30 July 1900 – 14 November 1918
Johann Leopold, Hereditary Prince of Saxe-Coburg and GothaPrincess Sibylla, Duchess of VasterbottenPrince HubertusPrincess Caroline Mathilde, Countess of Castell-RudenhausenFriedrich Josias, Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany
Princess Helena of Waldeck and Pyrmont
March 6, 1954, Coburg, Germany
Princess Helena of Waldeck and Pyrmont, Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany
Alfred, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Edward VII, Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught and Strathearn
Victoria - Princess Royal, Princess Alice of the United Ki, Princess Helena of the Unite, Princess Beatrice of the Unite, Princess Louise - Duchess
Charles Edward, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (baptized Leopold Charles Edward George Albert German: Leopold Carl Eduard Georg Albert; 19 July 1884 – 6 March 1954), was the last reigning Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, two duchies in Germany (from 30 July 1900 to 14 November 1918), and the head of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha from 1900 until his death in 1954. A male-line grandson of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, he was also until 1919 a Prince of the United Kingdom and held the British title of Duke of Albany.
- Early life
- Duke of Saxe Coburg and Gotha
- World War I
- Private citizen and Nazi politician
- World War II
- Titles and styles
- In the media
The Duke was a controversial figure in the United Kingdom due to his status as Sovereign Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, part of the German Empire, during World War I. He was deprived of his British peerages, his title of Prince and Royal Highness and his British honours in 1919. In 1918, he was forced to abdicate his ducal throne. He later joined the German Nazi Party, and served in a number of positions in Nazi Germany in the 1930s and 1940s, including as President of the German Red Cross.
Prince Charles Edward was born at Claremont House near Esher, Surrey. His father was Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany, the fourth son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. His mother was Princess Helena, Duchess of Albany (nee Princess Helena of Waldeck and Pyrmont), the fourth daughter of George Victor of Waldeck and Pyrmont and his first wife Princess Helena of Nassau.
As his father died before his birth, Prince Charles Edward succeeded to his titles at birth and was styled His Royal Highness The Duke of Albany.
After becoming sick, the young Duke was privately baptised at Claremont on 4 August 1884, two weeks after his birth and baptised publicly in Esher Parish Church on 4 December 1884, four months later. His godparents were his paternal grandmother Queen Victoria, his paternal uncle the Prince of Wales, his paternal aunts Princess Christian of Schleswig-Holstein and the Marchioness of Lorne, Princess Frederica of Hanover (his father's second cousin), his maternal uncle Alexis, Prince of Bentheim and Steinfurt and his maternal grandfather George Victor, Prince of Waldeck and Pyrmont (neither of whom could attend). His uncle, Edward VII, made him a Knight of the Garter on 15 July 1902, just prior to his 18th birthday.
As a grandson of Queen Victoria, the Duke was a first cousin of George V, Emperor of India and of the following European Royals: Queen Maud of Norway, Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig of Hesse, Empress Alexandra of Russia, Queen Marie of the Romanians, Crown Princess Margaret of Sweden, Queen Victoria Eugenia of Spain, Queen Sophia of the Hellenes, Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, Josias, Hereditary Prince of Waldeck and Pyrmont (the last two through his mother) and German Kaiser Wilhelm II. Such was the interest Wilhelm showed in his young cousin's upbringing that Charles Edward was known as the Emperor's seventh son. His mother drummed into him endlessly the importance of "becoming a good man, so you bring no shame on Papa's name".
He studied in Bonn and was a member of Corps Borussia Bonn, to which he was introduced by the Kaiser.
Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
In 1900, 16-year-old Charles Edward inherited the ducal throne of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha from his uncle Alfred. Alfred's only son, Prince Alfred ("Young Affie"), had died in 1899, and The Duke of Connaught, the Queen's third son, renounced his claims to the duchy. Arthur's son, Prince Arthur of Connaught, who also renounced his claims, was attending school at Eton with Prince Charles Edward, and is rumoured to have threatened to beat his cousin if he did not accept the duchy. While at school his mother wrote to Charles Edward, instilling in him a profound sense of duty and obligation. With such strong influences from both his mother and grandmother, he had no choice but to take up the seat of Coburg in order to save that line of Royal blood. The Veste Coburg now became his main royal residence.
For the next five years, he reigned through the regency of the Hereditary Prince of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, the husband of Duke Alfred's third daughter Alexandra. The regent acted under the strict guidance of Emperor Wilhelm II. Upon coming of age on 19 July 1905, he assumed full constitutional powers.
Wilhelm picked out his wife's niece as Charles Edward's bride, and on 11 October 1905, at Glucksburg Castle, Schleswig-Holstein, the Duke married Princess Victoria Adelaide of Schleswig-Holstein (31 December 1885 – 3 October 1970), the eldest daughter of Duke Friedrich Ferdinand of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glucksburg and Princess Karoline Mathilde of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg. They had five children.
Through his daughter Sibylla, Charles Edward is the maternal grandfather of Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden.
World War I
World War I caused a conflict of loyalties for Charles Edward, but finally he supported Germany and held a commission as a general in the German Army (although he never held a major command). Consequently, George V ordered his name removed from the register of the Knights of the Garter in 1915.
In July 1917, in an effort to distance his dynasty from its German origins, George V changed the name of the British Royal House from the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to the House of Windsor, which is still its name. That year, the British Parliament passed the Titles Deprivation Act which empowered the Privy Council to investigate "any persons enjoying any dignity or title as a peer or British prince who have, during the present war, borne arms against His Majesty or His Allies, or who have adhered to His Majesty's enemies." Under the terms of that act, an Order in Council on 28 March 1919 formally removed Charles Edward's British peerages, the Dukedom of Albany, Earldom of Clarence, and the Barony of Arklow. He and his children also lost their entitlement to the titles of Prince and Princess of the United Kingdom and the styles Royal Highness and Highness. Nevertheless, he retained the style Highness as a member of a sovereign ducal house in Germany.
