The story of Princess Sophie of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach is a tragic one. She was born as the only daughter of Prince William of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach and Princess Gerta of Ysenburg and Büdingen in Wächtersbach on 25 July 1888.
Her parents weren’t very wealthy, and the family lived in Heidelberg, where they mainly lived off funds from the Weimar court. Sophie was quite popular in the city, and she often visited notable people in town. She was said to be a great beauty. She played several instruments and was said to be a great shot.1
Sophie met the son of a powerful banker, Hans von Bleichroeder, and by 1913 rumours arose that Sophie wanted to marry him or that he was used as a go-between to someone else she wanted to marry. In any case, she would never be permitted to marry below her station, and a statement was released that any reports of an engagement were “groundless.”
On 18 September 1913, she retired to her room at night in “her usual spirits”. Shortly after midnight, a gunshot was heard, and she was found by a servant with a gunshot wound to the forehead. At first, they tried to cover up the suicide by announcing that she had died from paralysis of the heart. The true details soon emerged. Most assumed that the suicide was due to the opposition to her engagement. However, there was another event that may have contributed.2 A month before her suicide, Sophie had been in a car, probably as the driver, that mortally injured a young girl while speeding. The family was paid compensation to avoid a trial, but it soon came out that Sophie was the driver and that Hans von Bleichroeder had also been in the car.3
Five days later, the New York Times reported, “Baron Hans von Bleichroeder, like all acquaintances of the House of Saxe-Weimar, had a farewell view of the departed, but he was expressly forbidden to take part in the funeral or to attend the cremation. As for the stories set in circulation in regard to a marriage between Princess Sophia and Baron von Bleichroeder, there only needs to be repeated the oft-spoken statement of her father, that all the money in the world would never have sufficed to bridge over the gulf between a Princess of Saxe-Weimar and Baron von Bleichroeder.”4
The “Palais Weimar” where Sophie lived and died still stands in Heidelberg. It is now in use as a natural history museum. The only reminder of its past is a small plaque outside on the gate.
And while newspaper articles at the time wrote that Sophie would be cremated and her remains would be sent to the family crypt in Weimar, it appears that someone changed their mind. Instead, Sophie, and later also her parents, her elder brother Albert and Charles Augustus, Hereditary Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach were interred in a mausoleum in the Bergfriedhof in Heidelberg.