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Carl Eduard, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
Carl Eduard, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Duke of Albany (Leopold Charles Edward George Albert) (19 July 1884 – 28 March 1954) was the last reigning Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha in Germany from 30 July 1900 to 14 November 1918. A male-line grandson of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, he was deprived of British peerages and honours because of his support for Germany in World War I. Forced to abdicate his ducal throne in 1918, he was further estranged from the British Royal Family and the government of the United Kingdom because of his membership in the Nazi Party in the 1930s.
Carl Eduard was born at Claremont House, Surrey, the posthumous son and younger child of Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany, the fourth son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, and his wife, Princess Helena of Waldeck. Known as Prince Charles Edward in Britain and later as Prince Carl Eduard in Germany, he succeeded to his father's peerages upon birth. King Edward VII made him a Knight of the Garter on 15 July 1902.
In 1900, the fourteen year-old Duke of Albany inherited from his uncle the Duke of Edinburgh, Queen Victoria's second son, the German duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. The Duke of Edinburgh's only son, Prince Alfred ("Young Alfie"), committed suicide in 1899 and the Duke of Connaught, the Queen's third son, renounced his claims to the duchy on behalf of himself and his son. For the next five years, he reigned under the regency of the Hereditary Prince of Hohenlohe-Langenburg. Upon coming of age on 19 July 1905, the Duke of Albany assumed full constitutional powers as Duke Carl Eduard of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. As a grandson of Queen Victoria, the new Duke of Saxe-Coburg was a first cousin of the German Emperor Wilhelm II, Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig of Hesse and by Rhine, the Prince of Wales (the future King George V), the Empress Alexandra of Russia, Queen Marie of Romania, Queen Maud of Norway, and Queen Victoria Eugenia of Spain.
On 11 October 1905, at Glücksburg Castle, Holstein, the Duke married Princess Victoria Adelaide (31 December 1885 – 5 October 1970), the daughter of the Duke Friedrich Ferdinard of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg. The Duke and Duchess of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha had five children:
- Hereditary Prince Johan Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (2 August 1906 – 4 May 1972); married unequally and renounced his rights to the headship of the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha on 9 March 1932 to (1) Feodroa, Baroness von der Horst (7 July 1905 – 23 October 1991), and had issue (divorced 1962); and (2) on 5 May 1963 Maria Theresia Reindl (13 March 1908 – 7 April 1996); no issue.
- Princess Sybilla of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (18 January 1907 – 28 November 1972); married 20 October 1932 Crown Prince Gustaf Adolf of Sweden (22 April 1906 – 26 January 1947), and had issue.
- Prince Hubertus of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (24 August 1909 – 26 November 1943).
- Princess Caroline Mathilde of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (22 June 1912 – 5 September 1983); married 14 December 1931 Friedrich-Wolfgang, Count of Castell Rüdenhausen (26 June 1906 – 11 June 1940); and had issue.
- Prince Friedrich Josias of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (29 November 1918 – 23 January 1998); married (1) 25 June 1942 Victoria Louisa, Countess of Solms-Baruth (13 March 1921 – 1 March 2000) (divorced 1947); and had issue; (2) 14 February 1948 Denyse Henrietta de Muralt (b. 23 December 1923), and had issue (divorced 1962); and (3) 30 October 1964 Katrin Bremme (b. 22 April 1940).
During World War I, Duke Carl Eduard supported Germany and held a commission as a general in the German Army (although he never held a major command). Consequently, King George V of Britain ordered his name removed from the register of the Knights of the Garter in 1915. In July 1917, in an effort to distance his dynasty from its Germanic origins, George V changed the name of British Royal House from the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to the House of Windsor. That year, the British Parliament passed the Titles Deprivation Act which empowered the Privy Council to investigate "any persons enjoying any dignity or title as a peer or British prince who have, during the present war, borne arms against His Majesty or His Allies, or who have adhered to His Majesty's enemies." Under the terms of that act, an Order in Council on 28 March 1919 formally removed the Duke's British peerages, the dukedom of Albany, earldom of Clarence, and the barony of Arklow.1
On 18 November 1918, the Workers' and Soldiers' Council of Gotha deposed the Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Five days later, the Duke signed a declaration relinquishing his rights to the throne. Now a private citizen, the deposed Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha became associated with various right-wing paramilitary and political organizations.2 In 1932, he took part in the creation of the so-called Harzburg Front, through which the Deutschnationale Partei (lit: "German-national party") Conservative Party became associated with the Nazi Party. He joined the Nazi Party and became a member of the SA (or Brownshirts), rising to the rank of Obergruppenfuhrer. He also served a member of the Reichstag from 1937 to 1945 and as president of the German Red Cross from 1933 to 1945. He formally joined the Nazi Party in 1935.
In 1936, Adolf Hitler sent the Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Britain as president of the Anglo-German Friendship Society. His mission was to improve Anglo-German relations and to explore the possibility of a pact between the two countries. The Duke, who attended the funeral of George V in his SA uniform, approached the new king, Edward VIII, about the possibility of a pact; nothing came of these talks. Nonetheless, he continued to send Hitler encouraging reports about the strength of pro-German sentiment among the British aristocracy. After the abdication crisis, he played host to the former British king and his wife, by then the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, during their official tour of Germany in 1938.
When World War II ended, the American Military Government in Bavaria, under the command of General George S. Patton, placed the Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha under house arrest because of his Nazi sympathies. In 1946, he was sentenced to a "de-nazification" court and heavily fined. Many of his properties in Saxony, and Coburg were seized by the Soviet army.
The former Duke of Saxe-Coburg Gotha spent the last years of his life in poverty and seclusion. He died in 1954.
Styles and titles
Before the removal of his British honours, Albany was styled His Royal Highness The Duke of Albany, Knight of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order.
1 As a male-line grandson of the British Sovereign, Prince Carl Eduard was a Prince of the United Kingdom with the qualification of Royal Highness, in accordance with Queen Victoria's Letters Patent of 30 January 1864 and of 27 May 1898. The suspension of his peerages under the Title Deprivation Act, did not affect the Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha's status as a British prince or his place in the line of succession to the British throne. Under settled practice dating to 1714, Duke Carl Eduard's children, as legitimate male-line great grandchildren of the British Sovereign, were Princes and Princesses of the United Kingdom with the qualification of Highness. However, their right to use these British titles and styles ceased with George V's Letters Patent of 30 November 1917.
2 The hereditary and legal privileges of the various German royal, princely, ducal, and noble families ended in August 1919 when the constitution of the Weimar Republic went into effect. However, the Weimar Republic did not ban the use of titles and the designations of nobility, as did Austria. Instead, the Reichstag passed legislation that made the former royal and noble titles part of these families' surname. Legally, the former reigning Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha became Carl Eduard Herzog von Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha.
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