Ernst II, Duke of Saxe-Altenburg

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Ernst II
Ernstii.jpg
Duke of Saxe-Altenburg
Reign 7 February 1908 – 13 November 1918
Predecessor Ernst I
Born (1871-08-31)31 August 1871
Altenburg, Saxe-Altenburg
Died 22 March 1955(1955-03-22) (aged 83)
Fröhliche Wiederkunft Castle, Trockenborn-Wolfersdorf, East Germany
Spouse
Maria Triebel
(m. 1934; d. 1955)
Issue Charlotte, Princess Sigismund of Prussia
Georg Moritz, Hereditary Prince
Princess Elisabeth
Prince Frederick
Full name
Ernst II Bernhard Georg Johann Karl Frederick Peter Albert
House Wettin
Father Prince Moritz of Saxe-Altenburg
Mother Princess Augusta of Saxe-Meiningen
Religion Lutheranism

Ernst II Bernhard Georg Johann Karl Frederick Peter Albert, Duke of Saxe-Altenburg (b. Altenburg, 31 August 1871 – d. Trockenborn-Wolfersdorf, 22 March 1955) was the last reigning duke of Saxe-Altenburg.

Early life[edit]

He was the fourth child and only son of Prince Moritz, the youngest son of Georg, Duke of Saxe-Altenburg and Princess Augusta of Saxe-Meiningen.

The death of his father, on the 13 May 1907, made him first in the line of succession to the duchy of Saxe-Altenburg. He inherited the dukedom when his uncle and namesake, Ernst I, died without any surviving male issue.

First marriage[edit]

In Bückeburg, Ernst married his first wife, Princess Adelaide of Schaumburg-Lippe, a granddaughter of George William, Prince of Schaumburg-Lippe. They had four children:

  1. Princess Charlotte Agnes (Potsdam, 4 March 1899 – Hemmelmark bei Eckernförde, 16 February 1989); married on 11 July 1919 Prince Sigismund of Prussia.
  2. Georg Moritz, Hereditary Prince of Saxe-Altenburg (Potsdam, 13 May 1900 – Rendsburg, 13 February 1991).
  3. Princess Elisabeth Karola (Potsdam, 6 April 1903 – Breiholz, 30 January 1991).
  4. Prince Frederick Ernst (Potsdam, 15 May 1905 – Rosenheim, 23 February 1985).

World War I[edit]

During World War I, Ernst refused all honorary appointments at the Kaiser's headquarters, which would have been considerably safer than other areas.[1] Resigning from his courtesy rank of Generalleutnant, he requested and was granted the colonelcy and the command of his duchy's regiment, the 153rd (8th Thuringian) Infantry. Quickly promoted to General der Infanterie, he led several brigades on the western front. In 1915, he was awarded the Pour le Mérite award and was given command of the 8th Infantry Division, further distinguishing himself in the Battle of the Somme. In late 1916, he relinquished his field command because of illness and returned to Altenburg for the remainder of the war.

A great lover of science, Ernst had a wireless installation fitted inside his castle in Altenburg at the start of the war, especially to communicate with airships.[2] Ernst also had a lifelong interest in wireless telegraphy and telephony, and he was considered an expert of aeronautics.[2]

When Germany lost the war, all German princes lost their titles and states. Ernst was one of the first princes to realise that major changes were coming and quickly arrived at an amicable settlement with his subjects.[1] He was forced to abdicate the government of the duchy on 13 November 1918 and spent the rest of his life as a private citizen.

Later life[edit]

After his abdication Ernst, with a moderate fortune, retired to a hotel in Berlin.[1] Two years later, in 1920, his marriage ended in divorce. Later that year, Ernst announced his engagement to Helena Thomas, an opera singer.[1] They had met while she was temporarily filling an engagement at the Ducal Theatre in Altenburg during the war.[1] The marriage never took place, however.

On 15 July 1934 Ernst married his second wife, Maria Triebel, who had been his companion for many years, at his home, Schloss Froehliche Wiederkunft ("Palace of Happy Returning") at Wolfersdorf. This hunting lodge received its name when its first owner, John Frederick I, Elector of Saxony, returned there in 1552 to meet his family after five years of absence as a war prisoner. Maria Triebel was born in Waltershausen on October 16, 1893, and she died in Wolfersdorf on February 28, 1955. That was a morganatic marriage, and she received only the title of "Baroness Reiseneck". They had no children.

Wolfersdorf Castle ("Palace of Happy Returning")

Still interested in science, Ernst established a modern observatory in Wolfersdorf, employing Kurd Kisshauer in 1922. On 1 May 1937, Ernst joined the Nazi Party[3]

Ernst became the only former reigning German prince who accepted German Democratic Republic citizenship after World War II, refusing an offer to leave his beloved "Palace of Happy Returning" and relocate to the British occupation zone. The Schloß had been confiscated by the Soviet occupiers, but Ernst had been granted free use of it until his death. In March 1954, with the death of Charles Edward, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, he became the last survivor of the German princes who had reigned until 1918. One year later, he died at the Schloß.

Ancestry[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e "German Ex-Duke to Wed Opera Singer", The New York Times, Berlin, 20 September 1920 
  2. ^ a b "Prince's Wireless Plant", The New York Times, Berlin, 7 April 1914 
  3. ^ Ernst Klee: Das Kulturlexikon zum Dritten Reich. Wer war was vor und nach 1945. S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2007, S.505.
Ernst II, Duke of Saxe-Altenburg
Cadet branch of the House of Wettin
Born: 31 August 1871 Died: 22 March 1955
German royalty
Preceded by
Ernst I, Duke of Saxe-Altenburg
Duke of Saxe-Altenburg
1908–1918
Duchy abolished
Head of the Ducal House of Saxe-Altenburg
1908–1955
Succeeded by
Prince Georg Moritz of Saxe-Altenburg