Ernest II
Ernest II, c. 1863
Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
Reign29 January 1844 –
22 August 1893
PredecessorErnest I
Born(1818-06-21)21 June 1818
Ehrenburg Palace, Coburg, Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, German Confederation
Died22 August 1893(1893-08-22) (aged 75)
Reinhardsbrunn Castle, Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, German Empire
Friedhof am Glockenberg [de], Coburg
(m. 1842)
German: Ernst August Karl Johann Leopold Alexander Eduard
English: Ernest Augustus Charles John Leopold Alexander Edward
FatherErnest I, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
MotherPrincess Louise of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg

Ernest II (German: Ernst August Karl Johann Leopold Alexander Eduard; 21 June 1818 – 22 August 1893) was Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha from 29 January 1844 to his death in 1893. He was born in Coburg to Ernest III, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, and Princess Louise of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg. His father became Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (as Ernest I) in 1826 through an exchange of territories.

In 1842, Ernest married Princess Alexandrine of Baden in what was to be a childless marriage. Two years later, he became Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha when his father died. Ernest supported the German Confederation in the Schleswig-Holstein Wars against Denmark, sending thousands of troops and becoming the commander of a German corps; he was instrumental in the 1849 victory at the battle of Eckernförde against Danish forces. After King Otto of Greece was deposed in 1862, the British government put Ernest's name forward as a possible successor. Negotiations concerning this failed for various reasons—not least of which was that he would not give up his beloved duchies in favor of the Greek throne.

A supporter of a unified Germany, Ernest watched the various political movements with great interest. While he initially was a great and outspoken proponent of German liberalism, he surprised many by switching sides and supporting the more conservative (and eventually victorious) Prussians during the Austro-Prussian and Franco-Prussian Wars and subsequent unification of Germany. His support of the conservatives came at a price however, and he was no longer viewed as the possible leader of a political movement. According to historian Charlotte Zeepvat, Ernest became "increasingly lost in a whirl of private amusements which earned only contempt from outside".

Ernest and his only full sibling, his younger brother Prince Albert (consort to Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom), were born 14 months apart and raised as though twins. They became closer upon the separation and divorce of their parents as well as the eventual death of their mother. Their relationship experienced phases of closeness as well as minor arguments as they grew older. After Albert's death in 1861, Ernest published anonymous pamphlets against various members of the British royal family. However, he accepted Albert's second son, Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, as his heir-presumptive. Upon Ernest's death at Reinhardsbrunn, Alfred succeeded to the ducal throne.

Early life

Ernest (right) with his younger brother Albert and mother Louise, shortly before her exile from court

Ernest, Hereditary Prince of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, was born at Ehrenburg Palace in Coburg on 21 June 1818.[1] He was the elder son of Ernest III, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld (later Ernest I, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha) and his first wife Princess Louise of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg. He was soon joined by a brother, Prince Albert, who would later become the husband of Queen Victoria. Though Duke Ernest fathered numerous children in various affairs, the two boys would have no other legitimate siblings. In 1826, their father succeeded as Ernest I, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha through an exchange of territories after the death of the duke's uncle, Frederick IV, Duke of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg.[2]

There are various accounts of Ernest's childhood. When he was fourteen months old, a servant commented that Ernest "runs around like a weasel. He is teething and as cross as a little badger from impatience and liveliness. He is not pretty now, except his beautiful black eyes."[3] In May 1820, his mother described Ernest as "very big for his age, as well as intelligent. His big black eyes are full of spirit and vivacity."[4] Biographer Richard Hough writes that "even from their infancy, it was plainly evident that the elder son took after his father, in character and appearance, while Albert strongly resembled his mother in most respects."[5] Ernest and his brother often lived with their grandmother the Dowager Duchess of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld until her death in 1831.

