Saturday, March 26, 2016

Luxarazzi 101: Princess Sophie of Luxembourg, Duchess of Saxony

Sophie (l.) with her sister Elisabeth
The third profile in our series of the daughters of Grand Duke Wilhelm IV and Grand Duchess Maria Ana is Sophie, the youngest of the six girls. Sophie Caroline Marie Wilhelmine (as she was christened) was born on February 14, 1902, the day before her sister Hilda's fifth birthday.  Like three of her older sisters, Sophie was born at Château de Berg.

The Grand Duchess was forty years old at the time of her youngest daughter's birth. As such, it became clear soon after Sophie's arrival that Wilhelm and Maria Ana would not have any sons.  This prompted Wilhelm to make changes to the Nassau house law (excluding the Counts of Merenberg from the succession in Luxembourg, as we've discussed previously) and allowing the eventual succession of his eldest daughter, Marie-Adelaide.

Sophie's early life was spent mostly at Schloss Hohenberg in Bavaria, revolving almost solely around her family. Sophie was close to all of her sisters, but particularly with Antonia and Elisabeth who were closest to her in age. Although her childhood was largely considered a happy one, Sophie's father's ill health was an issue even before her birth.  She was six years old when Wilhelm's final illness began in 1908.  Although Sophie was quite young, she assisted her mother and sisters in helping to care for her father until his death in 1912.

During World War I, Sophie lived with her mother and sisters at Château de Berg. Due to her young age, Sophie largely escaped the interests of German princes seeking brides in the occupied Grand Duchy. But as fate would have it, Sophie did indeed marry a German, but fortunately the match came about from mutual love.

Sophie initially met Prince Ernst Heinrich of Saxony, the youngest son of former Saxon King Friedrich August III, at Schloss Hohenburg, possibly in the summer of 1920. Five years Sophie's senior, Ernst Heinrich was a good friend of Crown Prince Rupprecht of Bavaria, the husband of Princess Antonia and therefore Sophie's brother-in-law. The young couple fell in love, and Ernst Heinrich proposed to Sophie during the autumn of 1920.

Sophie and Ernst Heinrich married on April 12, 1921, at Hohenberg. Her elder sister Antonia had married Rupprecht just five days earlier. The ceremony was conducted by Ernst Heinrich's uncle Maximillian, a Roman Catholic priest. Sophie and her husband followed up the wedding with a honeymoon in Italy. Ernst Heinrich later recounted in his memoirs that while traveling on the island of Sicily, Sophie visited with a fortune teller who correctly predicted the couple would have three sons.
Sophie and her husband Ernst Heinrich, around the time of their engagement

Ernst Heinrich managed the Wettin family's finances as the couple settled into married life. Sophie supervised the education of the couple's children.

Sophie's three sons were all born in Munich. They were:

- Albrecht Friedrich August Johann Gregor Dedo, known as Dedo (1922-2009)
- Georg Timo Michael Nikolaus Maria, known as Timo (1923-1982)
- Rupprecht Hubertus Gero Maria, known as Gero (1925-2003)

The family made frequent trips to Egypt due to Ernst Heinrich's love of art and the management of the Wettin family's vast art collection.  Sophie and her family lived at Schloss Moritzburg during World War II. The home was a happy one, and Sophie and Ernst often entertained their large extended family.

The outbreak of World War II had numerous devastating effects on the Grand Ducal Family, not the least of which was lack of contact among members separated over enemy lines.  Charlotte and her family had fled to North America following the German invasion of Luxembourg taking Dowager Grand Duchess Maria Ana with them. Hilda and her husband Adolf of Schwarzenberg, both staunch in their opposition of the Nazi regime, spent some time in Switzerland before leaving for the United States. Antonia and her family lived in exile in Italy and Hungary before being confined at Dachau concentration camp. Sophie could only correspond with her sister Elisabeth, who also resided in Germany. 

Sophie with her three sons
Sadly, the separation from her family was to be permanent for Sophie. She suddenly contracted influenza in early May 1941 during a trip to Munich. The disease quickly turned serious, and Sophie was admitted to Rechts der Isar Hospital with a very high fever. The influenza then progressed into pneumonia. Nevertheless, doctors predicted a full recovery given Sophie's young age and overall good health.

Sophie developed further complications from the influenza and pneumonia which ultimately took her life. She died of a blood clot on the lungs, a complication of the influenza and pneumonia, on May 24, 1941, at the age of 39.  She is buried at the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Dresden.  Ernst Heinrich married German actress Virginia Dulon six years later and died in 1971.

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