Biographies Russian Rulers Romanov Family of Paul I Children Grand Duchess Ekaterina Pavlovna

Grand Duchess Ekaterina Pavlovna

Grand Duchess Ekaterina Pavlovna, Queen Catherine of Württemberg, daughter of Paul I and Maria Fyodorovna, wife of Duke Georg of Oldenburg, wife of King William I of Württemberg
Born: 1788, Tsarskoe Selo
Died: 1819, Stuttgart

Grand Duchess Ekaterina Pavlovna was the sixth child and fourth daughter of Paul I and Maria Fyodorovna. She was born at the Catherine Palace in Tsarskoe Selo on 10 May 1788.

In 1807, there was talk of Ekaterina marrying the widowed Austrian emperor, Francis I, but nothing came of this match. Shortly afterwards, Napoleon Bonaparte announced that he was planning to divorce his wife, the childless Josephine, and hinted that he would like to marry Ekaterina.

Maria Fyodorovna was horrified and quickly found an alternative husband for her daughter. This was her nephew, Duke Peter Friedrich Georg of Oldenburg. They were married in 1809 and decided to live in Russia.

The prince was appointed the governor of Tver Province, where the couple made their home. The historian Nikolai Karamzin and other intellectuals attended the salons in their palace on the River Volga, which became known as the “Tver Athens.” In 1812, Ekaterina was even suggested as an alternative ruler of Russia in a plot to overthrow her elder brother, Tsar Alexander I.

In December 1812, the prince of Oldenburg unexpectedly died of typhus. After the Russian victory over Napoleon, his widow accompanied Tsar Alexander I to England, where she spent three months in 1814 and might also have become queen of Great Britain.

Ekaterina was escorted from Holland to England on HMS Jason by William, Duke of Clarence, who asked her to marry him once they reached dry land. She rejected “Silly Billy,” who already had ten illegitimate children by an Irish actress known as “Mrs Jordan.” He married Princess Adelaide of Saxe-Meiningen in 1818 and became King William IV in 1830.

Shortly afterwards, Ekaterina received and turned down a second offer of marriage from another potential king. This was Prince Augustus Frederick, who was the duke of Sussex and the favourite uncle of Queen Victoria. But while she was in England, she did meet and fall in love with her cousin, Crown Prince Frederick William of Württemberg.

William was already married to Princess Charlotte of Bavaria, but he divorced his wife in 1814 and married Ekaterina in 1816. Later that same year, his father died and Ekaterina became queen of Württemberg.

Like her sister Maria Pavlovna in Weimar, Ekaterina applied herself to adopting her new homeland, cultivating the arts and engaging in charity work. She gave birth to two daughters – Maria Friederike Charlotte in 1816 and Sophie Friederike Mathilde in 1818.

The following year, a seemingly innocuous rash appeared on the queen’s face. Neither she nor the doctors paid any attention, but it turned out to be an acute bacterial infection called erysipelas. Ekaterina died in Stuttgart at the age of thirty on 9 January 1819 and was buried at the Grabkapelle in the Rotenberg part of Untertürkheim.

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