Therese of Mecklenburg-Strelitz was born on 5 April 1773 as the daughter of Charles II, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg and Princess Friederike of Hesse-Darmstadt. Her aunt was Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, who became Queen of Great Britain while Therese’s sister Louise became Queen of Prussia. Therese lost her mother when she was just nine years old, Friederike died just days after giving birth to her tenth child – a daughter who lived for just one day. Therese was particularly close to her surviving siblings – Charlotte, Louise, Frederica and George. Her father remarried in 1784 to Princess Charlotte of Hesse-Darmstadt, a sister of Friederike but she too died in childbirth the following year, after delivering a son named Charles. Their grieving father sent Therese, Louise and Frederica to their grandmother in Darmstadt – Charlotte had married Frederick, Duke of Saxe-Hildburghausen in 1785. The sisters were loved by their grandmother and were taught French, history, geography and music. Therese was said to be the most intelligent of the sisters. She was unusually well-read and played the harp and the piano.
With the approval of Therese’s aunt Queen Charlotte, Therese married Karl Alexander, Hereditary Prince of Thurn and Taxis, the future 5th Prince of Thurn and Taxis, on 25 May 1789 in Neustrelitz. At the end of October 1789, the newlyweds moved into their apartments in Regensburg. The couple went on to have six children together – Charlotte (born 1790 but lived for just 7 months), George Karl (born 1792 but lived for just three years), Maria Theresia (born 1794), Maria Sophia (born 1800), Maximilian Karl (born 1802) and Friedrich Wilhelm (born 1805). Their marriage had quickly turned sour, and both began to have affairs, though they did not divorce. At the end of 1805, her father-in-law died, and her husband succeeded as the 5th Prince of Thurn and Taxis, and she became his Princess consort. Therese was known to be politically active, and Karl Alexander was known to have said, “I rely entirely on the skills of my negotiator Therese.” The Principality of Thurn and Taxis lost its independence and was mediatised in 1806 and in return, they received the Imperial Abbey of St. Emmeram and territories in Regensburg. They received back some of the confiscated properties in Belgium from Napoleon who wrote to her, “I ask you to regard this as a bouquet of flowers, which I am pleased to present to you.”
Therese entered into a relationship with Maximilian, Graf von und zu Lerchenfeld auf Köfering und Schönberg. They had several illegitimate children before Maximilian tragically drowned in 1809 trying to save a soldier in the Napoleonic Wars. Their son Georg Adolf von Stockau was born on 6 May 1806, followed by twins Emanuel Maximilian and Elisabeth Therese in 1807 and Amalie in 1808.
In September 1825, the couple lost their youngest son Friedrich Wilhelm when he fell from his horse during a chicken and rabbit hunt. He suffered serious injuries and died on 8 September at the age of 20. By 1825, Karl Alexander’s health had begun to deteriorate, and he suffered a stroke in 1827. He collapsed in Therese’s arms after hunting. He received the last rites, and he died holding a crucifix in the early morning of 15 July 1827. Therese sincerely mourned her husband, and it appears her illegitimate children by Maximilian were long forgiven (or forgotten). With her son Maximilian Karl now the 6th Prince of Thurn and Taxis, Therese gradually lost her political power. She spent a while travelling before returning to Regensburg. She devoted herself to her art collection and her books. Her private library eventually included over 1800 titles.
Therese died on 12 February 1839 after feeling weak and ill for a short while. She was buried beside her husband.1