Tuesday 1 April 2014

Charles II August, Duke of Zweibrücken: A Man in Search of Territory

Charles II August, Duke of Zweibrücken (Düsseldorf, Germany, 29th October 1746 - Mannheim, Germany, 1st April 1795)

Charles II August, Duke of Zweibrücken

My rakish Colonial gentleman is a great fan of marking 1st April with hilarious pranks and wheezes, but today's salon guest is a rather more serious gentleman. Charles II August, Duke of Zweibrücken did not always enjoy the best of luck and dynastic wrangling kept the Duke from following his heart, whilst political scheming foiled his plans for territorial expansion.

Charles was born into an illustrious family as the son of Frederick Michael of Zweibrücken-Birkenfeld and Maria Franziska of Sulzbach; as the first of five children, he would one day count monarchs amongst his siblings. Despite the fine titles of his family, Charles was not a particularly senior figure amongst European nobles and this would prove to be the barrier that would eventually stand between him and the woman who stole his heart.

At the age of 22, Charles fell in love with Archduchess Marie Amalie, daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor, Francis I and his wife, Maria Theresa. Although he was popular at court and the young Archduchess longed to be his wife, the Empress had other ideas. She decided that the young man was simply not of a grand enough rank to marry her daughter. On top of that, she had already laid plans to marry Marie Amalie into the Bourbon dynasty and her love for Charles would not be allowed to get in the way of such a valuable political match.

Eventually and despite the wishes of the intended bride, the Archduchess was married to Ferdinand, Duke of Parma. Neither she nor Charles ever really forgave the Empress for insisting upon the marriage and, with his true love wed to another, Charles looked elsewhere for a bride. In 1774 he married his sister in law, Princess Maria Amalia of Saxony, and the couple had just one son, who he did not survive to adulthood.

The year after his marriage, Charles inherited the title of Duke of Zweibrücken, but lands which he stood to one day inherit looked likely to evade his grip as elsewhere in Europe, other rules were looking to make territorial changes. 

When Maximilian III Joseph, Elector of Bavaria, died in 1778, his cousin, Charles Theodore, was next in line to the title and immediately set about attempting to broker territorial exchanges with Emperor Joseph, including his Bavarian territories. Charles was furious as he was expecting to inherit these Bavarian lands in time and to press his point, he marshaled the support of other monarchs in support of his claim. The territorial disputes were eventually at the heart to the War of the Bavarian Succession, in which Charles Theodore prevailed. In 1784 Charles once again attempted to oppose a territorial exchange but once again failed.

As fate would have it, Charles predeceased Charles Theodore and so would never have inherited the territories in question anyway. Instead, they eventually went to his brother and the next holder of the title, Duke of Zweibrücken, Maximilian Joseph.

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)

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