Polyxena of Hesse-Rotenburg

Princess Polyxena of Hesse-Rheinfels-Rotenburg (Polyxena Christina Johanna; 21 September 1706 – 13 January 1735) was the second wife of Charles Emmanuel, Prince of Piedmont whom she married in 1724. The mother of the future Victor Amadeus III, she was queen consort of Sardinia from 1730 until her death in 1735.[3]

Polyxena of Hesse-Rheinfels-Rotenburg
Polyxena of Hesse-Rotenburg c. 1728–1730. Portrait by Maria Giovanna Clementi.
Queen consort of Sardinia
Tenure3 September 1730 – 13 January 1735
Born(1706-09-21)21 September 1706
Langenschwalbach, Hesse
Died13 January 1735(1735-01-13) (aged 28)
Royal Palace of Turin
SpouseCharles Emmanuel III of Sardinia
IssueVictor Amadeus III, King of Sardinia
Princess Eleonora
Princess Maria Luisa
Princess Maria Felicita
Prince Emanuele Filiberto
Carlo, Duke of Chablais
Full name
Polyxena Christina Johanna
FatherErnest Leopold, Landgrave of Hesse-Rotenburg[1]
MotherCountess Eleonore of Löwenstein-Wertheim-Rochefort[2]

Queen of Sardinia

King Victor Amadeus II of Sardinia approached her family and proposed a union between Polyxena and Victor Amadeus II's son and heir, Charles Emmanuel, Prince of Piedmont. A previous match orchestrated by Agostino Steffani with a daughter of Rinaldo d'Este, Duke of Modena, had come to nothing.[4] His first wife, Countess Palatine Anne Christine of Sulzbach, died on 12 March 1723, less than a year after her marriage and barely a week after giving birth to a son, Victor Amadeus, Duke of Aosta (7 March 1723 – 1 August 1725).[5]

Although only two years younger, Polyxena was a niece of Charles Emanuel's first wife,[5] and belonged to the only Roman Catholic branch (since 1652) of the reigning House of Hesse.[6] In fact, she had been nominally a canoness of Thorn since 1720.[7]

The engagement was announced on 2 July 1724,[8] and she wed Charles Emmanuel by proxy on 23 July in Rotenburg. The marriage was celebrated in person at Thonon in Chablais on 20 August 1724.[9]

Her stepson Victor Amadeus, heir after his father and grandfather to the Sardinian crown, died at the age of two, a year after Polyxena's marriage and before she had a child of her own. Nonetheless, she is said to have had a close relationship with her mother-in-law, Anne Marie d'Orléans, and the two frequented the Villa della Regina outside the capital, where the latter died in 1728.

When King Victor Amadeus announced his decision to return to the throne after having abdicated in 1730, Polyxena used her influence over her husband[10] to have his father imprisoned at the Castle of Moncalieri, where he was joined for a while by his morganatic wife, Anna Canalis di Cumiana, Polyxena's former lady of the bedchamber.[11]

In an 1869 history of the House of Savoy, Francesco Predari wrote that despite the fact Polyxena was praised for goodness of character and beautiful virtues, her father-in-law advised her to take care to maintain separate quarters from her husband for prudence's sake.[8] In 1732 she founded a home for young mothers in Turin,[8] redecorated the Villa della Regina, Stupinigi's hunting lodge, and the Church of Saint Joseph in Turin. She carried out various improvements with Filippo Juvarra and popularised chinoiserie. She was also a patron of Giovanni Battista Crosato, a baroque painter.[12]

Having been ill since June 1734, she died at the Royal Palace of Turin, and has been buried in the Royal Basilica of Superga since 1786. Two years after her death, her widower married Princess Elisabeth Therese of Lorraine,[13] sister of the future Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor.


