Charles Edward, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha

Not to be confused with Edward Charles.
Charles Edward
Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
Reign 30 July 1900 – 14 November 1918
Predecessor Alfred
Born (1884-07-19)19 July 1884
Claremont House, Surrey
Died 6 March 1954(1954-03-06) (aged 69)
Coburg, West Germany
Burial near Schloss Callenberg, Germany
Spouse Princess Victoria Adelaide of Schleswig-Holstein
Full name
Charles Edward George Albert Leopold
German: Carl Eduard Georg Albert Leopold
House Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
Father Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany
Mother Princess Helena of Waldeck and Pyrmont
Religion Lutheran
British Royalty
House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
Victoria and Albert
Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale
Prince Alexander John of Wales
Alfred, Hereditary Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
Marie, Queen of the Romanians
Victoria Melita, Grand Duchess of Russia
Alexandra, Princess of Hohenlohe-Langenburg
Princess Beatrice, Duchess of Galliera
Margaret, Crown Princess of Sweden
Prince Arthur of Connaught
Princess Patricia, Lady Ramsay
Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone
Charles Edward, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha

Charles Edward, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (baptized Leopold Charles Edward George Albert, German: Leopold Carl Eduard Georg Albert; 19 July 1884 – 6 March 1954), was the last reigning Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha from 30 July 1900 to 14 November 1918, and the head of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha from 1900 until his death in 1954. A male-line grandson of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, he was also until 1919 a Prince of the United Kingdom and held the British title of Duke of Albany.

The Duke was a controversial figure in the United Kingdom due to his status as the Sovereign Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, which was part of the German Empire, during World War I. He was deprived of his British peerages, his title of Prince and Royal Highness and his British honours in 1919.[1] In 1918, he was forced to abdicate his ducal throne. He later joined the Nazi Party, and served in a number of positions in Nazi Germany in the 1930s and 1940s, including as President of the German Red Cross from 1933-45. He was the maternal grandfather of King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden and the younger brother of Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone.

Early life in Great Britain

Prince Charles Edward was born at Claremont House near Esher, Surrey. His father was Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany, the fourth son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. His mother was Princess Helena, Duchess of Albany (née Princess Helena of Waldeck and Pyrmont), the fourth daughter of George Victor of Waldeck and Pyrmont and his first wife Princess Helena of Nassau. As his father died before his birth, Prince Charles Edward succeeded to his titles at birth and was styled His Royal Highness The Duke of Albany.[2]

After falling ill, the young Duke was baptised privately at Claremont on 4 August 1884, two weeks after his birth and publicly in Esher Parish Church on 4 December 1884 four months later. His godparents were his paternal grandmother Queen Victoria, his paternal uncle the Prince of Wales, his paternal aunts Princess Christian of Schleswig-Holstein and the Marchioness of Lorne, Princess Frederica of Hanover (his father's second cousin), his maternal uncle Alexis, Prince of Bentheim and Steinfurt and his maternal grandfather George Victor, Prince of Waldeck and Pyrmont (neither of whom could attend).[3]

Charles Edward was educated as a Prince of the United Kingdom for his first 15 years.[2] He attended Eton College. As a grandson of Queen Victoria, the Duke was a first cousin of George V, Emperor of India and of the following European Royals: Queen Maud of Norway, Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig of Hesse, Empress Alexandra of Russia, Queen Marie of the Romanians, Crown Princess Margaret of Sweden, Queen Victoria Eugenia of Spain, Queen Sophia of the Hellenes, Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, Josias, Hereditary Prince of Waldeck and Pyrmont (the last two through his mother) and Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany. Such was the interest Wilhelm showed in his young cousin's upbringing that Charles Edward was dubbed "the Emperor's seventh son".[4] His mother drummed into him endlessly the importance of "becoming a good man, so you bring no shame on Papa's name".[5]

Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha

Charles Edward on a 5 Mark coin from 1907

In 1899 the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, urged by Kaiser Wilhelm II, decided on how to deal with the succession of Duke Alfred, who was in ill health. His only son, Prince Alfred ("Young Affie"), had died in February 1899. The Duke of Connaught, the Queen's third son, served in the British military, causing Wilhelm II to oppose him as a ruling prince of Germany. His son, Prince Arthur of Connaught attended Eton with Charles Edward. Wilhelm II demanded a German education for the boy, but this was unacceptable to the Duke of Connaught. Thus young Arthur also renounced his claims to the Duchy. Next in line was sixteen-year-old Charles Edward, who now inherited the ducal throne of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, when his uncle Alfred died in July 1900.[2][6]

With his mother and sister Charles Edward moved to Germany. Following an education plan by Wilhelm II, he attended the Preußische Hauptkadettenanstalt at Lichterfelde, studied in Bonn and became a member of Corps Borussia Bonn. He also joined the 1st Garderegiment zu Fuß at Potsdam and spent some time at the German court in Berlin.[2][6] His uncle, Edward VII, made him a Knight of the Garter on 15 July 1902, just prior to his 18th birthday.

From 1900 to 1905 Charles Edward reigned through the regency of Ernst, Hereditary Prince of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, the husband of Duke Alfred's third daughter Alexandra. The regent acted under the strict guidance of Emperor Wilhelm II.

Upon coming of age on 19 July 1905, he assumed full constitutional powers. He proved loyal to the Emperor and was deemed a constitutionally-minded prince. However, he soon deviated from his early liberal views and gave in to autocratic impulses, also becoming dependent on advisors at his two courts at Gotha and Coburg, between which political differences and rivalries had developed. He liberally supported the court theatres in both towns. Taking an interest in Zeppelin and airplane technology, Charles Edward supported the newly created aircraft industry at Gotha (see Gothaer Waggonfabrik). Like all Dukes of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, he divided his time between the two residence towns. Among his residences Schloss Friedenstein, Ehrenburg Palace, and Schloss Callenberg, he favoured the latter. He also took great interest in the renovation of Veste Coburg which had been abandoned as a ducal residence in the 17th century. This work, which strained the ducal finances, was ongoing from 1908 until 1924.[2]

Marriage and family

The Duke and Duchess of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, 11 October 1905.

Wilhelm II picked out his wife's niece as Charles Edward's bride, and on 11 October 1905, at Glücksburg Castle, Schleswig-Holstein, the Duke married Princess Victoria Adelaide of Schleswig-Holstein (31 December 1885 – 3 October 1970), the eldest daughter of Friedrich Ferdinand, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein and Princess Karoline Mathilde of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg. They had five children (see Issue below).[2]

Through his daughter Sibylla, Charles Edward is the maternal grandfather of Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden.

World War I

World War I caused a conflict of loyalties for Charles Edward, but he finally decided to support Germany. He broke off relations with his family at the British and Belgian courts. This did not suffice to overcome doubts about his loyalties in Germany. Charles Edward served on the staff of an infantry division at the beginning of the war, but in 1915 had to stop due to rheumatism. Although he never held a command, he visited both the western and eastern fronts numerous times. Soldiers from his duchies were awarded the Carl-Eduard-Kriegskreuz.[2][6] In 1915, King George V ordered his name removed from the register of the Knights of the Garter.

In March 1917, the Landtag of Coburg excluded members of the ducal family from the succession if their country was hostile to (i.e. at war with) Germany.[6] In July 1917, still unaware of the change in law at Coburg, in an effort to distance his dynasty from its German origins, George V changed the name of the British Royal House from the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to the House of Windsor. That year, the British Parliament passed the Titles Deprivation Act which empowered the Privy Council to investigate "any persons enjoying any dignity or title as a peer or British prince who have, during the present war, borne arms against His Majesty or His Allies, or who have adhered to His Majesty's enemies."

Under the terms of that act, an Order in Council on 28 March 1919 formally removed Charles Edward's British peerages, the Dukedom of Albany, Earldom of Clarence, and the Barony of Arklow. He and his children also lost their entitlement to the titles of Prince and Princess of the United Kingdom and the styles Royal Highness and Highness.[7] Nevertheless, he retained the style Highness as a member of a sovereign ducal house in Germany.