He and Albert were brought up and educated together as if they were twins.[6] Though Albert was fourteen months younger, he surpassed Ernest intellectually.[6] According to their tutor, "they went hand-in-hand in all things, whether at work or at play. Engaging in the same pursuits, sharing the same joys and the same sorrows, they were bound to each other by no common feelings of mutual love".[7] Perhaps the aforementioned "sorrows" related to their parents' marriage; it was not happy, and Duke Ernest I was continually unfaithful.[8] In 1824, Ernest I and Louise divorced; she subsequently left Coburg and was disallowed from seeing her sons again.[9] She soon remarried to Alexander von Hanstein, Count of Pölzig and Beiersdorf, dying in 1831 at the age of thirty.[10] The year after her death, their father married his niece Duchess Marie of Württemberg, who was his sister Antoinette's daughter. Their stepmother was thus also their first cousin. The duke and his new duchess were not close, and would produce no children; while the boys formed a happy relationship with their stepmother, Marie had little to no input in her stepsons' lives.[11] The separation and divorce of their parents, as well as the later death of their mother, left the boys scarred and in close companionship with each other.[12]

A lithograph of Ernest, 1842

In 1836, Ernest and Albert visited their matrimonially eligible cousin Princess Victoria of Kent, spending a few weeks at Windsor Castle.[13] Both boys, especially Albert, were considered by their family to be a potential husband for the young princess, and they were both taught to speak competent English.[14] Their father at first thought that Ernest would make a better husband to Victoria than Albert, possibly because his sporting interests would be better received by the British public.[15] However, most others favored Albert over Ernest as a possible husband. Temperamentally, Victoria was much more like Ernest, for both were lively and sociable with a love for dancing, gossip, and late nights; conversely, this fast pace made Albert physically ill.[16] Victoria believed Ernest had a "most kind, honest, and intelligent expression in his countenance", while Albert "seemed full of goodness and sweetness, and very clever and intelligent."[14] No offer of marriage was forthcoming for either brother however, and they returned home.

Ernest entered military training later that year.[16] In April 1837, Ernest and Albert and their household moved to the University of Bonn.[17] Six weeks into their academic term, Victoria succeeded as Queen of the United Kingdom. As rumors of an impending marriage between her and Albert interfered with their studies, the two brothers left on 28 August 1837 at the close of the term to travel around Europe.[18] They returned to Bonn in early November to continue their studies. The brothers travelled to England again in 1839, at which time Victoria found her cousin Albert agreeable, and soon proposed.[19] This connection would have many implications for Ernest in the future; for example, he was selected as godfather for Albert's second daughter Princess Alice, and would eventually come to give her away at her wedding, only months after Albert's death.[20]

Thanks to his widespread royal connections, he travelled widely at this stage of his life. In 1840 and 1841 he went to Spain and Portugal; in Portugal another cousin, Ferdinand, was King Consort.[21]


Ernest's wife Princess Alexandrine of Baden. She would remain fiercely devoted to Ernest during their marriage, believing that their childlessness was her fault.[22]

Various candidates were put forward as a possible wife for Ernest. His father wanted him to look to a woman of high rank, such as a Russian grand duchess, for a wife.[23] One possibility was Princess Clémentine of Orléans, a daughter of Louis Philippe I, whom he met while visiting the court at the Tuileries.[24] However, such a marriage would have required his conversion from Lutheranism to Roman Catholicism, and consequently nothing came of it.[24] She later married his cousin Prince August of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Ernest was also considered by Dowager Queen Maria Christina as a possible husband for her young daughter Isabella II of Spain,[25] and by Queen Victoria for her cousin Princess Augusta of Cambridge.[26]

In Karlsruhe on 3 May 1842, Ernest married 21-year-old Princess Alexandrine of Baden.[27] She was the eldest daughter of Leopold, Grand Duke of Baden, and Princess Sophie of Sweden, daughter of the deposed King Gustav IV Adolf of Sweden. Though he gave his consent, his father was disappointed that his first son did not do more to advance the concerns of Coburg.[23] The marriage did not produce any issue, though Ernest apparently fathered at least three illegitimate children in later years.[26]

Ernest had suffered from a venereal disease in his late teens and early twenties, most likely as the consequence of living a wild, promiscuous lifestyle.[16] He had come to behave in such a fashion by the tutelage of his father, who took his sons to "sample the pleasures" of Paris and Berlin, to Albert's "horror and shame".[24] Ernest had been so visibly deteriorating in appearance as a result that Sarah Lyttelton, a lady-in-waiting of Queen Victoria, observed at Windsor Castle in 1839 that he was "very thin and hollow-cheeked and pale, and no likeness to his brother, nor much beauty. But he has fine dark eyes and black hair, and light figure, and a great look of spirit and eagerness".[16] Later that year, Albert counselled his brother against finding a wife until his 'condition' was fully recovered.[23] He further warned that continued promiscuity could leave Ernest incapable of fathering children.[16] Some historians believe that while he himself was able to father other children, the disease rendered his young wife infertile.[26] Ernest was married for 51 years and with his wife visited Queen Victoria in Paris in 1890.

Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha

On 29 January 1844, Ernest's father died in Gotha, one of the territories their family had recently acquired. Ernest consequently succeeded to the duchies of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha as Ernest II.[28]

Development of a constitution

Extravagant to a great degree, Ernest had many money troubles throughout his reign. In January 1848, Ernest visited his brother in the midst of political unrest in Germany. Upon his return, he also discovered unrest in Coburg. One of the many concerns related to finances. Although Ernest had a large inheritance, he also had frequent debts.[22] There were increasing calls to nationalize most of his property. Indeed, Albert had to intervene at one point and spare his brother the embarrassment of losing one of his Coburg properties.[22]

During the 1848 turmoil in Germany, Albert had been constructing his own liberal reform plan, under which a single monarch, chancellor, and parliament would unite the German states; in addition, each state would retain its own current ruling dynasty.[22] As this plan pertained to his brother, Ernest was given a copy in the hope that he would develop his own liberal constitution. Ernest subsequently made a few concessions, but his position remained sound, not counting the increasing problem of his debts.[22] A constitution was drafted and promulgated in 1849 in Gotha,[28] though one had existed in Coburg since 1821. In 1852, both constitutions were converged into one, which converted the personal union of the two duchies into a real union; the duchies were now inseparable, with a common set of institutions.[2] During the political turmoil, timely concessions and Ernest's popular habit of mingling with "the people in their pleasures" were instrumental in keeping him from losing his throne.[29] Furthermore, various contemporary sources state that Ernest was an able, just and very popular ruler, which may have also helped keep him in power.[30]

Schleswig-Holstein wars

See also: Schleswig-Holstein Question

A bust of Ernest at the Landestheater in Coburg. Ernest was a strong enthusiast for music and plays all his life, and was the artistic force behind many that were popular in Germany.

From 1848 to 1864, Denmark and the German Confederation fought over control of the two duchies of Schleswig and Holstein. Historically, the duchies had been ruled by Denmark since medieval times, but there remained a large German majority. This majority was sparked to rebellion after Frederick VII of Denmark announced on 27 March 1848 the duchies would become an integral part of Denmark under his new liberal constitution. Prussia soon became involved, supporting the uprising and beginning the First Schleswig War. Ernest sent 8,000 men initially, adding to the army sent by the German Confederation. He also desired to be given a military job during the war, but was refused, as it was "extremely difficult to offer me a position in the army of Schleswig-Holstein corresponding to my rank", according to his memoirs.[31] He agreed to a smaller command, coming to lead a Thuringian contingent; he commented in a letter to his brother that "I should have declined any other command of the kind, but I could not refuse this one, as, in the present condition of our States, it is important to keep the executive power in our hands".[32] As commander of a German corps, Ernest was instrumental in winning the 5 April 1849 battle of Eckernförde against Danish forces, capturing two frigates.[33] Also at this time, Ernest took an interest in the Frankfurt Parliament and may have hoped to be chosen German Emperor, but instead he urged King Frederick of Prussia to take that position, albeit unsuccessfully. Ernest also brought about a Berlin conference of German princes in 1850; he highly valued such opportunities for the political influence they brought him.[21]

Relationship with Victoria and Albert

The first war ended in 1851, but would resume in 1864. During this interlude, Ernest fervently opposed the marriage of his nephew Albert Edward, Prince of Wales ('Bertie'), to Princess Alexandra of Denmark, a daughter of the future Christian IX of Denmark (and therefore an enemy of the German states). He believed that such a match flew in the face of German interests.[34] Albert replied angrily: "What has that got to do with you?... Vicky has racked her brains to help us to find someone, but in vain...We have no [other reasonable] choice".[35] Albert agreed there were going to be problems with the match, but as he could find no alternative bride, he wrote to Ernest that keeping the affair a private matter (and outside the realm of government) was "the only way to prevent a break with Prussia and the only way to keep the game in our own hands, impose the conditions that we think necessary, and as far as we can, take off its political edge".[36] Albert also warned his son of Ernest's endeavors to interfere with the match, commenting, "Your uncle...will try his hand at this work. Your best defence will be not to enter on the subject, should he broach it".[37]

Soon after writing these letters, Prince Albert died on 14 December 1861. His death helped Ernest repair his relationship with his sister-in-law, as Victoria had been becoming increasingly angry over Ernest's objections to the Danish match. The two brothers had always been close, whatever their disagreements, and Albert's death left Ernest "wretched", noted Victoria in a letter to her eldest daughter.[38] The death did not solve their argument however; seeing that his direct involvement had failed to persuade Victoria, Ernest tried a new tactic. He began to spread gossip about Alexandra and her family, saying that her mother Princess Louise "had illegitimate children and Alexandra had flirtations with young officers"; he also wrote to Louise herself, warning that Bertie would be an unfortunate choice for a husband.[39] Additionally, Ernest met with his nephew at Thebes, most likely attempting to discourage him from the match in person.[40] In an 11 April letter, Victoria unhappily noted to her eldest daughter, "You did not tell me that Bertie had met Uncle Ernest at Thebes...I am always alarmed when I think of Uncle Ernest and Bertie being together as I know the former will do all he can to set Bertie against the marriage with Princess Alix".[36] Despite Ernest's disapproval, Bertie was duly married to Alexandra on 10 March 1863.

His close relationship with the English court gave him a position of great influence, and the marriage of his niece, Princess Victoria, to Prince Frederick William further strengthened his ties to Prussia, and in 1862 he offered to make his troops available to the King of Prussia in case of war. But his liberalism caused increased suspicion in Germany of the Coburg influence. Prussian conservatives would soon turn against him, and in particular he was opposed by Prussian Minister President Otto von Bismarck.[21]

During the American Civil War, the Duke assigned Ernst Raven to the position of consul in the state of Texas. On 30 July 1861, Raven applied to the Confederate Government for a diplomatic exequatur and was accepted.[41]

Nomination for the Greek throne

A coin depicting Ernest II, 1869. It was issued to commemorate the twenty-fifth year of his reign.

On 23 October 1862, Otto of Bavaria, King of Greece, was deposed in a bloodless coup. The Greeks were eager to have someone close to Britain and Queen Victoria replace Otto; some desired to allow Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh (her second son) to succeed as King of Greece.[42] He was elected with 95% of the vote in the Greek head of state referendum of 1862. After his ineligibility was confirmed however, the Greeks began looking for other possible candidates, which included Duke Ernest at the British government's suggestion.[43] To their and Victoria's reasoning, if Ernest were to take the Greek throne, Alfred could immediately take up his inheritance and succeed Ernest as duke (the Prince of Wales having passed his claim to the duchy of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha on to his younger brother).[43] Many were in favor of his nomination, including Prime Minister Lord Palmerston as well as Ernest's sister-in-law. In a letter written to her uncle Leopold I of Belgium, Victoria stated her support for a new royal branch of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (as Leopold had been chosen as King of the Belgians in 1831), as well as her desire for her second son, Alfred, to succeed his uncle in the duchy.[44] As negotiations continued however, she began to lose enthusiasm for the idea.[43]

There were problems to the nomination; Ernest had no legitimate children, and thus would have had to adopt one of the princes of his house to succeed him as King of Greece. To solve this problem, Ernest suggested to Palmerston that he simply take the title Regent of Greece and hold the kingdom in trust for his chosen heir.[44] He also stipulated that if he accepted the throne, it should be subject to certain guarantees by the other powers. The apparent deal-breaker, though, was the fact that Ernest wanted to acquire the Greek throne and still maintain control of his "safer" duchies.[43] In the end, the British cabinet thought the proposed conditions unacceptable. His recommendations having been turned down, Ernest in turn refused. In 1863, the Greek throne was accepted by another member of a royal family: the Princess of Wales' younger brother Prince William of Denmark. Ernest would later comment, "That this cup was spared me, I always regarded as a piece of good fortune".[45]

Austro-Prussian and Franco-Prussian Wars

See also: Austro-Prussian War and Franco-Prussian War

Ernest, like his brother, was in favor of a unified but federal German state.[46] In seeking to realize this goal, Ernest liked to dabble in whatever political system promised the most success.[22] He subsequently watched the growth of liberalism in Germany with much interest and tried to build links with the movement's leaders. During Albert's lifetime, Ernest took a close interest in the movement for reform, and was perceived as a progressive within Germany.[47] His favorable view of liberalism caused his duchy to become an asylum for political refugees from other German states.[48] In 1863, he attended the liberal Frankfurt Conference, which was openly avoided by more conservative Prussia.[43] Though his attendance made him no friends in Prussia, he developed such strong contacts in Austria that many looked to him as a potential leader in the mounting conflict between the northern and southern powers.[43] He grew tired of the advice he received from Albert on the subject however; as Ernest "was by no means inclined to consent to an energetic rule such as I adopted immediately afterwards for the perfection of the constitutional system", according to Albert's letters.[49]

