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Carl Eduard, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha


Carl Eduard, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha

Not to be confused with Edward Charles.
Prince Charles Edward
Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
Reign 30 July 1900 – 14 November 1918
Predecessor Alfred
Spouse Princess Victoria Adelaide of Schleswig-Holstein
Prince Johann Leopold
Princess Sibylla, Duchess of Västerbotten
Prince Hubertus
Princess Caroline Mathilde
Prince Friedrich Josias
Full name
Charles Edward George Albert Leopold
German: Carl Eduard Georg Albert Leopold
House House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
Father Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany
Mother Princess Helena of Waldeck and Pyrmont
Born (1884-07-19)19 July 1884
Claremont House, Surrey
Died 6 March 1954(1954-03-06) (aged 69)
Coburg, West Germany
Religion Lutheranism
British Royalty
House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
Descendants of Victoria & Albert
Alfred of Edinburgh
Marie of Edinburgh
Victoria of Edinburgh
Alexandra of Edinburgh
Beatrice of Edinburgh
Margaret of Connaught
Arthur of Connaught
Patricia of Connaught
Alice of Albany
Charles Edward, Duke of Saxe-Coburg & Gotha

Charles Edward, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (Leopold Charles Edward George Albert; German: Carl Eduard Georg Albert Leopold; 19 July 1884 – 6 March 1954), was the fourth and last reigning Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (German: Herzog von Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha), two duchies in Germany (from 30 July 1900 to 14 November 1918), and the head of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha from 1900 until his death in 1954. A male-line grandson of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, he was also until 1919 a Prince of the United Kingdom and held the British title of Duke of Albany.

The Duke (German: Herzog) was a controversial figure in the United Kingdom due to his status as Sovereign Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, part of the German Empire, during World War I. He was deprived of his British peerages, his title of Prince and Royal Highness and his British honours in 1919.[1] In 1918, he was forced to abdicate his ducal throne. He later joined the German Nazi Party, and served in a number of positions in Nazi Germany in the 1930s and 1940s, including as President of the German Red Cross.

He is the maternal grandfather of Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden and the younger brother of Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone.

Early life

Prince Charles Edward was born at Claremont House near Esher, Surrey. His father was Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany, the fourth son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. His mother was Princess Helena, Duchess of Albany (née Princess Helena of Waldeck and Pyrmont).

As his father died before his birth, Prince Charles Edward succeeded to his titles at birth and was styled His Royal Highness The Duke of Albany.

After becoming sick, the young Duke was privately baptised at Claremont on 4 August 1884, two weeks after his birth and baptised publicly in Esher Parish Church on 4 December 1884, four months later. His godparents were his paternal grandmother Queen Victoria, his paternal uncle the Prince of Wales, his paternal aunts Princess Christian of Schleswig-Holstein and the Marchioness of Lorne, Princess Frederica of Hanover (his father's second cousin), his maternal uncle Alexis, Prince of Bentheim and Steinfurt and his maternal grandfather George Victor, Prince of Waldeck and Pyrmont (neither of whom could attend).[2] His uncle, Edward VII, made him a Knight of the Garter on 15 July 1902, just prior to his 18th birthday.

As a grandson of Queen Victoria, the Duke was a first cousin of George V, Emperor of India and of the following European Royals: Queen Maud of Norway, Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig of Hesse, Empress Alexandra of Russia, Queen Marie of the Romanians, Crown Princess Margaret of Sweden, Queen Victoria Eugenia of Spain, Queen Sophia of the Hellenes, Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, Josias, Hereditary Prince of Waldeck and Pyrmont (the last two through his mother) and German Kaiser Wilhelm II. Such was the interest Wilhelm showed in his young cousin's upbringing that Charles Edward was known as the Emperor's seventh son.[3] His mother drummed into him endlessly the importance of "becoming a good man, so you bring no shame on Papa's name".[4]

He studied in Bonn and was a member of Corps Borussia Bonn, to which he was introduced by the Kaiser.

Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha

In 1900, 16-year-old Charles Edward inherited the ducal throne of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha from his uncle Alfred. Alfred's only son, Prince Alfred ("Young Affie"), died in 1899, and The Duke of Connaught, the Queen's third son, renounced his claims to the duchy. Arthur's son, Prince Arthur of Connaught, who also renounced his claims, was attending school at Eton with Prince Charles Edward, and is rumoured to have threatened to beat his cousin if he did not accept the duchy. While at school his mother wrote to Charles Edward, instilling in him a profound sense of duty and obligation. With such strong influences from both his mother and grandmother, he had no choice but to take up the seat of Coburg in order to save that line of Royal blood. The Veste Coburg now became his main royal residence.