Private citizen and Nazi politician

Charles Edward in 1933, as SA-Gruppenführer
Charles Edward (left) meeting the British Ambassador to Germany, Sir Neville Henderson, in 1939. He had been at Eton with Henderson and this photograph may have been taken at a meeting of the Anglo-German Fellowship that Henderson addressed in May 1937, shortly after his appointment as British Ambassador.[8]

The Russian Revolution of 1917 caused Charles much concern and he watched anxiously during the ensuing power struggles between the left- and right-wing parties in Germany. On the morning of 9 November 1918, during the German Revolution the Workers' and Soldiers' Council of Gotha declared him deposed. On 11 November, his abdication was demanded in Coburg. Only on 14 November, later than most other ruling princes, did he formally announce that he had "ceased to rule" in both Gotha and Coburg. He did not explicitly renounce his throne.[2]

Effectively exiled from England and fearful of the communist threat, he started looking for a new political home. He also worked towards the restoration of the monarchy, thus supporting the nationalistic-conservative and völkisch right.[9][2]

His properties and collections in Coburg were transferred in 1919 to the Coburger Landesstiftung, a foundation that still exists today. A similar solution for Gotha took longer and only after legal struggles with the Free State of Thuringia was it set up in 1928/34. The Gotha foundation was expropriated by the Soviet authorities after 1945.[2] After 1919, the family retained Schloss Callenberg, some other properties (including those in Austria) and a right to live at Veste Coburg and received substantial financial compensation for lost possessions. Some additional real estate in Thuringia was restored to the ducal family in 1925.[6]

Now a private citizen,[10] he became associated with various right-wing paramilitary and political organisations. He supported Hermann Ehrhardt both morally and financially after the Freikorps' commander's participation in the failed Kapp Putsch. Until 1922, Charles Edward was the head of the Preußenbund.[2]

He met Adolf Hitler for the first time on 14 October 1922 (at the Nazis' second Deutscher Tag held at Coburg). In 1923, he joined the Bund Wiking as Oberbereichsleiter in Thuringia. When the Wiking joined the Stahlhelm, Bund der Frontsoldaten, Charles Edward became a member of the Stahlhelm's national board.[2][6]

In 1932, he took part in the creation of the Harzburg Front, through which the German National People's Party became associated with the Nazi Party. He also publicly called on voters to support Hitler in the presidential election.

Charles Edward formally joined the Nazi Party in March 1933 and that same year became a member of the SA (Brownshirts), rising to the rank of Obergruppenführer by 1936. He also served as a member of the Reichstag representing the Nazi Party from 1936–45 and as president of the German Red Cross from December 1933-45. When he took over this position, the German Red Cross had already been gleichgeschaltet by the Nazis (i.e. was controlled by them).[2][6]

In 1934, he visited Japan where he attended a conference on the protection of civilians during war and delivered Hitler's birthday greeting to the Emperor.[6]

In 1936, Hitler sent Charles Edward to Britain as president of the Anglo-German Friendship Society. His mission was to improve Anglo-German relations and to explore the possibility of a pact between the two countries. He attended the funeral of his first cousin George V in a uniform of a general of the German army (his British ceremonial robes having been taken away from him), and sent Hitler encouraging reports about the strength of pro-German sentiment among the British aristocracy. After the Abdication Crisis, he played host to the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, the former King-Emperor and his wife, during their private tour of Germany in 1937.

In 1940, Charles Edward travelled via Moscow and Japan to the US, where he met President Roosevelt at the White House. In 1943, at Hitler's behest, Charles Edward asked the International Red Cross to investigate the Katyn massacre.[6]

World War II

Burial site at Schloss Callenberg

Although Charles Edward was too old for active service during World War II, his three sons served in the Wehrmacht. His second son, Hubertus, was killed in action in 1943 in a plane crash near Mosty.

