Charles I, King of Wurttemberg

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Karl Friedrich Alexander of Württemberg, King of Württemberg

German: Karl Friedrich Alexander von Württemberg, König zu Württemberg
Birthplace: Stuttgart, Württemberg, Deutschland(DB)
Death: October 06, 1891 (68)
Stuttgart, Württemberg, Deutschland(DKR)
Place of Burial: Stuttgart, Württemberg, Deutschland(DKR)
Immediate Family:

Son of William I, King of Wurttemberg and Pauline, Herzogin von Würtemberg
Husband of Olga Nikolaevna of Russia, Queen consort of Württemberg
Brother of Katherine Friederike Charlotte von Württemberg, Prinzessin von Württemberg and Auguste Prinzessin von Württemberg
Half brother of Albert Molitor; Princess Marie von Württemberg and Sophie Frederika Mathilde von Württemberg, Queen consort of the Netherlands

Occupation: King of Württemberg
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Charles I, King of Wurttemberg

Charles (German: Karl Friedrich Alexander; 6 March 1823 – 6 October 1891) was King of Württemberg, from 25 June 1864 until his death in 1891

Died without issues (Homosexual)

... The couple had no children, perhaps because of Karl's homosexuality. Karl became the object of scandal several times for his closeness with various men - most notoriously with the American Charles Woodcock, a former chamberlain whom Karl elevated to Baron Savage in 1888. Karl and Charles became inseparable, going so far as to appear together in public dressed identically. The resulting outcry forced Karl to renounce his favorite. Woodcock returned to America, and Karl found private consolation some years later with the technical director of the royal theater, Wilhelm George.

In 1870, Olga and Karl adopted Olga's niece Vera Konstantinovna, the daughter of her brother Grand Duke Konstantin.

If you think of Stuttgart at all, it is most likely as the home of automobile manufacturers Porsche and Mercedes-Benz. However, Stuttgart is also the capital of Baden-Württemberg, a south German state bordering Bavaria to the east and Switzerland to the south. About 125 years ago a gay royal scandal nearly shook Württemberg off its foundations.

Karl Friedrich Alexander was the third King of Württemberg, from 1864 until his death in 1891. He was king at the time of the unification of Germany in 1871 and skillfully led his people in the decision to become part of the new German Empire. Born in Stuttgart in1823, at the age of twenty-three he married the Russian Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaievna, daughter of Tsar Nicholas I, and at the age of 41 Karl acceded to the throne upon his father's death. The couple had no children, because of Karl's homosexuality, so Olga and Karl adopted Olga's niece Vera Konstantinova.

Had an American pianist studying music at the Stuttgart Conservatory of Music not injured his arm, there might have been no scandal at all. Richard Mason Jackson (a pianist known by his middle name as “Mase”), along with Charles Woodcock and Donald Hendry became the objects of obsession by gay King Karl. The king was so smitten that he gave the Americans titles, positions and lavish gifts far beyond their station. They eventually held such sway over the king (and his purse) that the new German Chancellor Otto von Bismark had to intervene in order to sever their sordid influence over Karl. It was a royal soap opera the likes of which had not been seen in those parts, and the royal family was not able to cover it up. All the sordid details appeared in newspapers on both sides of the Atlantic.

In October 1888, the New York Herald republished a story from its European edition describing three American males who were said to be lavishly disposing of the monarch's money. The article said that an American named “Mase” Jackson was one of the three gentlemen playing “Piers Gaveston” parts in Germany." Gaveston was the male lover of England's King Edward II Taken literally, Americans "playing Piers Gaveston parts" with King Karl meant that they were performing the insertive role in anal intercourse. Although the newspaper chose a euphemism to describe such acts, the reading public at the time would have understood the meaning.

The same article focused on gossip circulating in Germany about King Karl and seances presided over by the “upstart” Baron von Jackson, of Steubenville, Ohio. The rise of Mase from poor, humble origins in Ohio to the aristocratic "Baron von Jackson" in Germany was juicy gossip in its day. Jackson's father, a cousin of General Stonewall Jackson, had died at the very moment of his son's birth in 1846. Raised by his widowed mother on a farm in Ohio, Jackson had moved with her to nearby Steubenville, and there studied the piano, developing an ardent desire to become a musician. At sixteen, unable to finish his courses at Mount Union College, Jackson returned to Steubenville, and taught music at Beatty's Seminary (a school for female teachers). He tuned pianos, became organist in the Methodist Episcopal Church and traveled often to Pittsburgh to enjoy the opera. Jackson formed a friendship with another Steubenville youth, a popular tenor, Will H. MacDonald, and, subsidized by relatives, traveled with MacDonald to Germany, to study at the Stuttgart Conservatory of Music. When Jackson injured his arm and was forced to give up the piano, he took a job in 1876 as assistant to the American Consul in Stuttgart, a position he held for five years. The handsome, young American walked daily through the Stuttgart parks and soon attracted the notice of the King, who was 23 years his senior. The newspaper reported that this “grew into a friendship of the most intimate character.”