The senior branch of the House of Savoy ended with her grandson Charles Felix of Sardinia. The Villa Polissena in Rome is named in her honour.[14]



Titles and styles

  • 21 September 1706 – 23 July 1724: Princess Polyxena of Hesse-Rheinfels-Rotenburg, Canoness of Thorn[17]
  • 23 July 1724 – 3 September 1730: Princess of Piedmont
  • 3 September 1730 – 13 January 1735: Queen of Sardinia


  1. Huberty 1976, pp. 108, 153–154.
  2. Huberty 1976, pp. 108.
  3. Huberty 1976, pp. 108, 129, 146–147, 153–154.
  4. Timms. Colin: Polymath of the baroque: Agostino Steffani and his music, Oxford University Press US, 2003, p. 117
  5. Marek 2008.
  6. Huberty 1976, p. 75.
  7. Huberty 1976, p. 130.
  8. Storia politica, civile, militare della dinastia di Savoia dalle prime origini a Vittorio Emanuele II, Paravia, 1869, p. 266
  9. Vitelleschi. Marchese: The romance of Savoy, Victor Amadeus II. and his Stuart bride Volume II, Harvard College Library, New York, 1905, p. 488
  10. Vitelleschi. Marchese: The romance of Savoy, Victor Amadeus II and his Stuart bride. Volume II, Harvard College Library, New York, 1905, p. 497
  11. Symcox. Geoffrey: Victor Amadeus II: absolutism in the Savoyard State, 1675-1730, University of California Press, 1983, p. 229
  12. Two Allegorical Sculptures by Francesco Ladatte, Metropolitan Museum Journal, Vol. 41, (2006), pp. 121–131.
  13. Bianchi, Nicomede. Le Materie Politiche Relative All'estero Degli Archivi Di Stato Piemontesi. Categoria, Reale Casa - Matrimoni. BiblioBazaar, LLC, 2009, p=472 ISBN 0-559-96349-1
  14. "Mafalda di Savoia". Santi, Beati e Testimoni. Retrieved 26 August 2010.
  15. C.E.D.R.E. Les Manuscrits du C.E.D.R.E.: Le Royaume d'Italie, volume II. Paris, 1993, pp. 212-214. (French). ISSN 0993-3964.
  16. Genealogie ascendante jusqu'au quatrieme degre inclusivement de tous les Rois et Princes de maisons souveraines de l'Europe actuellement vivans [Genealogy up to the fourth degree inclusive of all the Kings and Princes of sovereign houses of Europe currently living] (in French). Bourdeaux: Frederic Guillaume Birnstiel. 1768. p. 64.
  17. Huberty 1976, p. 129.


  • Cantogno. Domenico Carutti di: Storia del regno di Carlo Emanuele III Turin, 1859
  • Symcox. Geoffrey: Victor Amadeus II: absolutism in the Savoyard State, 1675-1730, University of California Press, 1983, ISBN 978-0-520-04974-1
  • Huberty, Michel; Giraud, F. Alain; Magdelaine, F. & B (1976), L'Allemagne Dynastique (Tome I Hesse-Reuss-Saxe), Le Perreux: A. Giraud, ISBN 2-901138-01-2
  • Marek, Miroslav (2008), "Rulers of Savoy and Sicily", Genealogy.EU, retrieved 29 August 2010
  • Tourtchine. Jean-Fred: Les manuscrits du C.E.D.R.E. – Dictionnaire Historique et Généalogique, vol. I. Le Royaume d'Italie, Cercle d'Études des Dynasties Royales Européennes (president, Jean-Fred Tourtchine), Paris, 1992. ISSN 0993-3964.
  • Vitelleschi. Marchese: The romance of Savoy, Victor Amadeus II. and his Stuart bride Volume II, Harvard College Library, New York, 1905
Polyxena of Hesse-Rotenburg
Cadet branch of the House of Hesse
Born: 21 September 1706 Died: 13 January 1735
Italian royalty
Title last held by
Anne Marie d'Orléans
Queen consort of Sardinia
3 September 1730 – 13 January 1735
Title next held by
Elisabeth Therese of Lorraine
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