The Austro-Prussian War of 1866 was triggered by the desire of German conservative leaders to unify, albeit on different terms than their liberal counterparts. Ernest urged Prussian leaders against the impending war, and was an active advocate of the Austrian cause.[43] Though Ernest normally followed more liberal politics than many of his counterparts, he began switching his views to align more closely with Bismarck by the mid-1860s. Despite this change in his private political views, he still had strong publicly known ties to Austria, where his cousin Alexander, Count Mensdorff, was Foreign Minister,[21] and no one foresaw that Ernest would immediately side with the better-equipped Prussians upon breakout of the war. His reasoning is usually understood as acting in the best interests of his duchies, and by extension, of himself.[43] Some influence came from Bismarck, who explained his policy and tactics in a letter to Ernest.[21] Regardless, it was seen as a betrayal of former friends; Queen Victoria commented that Ernest "might have agreed to neutrality—for that might be necessary, but to change colours I cannot think right".[43]

Ernest was fortunate in his support of victorious Prussia; for his services he received the forest of Schmalkalden.[50] Many other petty German dukes, princes, and kings who had supported Austria suffered immensely at Hohenzollern hands. Hanover, Hesse-Kassel, and Nassau for instance were all annexed to Prussia at the expense of their respective rulers. Though he had only recently changed his political views, Ernest was allowed to ride at the head of his battalion during the victory parade. His eldest niece Prussian Crown Princess Victoria ("Vicky") was for one pleased with his Prussian support and commented "I am not accustomed to hearing so much praise of Coburg here. [Ernest] was not among the crushed and beaten foe, it is sad enough as it is to see so many of one's friends suffering from the effects of their miscalculations".[51] Victoria's husband Crown Prince Frederick William was also pleased with Ernest's decision, writing in his journal 28 September 1871, that the duke's "society always affords me peculiar pleasure, especially...when his heart beats so warmly for Germany".[52]

Ernest's support of the Prussians in the Austro-Prussian War and later Franco Prussian War meant he was no longer the potential leader of a political movement; although it was true that he had been able to retain his duchies, it had come at a price. According to historian Charlotte Zeepvat, Ernest "was increasingly lost in a whirl of private amusements which earned only contempt from outside".[53] Ernest funneled his political thoughts into the private sphere, preferring to write covertly sponsored articles in the Coburg press that became increasingly embittered against England.[54] In 1886, Ernest published Co-Regents and Foreign Influence in Germany, a pamphlet that greatly angered his family; though produced anonymously, no one doubted that it was written by Ernest. It attacked Vicky as a disloyal German that was too dependent on her mother, and declared that she had been too indiscreet in passing along confidential information during both war and peacetime.[55] Queen Victoria was furious, writing to Vicky, "What you told me of Uncle E and that pamphlet is simply monstrous. I assure you that I felt great difficulty in writing to him for his birthday, but I wrote it as short and cool as I could consistently with civility".[55] "Dear Uncle Ernest does us all a great deal of harm by his odd ways and uncontrollable tongue with his very lively imagination".[54]

Later years

An equestrian statue of Ernest in the Hofgarten, Coburg. In the 1850s, Ernest dramatically transformed the Hofgarten into an English landscape garden. It opened on 27 April 1857 to the public. The statue was constructed in 1899 in order to commemorate Ernest's contributions.

Later in his reign, Ernest's actions managed to continually anger his sister-in-law. Though Victoria loved Ernest because he was Albert's brother, she was displeased that Ernest was writing his memoirs, worrying about their contents mainly in regard to her dead husband.[56] Despite their disputes, Ernest still met with Victoria and her family occasionally. In 1891, they met in France; Victoria's lady-in-waiting commented "the old Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha has been here today with his wife. He is the Prince Consort's only brother and an awful looking man, the Queen dislikes him particularly. He is always writing anonymous pamphlets against the Queen and the Empress Frederick, which naturally creates a great deal of annoyance in the family".[57]

