|Birth||October 22, 1858 (Lubsko, Gmina Lubsko, Żary County, Lubusz Voivodeship)|
|Death||April 11, 1921 (Huis Doorn, Utrechtse Heuvelrug, Utrecht, Netherlands)|
Augusta Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein (Auguste Viktoria Friederike Luise Feodora Jenny; 22 October 1858 – 11 April 1921) was the last German empress and queen of Prussia by marriage to Wilhelm II, German Emperor.
Early life and family
Augusta Victoria was born at Dolzig Castle, the eldest daughter of Frederick VIII, future Duke of Schleswig-Holstein and Princess Adelheid of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, a niece of Queen Victoria. She grew up at Dolzig until the death of her grandfather, Christian August II, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg, in 1869. The family then moved to Primkenau to a country estate her father inherited.
On 27 February 1881, Augusta married her second cousin Prince Wilhelm of Prussia. Augusta's maternal grandmother Princess Feodora of Leiningen was the half-sister of Queen Victoria, who was Wilhelm's maternal grandmother.
Wilhelm had earlier proposed to his first cousin, Princess Elisabeth of Hesse and by Rhine (known in the family as "Ella"), a daughter of his mother's own sister, but she declined. He did not react well, and was adamant that he would soon marry another princess.
Wilhelm's family was originally against the marriage with Augusta Victoria, whose father was not even a sovereign. However, 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. 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 had 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; 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). 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 Victoria 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 her 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 Victoria's bedside when she died of breast cancer in 1901.
Augusta also had less than cordial relationships with some of Wilhelm's sisters, particularly the recently married Crown Princess Sophie of Greece. In 1890, when Sophie announced her intention to convert to Greek Orthodoxy, Dona summoned her and told her that if she did so, not only would Wilhelm find it unacceptable as the head of the Evangelical State Church of Prussia's older Provinces, but 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 overprotective 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's health. She died in 1921, in House Doorn at Doorn in the Netherlands. Wilhelm, still reeling over the same losses, was devastated by her death. 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.
Augusta gave birth to seven children by Wilhelm II:
- Wilhelm, 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 of Prussia (1892–1980); married Ernest Augustus, Duke of Brunswick.
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, styles and honours
- 22 October 1858 – 27 February 1881: Her Highness Princess Augusta Victoria 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 – 11 April 1921: Her Imperial and Royal Majesty The German Empress, Queen of Prussia
- Knight Grand Cordon with Collar of the Imperial and Royal Order of the Black Eagle
- Knight Grand Cordon of the Imperial and Royal Order of the Red Eagle
- Grand Mistress Dame of the Imperial and Royal Decoration of Louise, Special Class
- Knight Grand Cordon of the Imperial and Royal Order of Saint John
- Grand Mistress Dame of the Imperial and Royal Decoration of the Cross for Merit, Special Class
- Grand Mistress Dame of the Imperial and Royal Decoration of the Cross of Merit, Special Class
- Knight of the Imperial and Royal Decoration of the Red Cross
- Knight of the Imperial and Royal Decoration of the Cross of Jerusalem
- Bavarian Royal Family: Dame of the Royal Decoration of Saint Elizabeth, Special Class
- Bavarian Royal Family: Dame Grand Cross of the Royal Order of Theresa
- Bavarian Royal Family: Dame of the Royal Decoration of Saint Anne, Special Class
- Saxonian Royal Family: Dame Grand Cross of the Royal Order of Sidonia
- Saxonian Royal Family: Dame of the Royal Decoration of Maria Anna, Special Class
- Württembergian Royal Family: Dame of the Royal Decoration of Olga, Special Class
- Lippean Princely Family: Dame of the Princely Decoration of Bertha, Special Class
- Austrian Imperial and Royal Family: Dame of the Imperial and Royal Order of the Starry Cross, 1st Class
- Portuguese Royal Family: Dame Grand Cross of the Royal Order of Saint Isabel
- Romania: Dame Grand Cross of the Order of Carol I
- Russian Imperial Family: Dame Grand Cordon of the Imperial Order of Saint Catherine
- Spanish Royal Family: 830th Dame Grand Cross of the Royal Order of Queen Maria Luisa
- Turkey: Dame Grand Cordon with Chain of the Order of Charity, Special Class
- United Kingdom: Dame of the Royal Order of Victoria and Albert, 1st Class
- United Kingdom: Recipient of the Queen Victoria Diamond Jubilee Medal
Coat of Arms of Empress Augusta Victoria
Imperial Monogram of Empress Augusta Victoria
Variation of Empress Augusta Victoria's Monogram
Monogram of the Königin Augusta Garde-Grenadier-Regiment Nr.4