Augusta of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach was born on September 30th, 1811, as the second daughter and third child of Charles Frederick, Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, and Maria Pavlovna of Russia. Augusta’s mother was the granddaughter of Catherine the Great, Tsarina of Russia, making Augusta Catherine the Great’s great-granddaughter. Augusta was given a good education which included drawing and music lessons.
Augusta first met her future husband, Prince Wilhelm of Prussia, when she was fifteen. He thought that she had an “excellent personality,” but found her sister, who had married his younger brother, to be more attractive. At the time of their first meeting, Wilhelm was in love with Elisa Radziwill, a Polish princess. Elisa was considered too lowborn to marry Wilhelm, though his father, King William III of Prussia, encouraged their romance. Wilhelm was still very much in love with Elisa when he began looking for a different, more suitable princess to marry.
He proposed to Augusta in 1828, though he wrote that while his fiancée was intelligent and pretty, he did not truly love her, saying that one could only love once. They married in June of 1829. The couple was content in their marriage, though they never grew to love each other, and the Prussian court received Augusta well. Three years after their marriage, Augusta gave birth to their only son, Friedrich. Their only daughter, Louise, was born seven years later.
Augusta was a natural politician and participated in politics very much. In March of 1848, demonstrators were fired upon by soldiers, and Wilhelm was blamed for the bloodshed. They took his brother’s advice and left for Potsdam, where they kept a low profile. Liberals discussed forcing the King to abdicate and forcing his younger brother Wilhelm to give up his right to the throne, so Augusta could become regent for her son.
Augusta and her family moved to Koblenz, where she lived a happy life. Her children both grew into adults. Her son, Frederick, received a good education and became engaged to Victoria of the United Kingdom, Princess Royal, and her daughter, Louise, married the Grand Duke of Baden. Augusta was fond of her liberal daughter-in-law, Victoria, and hoped that she would influence Frederick to be a more liberal monarch if he came to the throne.
Frederick inheriting his uncle’s throne seemed quite likely. King Frederick William IV suffered several strokes and was unable to rule, so Augusta and Wilhelm returned to Berlin. He died childless not long after, and Wilhelm became King of Prussia. He dissolved Parliament since the Parliament would not do whatever he wanted, and he appointed Otto von Bismark as chancellor. This horrified both Augusta and her daughter-in-law. Augusta snubbed Bismark’s wife, and Bismark tried to tarnish Augusta and her daughter-in-law’s image as much as he could.
Augusta hated war, and instead of celebrating victories, she mourned for the dead. She and her daughter-in-law both made friends with Florence Nightingale, who advised them on cleanliness in hospitals. After the Austro-Prussian War, the Franco-Prussian War broke out. The result of that war was the unification of Prussia and the other small German states into the German Empire, which would be ruled by Augusta’s husband, now Kaiser Wilhelm I. Augusta wasn’t pleased, since her family gained the crown after a war.
After a fall in 1881, Augusta was left with painful injuries, made worse by rheumatism that she had been suffering from for a while. Her husband, Wilhelm, died at the age of ninety and was succeeded by her son, Frederick III. Frederick wasn’t in good health himself and died ninety-nine days after becoming Kaiser. She got to see her grandson, Wilhelm, whom she had always dearly loved, become Kaiser Wilhelm II, and died on January 7th, 1890. Augusta was 78.