The Last Margrave of Ansbach
Pretty and popular Lady Elizabeth Craven was warmly welcomed and could not have come at a
more opportune time. The youngest daughter of the Earl of Berkeley, she and the Hon. William
Craven had six children, but the marriage was unsuccessful and mildly scandalous. They separated
and she embarked upon a tour of Austria, Poland, Russia, Turkey and Greece, publishing an account
of her travels, Journey through the Crimea to Constantinople. During this time, she came to Ansbach
and would entertain and enchant the Margrave with her little plays written in French for the Court
theater, Apparently she was not quite "treated like a sister". When her husband died in Switzerland in
1791, Elizabeth married the Margrave within sixteen days.
The Margravine often took part in the performances and also composed the music. The Margrave
and his bride settled in England, purchasing Brandenburg House in Hammersmith and the house and
estate of Benham Park in Berkshire, which had long been possessed by the Craven family.
The Margrave died at age 69 of a "pulmonary complaint" on January 5, 1806 and was buried at
nearby Speen Church. By the next month, the small market town of Ansbach had fallen to imperial
French control, and three months later, in May of 1806, Bavarian banners flew as Prussia ceded
ancient, Protestant Ansbach and Bayreuth to Catholic Bavaria. After the Margrave's death, Elizabeth
travelled again, buying a villa in Naples in 1817. Her six children never forgave her adultery. A few
years before her death in 1828, she published her autobiography under the title "Memoirs of the
Margravine of Anspach". By her marriage to the Margrave, Lady Craven had formally become
Princess Berkeley of the Holy Roman Empire. She remarried again and ended her days with the title
of Princess Elizabeth of Bohemia. She died on January 13, 1828 in Naples.
In spring, when the trees were barely dressed in new leaves, and buds were springing forth from the
damp earth in the clean German air, a lively English lady paid a visit to the Ansbach royal palace
from where she wrote her husband that she was "to be treated as a sister" of her host, the Margrave.
She would entertain and amuse the attractive, romantic, Margrave of Anspach-Baireuth, Christian
Friedrich Karl Alexander, Duke of Prussia, Count of Sayn, ruler of Markgraftum Brandenburg-
Kulmbach and Brandenburg-Bayreuth.
As mentioned, his father's extravagances with building, birds and beautiful girls cost the Margaveship
dearly. Thus in 1792, the Margrave, his popularity at a low, sold his principality which included the
two counties of Anspach-Bayreuth to the King of Prussia for a yearly pension of 300,000 Florin. On
January 2, 1792, the Prussian coat of arms was attached to the Ansbach city hall, ending the rule of
the Margraves. He took a bit of home with him, however. Horses were the Margrave's favorite
hobby and when he left, he took 26 favorites of his 500 Ansbach horses in with him to England.
At their large house on the banks of the Thames, Elizabeth had a theater built so she could stage her
own plays. Her lavish parties included one set on water with the dance floor arranged on a barge
with an orchestra following on another. Elizabeth Craven was a bit shunned by polite society, in and
out of court circles. The audience at the Margravine's productions, many of which were in French,
consisted mainly of friends who had recently emigrated from the continent and an assortment of
rowdy party crashers, although the Prince of Wales was said to have been among the guests at the
theater's first performance.
Born in 1736, the second son of the "Wild Margrave", he became Margrave upon the sudden death
of his older brother in 1757. He inherited a huge debt of 2.3 million Reichstalern from his father's
excesses, while his illegitimate half brothers, the Barons von Falkenhausens, had not only received
titles, but their own castles with no debtors. The young Margrave quickly set about trying to pay
down the principality's debts by various means. In 1758, he founded a porcelain factory in Ansbach
and then ventured into agriculture by importing sheep. In 1780, he set himself up as a private banker,
founding his own bank in order to avoid the money lenders who had plagued his father. He finally
resorted to renting his soldiers as mercenaries to England, and even rented troops to Holland.
The royal palace was the Ansbach Residenz, above center left, but Karl Alexander preferred his
hunting estate in Triesdorf. Here he renovated the "White Castle", above center right, for his lover
Hippolyte Clairon, the Villa Sandrina for his lover "Fräulein Kurz" and the "Red Castle" for himself.
He built the "Round Villa" (Villa Rotunda) for his new guest, Lady Craven.
His sending of local soldiers to fight England's wars caused great hardship to the soldiers and their
families, and this severely impacted his popularity. On March 3, 1777, two infantry regiments with
artillery, a total of 2,500 troops, left Ansbach for the colonies where they were immediately thrown
into battle. As a sign of appreciation, the Margrave sent several barrels of Sauerkraut to his Ansbach
mercenaries. It disgusted the British soldiers who then coined the nickname “krauts” for the Germans.
As she wrote in her Memoirs, published in 1826: "My taste for music and poetry and my style of
imagination in writing, chastened by experience, were great sources of delight to me. Our expenses
were enormous."  above:  Paintings of Lady Craven and the Margrave by George Romney c1800
There will be a few Salzburger names on the list in the following section since they formed a good
part of the population in Ansbach at the time of the American Revolution.