In 1879, Louise’s 17-year-old daughter Victoria was introduced to Gustav, the future King of Sweden, and their betrothal was announced later that year. On 20 September 1881, which was also Louise and Frederick’s 25th wedding anniversary, their daughter married Crown Prince Gustav. Although Victoria was well-received in Sweden as a descendant of the former Swedish Vasa monarchy, it was not to be a happy marriage. Thoughts soon turned to the marriage of her eldest son, but a possible match with Elisabeth of Hesse and by Rhine fell through, and she went on to marry Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich of Russia. On 20 September 1885, he married Princess Hilda of Nassau, the daughter of the future Grand Duke of Luxembourg.
In 1887, Louise travelled to Berlin to help organise the festivities for her father’s 90th birthday, and she stayed around after his birthday as her brother was beginning to become quite ill himself. She began to act as a sort of press secretary – sometimes without consulting her father or brother – to the anger of her sister-in-law Victoria who angrily wrote to her mother, “Dear Louise of Baden questions & talks me to death till I nearly turn rude!”1 The year 1888 would not only become the year of the three Emperors, but it would also see Louise suffer the loss of her youngest son Louis at the age of 23. The official cause of death was an inflammation of the lungs, though it was rumoured that he had been killed in a duel.
Already in mourning for her son, she sat by her dying father’s bedside and on the evening of 8 March she told him, “You have told us so much that was interesting, perhaps you would like to rest a little now.”2 He died the following day, just two weeks after his young grandson. Louise’s brother now became Emperor Frederick III, but he too was dying – of cancer of the larynx. He could not speak anymore, and his reign would last just 99 days. He died on 15 June 1888. Louise attended the funeral with her mother, who was by now confined to a wheelchair. Her nephew had now become Emperor Wilhelm II. Louise and her ageing mother became closer in her final years, and Louise was by her bedside when her mother died on 7 January 1890. Her sister-in-law wrote to Queen Victoria that Louise was “sorely stricken & feels her mother’s death very much.”3
Louise and her husband remained healthy in their old age for quite a while, and her husband celebrated his Golden Jubilee in 1906 with a grand celebration. King Edward VII sent his brother the Duke of Connaught to invest him with the Order of the Garter. The following year, just days before his 81st birthday, Frederick became ill. Louise and her daughter Victoria travelled to Mainau to nurse him back to health but to no avail. He died on 28 September 1907. His funeral took place on 6 October in Karlsruhe. Their son was now Frederick II, Grand Duke of Baden but his marriage to Princess Hilda had remained childless. His heir was his first cousin, Prince Maximilian of Baden.
Just two months later, Louise saw her daughter become Queen consort of Sweden with the death of King Oscar II of Sweden and her son-in-law’s accession as King of Sweden. Victoria had given her husband three sons, but she spent most of the year away from the Swedish court.
Louise would live to see the world plunge itself into the Great War, but although she was too old to take up nursing duties, she sent financial support. She and her daughter were once almost the victims of a bombing raid, but although the castle was damaged, they were not harmed. At the end of the war, Louise bitterly witnessed the fall of several German monarchies and the return of the German soldiers. Her nephew Emperor Wilhelm II abdicated in November 1918 and went into exile in the Netherlands. Louise’s son abdicated on 22 November 1918, but Louise was allowed to spent her last years in Baden and Mainau.
During her final years, Louise saw the wedding of Hermine Reuss of Greiz to her nephew, the former Emperor Wilhelm II. Louise had taken Hermine under her wing when she had been orphaned at the age of 14 and had always treated her like one of her own children. Even though most of Wilhelm’s family resented the match, Louise showed her support and the two were married in November 1922. Louise became ill in the spring of 1923. She died on 24 April 1923 – having seen the world change shape in the most astonishing ways. She was buried with her husband at Karlsruhe.
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