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Caroline Louise von Baden

Princess Karoline Luise was born in Starkenberg, Hesse-Darmstadt, Germany on July 11, 1723, the daughter of Ludwig VIII, Landgrave of Hesse-Darmstadt, and Charlotte Christine of Hanau. Thanks to a teacher who recognized and nurtured her natural aptitudes, she received a multifaceted education in music, literature, the arts and the natural sciences. In 1751 she married Carl Friedrich, the Margrave (and later Grand Duke) of Baden-Durlach. With his support, she built a library and greatly enlarged the family collection of art and natural history in the Karlsruhe Palace. Her collections became so famous that they served as an aesthetic focal point for the country.

Caroline Louise developed a special liking for minerals and rocks during the course of her natural history activities. She decorated the palace with a wide variety of slabbed ornamental stones, and in the process made contacts with many dealers, collectors, scholars, museum curators and fellow aristocrats. She expanded the collection of polished slabs of minerals and rocks, and made a concentrated effort to learn mineralogy. Much to the astonishment of her subjects, she actually engaged in field-collecting, often to the point that her clothing became "full of sludge and slime." During these excursions, and afterward in the management of her growing collection, her devoted instructor was the Baden Margrave and Bergrat Elhard.

Caroline Louise, in addition to her field activities, was a voluminous correspondent, and many of the letters she received have been preserved. Her first important acquisition by mail appears to have been a number of agate, jasper and marble slabs sent to her by Lieutenant-General Belsky, Director of the St. Petersburg Academy of Science, in 1769. She received a shipment of minerals and ores from famous Hungarian mining districts (Transylvania, the Banat of Temeswar, the Slovakian Erzgebirge) from Empress Maria Theresa, with whom she continued a frequent correspondence. During the years 1769-1777 Maria Theresa sent additional mineral specimen shipments, and Caroline Louise reciprocated by sending specimens of various sorts from Baden.

Caroline Louise was known throughout her life as a gracious, warm-hearted, highly intelligent woman able to deal cordially with anyone, from commoners to scholars to royalty. When the Director of the Royal Natural History Cabinet in Paris visited her in 1771, he exclaimed, "Behold, the foremost woman, who has astonished me!"

By the time of her death in Paris on April 8, 1783, Caroline Louise had built up one of the more important natural history cabinets in Europe, especially rich in minerals from Russian, Asian and European localities. It was inherited by her son Carl Ludwig, Margrave of Karlsruhe, who continued to maintain and expand it. In time it became known as the Grand Ducal Naturalienkabinet and was made a public institution, the Landessammlungen für Naturkunde in Karlsruhe. Unfortunately, the majority of the minerals were destroyed by Allied bombing in 1942, but those that survived are still on exhibit.

WILSON, W.E. (1994) The history of mineral collecting, 1530-1799. Mineralogical Record,25 (6), 98-99.
International Genealogical Index.
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WILSON, Wendell E. (2019)
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The Mineralogical Record - Caroline Louise von Baden
The Mineralogical Record - Caroline Louise von Baden
The Mineralogical Record - Caroline Louise von Baden
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