Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha Dies; Queen Victoria's Second Son Succeeds to the Throne
Ernst II, the reigning Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and Queen Victoria's cousin, passed away midnight of August 22, 1893, at Reinhardsbrunn Castle near Gotha, New York Times reported. Since he was childless, the throne of the duchy fell to his nephew, Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, the second son of Queen Victoria and Ernst's younger brother, Prince Albert.
The Duke of Edinburgh formally recognized as the new sovereign of the duchy the following. He was already in Germany when news of his uncle's declining health reach him. He hastened to Reinhardsbrunn upon his uncle's death and took allegiance to the Constitution before his nephew, Kaiser Wilhelm II and the ministers of the duchy. The Diet also met later than week to swear allegiance to the duke. The duchy's prime minister Strenge thanked the Kaiser for joining them in the ceremony. The Duke of Edinburgh himself requested the Kaiser to come to Reinhardsbrunn from Berlin.
The Kaiser was received by the Duke's widow and expressed his deepest sympathy with her. The widow's brother, Prince William of Baden, also hastened to Gotha to console his grieving sister. It was believed during that time that Duke of Edinburgh would abdicate in favor of his only son, Prince Alfred the moment he turns 21. This however did not happen as the duke ruled until his death and he was predeceased by his son who committed suicide in 1900.
The Duke's body was laid in state in the castle and was transferred to the city before it was interred in the Moritzkirche. Wreathes flowed to the castle and the court was proclaimed in mourning for three weeks.
The Duke was born Ernst August Karl Johann Leopold Alexander Eduard on June 21, 1818 at Ehrenburg Palace in Coburg. He was the eldest son of Duke Ernst I of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld and Princess Louise of Saxe-Gotha-Alterburg. He married on May 3, 1842 Princess Alexandrine, the daughter of the Grand Duke Leopold of Baden. He came into the throne of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha on January 29, 1844 upon his father’s death. He was one of the staunchest supporters of a unified Germany, being the first of the many German rulers to congratulate King Wilhelm I of Prussia upon his proclamation as German Emperor. Initially an outspoken proponent of liberalism, he was quick to switch sides and surprised many when he turned out to be a conservation during the conflicts leading the empire’s unification in 1871. With that historian Charlotte Zeepvat noted that Ernest became "increasingly lost in a whirl of private amusements which earned only contempt from outside."
Ernst and his brother Albert were raised as though they were twins. They were deeply close to each other but after Albert's death in 1861, Ernst started to despised Queen Victoria and the British Royal Family. He was even alleged to have published anonymous pamphlets criticizing members of the British royal family. Nevertheless, Ernst accepted the Duke of Edinburgh as his heir-presumptive.