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Charles Alexander, Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach

Charles Alexander, Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach

Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach and Brandenburg-Bayreuth
The basics
Gender male
Birth February 24, 1736 (Ansbach)
Death January 5, 1806
Mother: Princess Friederike Luise of Prussia
Father: Charles William FrederickMargrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach
Spouse: Princess Frederica Caroline of Saxe-Coburg-SaalfeldElizabeth Craven
Authority ISNI id Library of congress id VIAF id
The details

Christian Frederick Charles Alexander (German: Christian Friedrich Karl Alexander; 24 February 1736 in Ansbach – 5 January 1806 in Benham Park in Speen) was the last Margrave of the two Franconian principalities, Brandenburg-Ansbach and Brandenburg-Bayreuth, which he sold to the King of Prussia, a fellow member of the House of Hohenzollern.


His parents were Charles William Frederick, Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach, and Friederike Luise of Prussia, daughter of King Frederick William I of Prussia and sister of Frederick II of Prussia.

After the sudden death of his elder brother Charles Frederick August on 9 May 1737, "Alexander", as he later called himself, became Crown Prince of the principality. From 1748 to 1759, he studied at Utrecht. As the young "Count of Sayn" (the county of Sayn-Altenkirchen in the Westerwald having been absorbed into the Principality of Ansbach in 1741) he travelled to Turin and Savoy.

On 22 November 1754, in Coburg, Charles Alexander married Princess Frederica Caroline of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld (1735–1791), daughter of Franz Josias, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, and Anne Sophia, Princess of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt.

Lady Elizabeth Craven

On 3 August 1757, Charles Alexander became the Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach. The Residenz of the principality was at Ansbach, but Charles Alexander preferred his hunting estate and country seat in Triesdorf. Here, he renovated the "White Castle" for his mistress Hippolyte Clairon, the "Red Castle" for himself, and built the Villa Sandrina for another mistress, "Fräulein Kurz", and the "Round Villa" (Villa Rotunda) for his mistress (and later wife) Elizabeth Craven.

In 1758, Charles Alexander founded the porcelain factory in Ansbach and made ventures into agriculture by importing sheep. In 1769, he acquired the principality of Bayreuth pursuant to the Haus- und Reichsgesetze laws of the House of Hohenzollern.

In 1780, Charles Alexander founded his own bank, the Hochfürstlich-Brandenburg-Anspach-Bayreuthische Hofbanco, out of which later came the Bayerische Hypotheken- und Wechselbank ("Bavarian Mortgage and Change Bank", today absorbed into the HypoVereinsbank). He evidently wanted to avoid supporting the Jewish banking houses that were then overseeing his financial affairs, and to keep as much of his revenue as possible in his own hands by setting himself up as a private banker.

One of Charles Alexander's enterprises earned income from hiring auxiliary troops to King George III of Great Britain for the Revolutionary War in America. He had nominal command over the "Frankish Army" of 1,644 mercenaries, of whom only some 1,183 returned to their homeland in 1783. The Margrave leased further troops to Holland. With these incomes, he paid down the principality's debts, which amounted to 5,000,000 guilders at the time he inherited the throne (1757). By the time of his abdication 34 years later, the principality's debt stood at only 1,500,000 guilders.

The end of the Margraviate

  Ansbach Bayreuth
1792 Prussia Prussia
1805 France
1806 Bavaria
1807 France
1810 Bavaria
1871 Germany Germany

On 16 January 1791, Charles Alexander sold his Margraviate to Prussia. The contract was arranged by Charles August, Baron of Hardenberg, who had been Acting Minister in Ansbach since 1790. Under the terms of the contract, Prussia paid the Margrave as compensation an annual stipend of 300,000 guilders.

On 2 December, in Bordeaux, France, he signed his formal abdication as Margrave.

After abdication

Charles Alexander's first wife, Frederica Caroline, died on 18 February 1791 in Unterschwaningen, where she had lived since separating from her husband. On 19 May of the same year, Charles Alexander left Triesdorf for England.

On 13 October or 30 October 1791, in Lisbon, Charles Alexander married Lady Elizabeth Craven (1750–1828), the daughter of the Earl of Berkeley and the widow of the William Craven, 6th Baron Craven, who had died shortly before.

Charles Alexander sailed to England as a private citizen with his new wife, and there the couple dedicated themselves to breeding horses. By December 1791, he had found a property near the River Thames, Brandenburg House at Fulham, and in 1798, he acquired the Benham Park estate at Speen near Newbury in Berkshire. On 5 January 1806, aged 69, Charles Alexander died after a short illness caused by lung disease. Today, a memorial in St Mary's Church in Speen, simply records "In Memory of the Margrave of Anspach, who died at Benham 5th January 1806".

The Franconian region over which Charles Alexander had ruled changed hands many times. On 15 December 1805, in the first Treaty of Schönbrunn, Prussia ceded the Principality of Ansbach to France in exchange for the Electorate of Hanover; in 1806, Ansbach was acquired by the Kingdom of Bavaria in exchange for the Duchy of Berg, and soon afterwards the Prussian defeat at Jena on 14 October 1806 resulted in the Principality of Bayreuth also being ceded to the French in the Treaty of Tilsit of July 1807. In 1810, Bayreuth was acquired by Bavaria. In 1871, Bavaria became part of the new German Empire under the King of Prussia, but retained its internal independence, and it continues as a Land of the present-day Germany.


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