Under the protection of Catherine the Great – Augusta of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel

augusta brunswick
(public domain)

Augusta of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel was born 3 December 1764 to Charles William Ferdinand, Duke of Brunswick and Princess Augusta of Great Britain. Her younger sister Caroline married George IV of the United Kingdom. To her family, Augusta was known as Zelmira.

On 15 October 1780, she married Prince Frederick of Württemberg. He was heir presumptive to his brother Charles Eugene, Duke of Württemburg. They would go on to have four children, three of which would survive infancy. Her husband’s sister Sophie was married to the future Tsar Paul I of Russia and was known as Maria Feodorovna. He followed her to Russia, and he was appointed to be governor of Eastern Finland by Empress Catherine II of Russia.

The marriage between Frederick and Augusta was unhappy. He was violent towards her and was rumoured to be bisexual. While on a visit to St. Petersburg in December 1786 Augusta ran to the apartments of Catherine and asked for her protection. She was offered asylum, and Frederick was ordered to leave Russia. Catherine reportedly told his sister Sophie when she protested: ‘”It is not I who cover the Prince of Württemberg with opprobrium: on the contrary, it is I who try to bury abominations and it is my duty to suppress any further ones.”


Lohde or Koluvere Castle by Athanasius Soter

Augusta tried to get a divorce, but her father refused to help. Catherine sent Augusta to live on an imperial estate, Lohde Castle. She was put in the custody of a Wilhelm von Pohlmann. We do not know whether the following relationship was consensual or that she was forced by him. Either way, she became pregnant.

Augusta went into labour on 27 September 1788. The labour was premature, and she gave birth to a stillborn child. She began haemorrhaging, and Pohlmann refused to find a doctor, probably afraid that the relationship, if you can call it that, was found out. Augusta eventually died from the blood loss. She was buried in an unmarked grave. Pohlmann announced her death to her parents and Catherine as caused by the bursting of a blood vessel.

It wasn’t until years later when her eldest son investigated her death that the true circumstances were discovered and her body was exhumed. She is buried in the Church of Kullamaa in Estonia. 1


Kullamaa Church by Avjoska

Such a tragedy that her death could have perhaps been prevented if Pohlmann hadn’t been too scared to call for help. I wonder if her stillborn child is buried with her and whether it was a boy or a girl.

  1.  Thomsen, Sabine. Die württembergischen Königinnen. Charlotte Mathilde, Katharina, Pauline, Olga, Charlotte – ihr Leben und Wirken(The Queens of Wuerttemberg: Charlotte Matilde, Katharina, Pauline, Olga, Charlotte – Their Lives and Legacies). Silberburg-Verlag, 2006

About Moniek Bloks 2732 Articles
My name is Moniek and I am from the Netherlands. I began this website in 2013 because I wanted to share these women's amazing stories.

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