|Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld |
(as Ernest III)
|Reign||9 December 1806 – |
12 November 1826
|Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha |
(as Ernest I)
|Reign||12 November 1826 – |
29 January 1844
|Born||2 January 1784|
Coburg, Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, Holy Roman Empire
|Died||29 January 1844 (aged 60)|
Gotha, Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, German Confederation
Morizkirche, then Friedhof am Glockenberg
|Father||Francis, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld|
|Mother||Countess Augusta of Reuss-Ebersdorf|
Ernest I (German: Ernst Anton Karl Ludwig; 2 January 1784 – 29 January 1844) was the last sovereign duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld (as Ernest III) and, from 1826, the first sovereign duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (as Ernest I). He was the father of Albert, Prince Consort, who was the husband of Queen Victoria. Ernest fought against Napoleon Bonaparte, and through construction projects and the establishment of a court theatre, he left a strong imprint on his residence town, Coburg.
Ernest was born on 2 January 1784. He is the eldest son of Francis, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, and Countess Augusta of Reuss-Ebersdorf. His youngest brother, Leopold Georg Christian Frederick, was later elected the first King of the Belgians.
On 10 May 1803, aged 19, Ernest was proclaimed an adult because his father had become gravely ill, and he was required to take part in the government of the duchy. When his father died in 1806, he succeeded in the duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld as Ernest III. However, he could not immediately take over the formal government of his lands, because the duchy was occupied by Napoleonic troops and was under French administration. The following year, after the Peace of Tilsit (1807), the duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld was reunited (having previously been dissolved) and restored to Ernest. This occurred through Russian pressure, since his sister Juliane was married to the brother of the Russian Tsar.
Ernest married Princess Louise of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg in Gotha on 3 July 1817. They had two children:
The marriage was unhappy because both husband and wife were promiscuous. As the biographer Lytton Strachey put it: "The ducal court was not noted for the strictness of its morals; the Duke was a man of gallantry, and the Duchess followed her husband's example. There were scandals: one of the Court Chamberlains, a charming and cultivated man of Jewish extraction, was talked of; at last there was a separation, followed by a divorce." Ernest and Louise were separated in 1824 and were officially divorced on 31 March 1826. As heirs to Coburg, the children remained with their father. Louise died in 1831.
In Coburg on 23 December 1832, Ernest married his niece Duchess Marie of Württemberg, the daughter of his sister Antoinette. They had no children. This marriage made Marie both Prince Albert's first cousin and his stepmother.
Ernest had three illegitimate children:
After 1813, Ernest was a Prussian general and participated in military actions against Napoleon. He fought in the battles of Lützen and Leipzig (1813), and drew in 1814 into the French fortress of Mainz. After the battle of Leipzig, he commanded the 5. Armeekorps.: 106
After the defeat of Napoleon in the Battle of Waterloo, the Congress of Vienna on 9 June 1815 gave Ernest an area of 450 square kilometres with 25,000 inhabitants around the town of St. Wendel. Its area was somewhat augmented by the second Treaty of Paris. In 1816, this estate received the name of Principality of Lichtenberg. Ernest sold it to Prussia in 1834.: 106
In 1825, Frederick IV, Duke of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg, who was the uncle of Ernest's first wife Louise, died without an heir. This resulted in a rearrangement of the Ernestine duchies. It was only as a member of the Ernestine dynasty (and not as Louise's husband) that Ernest had a claim on the late duke's estates. However, he was at that time in the process of divorcing Louise, and the other branches used this as a leverage to drive a better bargain for themselves by insisting that he should not inherit Gotha. They reached a compromise on 12 November 1826: Ernest received Gotha, but had to cede Saalfeld to Saxe-Meiningen. He subsequently became "Ernest I, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha". Although he had given a constitution to Coburg in 1821, he did not interfere in the system of government in Gotha.
At Coburg, Ernest was responsible for various construction projects, including the establishment of the Hoftheater in its new building. The Schlossplatz as it appears today is largely due to work under his rule.: 107 He is chiefly remembered for the economic, educational and constitutional development of his territories, and for the significant international position attained by the house of Coburg.
Ernest died on 29 January 1844 and was initially buried in the Morizkirche but later reinterred in the newly built mausoleum in Friedhof am Glockenberg: 47.
He received the following awards:
|Ancestors of Ernest I, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha|