Adolf Friedrich VI
Grand Duke of Mecklenburg, Prince of Wenden, Schwerin and Ratzeburg, Count of Schwerin, Lord of the Lands of Rostock and Stargard
Grand Duke Adolf Friedrich VI was born on 17 June 1882 in Neustrelitz the third of the four children of Grand Duke Adolf Friedrich V and his wife Grand Duchess Elisabeth, then Hereditary Grand Duke and Hereditary Grand Duchess. As the elder son of the Hereditary Grand Duke at birth Adolf Friedrich bore the title Hereditary Prince.
The young hereditary prince was christened Adolf Friedrich Georg Ernst Albert Eduard
in Neustrelitz on 19 July 1882 with holy water sent from the River Jordan in Palestine.
The christening was part of a double celebration for Mecklenburg-
Adolf Friedrich spent his childhood at the Carolinenpalais in Neustrelitz with his
parents and siblings, Marie, Jutta and Carl Borwin where he received private tutoring.
From 1 February 1891 to 11 December 1898 he was tutored by the Protestant theologian
Carl Horn, after which Adolf Friedrich left Neustrelitz to continue with his studies
at the Vitzthum-
On 30 July 1898 Adolf Friedrich was made a Lieutenant à la suite in the Royal Prussian
Army’s Grand Ducal Mecklenburg Grenadier Regiment Number 89. As a future grand duke
Hereditary Grand Duke
The first half of 1904 was a time of sadness for Adolf Friedrich and the grand ducal family. In January he lost his maternal grandfather the Duke of Anhalt while in March his great uncle and godfather the Duke of Cambridge also died. It would be his third bereavement that would have the most impact on his life as with the death of his paternal grandfather Grand Duke Friedrich Wilhelm on 30 May 1904 his father succeeded as grand duke with Adolf Friedrich becoming heir apparent to the throne and Hereditary Grand Duke. From his paternal grandfather he inherited considerably less money than his siblings as he was in direct line to become grand duke and inherit the bulk of the grand ducal family’s wealth and estates.
In May 1907 Adolf Friedrich sailed out of Hamburg with his kinsman and childhood
friend the Grand Duke Friedrich Franz IV of Mecklenburg-
Having left the army Adolf Friedrich returned to Neustrelitz in order to study and familiarise himself with the political system of the grand duchy in preparation for his succession as grand duke. He intervened in domestic political affairs in 1913 when he delivered a speech before the joint Mecklenburg Diet calling on the nobles drop their opposition to reform and allow for a constitution be implemented in Mecklenburg.
Thanks to the influence of his grandmother the Dowager Grand Duchess, who was born Princess Augusta of Cambridge, Adolf Friedrich had a great admiration for Britain. He was present at a number of major British royal events including the funeral of Queen Victoria in February 1901, the coronation in 1902 and the funeral in 1910 of King Edward VII, and the coronation in 1911 of King George V. He spent the summers of 1912 and 1913 in Britain and became a well known and liked member of London society.
While hereditary grand duke Adolf Friedrich was seen as one of the most eligible
European princes of his day with a possible engagement a topic of newspaper gossip.
With his close links to Britain he was at various times linked to King George V’s
only daughter the Princess Mary, the king’s cousin Princess Patricia of Connaught
and even the morganatic daughter of the British based Grand Duke Mikhail Mikhailovich
of Russia, the Countess Zia de Torby, who Adolf Friedrich was regularly seen out
with while in London. Other rumoured spouses were Emperor Wilhelm II’s only daughter
Princess Viktoria Luise of Prussia, her cousin Princess Margarethe of Prussia and
her future sister-
Reign as Grand Duke
Having spent ten years as heir apparent in 1914 Adolf Friedrich’s father fell seriously
ill. On 7 June while receiving treatment in Berlin his father transferred governing
power to Adolf Friedrich. With the death of his father just four days later Adolf
Friedrich succeeded as grand duke. He had very little time to mourn the loss of his
father and adjust to his new role as that August the First World War broke out and
he had to fulfil the grand duchy’s obligations and lead Mecklenburg-
With the outbreak of the war Adolf Friedrich took to the field and was given a commission as a colonel on the staff of the German 17th Division (which the Mecklenburg Grenadier Regiment Number 89 formed part of) serving on the Western Front in France. During the conflict he used his friendship with the British born Princess Daisy of Pless to enquire on the welfare of imprisoned British officer friends for his grandmother. He continued to serve on the Western front commanding artillery units throughout the war and in 1917 was promoted to the rank Major General. He also went on to receive both classes of the Iron Cross during the conflict.
