Countess Cosel – The imprisoned love of King Augustus II of Saxony

(public domain)

Anna Constantia von Brockdorff was born in 1680 to parents Joachim von Brockdorff and Anna Margarethe Marselis. Her father was a knight from a noble family, whereas her mother came from a family of wealthy merchants, and their union was frowned upon by many.

Anna was raised in modern-day Holstein in Germany and was afforded an excellent education for the time; she was passionate about music, learned a number of languages and was educated in mathematics and classics. Anna also enjoyed hunting, smoking and playing with guns; her family worried about her often-reckless behaviour as a young teen.

In 1694, fourteen-year-old Anna was sent by her parents to be a lady in waiting at Gottorf Castle in Schleswig, where she would receive court training working for Sophie Amalie, the daughter of Christian Albert, Duke of Holstein-Gottorp. Anna then moved over 300km away to Wolfenbüttel, following Sophie Amalie after her marriage to Augustus William, the future Duke of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel. Anna’s career at court was going well until she fell pregnant out of wedlock, and rumours circulated that the father of the child was Louis Rudolph, brother of Sophie Amalie’s husband. The child was born at court in 1702, and there are no records of whether it survived or what happened to it after that. Anna, however, was removed from her position after eight years and sent back to her parents.

Anna married in 1703 to a man she had been involved with for a while, Adolph Magnus von Hoym, who was a Saxon Privy Councillor and taxation director. The marriage meant another move, this time to Dresden. Unfortunately, the couple were divorced by 1706.

While Anna and Adolph were still married, Anna met somebody else, which led to the eventual breakdown of her marriage. In 1704, she met King Augustus II the Strong, who was the Elector of Saxony and King of Poland, who became smitten with her straight away. Anna’s husband tried to stop the liaison, not out of jealousy, but because he did not believe his wife was fit to be an official mistress.

Augustus the Strong (Public Domain)

Augustus the Strong’s court in Poland had become notorious for scandal, and his wife Christiane refused to ever set foot there, living instead in a self-imposed exile in Saxony where she was known as “Saxony’s pillar of prayer.” Her pious lifestyle certainly did not fit with her husband’s, who was known for his extravagance and keeping many mistresses. With the Queen missing from the court, this left room for power and control of the household that could be vied for by an ambitious mistress. Unfortunately for Anna, Augustus already had a long-term mistress – the Princess of Teschen.

Anna may have won Augustus over by playing hard to get – after going through the birth of her illegitimate child and with her marriage breaking down, Anna told Augustus she was not happy to be just a mistress. After this, a secret contract was drawn up with the King, who proclaimed Anna as his spouse – in the contract, Augustus said he would be forever faithful to Anna. In 1705, seemingly sticking to his word, Augustus removed the Princess of Teschen from court and Anna was created the official mistress but felt like a true queen due to the secret contract. It appears that she believed that once Queen Christiane died, Augustus would marry her. Soon after this, Anna’s divorce was completed, she was given the Imperial title of Countess Cosel and was gifted Taschenberg Palace.

Anna and Augustus were together for seven years, and she was always by his side in day-to-day life and at official festivities. The pair were deeply in love and had three children together: Augusta, born in 1708, Frederika, born in 1709 and Frederick, born in 1712. Frederick went on to inherit the estate from Anna’s parents in later life.

Over time Anna became paranoid about Augustus leaving her and became very possessive. She employed spies to watch what Augustus was doing at all times in order to maintain her position. On one occasion, Augustus had to send Anna back to Dresden when she tried to follow him into battle with the Swedes while heavily pregnant. The only time Anna and Augustus were apart from each other was during Augustus’ meetings with his advisors, and true to Anna’s suspicions, Augustus used these meetings as a time to have sex with other women.

When Madame Cosel found out that Augustus had an affair in Warsaw, she said, “You promised me upon oath an everlasting fidelity. I will not suffer your abuses except your life pays for them. I am resolved to break your head with a pistol.” Here we can see that Anna did not let Augustus walk all over her, even if he was a King. When she found out that the woman later gave birth to Augustus’ child, Anna went into a rage and screamed, “let her drown it”, she threatened that she would personally strangle the mother and baby if Augustus acknowledged the child as his own.

Courtiers and the King’s ministers were getting fed up with the way that Madame Cosel interfered in politics and how she treated everyone, spying, plotting and flying into a rage whenever something did not go her way. In 1713, a coalition of ministers began to form a plan to remove her from the court and held a meeting to find a new mistress to lure the king away from Anna. Eventually, Countess Denhoff was selected as she would not be so meddlesome in politics. After figuring out what was happening, Augustus said, “till they find me better than Madame Denhoff, I doubt whether I shall be unfaithful to Madame Cosel’. Of course, the ministers did not give up and placed the pair together as often as possible until Augustus fell in love with Madame Denhoff. Anna heard of this from her spies and turned up in Warsaw, where Madame Denhoff pretended to be terrified that Anna would kill her so that the King sent a message to Anna telling her not to come to court. Upon receiving the message, Anna took out a gun and tried to shoot the messenger before finally retreating.

Anna at Stolpen Castle (public domain)

After this, the relationship was finally over, the King allowed Anna to live in Pillnitz Palace, which he gave to her, and she was afforded all of the luxuries she was used to for the next three years. After this, however, trouble began to circulate around Anna. She was involved with political factions again, and then she fled Pillnitz and headed to Berlin. Her aim in Berlin was to retrieve the original contract that Augustus gave to her. Sadly, Madame Cosel did not manage to get the document, and she was arrested.

After her arrest, Augustus agreed with his ministers that Anna would always cause him trouble. Anna was taken by force to the remote Stolpen Castle, a fortress outside of Dresden, on 24 December 1716. Here Anna was kept under extremely close watch with a large number of guards. In 1733, Augustus died, yet Anna still remained locked away in Stolpen Castle; there are stories of her being offered her freedom and refusing it after seventeen years, but there is no proof of this.

The once-powerful companion of King Augustus II and mother of three, Madame Cosel, never left the walls of Stolpen Castle again. Anna remained a prisoner for forty-nine years, dying aged 84 on 31 March 1765. 1

  1. Sources:
    * Eleanor Herman: Sex With Kings
    * Count karl ludwig von pöllnitz: The Amorous Adventures of August of Saxony

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