For the next five years, he reigned through the regency of the Hereditary Prince of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, the husband of Duke Alfred's third daughter Alexandra. The regent acted under the strict guidance of Emperor Wilhelm II. Upon coming of age on 19 July 1905, he assumed full constitutional powers.


Wilhelm picked out his wife's niece as Charles Edward's bride, and on 11 October 1905, at Glücksburg Castle, Schleswig-Holstein, the Duke married Princess Victoria Adelaide of Schleswig-Holstein (31 December 1885 – 3 October 1970), the eldest daughter of Duke Friedrich Ferdinand of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg and Princess Karoline Mathilde of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg. They had five children.

Through his daughter Sibylla, Charles Edward is the maternal grandfather of Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden.

World War I

World War I caused a conflict of loyalties for Charles Edward, but finally he supported Germany and held a commission as a general in the German Army (although he never held a major command). Consequently, George V 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 German origins, George V changed the name of the British Royal House from the House of Saxe-Coburg and 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 Charles Edward's British peerages, the Dukedom of Albany, Earldom of Clarence, and the Barony of Arklow. He and his children also lost their entitlement to the titles of Prince and Princess of the United Kingdom and the styles Royal Highness and Highness.[5] Nevertheless, he retained the style Highness as a member of a sovereign ducal house in Germany.

Private citizen and Nazi politician

The Russian Revolution of 1917 caused Charles much concern and he watched anxiously during the ensuing power struggles between the left- and right-wing parties in Germany. On 18 November 1918, the Workers' and Soldiers' Council of Gotha deposed him. Five days later, he signed a declaration relinquishing his rights to the throne. By this time he had been branded a traitor and effectively exiled from England and felt doubly betrayed: as fearful as any Royal of the communist threat, he cast about for a new hero and found Adolf Hitler.[6] Now a private citizen, he became associated with various right-wing paramilitary and political organisations.[7] In 1932, he took part in the creation of the so-called Harzburg Front, through which the German National People's Party became associated with the Nazi Party.

He joined the Nazi Party in 1935 and became a member of the SA (Brownshirts), rising to the rank of Obergruppenführer. He also served as a member of the Reichstag representing the Nazi Party from 1937 to 1945 and as president of the German Red Cross from 1933 to 1945. During his years the German Red Cross became a part of the Nazi organisation and was no longer affiliated to the neutral International Red Cross.

In 1936, Adolf Hitler sent Charles Edward 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. He attended the funeral of his first cousin George V in a uniform of a general of the German army (his British ceremonial robes having been taken away from him), and sent Hitler encouraging reports about the strength of pro-German sentiment among the British aristocracy. After the Abdication Crisis, he played host to the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, the former King-Emperor and his wife, during their unauthorised private tour of Germany in 1937.

World War II

Although Charles Edward was too old for active service during World War II, his three sons served in the Wehrmacht. His second son, Hubertus, was killed in action in 1943 on the eastern front in a plane crash.

When World War II ended, the American Military Government in Bavaria, under the command of General George S. Patton, placed Charles Edward under house arrest at his main royal residence, the vast Veste Coburg, because of his Nazi sympathies. He was later imprisoned with other Nazi officials. His sister, Princess Alice, learning of his incarceration, came to Germany with her husband, Major-General The Earl of Athlone (the former Governor General of Canada), to plead for his release with his American captors. They dined with the American generals holding her brother, who declined to release him.

In 1946 (August 1949, according to his ODNB entry), he was sentenced by a denazification court, heavily fined and almost bankrupted. Since Gotha was part of Thuringia and therefore in the Soviet occupation zone, the Soviet Army confiscated much of the family's property in Gotha. Coburg had become part of Bavaria in 1920, and the family kept property there and in other parts of Germany and abroad.

He spent the last years of his life in seclusion. In 1953, he travelled to a local cinema to watch the Coronation of his cousin's granddaughter, Elizabeth II.[4] Having been evicted by the Allies from the Veste Coburg and his other palaces in 1946, he died in Coburg in his flat in Elsässer Straße on 6 March 1954, as the elder of only two surviving grandsons of Queen Victoria.

