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Ernst II, Duke of Saxe-Altenburg

Ernst II, Duke of Saxe-Altenburg

German duke
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro German duke
A.K.A. Ernst II. von Sachsen-Altenburg
Countries German Democratic Republic
Occupations Military personnel
Gender male
Birth 31 August 1871 (Altenburg)
Death 27 March 1955 (Trockenborn-Wolfersdorf)
Star sign Virgo
Politics Nazi Party
Mother: Princess Augusta of Saxe-Meiningen
Father: Prince Moritz of Saxe-Altenburg
Siblings: Princess Marie Anne of Saxe-AltenburgPrincess Louise Charlotte of Saxe-AltenburgPrincess Elisabeth of Saxe-Altenburg (1826–1896)
Spouse: Princess Adelaide of Schaumburg-Lippe
Children: Princess Charlotte of Saxe-AltenburgGeorg Moritz, Hereditary Prince of Saxe-AltenburgFriedrich Ernst Sachsen-Altenburg
Education École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne, Heidelberg University
The details

Ernst II Bernhard Georg Johann Karl Frederick Peter Albert, Duke of Saxe-Altenburg (b. Altenburg, 31 August 1871 – d. Trockenborn-Wolfersdorf, 22 March 1955) was the last reigning duke of Saxe-Altenburg.

Early life

He was the fourth child and only son of Prince Moritz, the youngest son of Georg, Duke of Saxe-Altenburg and Princess Augusta of Saxe-Meiningen.

The death of his father, on the 13 May 1907, made him first in the line of succession to the duchy of Saxe-Altenburg. He inherited the dukedom when his uncle and namesake, Ernst I, died without any surviving male issue.

First marriage

In Bückeburg, Ernst married his first wife, Princess Adelaide of Schaumburg-Lippe, a granddaughter of George William, Prince of Schaumburg-Lippe. They had four children:

  1. Princess Charlotte Agnes (Potsdam, 4 March 1899 – Hemmelmark bei Eckernförde, 16 February 1989); married on 11 July 1919 Prince Sigismund of Prussia.
  2. Georg Moritz, Hereditary Prince of Saxe-Altenburg (Potsdam, 13 May 1900 – Rendsburg, 13 February 1991).
  3. Princess Elisabeth Karola (Potsdam, 6 April 1903 – Breiholz, 30 January 1991).
  4. Prince Frederick Ernst (Potsdam, 15 May 1905 – Rosenheim, 23 February 1985).

World War I

During World War I, Ernst refused all honorary appointments at the Kaiser's headquarters, which would have been considerably safer than other areas. Resigning from his courtesy rank of Generalleutnant, he requested and was granted the colonelcy and the command of his duchy's regiment, the 153rd (8th Thuringian) Infantry. Quickly promoted to General der Infanterie, he led several brigades on the western front. In 1915, he was awarded the Pour le Mérite award and was given command of the 8th Infantry Division, further distinguishing himself in the Battle of the Somme. In late 1916, he relinquished his field command because of illness and returned to Altenburg for the remainder of the war.

A great lover of science, Ernst had a wireless installation fitted inside his castle in Altenburg at the start of the war, especially to communicate with airships. Ernst also had a lifelong interest in wireless telegraphy and telephony, and he was considered an expert of aeronautics.

When Germany lost the war, all German princes lost their titles and states. Ernst was one of the first princes to realise that major changes were coming and quickly arrived at an amicable settlement with his subjects. He was forced to abdicate the government of the duchy on 13 November 1918 and spent the rest of his life as a private citizen.

Later life

After his abdication Ernst, with a moderate fortune, retired to a hotel in Berlin. Two years later, in 1920, his marriage ended in divorce. Later that year, Ernst announced his engagement to Helena Thomas, an opera singer. They had met while she was temporarily filling an engagement at the Ducal Theatre in Altenburg during the war. The marriage never took place, however.

On 15 July 1934 Ernst married his second wife, Maria Triebel, who had been his companion for many years, at his home, Schloss Froehliche Wiederkunft ("Palace of Happy Returning") at Wolfersdorf. This hunting lodge received its name when its first owner, John Frederick I, Elector of Saxony, returned there in 1552 to meet his family after five years of absence as a war prisoner. Maria Triebel was born in Waltershausen on October 16, 1893, and she died in Wolfersdorf on February 28, 1955. That was a morganatic marriage, and she received only the title of "Baroness Reiseneck". They had no children.

Wolfersdorf Castle ("Palace of Happy Returning")

Still interested in science, Ernst established a modern observatory in Wolfersdorf, employing Kurd Kisshauer in 1922. On 1 May 1937, Ernst joined the Nazi Party

Ernst became the only former reigning German prince who accepted German Democratic Republic citizenship after World War II, refusing an offer to leave his beloved "Palace of Happy Returning" and relocate to the British occupation zone. The Schloß had been confiscated by the Soviet occupiers, but Ernst had been granted free use of it until his death. In March 1954, with the death of Charles Edward, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, he became the last survivor of the German princes who had reigned until 1918. One year later, he died at the Schloß.


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