Georg II, Duke of Saxe-Meiningen

Georg II
Duke of Saxe-Meiningen
Duke of Saxe-Meiningen
Reign 20 September 1866 – 25 June 1914 (&1000000000000004700000047 years, &10000000000000278000000278 days)
Predecessor Bernhard II
Successor Bernhard III
Spouse Princess Charlotte Frederica of Prussia
Princess Feodora of Hohenlohe-Langenburg
Ellen Franz
Bernhard III
Prince Georg Albrecht
Princess Marie Elisabeth
Prince Ernst
Prince Frederick John
Prince Viktor
House House of Saxe-Meiningen
Father Bernhard II
Mother Marie Frederica of Hesse-Kassel
Born 2 April 1826(1826-04-02)
Died 25 June 1914(1914-06-25) (aged 88)
Religion Lutheranism

Georg II, Duke of Saxe-Meiningen (Meiningen, 2 April 1826 – Wildungen, 25 June 1914), was the penultimate Duke of Saxe-Meiningen, reigning from 1866 to 1914.[1]


Family and early life

Georg was the only son of Bernhard II, Duke of Saxe-Meiningen and his wife Princess Marie Frederica of Hesse-Kassel.[1] His birth was met with great relief by his father's subjects, as the succession to the duchy was in jeopardy due to a lack of male heirs in the family. Georg would remain an only child for seventeen years, until the birth of his sister Princess Augusta in 1843.[2]

A five mark depicting Georg II, 1908.

Georg spent his first few years under the supervision of his parents and grandmother the Dowager Duchess Luise Eleonore. It was the latter who instilled upon Georg the patriotic virtues of his heritage, as well as the sense of duty needed to rule a duchy.[2]

In 1862, his only sister married Prince Moritz of Saxe-Altenburg, a younger son of Georg, Duke of Saxe-Altenburg. They would be the parents of Ernst II, Duke of Saxe-Altenburg, the last reigning Duke of Saxe-Altenburg.

Duke of Saxe-Meiningen

Georg succeeded his father as Duke of Saxe-Meiningen, when he was forced to abdicate on 20 September 1866 in favor of his son following the defeat of Austria in the Austro-Prussian War.[3] Unlike his father, Georg had remained loyal to the Prussians during the war and was rewarded as Lieutenant General of the Prussian army. Also unlike his parents, the young duke was familiar enough with Prussian politics to regard their attitudes as impractical.[4] During the Franco-Prussian War, Georg led two regiments of soldiers from Meiningen and had the honor of capturing the first French flags at the Battle of Froeschweiler.[3] Notably, he fought in nearly every battle during the war. Georg was a member of Wilhelm I's staff when he entered Paris and would remain a close friend of the Emperor until his death.[3]



Georg's first wife Charlotte of Prussia.

Georg was married firstly in Charlottenburg on 18 May 1850 to the Princess Charlotte Frederica of Prussia.[1][4] She was the eldest daughter of Prince Albert of Prussia and Princess Marianne of the Netherlands, and was a granddaughter of both Frederick William III of Prussia and William I of the Netherlands.

They had four children:

  1. Bernhard III, Duke of Saxe-Meiningen (b. Meiningen, 1 April 1851 - d. Meiningen, 16 January 1928).[1]
  2. Prince Georg Albrecht (b. Meiningen, 12 April 1852 - d. Meiningen, 27 January 1855).[1]
  3. Princess Marie Elisabeth (b. Potsdam, 23 September 1853 - d. Munich, 22 February 1923).[1]
  4. a son (b. Meiningen, 29 March 1855 - d. Meiningen, 30 March 1855).[1]

The couple had a short engagement, as it was a love match. Among the wedding gifts was an opulent old villa on Lake Como from her mother Marianne. It was renamed the Villa Carlotta in the bride's honor. They spent the next five years in Berlin and Potsdam but returned to Meiningen for the birth of their children.[4]

On 27 January 1855, their second son Georg died. Charlotte would follow him three months later, dying in childbirth and leaving Georg inconsolable.[5] He succeeded his father as Duke of Saxe-Meiningen in 1866, eleven years after Charlotte's death.


