Friedrich I, Duke of Anhalt

Duchy of Anhalt: Leopold IV Friedrich, the first Duke of Anhalt inherited three duchies: the Duchy of Anhalt-Dessau from his grandfather, the Duchy of Anhalt-Köthen from a distant cousin, and the Duchy of Anhalt-Bernburg from another distant cousin. The three duchies were united as the Duchy of Anhalt on August 30, 1863.
Joachim Ernst was the last Duke of Anhalt. He came to the throne in September 1918 when he was 17-years-old. As he was underage, his father’s brother Prince Aribert of Anhalt served as Regent. With the German Empire crumbling at the end of World War I, Aribert abdicated on Joachim Ernst’s behalf on November 12, 1918. Today the territory that encompassed the Duchy of Anhalt is in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt.

source: Wikipedia

Friedrich I, Duke of Anhalt

Friedrich I, Duke of Anhalt was born in Dessau, Duchy of Anhalt-Dessau, now in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt, on April 29, 1831. Named Leopold Friedrich Franz Nikolaus, he was born a Prince of Anhalt-Dessau to the future Leopold IV Friedrich, Duke of Anhalt and Princess Friederike of Prussia. Friedrich had three sisters:

  • Princess Auguste (1819-1822) – died in childhood
  • Princess Agnes (1824-1897) – married Ernst I, Duke of Saxe-Altenburg, had issue
  • Princess Maria Anna (1837-1906) – married Prince Friedrich Karl of Prussia, had issue

After his initial education at home, Friedrich studied in Bonn and Geneva. In 1851, he became a First Lieutenant in the 1st Foot Guard Regiment in the Prussian Army, serving in Potsdam and then in Dessau.

Princess Antoinette of Saxe-Altenburg. source: Wikipedia

On April 22, 1854, Friedrich married Princess Antoinette of Saxe-Altenburg, the daughter of Prince Eduard of Saxe-Altenburg and Princess Amalie of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen. The couple had six children:

  • Leopold, Hereditary Prince of Anhalt (1855-1886) – married Princess Elisabeth of Hesse-Kassel, had issue
  • Friedrich II, Duke of Anhalt (1856-1918) – married Princess Marie of Baden, no issue
  • Princess Elisabeth (1857-1933) – married Adolf Friedrich V, Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, had issue
  • Eduard, Duke of Anhalt (1861-1918) – married Princess Luise of Saxe-Altenburg, had issue
  • Prince Aribert of Anhalt (1866-1933) – married Princess Marie Louise of Schleswig-Holstein, no issue, marriage dissolved
  • Princess Alexandra (1868-1958) – married Sizzo, Prince of Schwarzburg, had issue

By the time of his marriage, Friedrich’s title was Prince of Anhalt-Dessau-Köthen, as the duchies of Anhalt-Dessau and Anhalt-Köthen had been merged together in 1853. Ten years later, after his father also inherited the Duchy of Anhalt-Bernburg, the duchies were united as the Duchy of Anhalt.

Throughout this time, Friedrich continued with his military career. In 1864, he served on the staff of his brother-in-law, Prince Friedrich Karl of Prussia, during the Second Schleswig War. He served during the Franco-Prussian War in 1870-1871, taking part in the Siege of Toul and battles at Beaumont and Sedan. And in January 1871, he was present at the Palace of Versailles for the proclamation of King Wilhelm I of Prussia as the German Emperor.

Four months later, Friedrich became the reigning Duke of Anhalt following his father’s death. Still influential within the Prussian military, he was promoted to General of Infantry in 1873 and then Chief of the No. 93 Infantry Regiment in 1876.

The Dessau Mausoleum. photo: by M_H.DE – Own Work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

The day after suffering a stroke, Friedrich I, Duke of Anhalt died in Ballenstedt, Duchy of Anhalt, now in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany, on January 24, 1904.  Friedrich was buried in the Ducal Mausoleum (link in German) in Dessau, Duchy of Anhalt, now in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt. In 1958, the remains of members of the House of Anhalt were removed from the Ducal Mausoleum secretly by night for political reasons (Dessau was then in Communist East Germany) and reburied in the Ziebigker Cemetery in Dessau in a common grave, marked only by a simple wooden cross. In 2019, Friedrich’s remains were moved a second time and reinterred in the Marienkirche (link in German) in Dessau, the traditional burial site of the Dukes of Anhalt-Dessau dating back to the 15th century. The Marienkirche was destroyed during World War II and has since been rebuilt.

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