Monument to eternal love

The Sepulchral Chapel on Württemberg Hill

Busts of Katharina and Wilhelm I at the Sepulchral Chapel on Württemberg Hill. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Roland Rossner
SUCCESSFUL REFORMER AND POLITICIAN

WILHELM I VON

WÜRTTEMBERG

Wilhelm I (1781–1864) assumed rule in Württemberg in 1816, a time at which the state was plagued by crop failures and famine. As king, he and his wife Katharina introduced comprehensive reforms to improve the economic situation in Württemberg.

Crypt at the Sepulchral Chapel on Württemberg Hill. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Steffen Hauswirth

Wilhelm I rests beside Katharina.

WHY DID KING WILHELM I COMMISSION THE SEPULCHRAL CHAPEL?

It was Queen Katharina's wish to be buried on Württemberg hill. But Wilhelm also decided early on that he would also like to be buried there, thus breaking with family tradition. The fact that he had the entire Württemberg ancestral castle torn down demonstrates his high ambitions and bold self-confidence. The sepulchral chapel, which was built exclusively to his tastes, became a monument to his beloved queen. However, question remains as to whether or not it is actually a monument to eternal love between a king and queen.

King Wilhelm I, oil painting, Hetsch, circa 1800. Image: Landesmedienzentrum Baden-Württemberg, Robert Bothner

Wilhelm I's marriages were all very different.

HOW MANY TIMES WAS KING WILHELM MARRIED?

Wilhelm I married three times. In 1808, he married Princess Charlotte Auguste von Bayern. They had no children and the marriage was annulled in 1816 after both confirmed that their marriage had not been consummated due to mutual dislike. In Wilhelm's marriage to Katharina Pawlowna, Grand Duchess of Russia, affection may have played a role, but the union was also quite lucrative for Wilhelm. His third marriage to Princess Pauline produced Crown Prince Karl Ludwig Friedrich, King of Württemberg from 1864.

King Wilhelm I, painting by Stieler, circa 1816. Image: Landesmedienzentrum Baden-Württemberg, Dieter Jäger

For progress and peace.

WHAT WERE WILHELM'S POLITICS WITHIN HIS KINGDOM?

During his 48-year reign, Württemberg shifted from an agrarian state to a constitutional state with a communal identity and elaborate administrative system. The liberal constitution passed in 1819 was still being drafted by Queen Katharina. With regard to foreign politics, Wilhelm attempted to find a balance for Germany between the major powers, Prussia and Austria, and to secure a more important and active role for Württemberg on a European scale.

Double sarcophagus belonging to Queen Katharina and King Wilhelm I at the Sepulchral Chapel on Württemberg Hill. Image: Landesmedienzentrum Baden-Württemberg, credit unknown

Wilhelm I planned his funeral exactly.

HOW DID WILHELM WANT TO BE INTERRED?

Wilhelm I died on June 25, 1864 at Rosenstein Palace in Stuttgart, which had also been built by the architect Giovanni Battista Salucci. The king wished to be buried next to his second wife at The Sepulchral Chapel on Württemberg Hill. In his testament, Wilhelm stipulated that his body be transported to the sepulchral chapel at night so that he would arrive at Württemberg hill with the first rays of morning light. And that is just how it happened on June 30.

Side view of exterior of the Sepulchral Chapel on Württemberg Hill. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Roland Rossner

Wilhelm I and Katharina's tomb resembles a temple.

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