Princess Maria Anna of Anhalt-Dessau Presentation Pill Box, 1890
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Diameter: 4.6 cm (1.8in)
900 grade silver and enamels, the lid applied with a gold mounted blue cabochon and set with the MA cypher of Princess Maria Anna of Anhalt-Dessau. Gilt interior.
Princess Maria Anna of Anhalt-Dessau (1837-1906) was a princess in the House of Ascania which long held sway over the Anhalt in north east Germany. Her maternal grandparents were Prince Louis Charles of Prussia (brother of King Frederick William III of Prussia) and Frederica of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. Maria Anna was a younger sister of Frederick I, Duke of Anhalt and Agnes, Duchess of Saxe-Altenburg. In 1854 she married her second cousin Prince Frederick Charles of Prussia. Their marriage was unhappy. After the birth of their fourth daughter, Prince Frederick Charles reportedly beat his wife for not producing a son. According to one source, it was only by the entreaties of Emperor Wilhelm I that a separation never occurred. Maria Anna was considered by contemporaries to be one of the loveliest women of her generation. She possessed a remarkable talent for music and painting, and often advised young girls when they first entered society. Maria Anna was almost completely deaf, but according to her friend Princess Catherine Radziwill, when not disturbed by the noise of many conversations around her, ‘she became quite charming, and really witty’. The wife beater Prince Frederick Charles died on 15 June 1885. After his death, Maria Anna left Berlin for Italy, staying mainly in Naples, Rome, and Florence. Rumors soon emerged that Maria Anna contracted a morganatic marriage to Captain von Wagenheim, one of her equerries. In 1889, Maria Anna’s only son Prince Frederick married Princess Louise Sophie of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Augustenburg, a sister of Empress Augusta Viktoria, wife of the Kaiser Wilhelm II. Maria Anna died on 12 May 1906 in Friedrichroda.