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Royal Profile: Princess Marie of Saxe-Altenburg, Queen of Hanover

Princess Marie of Saxe-Altenburg was Queen Consort of Hanover from the time of her husband’s ascension in 1851 until they were expelled from Hanover in 1866.

Queen Marie of Hanover and her daughter Mary by  Kaulbach
Marie was born on April 14, 1818 in Hildberghausen and was christened Alexandrina Mary Wilhelmina Catherine Charlotte Theresa Henrietta Louise Pauline Elizabeth Frederica Georgina Marie. Her father was Joseph, then Hereditary Prince of Saxe-Hildburghausen, while her mother was Duchess Amelia of Württemberg, daughter of Duke Louis of Wurttemberg, a younger son of Friedrich II Eugene, reigning Duke of Wurttemberg.

Marie’s father was the second son of Frederick, Duke of Saxe-Hilberghausen, but because his elder brother, Joseph George, died a month after his birth in 1786, he became the heir to the duchy. In 1826, after the transfer of territories among the different branches of the Ernestine Wettins, Marie’s family moved to Altenburg. His father thenceforward took the title Duke of Alternburg. However, because he did not have any male offspring, the title passed to his younger brother, Georg, upon his abdication in 1848 following the civil revolution.

George V and Marie of Hanover and their children.

On February 18, 1843, Marie married George, Crown Prince of Hanover, in Hanover.  The only child and heir of Ernest Augustus I, George was not only a German prince, but also a member of the British Royal Family. Ernest Augustus was one of the sons of King George III and held the title Duke of Cumberland in the United Kingdom. In 1828, an accident and an illness caused George to lose one of his eyesight. In 1833, he became totally blind. With the death of King William IV, the British throne passed on to Queen Victoria, but since Hanover adheres to the Salic Law, the crown passed on to Ernest Augustus.  

With the king’s death in 1851, George and Marie reigned as the king and queen.  George’s reign was an autocratic one, following the steps of his father and influenced by his maternal uncle, Prince Charles Frederick of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, who then held considerable influence at the Prussian court and he often clashed with the Hanoverian legislature.

George was a staunch ally of Austria in the Diet of the German Confederation. At the eve of the Austro-Prussian War, the Prussian government demanded that Hanover send its truoops to Prussia or face war. From the start, George knew that his army wouldn’t win an armed conflict with Prussia, but protective of his throne, he refused to give in to Prussia’s demand and, instead, supported the Austrian camp against the wishes of the parliament. Prussia easily occupied Hanover culminating to its surrender on June 29, 1866. The Hanoverian throne was annexed to that of Prussia’s and the royal family fled to Austria. George, however, neither abdicated nor acknowledged Prussia's actions. While in Gmunden, Austria, he ceaselessly appealed for the European great powers to help him restore his throne, but it ended to no avail. George V personally maintained the Guelphic Legion, a paramilitary unit, from the time that he was deposed until his death on June 12, 1878.

Queen Marie of Hanover in her later years.

Queen Marie survived the king by twenty-eight years, dying on January 9, 1907, at Gmunden, where she was also buried. Her eldest son, Ernest Augustus, was deprived from succeeding the Duchy of Brunswick upon the death of his cousin, William, in 1884. However, his claim was ignored, and it was only until 1913 when his son, Ernst August, who married the Kaiser’s daughter, did the conflict ended. Ernest Augustus had renounced his claim to the Duchy of Brunswick in favor of the young Ernst August.


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