Titles, styles, honours and arms

Royal styles of
Carl Eduard, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
Reference style His Royal Highness
Spoken style Your Royal Highness
Alternative style Sir

Titles and styles

The full style of the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha was, in German: Herzog von Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha, Herzog zu Sachsen, Prinz von Großbritannien und Irland, Herzog von Albany, Herzog zu Jülich, Kleve, und Berg, zu Engern und Westfalen, Graf von Clarence, Landgraf in Thüringen, Markgraf zu Meissen, gefürsteter Graf zu Henneberg, Graf zu der Mark und Ravensberg, Baron Arklow, Herr von Ravenstein und Tonna, which translates as the English: Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha; Duke in Saxony; Prince of Great Britain and Ireland; Duke of Albany; Duke of Jülich, Cleves and Berg, of Angria and Westphalia; Earl of Clarence; Princely Count of Henneberg; Count of the Mark and Ravensberg; Baron Arklow; Lord of Ravenstein and Tonna



Charles Edward was never granted arms in the United Kingdom. Also, he did not inherit the arms of his father as royal arms, as a differenced version of Arms of Dominion is granted individually and not inherited. On his accession as Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, he used the arms of that duchy, both the greater and lesser versions. One variant that he used was a shield of the arms of Saxony, with a differenced version of the arms of the United Kingdom, with the label borne by his father on his father's arms (essentially, the arms of his father in reverse). This was similar to the arms borne by his uncle, Alfred, as Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, as can be seen on his stall plate as a Knight of the Swedish Order of the Seraphim.[10]

In the media

On 2 June 2008, British Channel 4 aired an hour-length documentary about Charles Edward called Hitler's Favorite Royal, including re-coloured original footage and photos from all stages of his private and public life, his troubled conversion to the National-Socialist regime and other aspects. Various international historians commented on the events and issues revolving around his life, reminding the public of his existence and reviving public debate.[11] The programme contained a number of inaccuracies, for example describing Charles Edward as Queen Victoria's youngest grandson, which he was not.


Name Birth Death Marriages
Johann Leopold, Hereditary Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha 2 August
4 May
(1) unequally, renouncing his rights to the headship of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha), 9 March 1932, Baroness Feodora von der Horst; divorced 1962; had issue
(2), 5 May 1963, Maria Theresia Reindl; no issue
Princess Sibylla of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha 18 January
28 November
20 October 1932, Prince Gustaf Adolf of Sweden, Duke of Västerbotten; had issue, Princess Margaretha, Princess Birgitta, Princess Désirée, Princess Christina and Carl XVI Gustaf
Prince Hubertus of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha 24 August
26 November
Princess Caroline Mathilde of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha 22 June
5 September
(1), 14 December 1931, Friedrich Wolfgang Otto, Count of Castell-Rüdenhausen; divorced 2 May 1938; had issue
(2), 22 June 1938, Captain Max Schnirring; he died 1944; had issue
(3), 23 December 1946, Karl Andree; divorced 27 December 1947; no issue
Friedrich Josias, Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha 29 November
23 January
(1), 25 January 1942, Countess Viktoria-Luise of Solms-Baruth; divorced 19 September 1947; had issue
(2), 14 February 1948, Denyse Henrietta de Muralt; divorced 17 September 1964; had issue
(3), 30 October 1964, Katrin Bremme; no issue




  • Harald Sandner, Hitlers Herzog: Carl Eduard von Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha: die Biographie. Aachen, 2010.

External links


Charles Edward, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
Cadet branch of the House of Wettin
Born: 19 July 1884 Died: 6 March 1954
German nobility
Preceded by
Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
30 July 1900 – 14 November 1918
Peerage of the United Kingdom
Title last held by
Prince Leopold
Duke of Albany
2nd Duke, 7th creation
Titles in pretence
Loss of titles — TITULAR —
Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
14 November 1918 – 6 March 1954
Reason for succession failure:
German Revolution of 1918–19
Succeeded by
Prince Friedrich Josias
Duke of Albany
28 March 1919 – 6 March 1954
Reason for succession failure:
Titles Deprivation Act 1917
Succeeded by
Prince Johann Leopold

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