When World War II ended, the American Military Government in Bavaria, under the command of General George S. Patton, placed Charles Edward under house arrest at his home, the vast Veste Coburg, because of his Nazi sympathies. He was later imprisoned with other Nazi officials. His sister, Princess Alice, learning of his incarceration, came to Germany with her husband, Major-General The Earl of Athlone (the former Governor General of Canada), to plead for his release with his American captors. They dined with the American generals holding her brother, who declined to release him.

Charles Edward was imprisoned until 1946. Originally charged with Crimes against humanity, in 1950 (August 1949, according to his ODNB entry), after several appeals, he was sentenced by a denazification court as a Mitläufer and Minderbelasteter (roughly: follower and of lesser guilt),[6] fined (DM 5,000) and almost bankrupted. Since Gotha was part of Thuringia and therefore in the Soviet occupation zone, the Soviet Army confiscated much of the family's property in Gotha. Coburg had become part of Bavaria in 1920, and the family kept property there and in other parts of Germany and abroad. He spent the last years of his life in seclusion. In 1953, he travelled to a local cinema to watch the coronation of his cousin's granddaughter, Elizabeth II.[5]


Having been evicted by the Allies from the Veste Coburg and his other palaces in 1946, he died of cancer in Coburg in his flat in Elsässer Straße on 6 March 1954. This made him the second-to-last ruling prince of the German Reich to die (only Ernst II of Saxe-Altenburg outlived him, see List of Princes of the German Empire (German)).

Charles Edward is buried at the family burial site in the forest of Schloss Callenberg, near Coburg.

Titles, styles, honours and arms

Royal Monogram of Charles Edward, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha

Titles and styles

Charles Edward's full titles before 1919 were: "Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha; Duke in Saxony; Prince of Great Britain and Ireland; Duke of Albany; Duke of Jülich, Cleves and Berg, of Angria and Westphalia; Earl of Clarence; Landgrave in Thuringia; Margrave in Meissen; Princely Count of Henneberg; Count of the Mark and Ravensberg; Baron Arklow; Lord of Ravenstein and Tonna"




Charles Edward was never granted arms in the United Kingdom. Also, he did not inherit the arms of his father since royal arms, as a differenced version of Arms of Dominion, are granted individually and not inherited. On his accession as Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, he used the arms of that duchy, both the greater and lesser versions.

One variant that he used was a shield of the arms of Saxony, with a differenced version of the arms of the United Kingdom, charged with the label borne by his father on his father's arms (essentially, the arms of his father in reverse).[14] This was similar to the arms borne by his uncle, Alfred, as Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, which can be seen on his stall plate as a Knight of the Swedish Order of the Seraphim.[15]

Coat of Arms of Charles Edward

In the media

On 2 June 2008, British Channel 4 aired an hour-length documentary about Charles Edward called Hitler's Favorite Royal, including re-coloured original footage and photos from all stages of his private and public life, his troubled conversion to the National-Socialist regime and other aspects. Various international historians commented on the events and issues revolving around his life, reminding the public of his existence and reviving public debate.[16] The programme inaccurately described Charles Edward as Queen Victoria's youngest grandson and Nicholas II of Russia's first cousin.


Name Birth Death Marriages
Johann Leopold, Hereditary Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha2 August
4 May
(1) unequally, renouncing his rights to the headship of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha), 9 March 1932, Baroness Feodora von der Horst; divorced 1962; had issue
(2), 5 May 1963, Maria Theresia Reindl; no issue
Princess Sibylla of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha18 January
28 November
20 October 1932, Prince Gustaf Adolf of Sweden, Duke of Västerbotten, and had issue, including Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden.
Prince Hubertus of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha24 August
26 November
killed near Mosty, no children
Princess Caroline Mathilde of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha22 June
5 September
married Friedrich Wolfgang Otto, Count of Castell-Rüdenhausen (27 June 1906 – 11 June 1940) on 14 December 1931 and were divorced on 2 May 1938, and have issue.

