Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Grand Duke of Oldenburg has a constitutional crisis


January 12, 1908

Grand Duke Friedrich August of Oldenburg is, according to the Marquise de Fontenoy's column, is in the midst of a constitutional crisis. The Grand Duke, the only European sovereign apart from Edward VII who "can boast of having visited the United States," is having a quarrel with his consort. This quarrel "is setting half the courts of Europe by the ears," and has also precipitated a constitutional crisis in Oldenburg. His minister and elected officials have sided with the grand duchess.
Grand Duchess Elisabeth, who is nearly 17 years her husband's junior, is the Grand Duke's second wife. She was Duchess Elisabeth of Mecklenburg-Schwerin before her marriage in 1896, just a year after the death of the Grand Duke's first wife, Princess Elisabeth of Prussia.
It was not a love match between Elisabeth and her "gifted but eccentric husband," but he was infatuated with her in the early years of their marriage. In 1897, Elisabeth gave birth to a son, Nikolaus, who is the heir apparent. With the agreement of his minister and the Parliament, the Grand Duke reached a "legislative enactment" that would allow for Elisabeth to act as regent for her son if the Grand Duke died before Nikolaus reached his majority.
Nearly three years ago, differences arose between the Grand Duke and Grand Duchess, which became "more and more acute, and developed into downright animosity and into a virtual separation."
Friedrich August intimated to his ministers that his wife no longer enjoyed his confidence, and "was no longer in sympathy with his views." He decided that the regency act needed to be modified and he wanted to replace Elisabeth with Duke Friedrich Ferdinand of Schleswig-Holstein.
The Oldenburg government would not agree, and would not remove Elisabeth from the terms of the regency act, as the minister "sympathize with her in her trouble with her husband."
The squabbles between husband and wife are now public, and can "no longer be treated as a passing matrimonial squall, concerning which it is preferable to maintain silence."
The "matrimonial shipwreck" is complicated by the fact that Duke Friedrich Ferdinand is a brother-in-law of Kaiser Wilhelm II, as his wife, Karoline Mathilde , is the sister of Auguste Viktoria.
It seems that Friedrich Ferdinand occupies a "warm place in the affections" of his sister, Auguste Viktoria and her husband, the Emperor, but is also "persona gratissima" at St. Petersburg.
Grand Duke Friedrich August has one daughter, Sophie Charlotte, by his first wife, who was the eldest sister of the Duchess of Connaught. The Grand Duke is "extremely fond" of Sophie, who is married to the Kaiser's second son, Eitel Friedrich. The princess and her husband sympathize with her father in "his troubles."
It is said that the Duke and Duchess of Connaught are also in sympathy with the Grand Duke. Grand Duchess Elisabeth's interests are "championed" by her family, the Mecklenburg-Schwerins, especially her brother, Henry, who is married to Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, and by her half-brother, who is the Regent for the Duchy of Brunswick, and her half-sister, Marie, the Grand Duchess Vladimir of Russia.
Friedrich August is an "amiable and gifted man" who loves mechanics and science. He is also described as eccentric, and has taken several cures in Dresden due to be being "overworked."
But the Grand Duke has never truly gotten along with his minister and the parliament, and when they refused to accept his demands for an increase in the civil list, he "subjected his country and his capital to a species of boycotts."
He closed his palaces, put his staff on half pay, and went abroad. "Trade and industry suffered to such an extent" that the Oldenburg government gave into Friedrich August's demands, and he returned to Oldenburg.
Grand Duke Friedrich August and Grand Duchess Elisabeth also have two daughters, Princess Ingeborg Alix and Princess Altburg, who are six and four years old, respectively.

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