Johanna Elisabeth of Baden-Durlach and the Grävenitz affair




(public domain)

Johanna Elisabeth of Baden-Durlach was born on 3 October 1680 as the daughter of Frederick VII Magnus, Margrave of Baden-Durlach and his wife Auguste Marie of Holstein-Gottorp. In 1697, she married Eberhard Ludwig, Duke of Württemberg. Her new husband had little interest in his new wife, he reportedly only married her to bring her attractive lady-in-waiting to court. Johanna is described by historians as having “bizarre moods, willful behaviour, a tendency to burst into tears.”1 The couple had one son together, born in 1698.

The head of the privy council, Baron Johann Friedrich von Staffhorst, promoted Christina Wilhelmina von Grävenitz as his mistress as a way to increase his influence. On 13 November 1707, he shocked the court by announcing that he bigamously married Christina Wilhelmina and that he no longer wished to live with his consort.2 The news of the bigamous relationship precipitated a constitutional and diplomatic crisis.3The Duke event hinted that he might go the Henry VIII route and convert, this time to Catholicism, to secure an annulment of his marriage to Johanna Elisabeth.4

Johanna Elisabeth’s father was in favour of an amicable reconciliation, but this prevented any public criticism of Eberhard. He instead blamed “evil advisers: for the breakdown of the marriage, while Eberhard himself had no problem with blaming Johanna Elisabeth’s “difficult character.” He alleged that she too had had affairs and once threatened him with a loaded pistol.5 Johanna Elisabeth refused her husband’s offer to keep her household and the title of Duchess and insisted on her rightful place. The extent of sympathy for Johanna Elisabeth went all the way to the Viennese court. Eventually, Joseph I, Holy Roman Emperor banished Christina Wilhelmina, and she went to Switzerland at the end of 1708.

Unfortunately, this was not the end of the story. Christina Wilhelmina entered into a sham marriage to Count Johann Franz Ferdinand von Würben on 30 November 1710. He was given a high position in the ducal court, and after Johanna Elisabeth was forced to acknowledge her “guilt” in a plea to her husband and end her “persecution” of Christina Wilhelmina, she returned to Württemberg in triumph in 1711. 6 Johanna Elisabeth refused to acknowledge her rival in public, she denied her an audience and boycotted all court functions where she would be present. This situation forced the court to choose sides.7 Eventually, Eberhard dismissed several courtiers who opposed him and banished their wives as well. Eberhard frequently used money to force Johanna Elisabeth’s hand, and she had to turn to the estates for a secret subsidy.8

Johanna Elisabeth’s situation was effectively that of a dowager duchess. She was forced into retired life in the old castle in Stuttgart while Christina Wilhelmina occupied her apartments in Ludwigsburg. Christina Wilhelmina’s brother arranged for a marriage between Eberhard and Johanna Elisabeth’s son, Frederick Louis, and Henrietta Maria of Brandenburg-Schwedt. The newlyweds were never the centre of the court. 9

Christina Wilhelmina’s fall from grace was fast and brutal. In 1731, she was arrested on suspicious of witchcraft and imprisoned in Urach castle, but she had the dirt on her lover, and so he was forced to release her in return for her silence. Johanna Elisabeth was finally able to return to her role as consort. When this was followed by a miraculous pregnancy – the Duchess was 52 at the time – all seemed well. However, her son and his wife suspected that there was a plan in place to cut them from the succession. The situation ended in September when the Duchess made “good recovery from her affliction.” There was no child after all.10 Frederick Louis died in 1731, he had been in ill-health for most of his life.

Eberhard died in October 1733 and was now without a direct heir. His son had left behind a single daughter. He was succeeded by a cousin, Charles Alexander. Johanna Elizabeth survived her husband by more than twenty years. During her time as a widow, she lived at Kirchheim Castle. She died on 2 July 1757 in Stetten and was buried in the Ludwigsburg Castle Church.

  1. Queenship in Europe, 1660-1815 – The Role of the Consort edited by Clarissa Campbell Orr p.229
  2. Queenship in Europe, 1660-1815 – The Role of the Consort edited by Clarissa Campbell Orr p.230-231
  3. Queenship in Europe, 1660-1815 – The Role of the Consort edited by Clarissa Campbell Orr p.231
  4. Queenship in Europe, 1660-1815 – The Role of the Consort edited by Clarissa Campbell Orr p.232
  5. Queenship in Europe, 1660-1815 – The Role of the Consort edited by Clarissa Campbell Orr p.230-231
  6. Queenship in Europe, 1660-1815 – The Role of the Consort edited by Clarissa Campbell Orr p.234
  7. Queenship in Europe, 1660-1815 – The Role of the Consort edited by Clarissa Campbell Orr p.234
  8. Queenship in Europe, 1660-1815 – The Role of the Consort edited by Clarissa Campbell Orr p.235
  9. Queenship in Europe, 1660-1815 – The Role of the Consort edited by Clarissa Campbell Orr p.237
  10. Queenship in Europe, 1660-1815 – The Role of the Consort edited by Clarissa Campbell Orr p.239






About Moniek 1606 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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