She married Flight Captain Max Schnirring (20 May 1895 – 7 July 1944) on 22 June 1938, and has issue.

She remarried Karl Otto Andree (10 February 1912 – 1984) on 23 December 1946 and were divorced on 10 October 1949.

Friedrich Josias, Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha29 November
23 January
(1), 25 January 1942, Countess Viktoria-Luise of Solms-Baruth; divorced 19 September 1947; had issue
(2), 14 February 1948, Denyse Henrietta de Muralt; divorced 17 September 1964; had issue
(3), 30 October 1964, Katrin Bremme; no issue



  1. The London Gazette: no. 31255. p. 4000. 28 March 1919. Retrieved 2007-11-19.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 "Biografie Karl Eduard (German)". Bayerische Nationalbibliothek. Retrieved 14 July 2016.
  3. Yvonne's Royalty Home Page — Royal Christenings,; accessed 16 May 2016.
  4. Sandner, Harold (2004). "II.8.0 Herzog Carl Eduard". Das Haus von Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha 1826 bis 2001 (in German). Andreas, Prinz von Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha (preface). 96450 Coburg: Neue Presse GmbH. p. 195. ISBN 3-00-008525-4. Der deutsche Emperor Wilhelm II. kümmert sich persönlich um ihn, Carl Eduard ist wiederholt Gast am Emperorlichen Hof in Berlin und wird der "siebte Sohn des Emperors" genannt.
  5. 1 2 Hitler's Favourite Royal (Channel 4 documentary) 6 December 2007.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Oltmann, Joachim (18 January 2001). "Seine Königliche Hoheit der Obergruppenführer (German)". Zeit Online. Retrieved 14 July 2016.
  7. As a male-line grandson of the British Sovereign, Prince Charles Edward was a Prince of the United Kingdom with the qualification of Royal Highness, in accordance with Queen Victoria's Letters Patent of 30 January 1864 and of 27 May 1898. The suspension of his peerages under the Title Deprivation Act did not affect his place in the line of succession to the British throne. Under settled practice dating to 1714, his children, as legitimate male-line great-grandchildren of the British Sovereign, were Princes and Princesses of the United Kingdom with the qualification of Highness. However, their right to use these British titles and styles ceased with George V's Letters Patent of 30 November 1917.
  8. See Henderson, Failure of a Mission: Berlin 1937-1939, London 1940, p. 19.
  9. Hitler's Favourite Royal (Channel 4 documentary), 6 December 2007.
  10. The hereditary and legal privileges of the various German Royal, Princely, Ducal, and Noble families ended in August 1919 when the constitution of the Weimar Republic came into effect. The Weimar Republic did not ban the use of titles and the designations of nobility, unlike Austria: the Reichstag passed legislation that made the former royal and noble titles part of these families' surname. Legally, he became Carl Eduard, Herzog von Sachsen-Coburg und Gotha.
  11. The London Gazette: no. 27281. p. 4509. 15 July 1902. Retrieved 6 November 2015.
  12. The London Gazette: no. 27454. p. 765. 5 February 1901. Retrieved 10 November 2012.
  14. Official family website
  15. British Royalty Cadency,; accessed 16 May 2016.
  16. "Last night on television Hitler's Favorite Royal" 3 July 2008 Link accessed 3/06/08


Media related to Charles Edward, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha at Wikimedia Commons

Charles Edward, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
Cadet branch of the House of Wettin
Born: 19 July 1884 Died: 6 March 1954
German nobility
Preceded by
Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
30 July 1900 – 14 November 1918
Peerage of the United Kingdom
Title last held by
Prince Leopold
Duke of Albany
(creation of 1881)
Titles in pretence
Loss of titles  TITULAR 
Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
14 November 1918 – 6 March 1954
Reason for succession failure:
German Revolution of 1918–19
Succeeded by
Prince Friedrich Josias
Duke of Albany
28 March 1919 – 6 March 1954
Reason for succession failure:
Titles Deprivation Act 1917
Succeeded by
Prince Johann Leopold
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