Elizabeth Alexeievna (Louise of Baden)

Elizabeth Alexeievna
Empress Elisabeth Alexeievna by Vigee-Le Brun (1795, Castle of Wolfsgarten).jpg
Portrait of the Tsaritsa Elizabeth Alexeievna by Madame Lebrun. The Empress later sent this portrait as a gift to her mother
Empress consort of Russia
Tenure24 March 1801 – 1 December 1825
Coronation15 September 1801
BornPrincess Louise Marie Auguste of Baden
(1779-01-24)24 January 1779
Karlsruhe, Baden
Died16 May 1826(1826-05-16) (aged 47)
Belyov, Russian Empire
Alexander I of Russia
(m. 1793; died 1825)
IssueGrand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna
Grand Duchess Elizabeth Alexandrovna
FatherCharles Louis, Hereditary Prince of Baden
MotherLandgravine Amalie of Hesse-Darmstadt
ReligionRussian Orthodox
prev. Lutheranism

Princess Louise of Baden (13/24 January 1779 – 4 May/16 May 1826) was, later known as Elizabeth Alexeievna (Russian: Елизавета Алексеевна), the Empress of Russia during her marriage with Emperor Alexander I.

Born Princess Louise of Baden, she was a daughter of Charles Louis, Hereditary Prince of Baden, and his wife, Landgravine Amalie of Hesse-Darmstadt. She grew up in a close, warm family environment in Karlsruhe during the long reign of her grandfather Charles Frederick, Margrave of Baden.

Princess Louise came to Russia in November 1792, when she was chosen by Empress Catherine II of Russia as a bride for her eldest grandson, Grand Duke Alexander Pavlovich of Russia, the future Tsar Alexander I. Louise converted to the Orthodox Church, took the title of Grand Duchess of Russia and traded the name Louise Maria for Elizabeth Alexeievna. She married Alexander on 28 September 1793, when he was fifteen and she was fourteen. Initially the marriage was happy. Elizabeth was beautiful, but shy and withdrawn. She had two daughters, but both died in early childhood. During the reign of her father-in-law, Tsar Paul I, Elizabeth supported her husband's policies and she was with him on the night of Paul’s assassination.

As empress consort, Elizabeth Alexeievna took part in Court life and the duties of representation, but the role of first lady in the Empire was reserved for her mother-in-law, Maria Feodorovna, who played a more prominent position than the young empress. For almost two decades, Alexander I and Elizabeth lived in harmony, but led separate lives, with both having affairs. She was neither popular in Russia nor much loved by her Romanov relations. Elizabeth Alexeievna did not play any major political role, but during the Napoleonic Wars, she was a reliable supporter of her husband's policies. She joined her husband at the Congress of Vienna in 1814. After many years living apart, Elizabeth and Alexander I reconciled in the early 1820s. By 1824, they were once again the happy couple of their youth. As Elizabeth's health was fragile, they moved to Taganrog, where Emperor Alexander died in December 1825. Empress Elizabeth died on her return journey to the capital, five months after her husband's death.

Princess of Baden

Elizabeth Alexeievna, praised for her beauty, would not find happiness in her marriage or fulfillment in her position in Russia

Elizabeth Alexeievna was born in Karlsruhe, on 24 January [O.S. 13 January] 1779 as Princess Louise Maria Auguste of Baden of the House of Zähringen. She was the third of seven children of Charles Louis, Hereditary Prince of Baden, and his wife, Landgravine Amalie of Hesse-Darmstadt. At birth, the child was so small and weak that doctors feared that she would not live.

Louise of Baden in childhood, gouache and watercolour on ivory, Augustin Ritt, 1791

Louise grew up in a close, warm family environment. She would remain particularly attached to her mother, with whom she maintained an intimate correspondence until her death (The Margravine of Baden outlived her daughter). She received a thoughtful education at the Baden court. She spoke and wrote both in French and German; studied history, geography, philosophy, and French and German literature.[1] Thanks to the close proximity between Baden and France, she was well acquainted with French culture and refinements, as was the custom of that era. Because her grandfather, the reigning Margrave of Baden, was not rich, the family lived modestly by royal standards.

Catherine the Great was looking for a bride for her eldest grandson, the future Alexander I, and set her eyes on the Princesses of Baden who were the nieces of the Queen of Prussia and the deceased Grand Duchess Natalia Alexeievna (Wilhelmina Louisa of Hesse-Darmstadt) who had been the first spouse of Grand Duke Paul of Russia. Thus, an alliance to Prussia and several German royal houses they were closely related to would be a beneficial outcome. After favorable impressions, Catherine invited Princess Louise and her younger sister Frederica, who later became Queen of Sweden, to Russia. In the autumn of 1792, the two sisters arrived in St. Petersburg.

The Empress was delighted by Louise, finding her a model of beauty, charm, and honesty.[2] Louise herself was attracted to Alexander; he was tall and handsome. At first, Alexander was shy with his future bride — very young and inexperienced, he did not know how to treat her — and she mistook his reserve for dislike. However, the young couple soon grew fond of each other. "You tell me that I hold the happiness of a certain person in my hands", she wrote to Alexander. "If that is true, then his happiness is assured forever… this person loves me tenderly, and I love him in return, and that will be my happiness… you can be certain that I love you more than I ever can say", she added. They were engaged in May 1793.

The Princess learned Russian, converted to the Orthodox Church, took the title of Grand Duchess of Russia and traded the name Louise Maria Auguste for Elizabeth Alexeievna. The wedding took place on 28 September 1793.[2] "It was a marriage between Psyche and Cupid",[2] Catherine wrote to the Prince of Ligne. Elizabeth was only fourteen, her husband a year older.

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