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Princess Cecilia of Sweden, Grand Duchess of Oldenburg

Princess Cecilia of Sweden, Grand Duchess of Oldenburg was an interesting figure in European history. Find out more about her here.

Princess Cecilia of Sweden, Grand Duchess of Oldenburg (1807-1844).

Princess Cecilia of Sweden, Grand Duchess of Oldenburg (1807-1844).

Princess Cecilia of Sweden's Early Life

Princess Cecilia of Sweden was the youngest child of King Gustaf IV Adolf of Sweden from the House of Vasa (1778-1837) and Princess Frederica of Baden (1781-1826). Through her paternal line, she was a great-granddaughter of Britain's King George II (1683-1760) and Caroline of Ansbach (1683-1737).

Cecilia was born in the royal palace in Stockholm, Sweden on the 22nd June 1807 and with her siblings Gustav, Sophia Wilhemina and Amalia she was placed in the care of royal governess Christina "Charlotte" Stierneld. Another elder brother Carl Gustaf was born in 1802 and died in 1805.

Before her 2nd birthday Cecilia's father was deposed by the Swedish aristocracy during a coup known as Statskuppen 1809. The coup was triggered by Sweden's disastrous results against Russia in the Finnish War 1808-1809 which concluded with Finland being established as a separate country within the Russian Empire on what had been land in the east of Sweden. During the next decade, the Bernadotte dynasty claimed the Swedish throne; they still hold it today.

Princess Cecilia's parents King Gustaf IV Adolf of Sweden and his consort Frederica of Baden.

Princess Cecilia's parents King Gustaf IV Adolf of Sweden and his consort Frederica of Baden.

Exile for the Swedish Royal Family

The royal family relocated to Baden, Cecilia's mother's homeland. They initially tried to move to Britain but King George III vetoed this. Her parents' differences in outlook became evident in their new lives as private citizens. Gustaf IV Adolf craved a simple country life but Frederica wanted to live at the palace in Bodersee, Baden. She was also adamant that she would not give birth to a royal heir whilst in exile.

In 1812 Gustaf IV Adolf and Frederica of Baden divorced. He renounced his custody rights in the divorce settlement and Frederica settled in a palace in Bruchsal, Baden with a generous allowance that offered her independence.

For 2 years after the divorce, Cecilia was raised by her maternal grandmother Princess Amalie of Hesse-Darmstadt (1754-1832) at Schloss Bruchsal. Russian Tsar Alexander I (1777-1825) was Frederica's brother-in-law and he was appointed as guardian to the Swedish royal children.

Gustaf IV Adolf made an unhappy home for himself in Switzerland and kept a series of mistresses, one of whom bore him a son. The former king used several identities in exile but in Switzerland, he was Colonel Gustaffson so his son was called Adolf Gustaffson.

Frederica of Baden passed away in 1826 from heart disease. There was a persistent rumour that she had secretly married her son Gustav's tutor J.N.G. de Polier-Vernland 3 years before her death.

Oldenburg in today's Lower Saxony, Germany.

Oldenburg in today's Lower Saxony, Germany.

Cecilia Marries August, Grand Duke of Oldenburg

In 1830 August I, Grand Duke of Oldenburg (1783-1853; christened Paul Friedrich August) was searching for a suitable bride. He had been married twice already; his wives happened to be sisters, Princesses Adelheid and Ida of Anhalt-Bernburg-Schaumburg-Haum, who both died in the 3rd years of their marriages to him. The princesses were 20 and 24 respectively at their deaths. His son Peter was from his 2nd union.

Within an hour of meeting Cecilia, his distant cousin, he proposed marriage and was accepted. To prepare for her new role she moved to the royal court in Vienna where her brother Gustav was employed as a courtier in Holy Roman Emperor Franz I (1708-1765) court.

August and Cecilia, both Lutherans, married in Vienna on the 5th May 1831. She was his only wife to bear the title of Grand Duchess. August gained his title in 1829 upon his father's death.

The marriage produced 3 sons but the 2 eldest Alexander and August (known as Nicklaus) died in infancy. Duke Elimar of Oldenburg, christened Anton Gunther Friedrich Elimar was born on 23rd January 1844 and he survived into adulthood.

Ex-King Gustaf IV Adolf died in 1837 in Switzerland. It took several years for his internment in the Swedish royal burial plot at Riddarholmen Church, Stockholm to be approved.

August, Grand Duke of Oldenburg, Cecilia's husband 1831-1844.

August, Grand Duke of Oldenburg, Cecilia's husband 1831-1844.

Grand Duchess of Oldenburg, Patron of the Arts

Cecilia was a patron of the arts and a talented composer. She was proactive in the establishment of the first theatre in Oldenburg in 1833, she wrote hymns, and the music of one composition was used for an anthem in the duchy. She worked hard to bring culture to her court and to the wider community.

Cäciliengroden, now in Frisia in Lower Saxony, a school, bridge and a road were named in her honour.

She was popular at court and formed friendships within artistic communities but the Oldenburg people were largely indifferent to her.

After bearing Duke Elimar 36-year-old Cecilia died from puerperal fever on 27th January 1844. She was buried in the mausoleum in the Churchyard of St. Gertrude in Oldenburg.

August did not marry again. When he died in 1853 his son Peter from his 2nd marriage succeeded to the Oldenburg title and lands. August and Cecilia's son Duke Elimar married morganatically and had 1 son and 1 daughter. He died in 1895.

Anthem of Oldenburg - Music by Cecilia, Grand Duchess of Oldenburg


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Joanne Hayle