A princely pleasure garden with a spectacular greenhouse

Karlsruhe Botanical Gardens

Porträt von Großherzog Karl Friedrich, Begründer des Botanischen Gartens Karlsruhe; Foto: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Steffen Hauswirth
MODEST AND ENLIGHTENED

Karl Friedrich

von Baden

Karl Friedrich (1728–1811) ruled for 73 years and married twice. He became margrave in 1746 and Baden's first Grand Duke in 1806, following the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire. He was considered an enlightened ruler, whom historians paint in a positive light.

WHAT DID HIS CONTEMPORARIES HAVE TO SAY ABOUT HIM?

Other princes sometimes mocked him: Karl Friedrich was considered a frugal ruler. A Swede wrote the following about him in 1773: "He traveled in a plain two-horse carriage and only one running footman and two regular footmen accompanied him. This lord is too much a philosopher to enjoy such finery. He does not want the drum beat when he passes, only the guard stands at attention. He dresses coarsely and almost always wears boots and spurs..."

Portrait of Grand Duke Karl Friedrich, founder of the Karlsruhe Botanical Gardens. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer

Hungry for knowledge: Grand Duke Karl Friedrich von Baden.

WHAT WAS HIS ROLE AS RULER?

Philosopher Johann Gottfried Herder proclaimed Karl Friedrich to be "Germany's best prince".  He was and still is considered a paradigm of an admittedly absolutist yet enlightened ruler, and as the founding father of a modern, liberal Baden. He promoted schools and universities, economics, culture and city planning. In 1767, he banned torture and in 1783, ended serfdom. He laid the groundwork for the first constitution of Baden in 1808. It was only adopted ten years later however under his grandson, Grand Duke Karl.

HOW DID KAROLINE LUISE INFLUENCE HIM?

His marriage to Karoline Luise von Hessen-Darmstadt became a lifelong love affair with lively intellectual exchange. At the time of their marriage in 1751, Karoline Luise was the more educated and more confident of the two. She introduced him to the ideas of the Enlightenment and brought artists and philosophers to court. It is likely through her that he developed an interest in botany. She died in 1783 while on a trip to Paris. Karl Friedrich saved her letters from there with the note: "final letters from the best woman".

Portrait of Grand Duke Leopold von Baden. Image: Landesmedienzentrum Baden-Württemberg, Arnim Weischer

Leopold: first ruler of the Hochberg line.

WHO WAS HIS SECOND WIFE?

In 1787, Karl Friedrich married a second time. His new wife, Luise Karoline Geyer von Geyersberg (1768–1820), was not of the same social class and was 40 years his junior–a "left-handed marriage". He bestowed the title of Imperial Countess of Hochberg on her. When Kaspar Hauser appeared in 1828, it was rumored that she had engineered the disappearance of Karl Friedrich's great grandson in order to bring her own sons to power. This did not occur until 1830, when Leopold, a son from the Hochberg line came to power. He ruled between 1830 and 1852.

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