Caroline Augusta was still much grieved over her failed first marriage and had spent a lot of time in tears. The surprise was thus very great when she was finally informed. Her stepmother wrote to her, “You are in a fine embarrassment, my poor Charlotte, I can understand your situation. If you have no real affection for the Grand Duke, I mean, you might be very happy with the other too, and it seems to me your father would be if you made that choice. For the rest, he also leaves the decision to you. Your happiness takes priority over everything else. . . May God guide you and, in one case or another, make you as happy as I wish.”1
Caroline Augusta chose the Emperor, and the Grand Duke voluntarily withdrew his proposal. The proxy wedding took place on 29 October 1816 in Munich. After the ceremony, her brother Ludwig embraced and told her, “My wish for you is that every year may bring you greater happiness in your married life, as it does to your brother.”2 Caroline Augusta had gone to the altar believing she would remain unhappy but her second marriage turned out to be far happier than she had dared to hope. On 10 November 1816, the two were married in person. Although the marriage would remain childless, Caroline Auguste became the stepmother of his children. Caroline Auguste and her eldest stepdaughter Marie Louise were only one year apart in age.
Five of his children still lived at court, and although they were not quite so young, they still required guidance. Caroline Augusta was very fond of the children and was quickly accepted by them. Leopoldine, later Empress of Brazil, wrote to her elder sister Marie Louise, “I like my new mom more and more. I am very touched by her kindness and love, and if I can ever contribute to making her happy, I will certainly do with all my heart.”3 Francis later described Caroline Augusta as his “domestic pearl.”4 She called him “the little man of her heart” or her “best sweetheart.”5
Also at court was Marie Louise’s son with Emperor Napoleon, the Duke of Reichstadt, then known by the German name Franz. Caroline Augusta was besotted with “Little Napoleon” and pampered him. Her own childlessness was a particular source of disappointment for her, and she told Baroness Louise Sturmfeder, “I could never have imagined greater happiness as having children. I wished it very much, but dear God did not grant me this wish.”6
Caroline Augusta had no political influence at the court, despite her brother Ludwig repeatedly asking for her intervention. She wrote to him, “I am very close to the centre, but not in the centre, and I have no influence whatsoever on the decisions taken or to be taken there.”7 She was perhaps best known for her charitable works, and she founded Catholic private schools, supported poor houses, orphanages, educational institutions and hospitals. If she could not become a mother, she would become the mother of the nation.
In 1824, Caroline Augusta’s half-sister Sophie married her stepson Franz Karl. Her husband’s eldest son was Archduke Ferdinand, but he suffered from epilepsy and hydrocephalus, and he had a speech impediment. Thus, it was up to Franz Karl and Sophie to provide the next generation of Habsburgs. Caroline Augusta had promoted the match and wrote to her brother Ludwig, “I’m beside myself with joy. It’s like I have two lives now.”8 The two sisters, whose age difference had once meant that they barely knew each other, now had a new chance at getting to know each other, and Caroline Augusta helped Sophie settle in.
Sophie provided the Habsburgs with four sons, including the future Emperor Franz Joseph I and the future Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico, and a short-lived daughter. After the birth of Franz Joseph, Caroline Augusta wrote, “Good God, those were 43 terrible hours spent in agony, and we are all broken.”9 Francis was delighted by these grandchildren in his final years, and Caroline Auguste adored them as well. Sophie was now “her dear sister and daughter-in-law.”10
On 2 March 1835, Caroline Augusta’s happy marriage came to an end with the sudden death of her husband. At the end of February, he had suddenly become very ill with pneumonia. He began to set his affairs in order and even left a blank clause in his will where the name of Klemens von Metternich, Chancellor of the Austrian Empire, could be filled in so that the inept Ferdinand would have to take his advice. He also asked his son to take care of Caroline Augusta. Caroline Augusta continued to hope for a miracle, even after the Extreme Unction was given. It was no use – Francis died at the age of 67. For a long time, she prayed by the side of the bed.
After her husband’s death, Caroline Augusta set up court in Salzburg, where she continued her charitable work. Her husband was succeeded by his eldest son Ferdinand, but when he abdicated in 1848 in favour of his nephew Franz Joseph, Caroline Augusta only found out afterwards. She wrote to “Dear Franz” that she would pray for him.11 She also remained in contact with Ferdinand and his wife. However, as the years passed, Caroline Augusta became lonely, and she began to outlive her family.
In January 1873, she fell ill with a pulmonary catarrh with a severe fever, and as she had no appetite, she quickly deteriorated. On 9 February, the day after her 81st birthday, she died in Vienna. She was buried in the Imperial Crypt close to her husband and his three previous wives.
- Frauen auf Habsburgs Thron by Friedrich Weissensteiner p.78
- Ludwig I of Bavaria by Egon Caesar Corti p.153
- Frauen auf Habsburgs Thron by Friedrich Weissensteiner p.82
- Carolina Auguste, die Kaiserin-Mutter by Dr Cölestin Wolfsgruber p.109
- Frauen auf Habsburgs Thron by Friedrich Weissensteiner p.81
- Frauen auf Habsburgs Thron by Friedrich Weissensteiner p.83
- Frauen auf Habsburgs Thron by Friedrich Weissensteiner p.84
- Frauen auf Habsburgs Thron by Friedrich Weissensteiner p.89
- Frauen auf Habsburgs Thron by Friedrich Weissensteiner p.90
- Carolina Auguste, die Kaiserin-Mutter by Dr. Cölestin Wolfsgruber p.222
- Frauen auf Habsburgs Thron by Friedrich Weissensteiner p.96