Augusta Empress of Germany
- Category : Royalty
- Type : MGE
- Profile : 3/5 - Martyr / Heretic
- Definition : Split - Small (34,57)
- Incarnation Cross : RAX Laws 3
Augusta Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein (22 October 1858 – 11 April 1921) was the last German Empress and Queen of Prussia. Her full German name was Auguste Viktoria Friederike Luise Feodora Jenny von Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg.
She was the eldest daughter of Frederick VIII, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein and Princess Adelheid of Hohenlohe-Langenburg. Her maternal grandparents were Ernst I, Prince of Hohenlohe-Langenburg and Princess Feodora of Leiningen, half-sister of Queen Victoria.
On 27 February 1881, Augusta married Prince Wilhelm of Prussia. Chancellor Otto von Bismarck was a strong proponent of the marriage, believing that it would end the dispute between the Prussian government and Augusta's father.
Wilhelm had earlier proposed to his first cousin, Princess Elisabeth of Hesse and by Rhine (known in the family as "Ella"), but she declined. Wilhelm did not take that well - and was adamant to marry another princess soon.
Wilhelm's family was originally against the marriage with Augusta Viktoria, whose father was not even a sovereign. But in the end, Wilhelm's intransigence, the support of Bismarck, and a determination to move beyond the rejection of his proposal to Ella, led the reluctant imperial family to give official consent.
Augusta was known as "Dona" within the family. She enjoyed a somewhat lukewarm relationship with her mother-in-law, Victoria, who had hoped that Dona would help to heal the rift between herself and Wilhelm; sadly, this was not to be the case. The Empress was also annoyed that the title of Head of the Red Cross went to Dona, who had no nursing or charity experience or inclination (though in her memoirs, Princess Viktoria Luise paints a different picture, stating that her mother loved charity work).
Reportedly, Queen Victoria said that Augusta Viktoria was a little nobody who would never have become anything without her marriage to Wilhelm.
Augusta often took pleasure in snubbing her mother-in-law, usually small incidents, such as telling her that she would be wearing a different dress than the one the Empress had recommended, that she would not be riding to get her figure back after childbirth as Wilhelm had no intention of stopping at one son, and informing the Empress that Augusta's daughter, Viktoria, was not named after her (though, again, in her memoirs, Viktoria Luise states that she was named after both her grandmother and her great-grandmother, Queen Victoria).
Augusta and her mother-in-law grew closer for a few years when Wilhelm became emperor, as Augusta was often lonely while he was away on military exercises and turned to her mother-in-law for companionship of rank, although she never left her children alone with her lest they be influenced by her well-known liberalism. Nevertheless, the two were often seen out riding in a carriage together. Augusta was at the 'Empress Frederick's' bedside when she died of spinal cancer in 1901.
Augusta also had less than cordial relationships with some of Wilhelm's sisters, especially the recently married Crown Princess Sophie of Greece. In 1890, when Sophie announced her intention to leave her Evangelical faith for Greek Orthodoxy, Dona summoned her and told her that if she did so, not only would Wilhelm find it unacceptable, being the head of the Evangelical State Church of Prussia's older Provinces; she would be barred from Germany and her soul would end up in Hell. Sophie replied that it was her business whether or not she did. Augusta became hysterical and gave birth prematurely to her son, Prince Joachim, as a result of which she was protective of him for the rest of his life, believing that he was delicate. Evidently, so did Wilhelm; he wrote to his mother that if the baby died, Sophie would have murdered it.
In 1920, the shock of exile and abdication, combined with the breakdown of Joachim's marriage and his subsequent suicide, proved too much for Augusta. She died in 1921, in House Doorn at Doorn in the Netherlands. The Weimar Republic allowed her remains to be transported back to Germany, where they still lie in the Temple of Antiquities, not far from the New Palace, Potsdam. Because he was not permitted to enter Germany, Wilhelm could accompany his wife on her last journey only as far as the German border.
Kaiserin Augusta gave birth to seven children by Wilhelm II:
William, German Crown Prince (1882–1951); married Duchess Cecilie of Mecklenburg-Schwerin.
Prince Eitel Friedrich (1883–1942); married Duchess Sophia Charlotte of Oldenburg.
Prince Adalbert (1884–1948); married Princess Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen.
Prince August Wilhelm (1887–1949); married Princess Alexandra Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg.
Prince Oskar (1888–1958); married Countess Ina Marie von Bassewitz.
Prince Joachim (1890–1920); married Princess Marie-Auguste of Anhalt.
Princess Victoria Louise (1892–1980); married Ernest Augustus, Duke of Brunswick.
History has not dealt kindly with Augusta, recording nothing special about her; she was not intellectual, did not play an instrument, and hero-worshipped her husband.
This view of Augusta is, however, one that is substantially based upon the point of view of late twentieth-century, often English-speaking historians, and also is reading her through the lens of twentieth-century political history. She is often compared unfavourably to Empress Elisabeth of Austria and her mother-in-law Victoria, Princess Royal, both of whom are read as symbols of cultural and political progress to the left. Augusta is read as a more conservative figure and, therefore, more negative imagery and narrative is directed towards her. Queen Victoria at least, believed she was "foolish". She was extremely conscientious in carrying out the public relations duty, charitable, and welfare work that was an expected part of Royal duties. She was not as untalented as later commentators made out and had interests in and affinity for the arts. There was a genuine and widespread sense of loss and mourning amongst ordinary Germans when she died and her funeral was marked by much spontaneous public grieving, as well as the more formal rituals of the Prussian State.
The funeral of Augusta Victoria is reflected upon in the novel by Katherine Anne Porter, Ship of Fools. In it a German passenger silently reminisces on the funeral and its cinematic showing to a small colony of Germans living abroad in Mexico and describes the outpouring of public grief that was seen within that community. Augusta Victoria's passing is viewed among Germans who lived through the First World War as the ending of a great epoch . The conclusion of which forever divorces them from their maternal country and enshrines Augusta Victoria as a venerable saint and symbol of a Germany long past.
Titles and styles
22 October 1858 – 27 February 1881: Her Serene Highness Princess Augusta Viktoria of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg
27 February 1881 – 9 March 1888: Her Royal Highness Princess Wilhelm of Prussia
9 March 1888 – 15 June 1888: Her Imperial and Royal Highness The German Crown Princess, Crown Princess of Prussia
15 June 1888 – 18 November 1918: Her Imperial and Royal Majesty The German Empress, Queen of Prussia
Her husband abdicated on 18 November 1918. She died on 11 April 1921.