Friday 21 February 2014

Princess Catharina Frederica of Württemberg, A Life in Exile

Princess Catharina Frederica of Württemberg (Catharina Frederica Sophie Dorothea von Württemberg; Saint Petersburg, Russian Empire, 21st February 1783 – Lausanne, Switzerland, 29th November 1835)

Wedding portrait of Catharina of Württemberg by Johann Baptist Seele, 1807
Wedding portrait of Catharina of Württemberg by Johann Baptist Seele, 1807

A whistle-stop return to Russia today to meet a noble lady, Princess Catharina Frederica of Württemberg. Raised by her stepmother, she would end her days in exile.

Catharina was born in Saint Petersburg to the man who would become King Frederick I of Württemberg and his wife, Duchess Augusta of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel. When the little girl was just five her mother passed away and her father married  Charlotte, Princess Royal, eldest daughter of George III. Catharina and her siblings enjoyed a close relationship with their stepmother, who raised them as her own and supervised their education closely..

Frederick allied with Napoleon and hit on a surefire way to strengthen the bond between nations, offering his daughter's hand in marriage to Napoleon's brother, Jérôme Bonaparte. She was 24 when she became his second wife in a lavish ceremony at Fontainebleau, France, held on 22nd August 1807 and eventually they would have three children, all of whom survived into adulthood. 

The King and Queen of Westphalia, 1810
The King and Queen of Westphalia, 1810

Catharina became queen consort of the Kingdom of Westphalia and, when the kingdom fell after the Battle of Leipzig, the couple were forced into exile together. They spent time travelling in Europe and Catharina rejected her father's efforts to convince her to leave her husband and return home to Württemberg  Instead she accompanied him to Austria and only returned to her childhood home when her father offered the family a home in the castle at Göppingen.

However, life at Göppingen proved far from ideal as King Frederick exercised a tight control over the couple's lives and they eventually returned to Austria and took the title of Count and Countess de Montfort. Never quite able to settle, the family spent time in Italy and Switzerland and it was here, in Lausanne, where Catharine died. She was laid to rest in Ludwigsburg Palace Church, Germany, her wanderings finally at an end.

Life in the Georgian Court, true tales of 18th century royalty, is available at the links below.

Pen and Sword
Amazon UK
Amazon US
Book Depository (free worldwide shipping)


Unknown said...

Very interesting post!!!! Thank you for writing this!!!! <3

Catherine Curzon said...

A pleasure; thank you!