Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Royal Profile: Princess Battenberg

Julie (or Julia) von Hauke, Princess Battenberg, was born on November 12, 1825 in Warsaw, Poland. Although she was greatly admired, her marriage to Prince Alexander of Hesse-Darmstadt, was considered to be one of the great scandals in the 19th century.

She was the daughter of John Maurice von Hauke, and Sophie la Fontaine. Her father was German and a professional military man, fighting in Napoleon's army. He then switched sides and fought for the Russians. In recognition of this, Tsar Nicholas I, made him a Count, as as well as Deputy Minister of War of Congress Poland.

In 1830, at the age of 5, she was orphaned and made a ward of the Tsar. When she was older she served as a lady-in-waiting to the wife of Tsar Alexander II. In the course of her court duties at St. Petersburg she met Prince Alexander of Hesse-Darmstadt; brother to the Tsarina.

Countess Julie von Hauke and Prince Alexander fell in love, but they faced opposition. At the time, it was considered unthinkable for a member of a ruling house to marry a mere countess and the Tsar forbade the couple to marry. Without seeking the permission of the Tsar, they eloped and married on October 28, 1851. As Julie was of insufficient rank to her husband, their marriage was regarded as morganatic.*

While her husband retained the title of prince, her brother-in-law, Grand Duke Ludwig III, granted Julie,a week after her marriage, the title, style, and surname, Illustrous Highness, Countess of Battenberg. In 1858, she was elevated to Her Serene Highness, Princess of Battenberg (a 'non-royal' title). As a result of this elevation, their children were also elevated to the title of His/Her Serene Highness Prince/Princess Battenberg, although they would have no claim to the ducal throne of Hesse-Darmstadt. The couple had five children, each of whom inherited their mother's surname of Battenberg. Thus the house of Battenberg was founded.

Although Prince Alexander was considered to be the black sheep of the Grand Ducal Hesse family, three of his descendants became consorts to European sovereigns in the 20th century: Queen Victoria Eugenie of Spain, Queen Louise of Sweden, and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

The family eventually settled in Darmstadt, raising their family, primarily at Heiligenberg Castle, near Jugenheim, in southern Hesse. Julie spoke German, Russian, Polish and French. She read Dante in Italian and Shakespeare in English. It was also said that Bismark was afraid of her. She converted from Roman Catholicism to Lutheranism in 1875.

Julie died at Schloss Heiligenberg in Germany, on September 19, 1895 at the age of 70.

© Marilyn Braun 2005

* A morganatic marriage is a match between a person of 'high rank' and one of 'low rank'. The 'low rank' partner does not take the title of the higher ranking spouse, nor do their children.

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