Duchess Sophie Charlotte in Bavaria

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Sophie Charlotte
Duchess of Alençon
Sophie of Bavaria, Duchess of Alençon.jpg
Born(1847-02-23)23 February 1847
Possenhofen Castle, Possenhofen, Bavaria
Died4 May 1897(1897-05-04) (aged 50)
17 Jean-Goujon Street, Paris, France
IssueLouise, Princess Alfons of Bavaria
Prince Emmanuel, Duke of Vendôme
FatherDuke Maximilian Joseph in Bavaria
MotherPrincess Ludovika of Bavaria

Duchess Sophie Charlotte Augustine in Bavaria (23 February 1847 – 4 May 1897) was a granddaughter-in-law of King Louis Philippe of France, the favourite sister of Empress Elisabeth of Austria and fiancée of King Ludwig II of Bavaria.


Portrait of Sophie Duchess of Alençon in 1886 by Joseph Albert.

Sophie Charlotte was born at the Possenhofen Castle, the residence of her paternal family, Dukes in Bavaria. She was a daughter of Duke Maximilian Joseph in Bavaria (1808–1888) and Princess Ludovika of Bavaria. The ninth of ten children born to her parents, she was known as Sopherl within the family.

She was also a sister of Empress Elisabeth of Austria and Queen Maria Sophie of the Two Sicilies. After the 1861 marriage of her older sister, Duchess Mathilde Ludovika in Bavaria, to the Neapolitan Prince Luis of the Two Sicilies, her parents then looked for a suitable husband for Sophie Charlotte.

She was engaged to her cousin King Ludwig II of Bavaria. Their engagement was publicised on 22 January 1867, but after having repeatedly postponed the wedding date, Ludwig finally cancelled it in October, as it seemed Sophie had fallen in love with the court photographer, Edgar Hanfstaengl.

Other proposed husbands included the renowned homosexual Archduke Ludwig Viktor of Austria, brother of both Franz Joseph I of Austria and Maximilian I of Mexico, as well as the future Luís I of Portugal. Another candidate was Duke Philipp of Württemberg,[1] the first cousin of her eventual husband.

She refused all the candidates. She was sent to stay with her aunt, Amalie Auguste, then the Queen of Saxony as wife of King John of Saxony. It was in Saxony Sophie Charlotte met Prince Ferdinand of Orléans (12 July 1844 – 29 June 1910), Duke of Alençon, the son of Prince Louis, Duke of Nemours and grandson of the late King Louis Philippe (died 1850). Soon after, on 28 September 1868, she married him at Possenhofen Castle, near Starnberg.

She had a good relationship with her husband as well as with her sister-in-law Princess Marguerite Adélaïde of Orléans, wife of Prince Władysław Czartoryski. Her mother in law, Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, cousin of Queen Victoria, had died in 1857. Sophie Charlotte did not have an overly good relationship with her father-in-law, the widowed Duke of Nemours.

The year after their marriage, the ducal couple moved into Bushy House in the Teddington area of Southwest London, where Sophie Charlotte gave birth to her first child, Princess Louise of Orléans.

Prophetically, Sophie Charlotte wrote out her last will and testament on 4 October 1896, seven months before her death. She died in a fire at the Bazar de la Charité in Paris on 4 May 1897, where she had been helping to raise funds for charity. She refused to be rescued, insisting that the girls, visitors and nuns working alongside her at the bazaar be saved first. A Dominican nun who had managed to escape from the inferno explained that she saw the Duchess get down on her knees and start praying.[2]

Identifying Sophie Charlotte's remains was not easy; her personal maid was unable to recognise the body, as it had been severely disfigured by the fire, so the Duchess's dentist, M. Lavanport, was called in. After two hours examining various bodies, he identified Sophie Charlotte on the basis of her gold fillings.[3] Thus she became one of the first people whose remains were identified by forensic dentistry.[4] Her sister, Empress Elisabeth of Austria, was assassinated the following year.



References and notes[edit]

  1. ^ Son of Princess Marie of Orléans, daughter of Louis Philippe I
  2. ^ Robien, Mathilde de (2018-11-22). "La mort héroïque de la duchesse d'Alençon, sœur de Sissi". Aleteia : un regard chrétien sur l’actualité, la spiritualité et le lifestyle (in French). Retrieved 2020-01-05.
  3. ^ L'Avenir, May 7, 1897.
  4. ^ GORLIN, Stephanie (2019-11-25). "Le Bazar de la Charité (TF1) : les détails que vous ne verrez pas à l'écran". www.programme-tv.net (in French). Retrieved 2020-01-05.
  5. ^ Sister of Albert I of Belgium and daughter of Prince Philippe, Count of Flanders who in turn was a grandson of Louis-Philippe of France