of the House of Welf
Born: 30 October 1804 Died: 18 August 1873
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Frederick William
Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel
Succeeded by
William VIII