In 1881 the homosexual monarch asked Jackson to join his household as a "confidential friend and companion." Jackson accepted, renounced his United States citizenship, and was made a Baron. He added "von" to his last name and become a favorite of the King of Württemberg. A large apartment in the palace was assigned to “Baron von Jackson”, and a private entrance was constructed, connecting directly to the royal apartments. A handsome income and lavish gifts were bestowed upon him. The King had also added the American to his will, so that should his benefactor die, Jackson would still be immensely rich. All of these salacious details appeared in the newspapers.

But Jackson was not yet through exploiting his royal connection. Because of his intimacy with King Karl, honors were showered upon Jackson by the kings of Holland and Saxony, the Emperor of Austria, the Czar of Russia, and even the Pope, with whom he had an audience. After Jackson saved the lives of three men whose boat had overturned, King Karl made him a "Privy Councilor," and Jackson was called “Excellency,” an honor seldom attained by anyone other than royalty, and even then, usually late in life.


The coat of arms of the Württembergs: Fearless and Faithful.

The American's appointment to court caused a political furor. Next the New York Sun picked up the story and offered even more sordid detail to the controversy. They reported a love triangle, with Jackson seeking intimacies and favors from both the king and the Grand Duchess Vera. The king retaliated by making Jackson promise not to marry “during the king’s lifetime.”

Jackson was described by an American lady living in Stuttgart as the life of the American colony and "the funniest man I ever knew," with a quaint, droll way of talking. She added: "Men and women – and particularly children – liked him."

Jackson had been appointed "Reader to the King," a euphemism for the King's companion, one whom he could meet in ordinary fashion, without formalities. The king bestowed on Jackson rare works of art and gifts of diamonds, and the American was known as the man who had the most influence over the King.

The New York Star cited a response to the controversy by interviewing a nephew of Jackson, a Dr. Morrison of Steubenville: “It has been sneeringly said that the King of Württemberg fell in love with Jackson. Well, I don't see very well how he could help doing that. Mace was of the kindliest disposition that you could imagine, gentle almost as a girl, but so manly in bearing as to claim the admiration of all who came in contact with him. His weakness used to be his love for flowers.”

Well, that explains it!

Dr. Morrison noted that Jackson had saved the king from snowballs thrown by some intoxicated students and that the monarch had then become "perfectly infatuated with Mase." When the King heard Jackson play the piano "his infatuation became complete." The King had then insisted that Jackson consent to assist him in managing the realm. Neither the King's infatuation, nor the Ohio pianist's call to manage a kingdom was considered odd by his trusting relative. Dr. Morrison boasted that Jackson had written home, telling his relatives that the king called Jackson “My dear bosom friend, Jack.” Then things got really interesting when Dr. Morrison mentioned that Jackson blamed another American, Charles Woodcock, for kicking up a scandal. Dr. Morrison was told that Woodcock was jealous of the king’s attention to Jackson. But that wasn't the half.

It appears that King Karl (shown at left) had developed a taste for handsome young American men, and Jackson alone did not satisfy this hunger. Eight years after the Jackson scandal, the king fell under the spell of two more strapping lads from the U.S. In 1888 the Chicago Tribune newspaper told the story of NYC native Charles Woodcock, a tale of worldly ascent from humble butcher's son to a king's favorite. Returning from a first trip to Germany in 1873, Charles had joined the Church of the Disciples, presided over by the Reverend Dr. George Hepworth (make a mental note of that name). Woodcock graduated from seminary in Maine and was ordained as pastor of the Congregational Church in St. John, New Brunswick, Canada. Pastor Woodcock resided at the Victoria Hotel and soon became a prominent society man, spending his evenings in “entertainments.” It was whispered among some of the older boys of the town that Woodcock’s chambers in the hotel were often the scene of sordid stag parties. Woodcock was overextended financially, and troubles soon arose over reports of loose living and profligate behavior.

