Portrait of Louise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1776-1810), Queen consort of Prussia (1797-1810), Crown Princess of Prussia (1793-1797)
Duchess Louise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (Luise Auguste Wilhelmine Amalie; 10 March 1776 – 19 July 1810) was Queen of Prussia as the wife of King Frederick William III. The couple's happy, though short-lived, marriage produced nine children, including the future monarchs Frederick William IV of Prussia and German Emperor Wilhelm I. Her legacy became cemented after her extraordinary 1807 meeting with French Emperor Napoleon I at Tilsit – she met with the emperor to plead unsuccessfully for favorable terms after Prussia's disastrous losses in the Napoleonic Wars. She was already well loved by her subjects, but her meeting with Napoleon led Louise to become revered as "the soul of national virtue". Her early death at the age of thirty-four "preserved her youth in the memory of posterity", and caused Napoleon to reportedly remark that the king "has lost his best minister". The Order of Louise was founded by her grieving husband four years later as a female counterpart to the Iron Cross. Duchess Luise Auguste Wilhelmine Amalie of Mecklenburg-Strelitz ("Louise" in English) was born on 10 March 1776 in a one-storey villa, just outside the capital in Hanover. She was the fourth daughter and sixth child of Duke Charles of Mecklenburg and his wife Princess Friederike of Hesse-Darmstadt. Her father Charles was a brother of Queen Charlotte and her mother Frederike was a granddaughter of Louis VIII, Landgrave of Hesse-Darmstadt. Her maternal grandmother, Landgravine Marie Louise of Hesse-Darmstadt, and her paternal first-cousin Princess Augusta Sophia of the United Kingdom served as sponsors at her baptism; her second given name came from Princess Augusta Sophia. At the time of her birth, Louise's father was not yet the ruler of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (he would not succeed his brother as Duke until 1794), and consequently she was not born in a court, but rather in a less formal home. Charles was field marshal of the household brigade in Hanover, and soon after Louise's birth he was made Governor-General of that territory by his brother-in-law George III, king of the United Kingdom and Hanover (husband of his sister, Queen Charlotte). The family subsequently moved to Leineschloss, the residence of Hanoverian kings, though during the summer they usually lived at Herrenhausen. Louise was particularly close to her sister Frederica, who was two years younger, as well as with their only brother George. Louise and her siblings were under the care of their governess Fräulein von Wolzogen, a friend of their mother's. When Louise was only six years old, her mother died in childbirth, leaving a permanent mark on the young duchess; she would often give away pocket change to other children who experienced similar losses, stating "she is like me, she has no mother". After Duchess Friederike's death, the family left Leineschloss for Herrenhausen, sometimes called a "miniature Versailles". Duke Charles remarried two years later to his first wife's younger sister Charlotte, producing a son, Charles. Louise and her new stepmother became close until Charlotte's early death the year after their marriage. The twice widowed and grieving duke went to Darmstadt, where he gave the children into the care of his mother-in-law and Louise's godmother, the widowed Landgravine Marie Louise.
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