March 22, 1898
Kaiser Wilhelm II has finally given his consent to the marriage to his brother-in-law, Ernst Gunther, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein, to Princess Dorothea of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. The consent was given only after the personal intervention by Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph, reports the Marquise de Fontenoy.
The consent also requires that the Princess, 17, will have to move in with her future mother-in-law, the Dowager Duchess Adelheid of Schleswig-Holstein, "who lives in the strictest kind of retirement."
Princess Dorothea, strictly speaking, finds herself without a home. The situation she is now in at age 17 "is sufficient to excite the pity of even the most worldly and hard-hearted."
She accompanied her mother to Nice, and remained with her "until the scandal caused by Princess Louise with her chamberlain necessitated a duel between the latter and her father, Prince Philipp of Coburg."
Princess Louise's behavior meant that her daughter could no longer live with her, even if she wished to stay with her. But Princess Dorothea did not "relish the ostracism and the slights" to which her mother was "naturally subjected" by royal personages and even "ordinary society" in the South of France.
Princess Dorothea was ordered back to Vienna. She could not stay with her father, Prince Philipp, "the most dissolute and disreputable of all the royal princes in Europe." He is seen as the man most responsible not only for his wife's ruin but also for "that of his brother-in-law, Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria," playing the role of Mephistopheles to the Faust of the Archduke."
Nor could the young princess be sent to live with her maternal grandparents, the King and Queen of the Belgians. King Leopold II and Queen Marie Henriette are estranged, and the King himself is as "great a reprobate as his son-in-law." Marie Henriette is known to be dipsomaniac .
Dorothea's maternal grandmother, Princess Clementine, is said to be near death, as is her maternal aunt, Crown Princess Stephanie.
Kaiser Wilhelm II is said to have taken "a fancy" to Princess Dorothea, and will rely upon to her get Ernst Gunther "to settle down into a respectable citizen." It was his idea that she should live with Duchess Adelheid until after the wedding.
This offer was "cheerfully accepted" by the Princess as well as by her father's family, as it offers a "very satisfactory solution to a singularly embarrassing situation."
Kaiser Wilhelm and his wife, Auguste Viktoria, hope that the influence of Duchess Adelheid and her unmarried daughter, Princess Feodora, will provide an antidote to "the shocking example of moral degradation," that Princess Dorothea has witnessed since her childhood. Her future mother-in-law and sister-in-law will also help effect her conversion from Roman Catholicism to the Lutheran church, the faith professed by her husband and his family.
Princess Dorothea has been accustomed to great wealth, as both her parents have private fortunes in their own right. Life in Dresden will be very different. The widowed Dowager Duchess and her daughter live in a small villa on the outskirts of the city. They have limited means, and most of their time is spent doing charitable work. From time to time, they are invited to dinners or dances given by the King and Queen of Saxony, by Prince and Princess Georg or their married children.
Duchess Adelheid is the daughter of Queen Victoria's older half-sister, Princess Feodora. She lived with the Queen and the Prince Consort until she reached her majority. as a young Princess, she fell in love with Napoleon III, and planned to marry him, but the Prince Consort persuades his wife to veto the marriage. Instead, she was married to the "intensely dull and stupid Duke of Schleswig-Holstein.
For about the lives of Princess Feodora, Victoria's half sister and her family, please read Harald Albert's Queen Victoria's Sister. This book was published in 1967 in the United Kingdom.
Queen Victoria's sister: The life and letters of Princess Feodora
Queen Victoria's Sister: The Life and Letters of Princess Feodora