Woodcock spent his mornings at St. John's leading bookstore, and it was there that he met Donald Hendry, a low-born Canadian who became his constant companion. Hendry was known to be where “the fun was best.” Popular, good-looking, affable and agreeable, Hendry was converted by Woodcock from his Baptist background to the Congregational faith. Invited by the Reverend Hepworth (there’s that name again) to make a Continental tour, both Woodcock and Hendry set off for Europe, ending up in Stuttgart. Like Jackson several years earlier, they, too, met the King of Württemberg and developed a profitable intimacy with him. In a repeat of Jackson’s performance, in short order the men found themselves at the highest levels of the court in an all-expenses paid romp with a king. Charles Woodcock, who inexplicably added “Savage” to his name (his mother's maiden name), became the constant companion of Karl. They were inseparable, going so far as to appear together in public dressed identically.

It was all too sordid and familiar. Finally, the naming of Charles Woodcock to Royal Councilor and his elevation to "Baron von Woodcock-Savage" in 1888 brought the resentment of Württemberg's courtiers to a frenzy. The title of Royal Councilor took precedence over that of Colonel, and an American thus passed at one step over the heads of the court officers who had been in the king’s service for twenty years.

Defending his friend, Hendry described Woodcock's relationship with the King as “hard work”: the American had to be always interesting and entertaining; he had to use all his extra time in reading and finding out what was going on in the world. Hendry said that Woodcock was doing the work of three men.

I’m sure we all agree. “Reading and socializing” is back-breaking work. Here's a photo of Woodcock hard at work in Venice, "reading" to the Grand Duchess Olga (left) and two of her ladies in waiting. Woodcock traveled as part of the household, wherever the royal family went.

The citizens of Württemberg thought differently. The courtier class of nobles saw themselves robbed of their traditional, profitable intimacy with the monarch and cheated of lucrative court positions. They observed that the King was completely in the hands of his American friends, with whom he spent hours daily, paying no attention to politics. Woodcock, especially, while holding no official position, had been elevated to leader of the court, and he was thus the most powerful man in Württemberg. The king provided palatial lodgings for the men and took them with him on exotic travels. When the king wintered in Nice, the king set them up in a luxury hotel next door. They were given titles, valuable gifts, royal favor and salaries. The king even gave Woodcock cash to pay off his debts left behind in Canada. Astonishingly, Woodcock ate daily at the king’s table, causing an outrage among the nobles.

From a reporter’s first hand account at the time: “This afternoon I saw Mr. Woodcock and the King start their daily drive. I put Mr. Woodcock first, because it was upon him that the King had to wait, and an outsider would naturally take him for the monarch and the monarch for his domestic. They drove off behind a fine pair of horses in grand style, cheek by jowl, for their daily conference on “spiritual matters.”

Eventually Chancellor Otto von Bismark himself had to intervene, and the Americans were eventually sent packing. Bismark had hired detectives to expose the ruse of the men. Woodcock claimed to have earned a Doctoral Degree from the University of Heidelberg, and he insisted that he be called “Doctor,” but no records could be found that he ever attended the university. Basically, Woodcock and Hendry were exposed as calculating, conniving, self-interested con-artists who had initially insinuated themselves into the king’s favor by posing as “spiritual advisors.” The detectives also exposed a sexual relationship between the American men and the king.

The resulting outcry forced Karl to renounce his favorite. The king was told that if the two Americans were not deported, his entire ministry would resign. The King released a statement on November 18, 1888: "At the command of my people I have sacrificed the noblest friend a monarch ever had." Woodcock returned to America, and King Karl found “private consolation” some years later with a German (at last), a Mr. Wilhelm George, the technical director of the royal theater.

Three years after the American lads were sent packing, Karl died childless at Stuttgart on October 6, 1891, and was succeeded as King of Württemberg by his cousin, his sister's son, William II of Württemberg. Karl rests, together with his wife Olga, in the Old Castle in Stuttgart.

When “Freiherr von Savage, Baron Woodcock,” the favorite of the King of Württemberg, returned to New York City, he moved in with his parents, ostensibly to “mourn his sweetheart,” a certain Miss Belle Carter, who had conveniently died a few months earlier. Claiming a female lover was his way of deflecting further innuendos about his intimacy with King Karl.

