Duchess Sophie Charlotte in Bavaria

Duchess Sophie Charlotte Augustine in Bavaria (23 February 1847 – 4 May 1897) was a granddaughter-in-law of King Louis Philippe of France, the favourite sister of Empress Elisabeth of Austria and fiancée of King Ludwig II of Bavaria.

Sophie Charlotte
Duchess of Alençon
Sophie Charlotte, Herzogin von Bayern.jpg
Duchess Sophie Charlotte, 1867
Born(1847-02-23)23 February 1847
Possenhofen Castle, Possenhofen, Bavaria
Died4 May 1897(1897-05-04) (aged 50)
17 Jean-Goujon Street, Paris, France
IssueLouise, Princess Alfons of Bavaria
Prince Emmanuel, Duke of Vendôme
FatherDuke Maximilian Joseph in Bavaria
MotherPrincess Ludovika of Bavaria


Sophie Charlotte was born at the Possenhofen Castle, the residence of her paternal family, the Dukes in Bavaria. She was a daughter of Duke Maximilian Joseph in Bavaria and Princess Ludovika of Bavaria. The ninth of ten children born to her parents, she was known as Sopherl within the family.


Upon the 1861 marriage of her elder sister Duchess Mathilde Ludovika to the Neapolitan prince Louis of the Two Sicilies, her parents looked for a suitable husband for Sophie Charlotte. Sophie then was engaged to her cousin King Ludwig II of Bavaria, and their engagement was publicised on 22 January 1867, but after having repeatedly postponed the wedding date, Ludwig finally cancelled it in October as it seemed Sophie had fallen in love with the court photographer Edgar Hanfstaengl.

Duchess Sophie Charlotte in 1867, photograph by Joseph Albert

Other proposed husbands included the renowned homosexual Archduke Ludwig Viktor of Austria, brother of both Franz Joseph I of Austria and Maximilian I of Mexico, as well as the future Luís I of Portugal. Another candidate was Duke Philipp of Württemberg,[Note 1] the first cousin of her eventual husband.

She refused all the candidates, and was sent to stay with her aunt Amalie Auguste, then the Queen of Saxony as wife of King John. It was in Saxony Sophie Charlotte met Prince Ferdinand of Orléans, Duke of Alençon, the son of Prince Louis, Duke of Nemours and grandson of the late King Louis Philippe. Soon after, on 28 September 1868, she married him at Possenhofen Castle, near Starnberg.

Duchess of AlençonEdit

She had a good relationship with her husband as well as with her sister-in-law Princess Marguerite Adélaïde of Orléans, wife of Prince Władysław Czartoryski. Her mother-in-law, Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, cousin of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, had died in 1857. Sophie Charlotte did not have an overly good relationship with her father-in-law, the widowed Duke of Nemours.

The year after their marriage, the ducal couple moved into Bushy House in the Teddington area of Southwest London, where Sophie Charlotte gave birth to her first child, Princess Louise of Orléans.

Duchess Sophie Charlotte in 1886

Later years and deathEdit

Sophie Charlotte wrote her last will and testament on 4 October 1896, seven months before her death: she died in a fire at the Bazar de la Charité in Paris on 4 May 1897, where she had been helping to raise funds for charity. She refused to be rescued, insisting that the girls, visitors and nuns working alongside her at the bazaar be saved first. A Dominican nun who had managed to escape from the fire explained that she saw the Duchess get down on her knees and start praying.[1]

Identifying Sophie Charlotte's remains was not easy; her personal maid was unable to recognise the body, as it had been severely disfigured by the fire. The Duchess's dentist, M. Lavanport, was called in. After two hours examining various bodies, he identified Sophie Charlotte on the basis of her gold fillings.[2][3] Thus she became one of the first people whose remains were identified by forensic dentistry.[4]



References and notesEdit

  1. ^ Robien, Mathilde de (22 November 2018). "La mort héroïque de la duchesse d'Alençon, sœur de Sissi". Aleteia : un regard chrétien sur l’actualité, la spiritualité et le lifestyle (in French). Retrieved 5 January 2020.
  2. ^ L'Avenir, May 7, 1897.
  3. ^ "Things You Probably Didn't Know About Empress Elisabeth (Sisi)". www.palaces-of-europe.com. Retrieved 5 August 2022.
  4. ^ GORLIN, Stephanie (25 November 2019). "Le Bazar de la Charité (TF1) : les détails que vous ne verrez pas à l'écran". www.programme-tv.net (in French). Retrieved 5 January 2020.
  1. ^ Son of Princess Marie of Orléans, daughter of Louis Philippe I.
  2. ^ Sister of Albert I of Belgium and daughter of Prince Philippe, Count of Flanders who in turn was a grandson of Louis-Philippe of France.