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One of the largest historic residences in Europe

Mannheim Baroque Palace

Bildnis Großherzogin Stéphanie von Baden, 1.Hälfte 19. Jahrhundert,  Kopie von Schmitt nach François Gérard, wohl Karlsruher Hofmaler; Foto: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer
A much-loved inhabitant of the palace

Stéphanie von Baden

Grand Duchess Stéphanie von Baden (1789–1860) developed from an unpopular bride from far away to a highly regarded member of the House of Baden. She lived in Mannheim for more than 40 years: She redecorated the palace rooms and influenced the cultural life of Mannheim.

Portrait of Grand Duke Carl von Baden, early 19th century. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer

Carl von Baden: a bridegroom with ambition.

A Frenchwoman on the throne of Baden?

The wedding of Stéphanie de Beauharnais was the consequence of French emperor Napoleon's dynastic policy of alliances. He adopted the young relative of his wife Joséphine and raised her to imperial majesty. Accordingly, Stéphanie became a suitable bride for the crown prince Carl von Baden. His reigning grandfather, the Margrave of Baden, offered Napoleon an enlargement of his territory and elevation to the rank of grand duke. Such a bride could not possibly be declined!

Visitors in front of the table silver of Baden in Mannheim Palace. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Niels Schubert

She returned to Mannheim as a widow.

Why did Stéphanie live in Mannheim?

Stéphanie and her husband, Hereditary Grand Duke Carl (1786–1818), lived in Mannheim after their wedding in 1806. After the end of the Electoral Palatinate, the giant palace became the secondary residence for the House of Baden. In 1811, Carl began his rule, and the couple lived in Karlsruhe Palace. However, after the early death of Carl in 1818, Stéphanie received Mannheim as a dower house. With her royal household, she moved to the western part of the palace and lived there as a highly regarded personality for another 42 years.

Bedroom in the former apartment of Grand Duchess Stéphanie in Mannheim Palace, watercolor by Pieter Francis Peters, 1842. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Andrea Rachele

She had her living rooms decorated in the Empire style.

What role did she play in Mannheim Palace?

In Mannheim, Stéphanie made a name for herself as a host of highly regarded private salons with readings, painting and drawing studies as well as good discussions. The former prince-electors' residence experienced a second bloom. Stéphanie had her living rooms furnished in the Empire style, the style of the French empire: modern furniture now decorated the rooms. Court painter Carl Cuntz designed classic friezes and pilasters with motifs reminiscent of antiquity.

Marie Amalie Elisabeth Karoline (1817–1888), daughter of Grand Duke Karl and Grand Duchess Stéphanie. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer

Marie Amalie, one of their three daughters, who reached the age of adulthood.

What was her personal tragedy?

Of her five children, the three daughters survived to adulthood. Her two sons died in infancy. Her personal grief was worsened by feeling that she had not fulfilled her most important task as a grand duchess: securing the direct succession of the House of Baden. Stéphanie was certainly under a lot of pressure to bear healthy sons, because only a son could secure the succession.

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