Georg's second wife Princess Feodora of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, c. 1860

Despite his recent widowhood, Georg went on a search for a new wife, if only to provide a mother for his two young children. Georg met his second cousin Princess Feodora of Hohenlohe-Langenburg while he was on his way to Italy; they became engaged almost at once.[6] She was a niece of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, being a daughter of Victoria's half-sister Princess Feodora of Leiningen and her husband Ernst I, Prince of Hohenlohe-Langenburg. On 23 October 1858, they married at Langenburg.[1]

Georg and Feodora had three sons:

  1. Prince Ernst Bernhard Victor Georg (b. Meiningen, 27 September 1859 - d. Schloß Altenstein, 29 December 1941).
  2. Prince Frederick Johann Bernhard Hermann Heinrich Moritz (b. Meiningen, 12 October 1861 - killed in battle, Tarcienne, France, 23 August 1914).
  3. Prince Viktor (b. Meiningen, 14 May 1865 - d. Meiningen, 17 May 1865).

Their marriage was unhappy however. Georg had never become reconciled to Charlotte's death and Feodora was not temperamentally suited for the life she was expected to lead.[7] She had no intellectual or artistic attainments; even worse, she had no interest in developing any. Despite this fact, Georg attempted to educate her, as he was a great lover of the arts, especially theater. Her mother approved, stating it was "very sensible of him indeed to arrange for his bride to be much occupied with lessons, to take drawing lessons, and to hear lectures on history".[7] Georg soon realized however that she would never be as witty and clever as Charlotte. After the death of their third son, Feodora stayed away from Meiningen for as much as decently possible.[7] In 1866, he succeeded as Duke of Saxe-Meiningen, making her Duchess consort of Saxe-Meiningen.

Feodora contracted scarlet fever in January 1872, and died the following month. Despite the many differences between them, Georg had remained fond of her; when she became sick, he was genuinely distraught and sent telegrams to her parents twice daily.[7]


Georg's third wife Ellen Franz, c. 1870.

He was married thirdly and unequally in Liebenstein on 18 March 1873 to Ellen Franz, a former actress.[1] She was given her own style, being known as Helene, Baroness von Holdburg shortly before their wedding and after their marriage.[3]

This marriage was morganatic, and greatly angered Kaiser Wilhelm.[8] Georg in turn became increasingly angry and defensive at anyone who failed to recognize his wife and treat her as an equal.[8] Most Germans supported Georg's decision to marry, but Wilhelm felt particularly upset because Georg's first wife had been a kinswoman of his.[8] Wilhelm was not the only one who objected to the marriage; Georg's father ex-Duke Bernhard was equally angry and threatened to appeal directly to the people with the mistaken view that they would support his opinion.[8] Officials and ministers of the Saxe-Meiningen court also objected to the match. Many resigned their offices and their wives openly insulted Ellen. The army also refused to salute her, further angering Duke Georg.[8] He sent an emissary to Berlin with a complaint to Wilhelm, who responded by ordering that all officers must in the future salute Ellen as Baroness von Heldburg.[8] She was never styled as Duchess of Saxe-Meiningen like his second wife.

The couple had no children. Well-loved by the people, she and Duke Georg created and developed the progressive Meiningen Theater.[8]

Relationship to theatre

After the Franco-Prussian War, Georg devoted himself to theatre. He was one of the greatest intellectuals among the higher nobility during the Second German Empire. He is particularly known for developing the Meiningen Ensemble using his court theatre. Using his knowledge of art history and his drawing skills, he designed highly detailed, historically accurate scenery, costumes, and properties. In addition, he choreographed large crowd scenes that stunned audiences across Europe. He and his ensemble toured Europe extensively, and had a profound effect on theatre production across the continent. There is no doubt that Realism saw the development of the director as a separate entity, someone with an eye to oversee, someone responsible for the overall conception, interpretation, style and detail of the theatrical performance. The Meiningen Ensemble from its roots in the late 1830's under the directorships of Georg II (Duke of Sax-Meiningen) and Ludwig Chronegk, proceeded to develop a theatre company bereft of theatre-managers and the star system. A system centred on realistic acting and staging and well-developed 'unified' productions. The Ensemble which began as a court theatre but started touring in 1874, used detailed research of people, locations, costumes and set, along with highly choreographed and individually detailed crowd scenes, to create productions which were aesthically unified and realistic in their presentations.

