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Lazarus and the Gimp
01-07-2007, 18:20:19
As anyone who takes the most cursory of glances behind the unconvincing "House of Windsor" rebranding exercise knows, dear old Queen Liz is very definitely a product of the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Up until 1917, the British Royal Family had been proud of their Germanic roots, but when Gotha bombers started making life decidedly entertaining for Londoners they Royals decided that a swift change of identity was required in order to stave off a potential revolt. The only lingering traces of their past now rest in their peculiar pseudo-German accents, particular the tendency to pronounce "house" as "heiss".

It would appear that the rebranding was a major success, and few Brits seem particularly inclined to delve into their continental past. There's a dim awareness that Queen Victoria married a kraut, but that's about it- and that's a rashing shame because if you're amused by the wilder extremes of noble shenanigans, the Saxe-Coburgs really are a joy to be treasured. Sit back, and'll tell you the juiciest bits.

At the start of the 19th century, the Saxe-Coburgs really didn't amount to much. Their domain was a fairly unspectacular and unimportant Bavarian duchy, and they were short of influence and cash. The head of the house at that time was Francis, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfield (1750-1806) who was, to be brutally frank, a bit dull. A typically stolid Saxe-Coburg Duke of the times, he was singularly lacking in lurid traits, and need not bother us further. However his second wife was rather more interesting.

Countess Augusta Caroline Reuss of Ebersdorf (1757-1831) wasn't content with her lot in life. A psychopathically ambitious woman, she realised that (in the absence of money, great estates and political power) the only chance for Saxe-Coburg advancement lay in marriages. Fortunately she produced ten children, seven of whom survived infancy. This coincided with fortuitous timing, as the end of the Napoleonic and Balkan wars created power vacuums all over Europe- resulting in a strange episode in history where the possession of functioning genitals and a vaguely noble background created significant career opportunities. Augusta groomed her children for marriage mercilessly, and relentlessly paraded them before marriageable royalty at every opportunity. The results were astonishing, and here's a selection of the more noteworthy examples.


Ernest I, Duke of Saxe-Coburg (1784-1844)

In sharp contrast to his unspectacular father, Ernest (eldest son of the old Duke and scheming Augusta) was a thoroughly unpleasant man. Even in an era which permitted nobility to be pretty cruel without censure, Ernest acquired a reputation as being incredibly vicious. In his younger years, he was often to be found at the Russian court with his friend, the Grand Duke Constantine, where they spent their days dreaming up inventive atrocities. One of their favourite pastimes was to have large quantities of live rats brought to them so that they could be fired out of cannons. When rats weren't to be found, one more than one occasion they kicked servants and hussars to death. In his spare time, he sired bastards by the dozen.
In an attempt to rein in his excesses, and realising he was far too notorious for an advancing marriage, Augusta hurriedly married off her wayward son to his 16-year-old cousin Louise. Ernest continued to do grand tours of Europe's brothels, and after he had divorced his wife he smuggled a 16-year-old French girl into Coburg dessed as a boy, keeping her as a mistress for a few years before discarding her (and their son).
Discarding the girl, who was Pauline Panam "La Belle Grecque" proved embarrassing, for she promptly started publicising her callous abandonment all around the courts of Europe. Ernest retaliated with kidnap plots, and assassination attempts- all unsuccessful.
In his old age, Ernest proved a huge embarrassment to his son, Prince Albert. After Albert's marriage to Queen Victoria, Ernest stayed on in London, and spent much of his remaining life sexually harassing Victoria's ladies in waiting.


Ernest II Duke of Saxe-Coburg (1818-1893)

Ernest II was the older brother of Prince Albert. Whereas Albert was a rather prim and sexually-repressed young man (who struggled to cope with the highly-sexed Victoria), Ernest II was wholly indiscriminate about whom he inserted his rude bits into. A certain degree of licentiousness was permitted among young nobles of the time, but Ernest didn't so much overstep the mark as pass high over it whilst heading into orbit. Rather than restricting himself to the more refined class of courtesans, he sought any available prostitute. That caused embarrassing problems when arranging his marriage.
Ernest II was originally presented as an ideal husband for Britain's young Queen Victoria. An awkward situation resulted, because it was painfully obvious that the young man was absolutely riddled with venereal diseases. In fact, his first official presentation to Victoria was cut short when he was laid low by a bout of syphilis. Aside from that fact, Ernest II was also a rather ugly man, and crashingly stupid as well. He was nicknamed "The Clown from Coburg" and sent back to Germany, where he spent his days impregnating his many mistresses and servnts, and giving his long-suffering wife challenging new infections.



