Duke Ernst I of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha

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Duke Ernest I Anton Karl Ludwig von Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha (Wettin, Ernestiner)

German: Herzog Ernst III/I Anton Carl Ludwig von Sachen-Coburg-Saalfeld (Wettin, Ernestiner), Herzog zu Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha, Norwegian: Ernst I Ludvig von Sachen-Gotha-Altenburg Herzog
Also Known As: "Wettin", "Ernstiner"
Birthplace: Coburg, Sachsen-Coburg-Saalfeld, Deutschland(HRR)
Death: January 29, 1844 (60)
Gotha, Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha, Deutschland(DB) (haigus)
Place of Burial: Coburg, Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha, Deutschland(DB)
Immediate Family:

Son of Franz Friedrich Anton of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, Duke and Countess, Duchess Augusta Carolina Sophia of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld
Husband of Louise of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg, Duchess consort of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld and Marie Antoinette Friederike Auguste (Marie) Anna of Württemberg, Duchess of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
Partner of Henriette Adelaide Pauline Panam
Ex-partner of Sophie Fermepin de Marteaux and Margaret Braun
Father of Ernst August von Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld; Ernest II, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha; Albert, Prince Consort of the United Kingdom; Berta Ernestine von Schauenstein; Ernst Albert Bruno von Bruneck and 1 other
Brother of Sophie Friedrika Caroline Luise von Sachsen-Coburg-Saalfeld, Gräfin von Mensdorff-Pouilly; Princess Antoinette of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld; Grand Duchess Anna Fyodorovna of Russia; Unnamed Son von Sachsen-Coburg-Saalfeld, Prinz; Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and 4 others

Occupation: Ernest I, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, became Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha after the redistribution of the family territories in 1826, Reigning duke of Saxe-Coburg & Gotha, Duke Ernst I of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha
Managed by: Henn Sarv
Last Updated:

About Duke Ernst I of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha


First Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha 1826

Royal house

House of Wettin

Predecessor: Francis Successor: Became Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha

  • Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha: Reign 1826–1844

Predecessor: Previously Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld Successor: Ernest II

Ernest I 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 of Queen Victoria and is thus a patrilineal ancestor and great-great-great-grandfather of Queen Elizabeth II. Ernest fought against Napoleon Bonaparte and through construction projects and the establishment of a court theatre left a strong imprint on his residence town, Coburg.

Ernest was 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.

In Gotha on 3 July 1817, Ernest married Princess Louise of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg. They had two children:
Ernest II Augustus Charles John Leopold Alexander Edward, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha Francis Augustus Charles Albert Emmanuel, better known as "Albert", the husband of Queen Victoria and Prince Consort of the United Kingdom. The marriage was unhappy because husband and wife were alike 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. Seven months after the divorce, in October 1826, Louise secretly married one of her lovers. She 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: Berta Ernestine von Schauenstein (b. 26 January 1817 – d. Coburg, 15 August 1896), born to Sophie Fermepin de Marteaux. She married her first cousin Eduard Edgar Schmidt-Löwe von Löwenfels, the illegitimate son of her father's sister, Juliane. Ernst Albert and Robert Ferdinand, twins born in 1838 to Margaretha Braun. They were created Freiherren von Bruneck in 1856.

Ernest died on 29 January 1844 and was initially buried in the Morizkirche but later reinterred in the newly built mausoleum on Friedhof am Glockenberg.

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.

After the defeat of Napoleon in the Battle of Waterloo, the Congress of Vienna on 9 June 1815 gave him an area of 450 square kilometres with 25,000 inhabitants around the town of St. Wendel. In 1816, this estate received the name of Principality of Lichtenberg. Ernest sold it to Prussia in 1834.

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 did receive Gotha, but had to cede Saalfeld to Saxe-Meiningen. He subsequently became "Ernest I, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha".

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Duke Ernst I of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha's Timeline

January 2, 1784
Coburg, Sachsen-Coburg-Saalfeld, Deutschland(HRR)
January 2, 1784
- September 8, 1800
Coburg, Upper Franconia, Bavaria, Germany
February 2, 1784
Ehrenburg Palace, Coburg, Upper Franconia, Bavaria, Germany
September 8, 1800
- December 9, 1806
Age 16
Coburg, Upper Franconia, Bavaria, Germany
December 9, 1806
- November 12, 1826
Age 22
Coburg, Upper Franconia, Bavaria, Germany
January 26, 1817
June 21, 1818
Coburg, Sachsen-Coburg-Saalfeld, Deutschland(HRR)
August 26, 1819
Schloss Rosenau, Rödental, Upper Franconia, Bavaria, Germany