In an article for the Deutsche Buhne, the Duke outlined his principles for directing a play, the most important were the creation of a Stage Picture (the pictorial effect created by the synthesis of the actors with the set and props), historical exactitude in the mise en scene, an acting style which used Precise Gestural and Vocal Imitation, the use of Period or Authentic Clothing and Costumes and the use of Group Orchestration by precise planning and direction of all group and crowd scenes[9]

The initial aim of the Meiningen Ensemble was to create, within the context of an ensemble, historical exactitude of the mise en scene. The Meiningen company sought to create the illusion of natural space within the confines of the proscenium arch. Duke Georg was concerned mainly with creating a naturalistic illusory atmosphere where the actor could establish or re-create authenticity in performance. Chronegk and the Duke prepared sketches and diagrams showing actors how to walk and move in period clothing to achieve a naturalistic feel to stage characterization. The Meiningen productions influenced playwrights like Henrik Ibsen, actors like Henry Irving and directors like Antoine and Stanislavsky.

The conventions of realism for the Meiningen seemed to create the means by which a theatre artist creates the illusion of everyday life. They saw that art should copy science by depicting life 'as it is' without direct comment, interpretation and the structural edifice of the well made play. The Duke believed that a life-like reality was achieved on stage through a careful study of the play and showing this in stage movement, composition and stage business. His major contribution to the stage was not just his use of realistic settings and costumes but in the way he tried to use and integrate performers as part of the mise en scene[10]. The use of costume did not merely reflect historical accuracy but attempted to help actors perform in a style and mode which integrated with other elements. He demanded that all the actors were at most rehearsals and he carefully worked out the actions of even everyone in crowd scenes. Individual members of crowds and main actors alike were expected to provide specific research and character analysis related to the events depicted on stage.He was known for his great vision and memory and he often worked without a prompt book or script, working from his head and using a runner to ferry his ideas to his assistant Chronegk.[11] For his work in the theatre, he is known as the first modern director.

Later life

In his later life, Georg suffered from acute deafness and retired from active life. He had been fond of hunting and traveling, and was a collector of antiques and manuscripts.[3] He died on 25 June 1914 and was succeeded by his eldest son Bernhard.[1]


Anton Ulrich, Duke of Saxe-Meiningen
Georg I, Duke of Saxe-Meiningen
Landgravine Charlotte Amalie of Hesse-Philippsthal
Bernhard II, Duke of Saxe-Meiningen
Christian Albrecht Ludwig, Prince of Hohenlohe-Langenburg
Princess Louise Eleanore of Hohenlohe-Langenburg
Princess Karoline of Stolberg-Gedern
Georg II, Duke of Saxe-Meiningen
William I, Elector of Hesse
William II, Elector of Hesse
Princess Wilhelmina Caroline of Denmark and Norway
Princess Marie Frederica of Hesse-Kassel
Frederick William II of Prussia
Princess Augusta of Prussia
Princess Frederika Louisa of Hesse-Darmstadt


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Lundy, Darryl. "The Peerage: Georg II Herzog von Sachsen-Meiningen und Hildburghausen". Retrieved 24 October 2010. 
  2. ^ a b Koller, p. 30.
  3. ^ a b c d e "Duke George II. Dies in Meiningen", The New York Times (Meiningen), 26 June 1914 
  4. ^ a b c Koller, p. 50.
  5. ^ Koller, p. 51.
  6. ^ Koller, pp. 51-53.
  7. ^ a b c d Koller, p. 53.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g "When Morganatic Wives Become Troublemakers For European Monarchs", The New York Times, 11 September 1911 
  9. ^ Eckersley, p. 7.
  10. ^ Eckersley, p. 8.
  11. ^ Eckersley, p. 16.


  • Eckersley, M. (1995). It's All a Matter of Style - Naturalistic Theatre Forms. Melbourne: Mask. Drama Victoria. 
  • Koller, Ann Marie (1984). The Theater Duke: George II of Saxe-Meiningen and the German Stage. Stanford University Press. ISBN 0804711968. 

External links

Georg II, Duke of Saxe-Meiningen
Cadet branch of the House of Wettin
Born: 2 April 1826 Died: 25 June 1914
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Bernhard II
Duke of Saxe-Meiningen
Succeeded by
Bernhard III

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