Sunday, April 17, 2016

Adelheid-Marie of Anhalt-Dessau, Grand Duchess of Luxembourg

Adelheid-Marie of Anhalt-Dessau,
Grand Duchess of Luxembourg
The first Grand Duchess of Luxembourg was Adelheid-Marie of Anhalt-Dessau. She was the second wife of Luxembourg's first Grand Duke, Adolf of Nassau. Adelheid-Marie was born on Christmas Day 1833 in Dessau, a small duchy in Central Germany, the eldest daughter of Friedrich-August Prince of Anhalt-Dessau and Landgravine Marie-Luise of Hesse-Kassel.

Adelheid-Marie had two younger sisters, Bathildis and Hilda. The children grew up in the Stadtschloss Dessau in Dessau and in the Rumpenheim Castle in Offenbach. It was in Rumpenheim that the 16-year-old Adelheid-Marie met for the first time the Duke Adolf of Nassau. Adolf was 34 years old and he was a widower since 1845. His first wife was the Grand Duchess Elizabeth Mikhailovna of Russia but the young grand duchess, who was suffering from tuberculosis, had died in childbirth, less than a year after their marriage. The baby had died as well. Adolf was deeply affected by this tragedy that he remained a widower for almost 5 years but he had to remarry to give his duchy an heir.

Adolf and Adelheid-Marie were married two years after their first meeting, in Dessau, on April 21, 1851. They spent their honeymoon in Oranienstein Castle, and Adelheid-Marie was so enchanted by the beautiful and elegant castle that it was chosen to be their summer residence. The couple set-up their court in Wiesbaden and their official residence was the Biebrich Palace, picturesquely located in the banks of the Rhine River. They had five children:Wilhelm, the future Grand Duke William IV, Friedrich, Mary, Franz, and Hilda, future Grand Duchess of Baden.

During the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, Adolf sided with Austria and it proved to be a bad decision. Austria was defeated and Prussia henceforth annexed the Duchy of Nassau. Adolf and Adelheid-Marie lost their throne and lived in exile in Vienna and then Frankfurt. In 1870, Adolf bought Schloss Hohenburg in Bavaria and this became the family's new residence; in here, Adolf was able to pursue his passion for hunting while Adelheid-Marie, her love for painting. She painted numerous watercolors of landscapes and nature, and she even participated in the decoration of an Evangelical church built on a donated land; she painted the flowers on the church's pulpit and donated chandeliers for the church.

In 1879, Adolf succeeded in the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, and Adelheid-Marie became the first Grand Duchess of Luxembourg. After the death of Adolf in 1905, Adelheid-Marie, now the Dowager Grand Duchess, stayed most of her time in Königstein. Her son, now the Grand Duke William IV died in 1912, after being ill for many years, and he was succeeded by his eldest daughter, Marie-Anne. The six princesses of Luxembourg relied heavily on their grandmother, Adelheid-Marie, for support and advice. She was responsible for their education and gave them drawing lessons. She also received numerous visits from her daughter Hilda, Grand Duchess of Baden, who had apartments in Königstein; eventually, Königstein will pass to Hilda after her mother's death. Even in her old age, the plight of the needy was still in her mind and she did not hesitate in giving patronage to various charities. In 1905, her paintings were exhibited, and the proceeds from the exhibit will be given for the benefit of the poor.

The Dowager Grand Duchess Adelheid-Marie  died at the age of eighty-three years in Königstein on November 24, 1916. A funeral service was held in the village church in the middle of World War II, and among the present was the son of Emperor Wilhelm II. The people of Königstein sincerely mourned Adelheid-Marie's death and her memory is still alive today. After the funeral, her body was buried alongside her husband in the crypt of the Weilburg castle.

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