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January 2, 1784 – Birth of Ernst I, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in Coburg, Duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, now in Bavaria, Germany
Full name: Ernst Anton Karl Ludwig
In 1806, Ernst succeeded his father Franz Friedrich Anton as Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld. Ernst was long content with bachelorhood until his mother insisted he marry to provide the duchy with heirs. In 1817, Ernst married Princess Louise of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg. The couple had two sons including Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria. Ernst and Louise soon grew apart due to Ernst’s infidelities. After discovering Louise’s affair with her chamberlain in 1824, Ernst forced Louise out of the duchy. She was exiled and permanently cut off from her children. The couple was officially divorced in 1826 and Louise died of cancer in 1831. In 1825, while Ernst and Louise’s divorce proceedings were occurring, Friedrich IV, Duke of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg, Louise’s uncle, died without an heir. This necessitated a rearrangement of the Ernestine duchies. Ernst received Gotha and ceded Saalfeld to Saxe-Meiningen. He subsequently became Ernst I, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. In 1832, Ernst married his niece Marie of Württemberg, the daughter of his sister Antoinette. The couple had no children and had little in common, but Marie had a loving relationship with her stepsons who were also her first cousins.
Unofficial Royalty: Ernst I, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
January 2, 1819 – Death of Maria Luisa of Parma, Queen of Spain, wife of King Carlos IV of Spain, at Barberini Palace, Rome, Italy; buried at the Monastery of San Lorenzo El Real in El Escorial, Spain
The daughter of Felipe, Infante of Spain, Duke of Parma (founder of the House of Bourbon-Parma) and Louise Élisabeth of France, Maria Luisa married her first cousin, the future King Carlos IV of Spain in 1765. Maria Luisa had twenty-three pregnancies. Thirteen of the pregnancies resulted in live births, including a set of twins. The other ten pregnancies ended in miscarriages. Of the fourteen children who were born alive, only seven survived childhood. In 1808, after riots and a revolt, King Carlos IV was forced to abdicate in favor of his son King Fernando VII. Less than two months later, Carlos IV and his son Fernando VII were summoned to a meeting with Napoleon I, Emperor of the French where he forced them both to abdicate, declared the Bourbon dynasty of Spain deposed, and installed his brother Joseph Bonaparte as King of Spain. Napoleon kept Carlos and Maria Luisa’s son Fernando VII under guard in France for more than five years until the 1813 Treaty of Valençay provided for the restoration of Fernando VII as King of Spain. After the final defeat of Napoleon in 1815, King Fernando VII refused to allow his parents to return to Spain. Carlos IV and Maria Luisa settled in Rome at the Palazzo Barberini where they both died in 1819.
Unofficial Royalty: Maria Luisa of Parma, Queen of Spain
January 2, 1861 – Death of King Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia, in Potsdam, Kingdom of Prussia, now in Brandenburg, Germany; buried at Friedenskirche (Church of Peace) in Sanssouci Park in Potsdam
Friedrich Wilhelm became King of Prussia upon his father’s death in 1840. As his father had done himself, the new King changed many of his father’s policies – including reducing the censorship of the press and promising to provide a new constitution for the Prussian people. In 1849, the King was offered the title Emperor of the Germans but refused as he did not feel it was the right of the Frankfurt Parliament to offer it. His dream was to instead reestablish the Holy Roman Empire, where a College of Electors would hold the authority to name an Emperor. In 1871, his brother and successor, Wilhelm I, became the first German Emperor (Kaiser). In July 1857, Friedrich Wilhelm suffered several strokes from which he never fully recovered. In October 1858, he appointed Wilhelm, his brother and heir, as Regent. A further stroke in November 1859 left him partially paralyzed and unable to speak, and another stroke in November 1860 left him mostly unconscious. Following one last stroke, King Friedrich Wilhelm IV died at the age of 66.
Unofficial Royalty: King Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia
January 2, 2000 – Death of Maria de las Mercedes of Bourbon-Two Sicilies, Countess of Barcelona, mother of King Juan Carlos of Spain, in La Mareta, Lanzarote, Canary Islands, Spain; buried at the Monastery of San Lorenzo del Escorial in El Escorial, Spain
The daughter of Prince Carlos of Bourbon-Two Sicilies and his second wife Princess Louise of Orléans. Maria Mercedes had a very impressive royal lineage. On her father’s side, she was descended from multiple branches of the Bourbon-Two Sicilies family who ruled in Italy until the late 19th century. On her mother’s side, Maria Mercedes was descended from both recent Spanish and French royalty. In 1935, she married Juan, Count of Barcelona, the heir to the defunct Spanish throne. They had three children including the future King Juan Carlos I of Spain. Maria Mercedes’ adult life was dominated by the actions of Francisco Franco, the Spanish dictator. It was Franco who kept the family from living in Spain and was constantly at odds with Maria Mercedes’ husband. In 1969, Franco ultimately decided that the Spanish monarchy should be restored following his death. As suspected, Franco passed over Juan, Count of Barcelona as his successor in favor of Juan Carlos. In 1976, Maria Mercedes and her husband finally returned to live in Spain. Her husband Infante Juan, Count of Barcelona, died of laryngeal cancer on April 1, 1993. Maria Mercedes survived him by nearly seven years, dying of a heart attack at the age of 89.
Unofficial Royalty: Maria Mercedes Borbón-Two Sicilies, Countess of Barcelona
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