Throughout his reign, Ernest had been known for his extravagance and womanizing; as he grew older, Ernest enjoyed gossip and was "now a thoroughly disreputable old roué who enjoyed the outrage provoked by his actions", leading Vicky to declare that her uncle "was his own enemy".[54] His behavior and manner of dress increasingly became a joke for younger generations.[56] His great-niece Marie of Edinburgh would later describe Ernest as "an old beau, squeezed into a frock-coat too tight for his bulk and uncomfortably pinched in at the waist, sporting a top hat, lemon coloured gloves, and a rosebud in his lapel".[56] He put on weight and though on paper his wealth was large, he was still constantly in debt.[54]

An excellent musician[29] and amateur composer all his life, Ernest was a great patron of the arts and sciences in Coburg,[58] often giving awards and titles to members of the artistic and scientific world, such as Paul Kalisch[citation needed], a German opera singer and the English chemist William Ernest Bush. Ernest composed songs, hymns, and cantatas, as well as musical pieces for opera and the stage, including Die Gräberinsel (1842), Tony, oder die Vergeltung (1849), Casilda (1851), Santa Chiara (1854), and Zaïre, which met with success in Germany.[29] He could also draw and play the piano.[59] One of his operas, Diana von Solange (1858), prompted Franz Liszt the following year to write an orchestral Festmarsch nach Motiven von E. H. z. S.-C.-G., S.116 (E. H. z. S.-C.-G. was short for Ernst Herzog zu Sachsen-Coburg-Gotha).[60] However, its production at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City in 1890 inspired dismal reviews, with one spectator commenting that its "music was simply rubbish".[61] Ernest was also an avid hunter and sportsman; one contemporary remarked that he was "one of the foremost and keenest sportsman produced by the present century".[62] In addition, Ernest was an enthusiastic patron of everything connected with natural history,[62] for instance traveling to Abyssinia with the German zoologist Alfred Brehm in 1862. That journey was chronicled in a book, Reise des Herzogs Ernst von Sachsen-Koburg-Gotha nach Ägypten, published in 1862. He also published his memoirs in three volumes: Aus meinem Leben und aus meiner Zeit (1888–1890).[50]

Ernest II died at Reinhardsbrunn on 22 August 1893 after a short illness. “When the news of the duke's death reached the secluded Hinter - Riss, the deepest consternation took possession of the people, amongst whom the prince and the duchess had passed, as they often used to say, the happiest days of their long, eventful lives. In him they lost a kind, dear master and a good friend, who was for ever willing to help where help was needed. If it took half a century to win the affection and confidence of these self-retained hardy mountain people, his memory will a century hence be as green as are the firs and pines that cling so tenaciously to their native rock; and the deeds and words of the popular “Herr Herzog” will there be spoken of when in the outer world his name will be remembered only by the historian. The dead sportsman's hunting - knife, which I saw so often in his strong hand, is now lying before me, a cherished memento, kindly sent me by the stricken dowager-duchess a few weeks after the funeral. It will ever remind me, not so much of a sportsman prince, as of a prince among sportsmen.” From the book: Sport in the Alps in the Past and Present, An Account of the Chase of the Chamois, Red Deer, Bouquetin, Roe-deer, Capercaillie, and Black-cock, with Personal Adventures and Historical Notes and Some Sporting Reminiscences of H.R.H. the Late Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha – William Adolphus Baillie-Grohman. As fitting as these final words was the act that closed this long and distinguished sporting career, for less than an hour before that fatal attack of apoplexy, his master hand had brought down two royals ![63] A lifelong sportsman, his last words were apparently "Let the drive commence!"[62] His funeral was held in the Morizkirche in Coburg; thousands of spectators came to the funeral, including Emperor Wilhelm II and the Prince of Wales.[64] He is buried in the ducal mausoleum in the Friedhof am Glockenberg [de] which he himself had built in 1853–58.[65]: 47 

Ernest was succeeded by his nephew Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh.

Inheritance to Saxe-Coburg and Gotha

Ernest's heir-presumptive Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh.

For much of Ernest's reign, the heir presumptive to Saxe-Coburg and Gotha was his only sibling Prince Albert, consort of Queen Victoria.[2] When it became increasingly clear that Ernest would be childless, the possibility of a personal union between his duchies and the United Kingdom became real, a reality that was deemed undesirable.[2] Special arrangements were made by a combination of constitutional clauses and renunciations to pass Ernest's throne to a son of Albert while preventing a personal union.[2] Consequently, Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, his brother's second eldest son, was designated the childless Ernest's heir presumptive, when his older brother, the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII of the United Kingdom), renounced his succession rights.