Bismarck's investigators had also reported that Dr. George Hepworth (you remembered, right?) had taken an interest in Woodcock's “education” many years ago and had given him the means to afford his studies; the detectives found evidence that Hepworth seemed to have a “special inclination to young men.” Those detectives even dug up dirt about the king himself. They discovered that the king’s sexual and unnatural sickness was shared with the king’s grandfather, King Friedrich I (1797-1816), also known to have had a strong sexual interest in men.

Perhaps you should stop to pour a cup of tea, in order to digest all this in a calm and reasonable manner, thus steadying your nerves.

Charles Woodcock-Savage later established a household with Donald Hendry in NYC, and they vacationed together in nearby Long Beach, New Jersey. During the summer of 1891 Charles and Donald hosted the Reverend George Hepworth (no!) and his wife at their cottage in Long Beach.

So there you have it.

But Woodcock never lost his need for luxury. In 1894, with Donald Hendry as best man (!), Charles married Henrietta Knebel Staples, a very wealthy widow with four children who owned a house on Central Park West and 84th Street, NYC. In 1900 they bought and substantially reconstructed one of the Princeton’s finest nineteenth century houses. All four of Henrietta's children changed their last name to Savage, and one of the sons even changed his first name to Charles. Creepy.

Stranger still: In 1906 Charles Woodcock-Savage published A Lady in Waiting: Being extracts from the diary of Julie de Chesnil, sometime lady-in-waiting to her Majesty, Queen Marie Antoinette (New York: D. Appleton and Company). He dedicated it "To a Noble Soul I Knew and Loved and Mourn." The King had died in 1891, so three guesses as to the identity of the dedicatee. The introduction gives an account of a diary found locked in a drawer of a cabinet sold at auction and bought by the translator's friend, who gives permission to publish the writings. The memoirs offered up are in fact a pseudo-autobiography, with names and gender changed to protect the guilty.

As for Donald Hendry, he inexplicably subtracted three years from his actual age and studied to become a librarian. By 1910 he was employed on the staff of the Pratt Institute Free Library, in Brooklyn, New York, and for twenty-four years headed its Applied Science Reference Department. Hendry retired in 1934, as a bachelor at the age of eighty. When Hendry died a year later, his New York Times obituary said that he had spent "eleven years in Europe as a private secretary," a way of publicly naming his years with Woodcock, who had died in 1923. Today, Hendry's gravestone in Trinity Cemetery (Riverside Dr. at W. 153rd St.), lies between those of Charles Woodcock-Savage and his wife. I’m not making this up.

Oh wait. I’m sure you’re wondering whatever became of Jackson. Well, he survived the exile of Woodcock and Hendry, somehow untouched by scandal. Even after the death of King Karl, in 1891, Jackson maintained his position in Stuttgart society. However, a house servant, Karl Mann, who had worked for Jackson in the 1880s, extorted 1,075 marks from his former employer, threatening to denounce Jackson to the police for engaging him in illicit sexual acts. Jackson, taking a most unusual and courageous step, lodged a blackmail complaint against Mann in 1893, and Mann was found guilty.

This legal case provided ammunition for the newspapers of the German Social Democratic party to attack the immoral behavior of the upper classes. Recalling the King's "generous gifts to Jackson," one item remarked sarcastically that the American "must have been of quite extraordinary service to the person of the deceased king," thereby suggesting sexual relations. Jackson, the paper reported, had for long years practiced an abominable vice, the crime against nature.

The public scandal surrounding Karl Mann’s trial was too much for Jackson, who left Stuttgart for the United States. Returning to Steubenville, Ohio (named for the gay Prussian Baron von Steuben, as you will recall), he ended his days with his sister elsewhere in the state, thus resuming the role of a plain citizen. A life with an unassuming beginning and end, perhaps, but with a prickly spark in the middle.

Sources: Among many internet souces, this one is major: a 4-part series on all the subjects involved in this matter:

Author is Jonathan Ned Katz

Predecessor: Willliam I Successor: William II

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Charles I, King of Wurttemberg's Timeline

March 6, 1823
Stuttgart, Württemberg, Deutschland(DB)
March 6, 1823
- June 25, 1864
Stuttgart, Stuttgart, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
May 6, 1823
Stuttgart, Stuttgart, Württemberg, Deutschland(DB)
June 25, 1864
- October 6, 1891
Age 41
Stuttgart, Stuttgart, Baden-Württemberg, Germany
October 6, 1891
Age 68
Stuttgart, Württemberg, Deutschland(DKR)
October 20, 1891
Age 68
Gruft vom Schlosskirche, Stuttgart, Württemberg, Deutschland(DKR)