Leopold I, King of Belgium (1790- 1865)

Leopold was the youngest son of Augusta, and he inherited her ambitious nature. At first, it looked like he had netted the biggest catch of all his siblings when he married Princess Charlotte, the only child of Britain's King George IV. Leopold's poverty was such a running joke (in the run-up to his wedding he lived in a rented room over a butcher's shop in Marylebone) that the marriage vow "with all my worldly goods I thee endow" caused Princess Charlotte to burst out laughing during the wedding ceremony.
This solved his financial shortfall, but he lost all hope of power in Britain when Princess Charlotte died in childbirth leaving no heir. However, the presence of a number of vacant thrones in Europe gave him hope, and he started applying for them all. His first-choice application to become king of Greece was rejected, but he was luckier when it came to Belgium and became king in 1830.
Leopold was considered a rather odd litle man. He compensated for his lack of height by tottering around on high heels, and added a feather boa to his ensemble to create a prototype drag queen look. This rather effeminate look didn't disguise the fact that he was a voracious womaniser, who drove his young wife to exhaustion with his insatiable appetites. She was probably relieved that he had numerous mistresses to spread his lusts around.


Charlotte, Empress of Mexico (1840-1927)

Princess Marie Charlotte Amelie Augustine Victoire Clementine Leopoldine of Belgium probably had her life shortened by chronic writer's cramp if she had to sign many forms. She is included here largely to demonstrate just how far the Saxe-Coburgs got. In one century, they went from insignificant little Dukes to having their offspring on (or married to) the thrones of Britain, Belgium, Russia, Portugal and Mexico. Charlotte didn't inherit the wild excesses of some of her family, though she made a gallant attempt to compensate for this shortfall by going utterly barking mad when her royal status was threatened, and spending much of her remaining life safely locked away with her delusional
paranoia.

Lazarus and the Gimp
01-07-2007, 18:20:53
Leopold II, King of Belgium (1835- 1909)

It may surprise some readers that I've not previously tackled Leopold II in earlier "Filth" articles, on the grounds that he seems an obvious target. There is a reason for this omission, and the reason is this-
Leopold was utterly vile.
Sometimes history throws up examples of humanity so outright horrible that it seems uncomfortable to feature them in a setting that might provide comedy value. That's one key reason why I've never covered people like Stalin, Pol Pot or Hitler. Still, a feature on the Saxe-Coburgs that misses out the family's blackest sheep would appear to be self-censored, so Leopold is finally getting his chance.
Leopold was tall and rather odd-looking, with a huge beaky nose. He was a fitness fanatic who lived in spartan conditions and delighted in challenging visitors to tests of physical endurance in order to prove his physical superiority. Being every bit as ambitious as his father Leopold I, he soon became dissatisfied with Belgium being the extent of his realm, declaring "I am King of a small country, and a small-minded people." Becoming envious of the African colonial exploits of other European nations, he set up a missionary scam to acquire land in central Africa. In 1885 he was declared king of the Congo Free State, his personal fiefdom that was nearly 80 times the size of Belgium with a population of around 10 million. What happened next was appalling.
I don't propose dwelling unduly on the Congo genocide, but I urge you to read about it. Fifteen years after Leopold became king, the population had fallen by 30%, and the atrocities continued into the 20th century. Millions were murdered, mutilated, raped and worked to death. It was the most inhumanly callous episode in European colonialism of the Victorian era, and that's even when set against really tough opposition. I don't tend to subscribe to beliefs in afterlives, but I'd be pepared to make metaphysical concessions in the hope of believing in a small corner of hell for Leopold II to rot in.
On a personal level, Leopold was ghastly. He was typically debauched, with the usual bumper crop of mistresses. However his tastes were even more suspect than those of his ancestors- he was particularly fond of a London brothel that specialised in providing underaged girls for paedophile clients. News of this was splashed over the front pages of London newspapers in a moral crusade against child prostitution, but Leopold didn't bother denying or suing any of them. He was also relentlessly cruel to his daughters, and committed his (perfectly sane) daughter Louise to a lunatic asylum- he advised them to keep her there until she agreed to return to her estranged husband.
In his seventies, his new "official" mistress became Caroline Lacroix- a 16-year-old Fench prostitute- and the happy couple paraded around the courts and spas of Europe on a tidal wabe of scandal. Leopold didn't care- throughout his life he remained arrogantly immune to all forms of criticism, even from other monarchs. After staying in the German court, on his departure the Kaiser's wife had his rooms exorcised. At the age of 74, he married his teenaged hooker- dying just four days later. Naturally his family immediately had Caroline kicked out of the house.

The final word on the Saxe-Coburgs goes to Bismarck. In commenting on the Saxe-Coburg's impact on world politics, he simply dismissed them as "the stud farm of Europe."

Lazarus and the Gimp
01-07-2007, 18:21:32
Fucking maximum post-length bastard.

Dyl Ulenspiegel
01-07-2007, 19:52:56
Great entertaining story.

One minor thing: "Their domain was a fairly unspectacular and unimportant Bavarian duchy" - Thuringian, not bavarian. Just the area around the city of Coburg became later bavarian, in 1920.

Ah yes, and the family motto was "Fideliter et constanter".

Colon
01-07-2007, 23:33:56
If you have access to proper resources you might want to delve yourself into prince Philippe and prince Laurent, sons of Albert II of Belgium. While they aren't cruel (although there are rumours of Laurent's habit of beating mistresses), they are astonishingly dimwitted. Forget about about Vlaams Belang, the true existential threat to Belgium is prince Phillippe on the throne. The links between Opus Dei and the royal family are also juicy.