Elisabeth of Anhalt, Grand Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz
Princess Elisabeth Marie Friederike Amalie Agnes of Anhalt was born on September 7, 1857, at the Wörlitz Palace near Dessau, Duchy of Anhalt, now in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt, to Hereditary Prince Friedrich of Anhalt (later Duke Friedrich I) and Princess Antoinette of Saxe-Altenburg. She had five siblings:
- Leopold, Hereditary Prince of Anhalt (1855-1886) – married Elisabeth of Hesse-Kassel, had issue
- Friedrich II, Duke of Anhalt (1856-1918) – married Marie of Baden, no issue
- Eduard, Duke of Anhalt (1861-1918) – married Luise of Saxe-Altenburg, had issue
- Prince Aribert of Anhalt (1864-1933) – married Princess Marie Louise of Schleswig-Holstein, no issue, marriage dissolved
- Princess Alexandra of Anhalt (1868-1958) – married Sizzo, Prince of Schwarzburg, had issue
Elisabeth’s christening was held on October 1, 1857, at the Wörlitz Church. She had the following godparents:
- Leopold IV, Duke of Anhalt – her paternal grandfather
- Duchess Agnes of Saxe-Altenburg – her paternal aunt
- Prince Wilhelm of Anhalt – her paternal great-uncle
- Queen Elisabeth Luise of Prussia
- Queen Marie of Bavaria
Her childhood was spent at the Hereditary Princely Palace in Dessau and the Wörlitz Palace, where she was educated privately by the family’s tutor and her governess. In 1871, her father succeeded as reigning Duke of Anhalt, and the family moved to the Residence Palace in Dessau.
Several years later, in 1876, she first met her future husband, the Hereditary Grand Duke Adolf Friedrich of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. He was the son of Friedrich Wilhelm, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz and Princess Augusta of Cambridge. The two were second cousins once removed through their mutual descent from Carl II, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. They met again later that year when Adolf Friedrich was visiting some mutual relatives, and they became engaged on December 29, 1876. They married at the Dessau Palace in the Duchy of Anhalt, now in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt, on April 17, 1877, and had four children:
- Duchess Marie of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1878-1948) – married (1) Count Georges Jamatel, had issue; (2) Prince Julius Ernst of Lippe, had issue
- Duchess Jutta of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1880-1946) – married Danilo, Crown Prince of Montenegro, no issue
- Adolf Friedrich VI, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1882-1918) – unmarried, died by suicide
- Duke Karl Borwin of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1888-1908) – unmarried, killed in a duel
Quickly adapting to her role as Hereditary Grand Duchess, Elisabeth found a great ally in her mother-in-law, with whom she shared many interests. The two often hosted musical concerts and promoted numerous artists and musicians. She tried to use her public profile to bring attention to causes that were near to her heart, including nature and flowers, becoming an honorary member of the Association for the Protection of Birds. After becoming Grand Duchess in 1904 following her father-in-law’s death, she continued to support her causes while taking on a much more public role. Following the death of her youngest son in 1910, she established the Duke Carl Borwin Memorial Home in Neustrelitz, to provide a home for orphans and children in need.
Following her husband’s death in 1914, she remained the first lady of Mecklenburg-Strelitz during the reign of her unmarried son, and became very active with the Red Cross during World War I. Following the abolition of the monarchy in 1918, Elisabeth remained in Neustrelitz, taking up residence in the Park House which she had inherited earlier that year from her son. The Neustrelitz Palace had been taken over by the government, and she continued to fight for compensation for the loss of the family’s property. Remaining active right up until her death, Elisabeth remained in Neustrelitz, often hosting visits from her daughters and grandchildren, and staying in close contact with various relatives throughout Europe. Her last public appearance was on July 19, 1933, when she attended a ceremony at the Hohenziertz Palace commemorating the death of Queen Luise of Prussia, who had been born a Duchess of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.
The following day, on July 20, 1933, Grand Duchess Elisabeth died in Neustrelitz, in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany. Following her funeral, her remains were placed in the New Crypt at the Johanniterkirche in Mirow, in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany, alongside her husband and sons.