Carolina, Princess of Sayn-Wittgenstein

BORN 7 Feb 1819, Monasterzys (near Kiev) - DIED 8 Mar 1887, Roma, Lazio
BIRTH NAME Iwanowska, Karolyna Jeanne Elizabeth von
GRAVE LOCATION Roma, Lazio: Campo Santo Teutonico, Via di Porta Cavalleggeri

Karolyna Elizabeth Iwanowska was born on the estate of her parents near Kiev in the Russian Empire. Her father was Peter von Iwanowski. In 1836 she married Prince Nikolaus zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg-Ludwigsburg, an officer in the Russian army. In 1837 their daughter Marie Pauline Antoinette (1837-1920) was born. Carolina was already estranged from her husband when she met Franz Liszt in 1847. They started an affair and from 1848 onwards they lived together in Weimar.

When the young Hans von Bülow stayed with Liszt and her in Weimar he found that she smoked heavy cigars and talked constantly. From a distance she was actively involved in the strict education of Liszt's children from his former mistress Marie d'Agoult, thus contributing to their unhappy childhoods.

In 1855 she formally divorced her husband (who was protestant and remarried in 1857), but the Catholic Church refused her permission to marry Liszt. In 1860 the Catholic Church was ready to give in and they planned to marry on Liszt's 50th birthday in Rome on 22 Oct 1861. But when they were there they still couldn't marry because the Czar and the Prince had convinced the Vatican that it shouldn't happen.

Liszt soon became an abbé in the Catholic Church and from then on their relationship became platonic. Carolina lived for the rest of her life at the Via Babuino in Rome, where she studied the works of Thomas Aquinas and published extensively on the 'inner causes of the weakness of the church' in "Des causes intérieures de la faiblesse extérieure de l'Église en 1870" (24 volumes, 1872-1887). It was privately printed but not publicly published. When it became known that the work existed, two volumes were put on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum by the Catholic Church.

During her life she also wrote articles and essays and she conducted massive correspondences with Liszt, Berlioz and others. It is possible that Liszt's biography of Chopin was in reality written by her. She corresponded with Liszt until his death in 1886 and died herself only a few months later in Rome.

Related persons
• was a friend of Berlioz, Hector
• knew Hebbel, Friedrich
• was the lover of Liszt, Franz


Grave monument for Carolina of Sayn-Wittgenstein at the Campo Santo Teutonico, Rome.
Picture by Androom (25 Jan 2010)


Grave monument for Carolina of Sayn-Wittgenstein at the Campo Santo Teutonico, Rome.
Picture by Androom (25 Jan 2010)


• Elgklou, Lars, Koninklijke minnaars en minnaressen, Echtscheidingen, bastaardkinderen, bigamie, verhoudingen, Standaard, Antwerpen, 1985
• Prahacs, Margit, Franz Liszt, Briefe aus Ungarischen Sammlungen 1835-1886, Bärenreiter, Kassel, 1966
Carolyne zu Sayn-Wittgenstein – Wikipedia

Caroline von Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel

Published: 14 Feb 2010
Last update: 24 Feb 2022