Issues arose over authority to control the upbringing of his heir-presumptive. As head of the Coburg family, Ernest would normally have been able to arrange Alfred's education and general upbringing unchallenged.[22] This however was not the case. Alfred was torn between his British birth and his German inheritance. This was partly because Alfred was second-in-line to the United Kingdom until the birth of his nephew Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale, in 1864. One example of the many problems of his education concerned the language he would speak. Although he grew up learning German, his native language was decided to be English. In addition, a naval career was chosen for Alfred, a common profession for a British prince but almost unheard of for a German prince.[22] Ernest also wanted Alfred to be educated in Coburg, but his brother refused. Albert's refusal most likely stemmed from the negative British reaction that would have inevitably occurred and the fact that Albert was fearful of Alfred's moral development.[22] Thus, despite Ernest's protests, he went unheeded in Albert's lifetime. In 1863, Ernest told Victoria that it was time for Alfred to leave the navy and enter a German university. By March of the following year, it was decided that Alfred would attend Bonn University but be left to consider his future, as he was having reservations over permanently residing outside England.[43] The matter was eventually resolved; Alfred came to accept his inheritance, and Victoria understood and accepted that Ernest needed to be involved in the upbringing of his heir-presumptive, with a strong German element added to his education and (carefully chaperoned) visits to Coburg.[43]

In media

Ernest appears in the 2016 ITV series Victoria, portrayed by David Oakes. He is inaccurately depicted as having an affair with Harriet Sutherland-Leveson-Gower, Duchess of Sutherland. In real life, Ernest likely never met the Duchess; he was already married at the time, and the Duchess was twelve years older than him.[66]


German honours[67]
Foreign decorations[67]