Private citizen and Nazi politician
The Russian Revolution of 1917 caused Charles much concern and he watched anxiously during the ensuing power struggles between the left- and right-wing parties in Germany. Like so many minor royals, Charles hoped for a everlasting princely status like the days of the Holy Roman Empire. During this time many royals and aristocrats were swayed by Nazi promise and the dream of reinstating lost fortunes by joining the new empire.
The National Socialist German Workers' Party (German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, abbreviated NSDAP), commonly referred to in English as the Nazi Party (/ˈnɑːtsi/), was a political party in Germany active between 1920 and 1945. Its predecessor, the German Workers' Party (DAP), existed from 1919 to 1920.
On 18 November 1918, the Workers' and Soldiers' Council of Gotha deposed him. Five days later, he signed a declaration relinquishing his rights to the throne. By this time he had been branded a traitor and effectively exiled from England and felt doubly betrayed: as fearful as any other royal of the communist threat, he cast about for a new hero and found Adolf Hitler. Now a private citizen, he became associated with various right-wing paramilitary and political organisations. In 1932, he took part in the creation of the so-called Harzburg Front, through which the German National People's Party became associated with the Nazi Party.
Charles Edward formally joined the Nazi Party in 1935 and became a member of the SA (Brownshirts), rising to the rank of Obergruppenfuhrer. He also served as a member of the Reichstag representing the Nazi Party from 1937 to 1945 and as president of the German Red Cross from 1933 to 1945. During his years the German Red Cross became a part of the Nazi organisation and was no longer affiliated to the neutral International Red Cross.
In 1936, Adolf Hitler sent Charles Edward to Britain as president of the Anglo-German Friendship Society. His mission was to improve Anglo-German relations and to explore the possibility of a pact between the two countries. He attended the funeral of his first cousin George V in a uniform of a general of the German army (his British ceremonial robes having been taken away from him), and sent Hitler encouraging reports about the strength of pro-German sentiment among the British aristocracy. After the Abdication Crisis, he played host to the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, the former King-Emperor and his wife, during their private tour of Germany in 1937.
World War II
Although Charles Edward was too old for active service during World War II, his three sons served in the Wehrmacht. His second son, Hubertus, was killed in action in 1943 on the eastern front in a plane crash.
When World War II ended, the American Military Government in Bavaria, under the command of General George S. Patton, placed Charles Edward under house arrest at his main royal residence, the vast Veste Coburg, because of his Nazi sympathies. He was later imprisoned with other Nazi officials. His sister, Princess Alice, learning of his incarceration, came to Germany with her husband, Major-General The Earl of Athlone (the former Governor General of Canada), to plead for his release with his American captors. They dined with the American generals holding her brother, who declined to release him.
In 1946 (August 1949, according to his ODNB entry), he was sentenced by a denazification court, heavily fined and almost bankrupted. Since Gotha was part of Thuringia and therefore in the Soviet occupation zone, the Soviet Army confiscated much of the family's property in Gotha. Coburg had become part of Bavaria in 1920, and the family kept property there and in other parts of Germany and abroad.
He spent the last years of his life in seclusion. In 1953, he travelled to a local cinema to watch the coronation of his cousin's granddaughter, Elizabeth II. Having been evicted by the Allies from the Veste Coburg and his other palaces in 1946, he died in Coburg in his flat in Elsasser Strase on 6 March 1954, as the elder of only two surviving grandsons of Queen Victoria.
Titles and styles
The full style of the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha was, in German: Herzog von Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha, Herzog zu Sachsen, Prinz von Grosbritannien und Irland, Herzog von Albany, Herzog zu Julich, Kleve, und Berg, zu Engern und Westfalen, Graf von Clarence, Landgraf in Thuringen, Markgraf zu Meissen, gefursteter Graf zu Henneberg, Graf zu der Mark und Ravensberg, Baron Arklow, Herr von Ravenstein und Tonna,
English: Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha; Duke in Saxony; Prince of Great Britain and Ireland; Duke of Albany; Duke of Julich, Cleves and Berg, of Angria and Westphalia; Earl of Clarence; Landgrave in Thuringia; Margrave in Meissen; Princely Count of Henneberg; Count of the Mark and Ravensberg; Baron Arklow; Lord of Ravenstein and Tonna
Charles Edward was never granted arms in the United Kingdom. Also, he did not inherit the arms of his father since royal arms, as a differenced version of Arms of Dominion, are granted individually and not inherited. On his accession as Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, he used the arms of that duchy, both the greater and lesser versions.
One variant that he used was a shield of the arms of Saxony, with a differenced version of the arms of the United Kingdom, charged with the label borne by his father on his father's arms (essentially, the arms of his father in reverse). This was similar to the arms borne by his uncle, Alfred, as Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, which can be seen on his stall plate as a Knight of the Swedish Order of the Seraphim.
In the media
On 2 June 2008, British Channel 4 aired an hour-length documentary about Charles Edward called Hitler's Favorite Royal, including re-coloured original footage and photos from all stages of his private and public life, his troubled conversion to the National-Socialist regime and other aspects. Various international historians commented on the events and issues revolving around his life, reminding the public of his existence and reviving public debate. The programme inaccurately described Charles Edward as Queen Victoria's youngest grandson and Nicholas II of Russia's first cousin.