In 1892, Bernhard and Charlotte moved to Meiningen until three years later when Bernhard was posted to Breslau. Charlotte enjoyed life at Breslau, and it was perhaps best to be away from her brother’s court for a while as her relationship with her sister-in-law was not at all good. The Empress soon learned that Charlotte intended to learn how to ride a bicycle, which she thought was “indecent.” Charlotte ignored her meddling sister-in-law. Charlotte soon found another court to entertain at – the Romanian court. She even helped to arrange the marriage between Marie of Edinburgh and Crown Prince Ferdinand. However, she managed to incur the wrath of the King of Romania when she tried to make sure her brother would never pay a state visit to Romania and so she was no longer welcomed in Bucharest either.
In October 1897, Feodora became engaged to Prince Henry XXX Reuss who was also 15 years older than her. Empress Frederick wrote, “It is of course not an advantageous marriage in terms of rank or position, but if Feo is happy, which she really seems to be, and the parents are satisfied, one ought to be glad.” Like Charlotte, Feodora was probably happy to escape her old life. They finally married on 24 September 1898 at Breslau. Feodora wore a white satin gown trimmed with myrtle and orange blossom and Venice lace. She also wore her mother’s wedding veil and diamond pins that belonged to Empress Frederick. The Emperor was notably absent from the wedding – he was still angry after Charlotte had been involved in yet another scandal. Shortly after their daughter’s wedding, Charlotte and Bernhard bought a villa in Cannes and Charlotte was soon spending most of the winters in France.
Charlotte continued to suffer from ill-health for most of her life, and although her mother attributed it to her excessive smoking, it is more likely that both Charlotte and Feodora suffered to some extent of porphyria – a metabolic disorder. From Charlotte’s late 30s the symptoms began to increase in severity. The relationship between Charlotte and Feodora also hit an all-time low in December 1900. Charlotte angrily wrote, “I could hardly believe that this curious, loud personage had been my child! I cannot love her! & My heart seemed & felt like stone.” She was convinced that Feodora’s husband Henry had poisoned her mind. Charlotte’s own mother was dying of spinal cancer, and she was by her bedside on 5 August 1901 when Empress Frederick passed away.
In February 1903, Charlotte and Bernhard celebrated their silver wedding anniversary at Kiel. Feodora was invited but no mentioned was made of her husband being present. In the summer of 1903, Charlotte wrote to her doctor that her nerves were “in shreds, although my appearance does not show it. But a terrible headache on one side & dizziness on the left side so depress me & completely irregular feelings of malaise, with a rash and itching,” She also had neuralgia over the left eye and had been vomiting pretty severely for several weeks. Her urine was also dark red. Doctors did not understand porphyria at the time and believed her symptoms were hysterical in origin. In September 1911, Charlotte wrote to Feodora after almost ten years. Feodora had undergone an operation in an attempt to deal with her infertility issues, but the operation had nearly cost her her life. Charlotte, never the maternal type, wrote, “You were ever a strong & healthy girl & all your internal organs were in perfect condition & order, so what has suddenly made yr (sic) inside go so wrong, I fail to comprehend or take in.”
In June 1911, Charlotte was one of the guests at the coronation of King George V and Queen Mary, and she spent several weeks in the country after the coronation. On 25 June 1914, Charlotte and Bernhard at last succeeded as Duke and Duchess of Saxe-Meiningen upon the death of Bernhard’s father at the age of 88. However, their accession came just days before the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophie. Bernhard was sent to the front while Charlotte remained behind. Charlotte became very ill during this time, and she suffered from kidney pains, boils and oedema. The only thing that remotely helped was morphine. When her brother-in-law Prince Adolf of Schaumburg-Lippe, the husband of her sister Viktoria, died in 1916, Charlotte was by her sister’s side, even though they had never been particularly close. By the end of 1917, Charlotte was practically unable to walk. When the war came to an end in 1918, Charlotte was basically confined to her bed.
Her brother Emperor William II had requested asylum in the Netherlands and abdicated on 9 November 1918, following by Charlotte’s husband the following day. To add to Charlotte’s health issues, she also began to have heart problems. In late 1919, she travelled to Baden-Baden to a clinic for treatment, but they could do nothing for her. On 1 October 1919, she suffered a heart attack and died. Her sister Margaret wrote, “My sister’s death was quite an unexpected loss. I had no idea how ill she was & she evidently thank God did not know it herself, for she was still full of plans & never alluded to anything in her letters. She must have suffered agonies & one can be but grateful that she was spared more pain & the end came so quickly & peacefully.”
Her husband survived her for six years, and he was laid to rest next to Charlotte at the mausoleum at Schloss Altenstein.1