Duchess Auguste of Württemberg was born on 30 October 1734 as the daughter of Karl Alexander, Duke of Württemberg and his wife Princess Maria Augusta of Thurn and Taxis. She was their sixth child, and she barely knew her father because he died following a stroke when she was just four years old. Auguste remained in the care of her mother while her nine-year-old brother Karl Eugen succeeded as Duke of Württemberg. By 1750, Auguste’s mother and brother were in dispute over her future. The then 16-year-old Auguste was transferred to a convent where she would remain for two years. When Maria Augusta began to hint that Karl Eugen was not legitimate, he promptly had his mother imprisoned, and she died in 1756. Auguste had not seen her mother since 1754.
In 1752, Auguste was engaged to Louis Joseph, Prince of Condé but this match fell through. To save on the cost of her maintenance, her brother found her another suitable husband – Prince Karl Anselm, Hereditary Prince of Thurn and Taxis, their cousin. They were married on 3 September 1753, and it was not a particularly great match for Auguste. They moved into a wing of the Saint Emmeram’s Abbey in Regensburg, also known as Thurn and Taxis Palace. The family had been in Regensburg since 1748. Auguste brought with her a brilliant trousseau with furs and jewels. The first years of their marriage turned out to be happy. She would give birth to eight children, of whom six survived to adulthood. She also suffered a miscarriage in 1768, and her recovery took quite a long time. It wasn’t until 1770 that she gave birth to a son who survived to adulthood – they had been married for 16 years. Auguste felt that she had done her duty and her health had suffered from the many pregnancies. By then, her husband had taken mistresses, and Auguste complained of ill-treatment. Her brother even wrote to her father-in-law demanding more respect for his sister.
On 17 March 1773, Auguste’s father-in-law died, and her husband succeeded as the 4th Prince of Thurn and Taxis, but their newfound status did nothing to improve their relationship. Auguste wanted financial independence and eventually left her husband. She remained on the road until she ran out of funds and was hounded by creditors. She lived in Paris, reportedly with a lover. In the autumn of 1775, Auguste travelled home for the wedding of her daughter Sophie Friederike to Prince Hieronim Wincenty Radziwiłł, but her husband believed that Auguste was planning to murder him. Auguste was removed from Regensburg, and she believed she was being taken to Stuttgart and to her brother. She ended up at the Palace at Hornberg where she was imprisoned for the rest of her life. A certain Bernhard Crespel later wrote, “Our Princess Taxis is a big fool.”
In the early morning of 4 June 1787, servants found Auguste unconscious in bed. She died shortly after – at the age of 52. Later that same year, her husband married Elisabeth Hildebrand morganatically.1