06 January 2018

Magdalene Sibylle of Saxony

via Wikimedia Commons
Married at 16 to the future King of both Norway and Denmark, Magdalene Sibylle of Saxony seemingly had a bright future ahead of her. Like her father Elector John George I of Saxony, her husband Christian had been heavily engaged on the Protestant side of the Thirty Years War. Christian's military history wasn't necessarily glorious, however. He'd been shot twice and he'd even fallen from a wagon breaking his leg. Fourteen years her senior, his romantic past was also less than savory. His mistress, a widowed Danish noblewoman named Anne Lykke had caused a rift between Christian and his father King Christian IV. Worried about leaving his son in charge at home with Anne while he went off to war, the King had her arrested. Because of her nobility, the Council of State protested. So, the king accused her of using sorcery to try to harm him -- accusations of witchcraft were not uncommon in 17th century Europe. The King's own mother had to intervene to get Anne released into house arrest.

Meanwhile, Magdalene Sibylle was still a child growing up in Saxony. Her wedding in Copenhagen in 1634 was greatly celebrated and was even marked by the very first ballet to be performed in Denmark. The couple lived in Nykobing Castle in Falster, Denmark, but the marriage wasn't necessarily joyful. Christian was renowned as a drinker and he ran up a lot of debt. Added to that, the marriage never fulfilled its purpose: to produce children.

Magdalene Sibylle led a more "acceptable" lifestyle, supporting churches and clergymen. Her strong religious faith also led her to write a prayerbook. When her husband took at yet another loan to travel to a spa, she traveled with him to her native Saxony. He took ill near Dresden and died near the city, never having ascended a throne. Twenty-nine-year old Magdalene Sibylle returned to Denmark, where she was granted dower estates and several fiefdoms. When she remarried five years later, she lost these, but she gained much more.

Duke Friedrich Wilhelm II of Saxe-Altenburg, her new husband, who was the same age as her first. He was born eight months after his father's death and had actually been a ward of Magdalene Sibylle's father. Like hers, his first marriage had been childless, so the couple was undoubtedly delighted when their first child, a son named Christian was born 16 months into their marriage. Two years later, daughter Johanna Madgalena arrived and son Friedrich Wilhelm III was born 18 months after her. Sadly, they lost their first child at age 9. Their second son outlived them, but still died at the age of 14. Johanna Magdalena lived into adulthood and had 11 children of her own. She named her firstborn Madgalena Sibylle.

Friedrich Wilhelm showed his respect for his second wife by building her a widow's house that he named Magdalenenstift for her. Magdalene Sibylle never used it as a widow because she died a year before him on January 6, 1668 at the age of 50.

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