See also


  1. ^ Grey, p. 29 and Weintraub, p. 21.
  2. ^ a b c d e François Velde. "House Laws of the Saxe-Coburg and Gotha". Retrieved 4 September 2010.
  3. ^ Grey, pp. 32-33.
  4. ^ Grey, p. 35.
  5. ^ Hough, p. 9.
  6. ^ a b Weintraub, p. 30.
  7. ^ Grey, p. 44.
  8. ^ Weintraub, pp. 23-25.
  9. ^ Weintraub, p. 25-28.
  10. ^ Feuchtwanger, pp. 29-31.
  11. ^ Packard, p. 16 and Weintraub, pp. 40–41.
  12. ^ Weintraub, pp. 25–28.
  13. ^ Feuchtwanger, p. 37.
  14. ^ a b Weintraub, p. 49.
  15. ^ D'Auvergne, p. 164.
  16. ^ a b c d e Zeepvat, p. 1.
  17. ^ Feuchtwanger, pp. 35-36.
  18. ^ Weintraub, p. 58-59.
  19. ^ Feuchtwanger, pp. 38-39.
  20. ^ Packard, p. 104.
  21. ^ a b c d e Headlam 1911, p. 751.
  22. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Zeepvat, p. 2.
  23. ^ a b c Feuchtwanger, p. 62; Gill, pp. 142-43.
  24. ^ a b c Weintraub, p. 52.
  25. ^ D'Auvergne, pp. 188-89.
  26. ^ a b c Gill, p. 143.
  27. ^ Zeepvat, p. 2 and Lundy.
  28. ^ a b Encyclopædia Britannica. "Ernest II". Retrieved 16 November 2010.
  29. ^ a b c Coit Gilman et al, p. 841.
  30. ^ Baillie-Grohman, p. 60 and Kenning, pp. 204-05.
  31. ^ Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Volume 1, p. 48. A letter written to him by his servant Von Stein states that while there were many candidates who could take command of parts of the army, there was only one Duke, hinting that Ernest was needed to continue promulgating the German Constitution in his duchy.
  32. ^ Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Volume 1, p. 50.
  33. ^ Coit Gilman et al, p. 841 and Alden, Berry, Bogart et al, p. 481.
  34. ^ Zeepvat, p. 3 and Hibbert, p. 43.
  35. ^ Hibbert, p. 42.
  36. ^ a b quoted in Zeepvat, p. 3.
  37. ^ Hibbert, p. 43.
  38. ^ Zeepvat, p. 3.
  39. ^ Hibbert, p. 57.
  40. ^ Zeepvat, p. 3 and Hibbert, p. 57.
  41. ^ 58th Congress, 2nd Session, Senate Document No. 234, Journal of the Congress of the Confederate States of America, 1861–1865, Volume 5 (Washington, D. C.: Government Printing Office, 1905), page 422
  42. ^ D'Auvergne, pp. 269-270 and Zeepvat, p. 4.
  43. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Zeepvat, p. 4.
  44. ^ a b D'Auvergne, p. 271.
  45. ^ D'Auvergne, p. 272.
  46. ^ Zeepvat, p. 2 and Coit Gilman et al, p. 841.
  47. ^ Zeepvat, p. 4 and Alden, Berry, Bogart et al, p. 481.
  48. ^ Alden, Berry, Bogart et al, p. 481.
  49. ^ quoted in Zeepvat, p. 2.
  50. ^ a b Headlam 1911, p. 752.
  51. ^ Pakula, p. 241 and Zeepvat, p. 5.
  52. ^ Allinson, p. 139.
  53. ^ Zeepvat, p. 5. Victoria wrote in 1873, "The accounts of Uncle Ernest's conduct are too distressing", and two weeks later to her Vicky, "What you say about Uncle E. alas! alas! is what I have heard from but too many and is most painful and humiliating. Really one cannot go to Coburg when Uncle is there".
  54. ^ a b c d Zeepvat, p. 5.
  55. ^ a b Zeepvat, p. 6 and Feuchtwanger, p. 209.
  56. ^ a b c Zeepvat, p. 6.
  57. ^ quoted in Zeepvat, p. 6.
  58. ^ "Obituary". The Musical Times and Singing Class Circular. 34 (607): 539–540. 1893. JSTOR 3363520.
  59. ^ Weintraub, p. 50 and The Musical Times and Singing Class Circular, pp. 539-540.
  60. ^ Grove's Dictionary of Music, 5th ed, 1954, Liszt: Works, p. 275
  61. ^ "Amusements", The New York Times, The Metropolitan Opera House, 10 January 1891
  62. ^ a b c Baillie-Grohman, p. 60.
  63. ^ Zeepvat, p. 6 and Baillie-Grohman, p. 60.
  64. ^ "Buried in the Moritzkirche", The New York Times, Coburg, 29 August 1893
  65. ^ Klüglein, Norbert (1991). Coburg Stadt und Land (German). Verkehrsverein Coburg.
  66. ^ Griffiths, Eleanor Bley. Victoria: Who was the real Harriet Duchess of Sutherland--and did she fall in love with Prince Ernest? RadioTimes.
  67. ^ a b Staatshandbücher für das Herzogtum Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha (1890), "Genealogie des Herzoglichen Hauses" pp. 10-11
  68. ^ Staatshandbücher ... Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha (1843), "Herzogliche Sachsen-Ernestinischer Hausorden" p. 3
  69. ^ Kenning, pp. 204-05.
  70. ^ Hof- und Staats-Handbuch des Großherzogtum Baden (1873), "Großherzogliche Orden" pp. 59, 73
  71. ^ Hof- und Staats-Handbuch des Königreich Bayern (1873), "Königliche Orden" p. 8
  72. ^ Staat Hannover (1865). Hof- und Staatshandbuch für das Königreich Hannover: 1865. Berenberg. pp. 38, 79.
  73. ^ Staatshandbuch für das Großherzogtum Sachsen / Sachsen-Weimar-Eisenach (1843), "Großherzogliche Hausorden" p. 8
  74. ^ Königlich Sächsischer Hof-, Civil- und Militär-Staat. Dresden. 1857. pp. 3, 6.((cite book)): CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  75. ^ a b c d "Königlich Preussische Ordensliste", Preussische Ordens-Liste (in German), Berlin, 1: 4, 11, 22, 935, 1886
  76. ^ Allinson, p. 112.
  77. ^ Hof- und Staats-Handbuch des Königreich Württemberg (1886/7), "Königliche Orden" p. 23
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  79. ^ H. Tarlier (1854). Almanach royal officiel, publié, exécution d'un arrête du roi (in French). Vol. 1. p. 37.
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Ernest II, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha House of Saxe-Coburg and GothaCadet branch of the House of WettinBorn: 21 June 1818 Died: 22 August 1893 German royalty Preceded byErnst I Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha 29 January 1844 – 22 August 1893 Succeeded byAlfred