With Adolf Friedrich having come to the throne while unmarried and without a son
there was an issue surrounding the succession as his heir Duke Carl Michael had indicated
just before war broke out that he wished to renounce his rights to the succession.
If there was no male heir to Mecklenburg-
While heir to the throne and based in Potsdam, Adolf Friedrich had a relationship
with a Hungarian born woman named Margit Höllrigl. He was rumoured to have given
her a marriage proposal so he could renounce his succession rights and allow his
brother Duke Carl Borwin to become grand duke instead. Any possibility of this happening
ended suddenly in 1908 with the death of his brother which left the only other successor
to the throne the Russian based Duke Carl Michael. With the succession now uncertain
it became essential for Adolf Friedrich to remain heir and one day marry to ensure
continuation of the dynasty and the independence of Mecklenburg-
One of the other women identified was the Italian opera singer Mafalda Salvanti who Adolf Friedrich had invited to his summer residence in 1916 and 1917. Adolf Friedrich was alleged to have been the father of her two sons Rolf and Horst Gérard although this claim has been shown to be untrue as letters from Adolf Friedrich to Salvanti, which only came to light around 2008, show that there was no real relationship between them and that they only knew one another after both Gérard boys had already been born. The story that Adolf Friedrich was the father originated from a note written by a Hanseatic city diplomat who had been told the story by Adolf Friedrich’s brother in law Prince Julius Ernst of Lippe.
With the war entering a fourth year and his love affairs possibly going to become public knowledge, on the evening of 23 February 1918 Adolf Friedrich left his residence in Neustrelitz to take his dog for a walk. He never returned and the next morning his body was found in the Kammer Canel with a gunshot wound to his temple bringing about a tragic end to Adolf Friedrich’s four year reign which had been blighted by war. An autopsy found that he had drowned and no weapon was recovered from the scene.
The circumstances and reasons for his death are unclear although in his suicide note he hinted that a woman wanted to discredit him. Rumours surfaced after his death that the German Secret Service had discovered that he had been spying for Britain and that he had been given the choice of being tried as a traitor to Germany or taking his own life, although this story was refuted by his close friend the Princess of Pless. Writing about his passing in her memoirs the Princess of Pless noted “I think the loss of his Grandmother, the apparent endlessness of the War, his heart in England and his home in Germany, and the two countries fighting with each other, just tore him in pieces and he could stand it no longer. Then there was that terrible exhausting chronic hay fever, which, so I am told, leads to the utmost depression.” In the newspapers at the time both Mafalda Salvatini and Margit Höllrigl’s names were also mentioned in connection with his death. The princess who was lined up as his wife, Benigna Reuss of Köstritz, would remain single for the rest of her life dying on 20 February 1982. In 1926 Margit Höllrigl reappeared unsuccessfully suing Adolf Friedrich’s heirs for £162,000 which she claimed was the remaining balance of the £200,000 that Adolf Friedrich had allegedly agreed to pay her for compromising documents.
With Adolf Friedrich’s passing his childhood friend the Grand Duke Friedrich Franz
IV of Mecklenburg-
Adolf Friedrich is buried on Lovers Island in Mirow. In recent years some memorials to him have been unveiled in Neustrelitz.
Decorations and honours