Dorothea of Courland – The evening of life (Part five)

duchess dino courland
(public domain)

Read part four here.

In France, she was welcomed by her son Louis, and she was also joined by her daughter Pauline with her husband Henri and newborn daughter Marie. Dorothea was delighted by her granddaughter, whom she described as “fair, fat, and fresh, always in a good temper, laughing and restless, a little angel…”1 She also wrote, “At one time I was able to do without children quite easily, but now I am entirely changed and feel that something is really wanting when one or more of these little people is not about me.”2 As she wanted, she spent the next few years dividing her time between Germany and France, though she eventually found herself drifting away from France.

Dorothea returned to Sagan in the 1840s and succeeded her sister as Duchess of Sagan (in Poland) after being invested with the powers and rights as the ruler of Sagan by the King of Prussia. The property had been sadly neglected, and Dorothea was received with much enthusiasm. From now on she would let the Talleyrand name go and styled herself as Duchess of Sagan. Her husband – still alive – had been long forgotten. Though she was now 50 years old, she was still beautiful, and in the spring of 1843, she met the much younger Prince Felix Lichnowsky. Until his death in 1848, they would constantly be together, and he paid her long visits in Sagan.

As revolution once more swept over Europe in 1848, the Duchess of Sagan was left untouched in her castle. She was a popular ruler, and her presence appeared to calm rather than inflame. In France, King Louis Philippe I was dethroned, and in Austria, the Emperor abdicated in favour of his young nephew. Her lover Prince Felix was caught up in the troubles, and he was attacked in the streets of Frankfurt. His companion was murdered on the spot, but Felix spent several agonising hours in pain before dying too. She never spoke again of Prince Felix in her surviving letters, though she did visit his tomb in Gratz. He left her everything he owned, and the revolution slowly faded out.

In 1855, Dorothea’s favourite grandchild Marie was 15 years old – quite old enough to be thinking of marriage. Her mother, Pauline – having been widowed in 1847 – spent her life in seclusion and prayer, and so it was up to Dorothea to find a suitable match. In fact, she already had one man in mind – Prince Antoine Radziwill. Their first meeting was rather lukewarm, but both seemed pleased, and a match appeared to be made. They were married in 1857, much to Dorothea’s delight.

Though Dorothea was not ready to retire from the world of courtly intrigue, her health began to catch up with her. She had recurrent trouble with her liver which caused her significant pain. In June 1861, her coach crashed during a violent storm, leaving Dorothea badly bruised and exposed to the elements for two hours. When she finally returned home to Sagan, she was running a fever and bleeding from the hail. Her life was feared for, but she pulled through, though she never fully recovered her old strength. In May 1862, she wrote, “For me, it is nothing but a mockery, for all that the sun shines on is my suffering which seems cruelly to wax at every instant. I have hardly a moment of real rest. For two days now I have gone out, but yesterday, after a drive round the park, I returned only to be seized by an agonising pain which now has just gripped me again…”3

The doctors recommended a water cure, but the journey caused her a lot of pain, and the treatment made her no better. She returned to Sagan in August, where doctors insisted that her life was not in danger. Dorothea knew that they were wrong. As her suffering continued, her family began to gather around her. Her eldest son and heir Louis was there, with his son Boson, along with Pauline’s daughter Marie. Pauline herself was practically an invalid and was unable to travel. Her second son Alexandre remained in Nice. Several other grandchildren were there as well. Dorothea wrote, “Now the evening of my life is wearing on, and not even the first stone of my château has been laid. I can have no hope but for a reunion in eternity.”4

On 19 September 1862, she was released from the agonising pains. She was buried in the Kreuzkirche in Sagan with her sister Pauline.

  1. Duchess of Dino by Philip Ziegler p.302
  2. Duchess of Dino by Philip Ziegler p.303
  3. Duchess of Dino by Philip Ziegler p.347
  4. Duchess of Dino by Philip Ziegler p.348

About Moniek Bloks 2743 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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