Today is the birthday of Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen, who was born July 8, 1792. She’s perhaps most famous now for her wedding reception, which turned into Germany’s largest, and most famous, folk festival, Oktoberfest. Here’s how Munich’s official website tells the story:
Crown Prince Ludwig, later to become King Ludwig I, was married to Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen on 12th October 1810. The citizens of Munich were invited to attend the festivities held on the fields in front of the city gates to celebrate the happy royal event. The fields have been named Theresienwiese (“Theresa’s fields”) in honor of the Crown Princess ever since, although the locals have since abbreviated the name simply to the “Wies’n”.
That’s all about the wedding, and Ludwig, so here’s one account of her history:
Therese Charlotte Luise von Sachsen-Hildburghausen was on the short list in 1809 to become the bride of Napoleon Bonaparte, but instead she was matched with Crown Prince Ludwig I. The festivities celebrating their marriage in Munich on October 12, 1810 was the first Oktoberfest.
She was the sixth daughter of Frederick, Duke of Saxe-Hildburghausen, and his wife, Charlotte, a cultured pair who hosted poets and artists and turned their little duchy into “a little Weimar”, despite a lack of financial resources.
She was educated in both Classical German and French. Raised as a Lutheran, she kept her Protestant faith in Catholic Bavaria throughout her life.
Ludwig was fearful that Napoleon would force him to marry a French princess and so moved swiftly to marry a German. He visited Hildburghausen December 21-24, 1809 and chose Therese over her younger sister, Luise, who was considered more beautiful.
Although Ludwig was frequently absent on his many journeys or involved in “friendships” when at home, she suffered his dalliances according to the norms for women of her time and class and bore him nine children.
Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen painted by German artist Joseph Karl Stieler around 1810.
Coronation diadem of Queen Therese of Bavaria 1810
Also by Joseph Karl Stieler. This portrait was painted in 1827.