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.

In 1827, Charles declared some of the laws made during his minority invalid, which caused a dispute with Hanover. The German Confederation finally had to intervene in this conflict and ordered Charles to accept all the laws from his minority, which he did.

Charles' administration was considered 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 of arms. 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;[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. None of the other European monarchs wanted to support Charles.

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, constructed the Brunswick Monument to his memory. Charles had a left handed marriage to the Lady Charlotte de Civry and had acknowledged several of his grand children as having valid inheritance rights in the now senior house of Este-Guelph Brunswick.[citation needed]


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