Category Archives: Hessian Royals

Princess Cecilie of Greece, Hereditary Grand Duchess of Hesse and by Rhine

by Scott Mehl

source: Wikipedia

Princess Cecilie of Greece and Denmark, Hereditary Grand Duchess of Hesse and by Rhine

Princess Cecilie of Greece and Denmark was born at Tatoi Palace on June 22, 1911. She was the third daughter of Prince Andreas of Greece and Denmark and Princess Alice of Battenberg. Cecilie had four siblings:

Cecilie with her husband and two sons, c1933. photo: personal collection

On February 2, 1931, in Darmstadt, Cecilie married her first cousin once removed, Georg Donatus, Hereditary Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine. He was the son of Ernst Ludwig, Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine and Princess Eleonore of Solms-Hohensolms-Lich. Cecilie and Georg Donatus (known as Don) had three children:

Cecilie’s life came to a tragic end on November 16, 1937. A very pregnant Cecilie, her husband, their two sons, and her mother-in-law, were traveling by plane to London to attend the wedding of Don’s brother, Prince Ludwig and Margaret Geddes four days later. Facing bad weather, the plane was unable to land in Brussels as scheduled, and was instead diverted to Ostend. While attempting to land, the plane clipped a chimney on a factory near the airport, and the plane crashed leaving no survivors.

Having received the news, a private wedding ceremony was hastily arranged for Ludwig and Margaret the following day. They then traveled to Belgium to accompany the bodies back to Darmstadt. A funeral was held a few days later, attended by all of Cecilie’s family. Cecilie and her family were all buried in the burial ground next to the New Mausoleum in the Rosenhöhe.

Ludwig and Margaret adopted Cecilie and Don’s only surviving child, Princess Johanna. Sadly, less than two years later, Johanna contracted meningitis and died. She was buried alongside the rest of her family.

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Princess Victoria Melita of Edinburgh and Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Grand Duchess Victoria Feodorovna of Russia

source: Wikipedia

Princess Victoria Melita of Edinburgh and Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Grand Duchess of Russia

Princess Victoria Melita of Edinburgh (known as ‘Ducky’ in the family) was born on November 25, 1866 at the San Anton Palace in Malta, where her father was stationed at the time. She was the second daughter of Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh (later Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha) and Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia. She was a granddaughter of both Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom and Tsar Alexander II of Russia.

Ducky had four siblings:

During her childhood, the family’s primary homes were Clarence House in London and Eastwell Park in Kent. They also spent several years at the San Anton Palace in Malta when her father was stationed there with the Royal Navy. In addition, they had homes in Coburg – Palais Edinburg and Schloss Rosenau – where her father was heir to his childless uncle, the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.

In 1891, Queen Victoria began promoting the idea of a marriage between Ducky and her first cousin, Ernst Ludwig of Hesse and by Rhine. He was the son of Princess Alice of the United Kingdom, and Grand Duke Ludwig IV of Hesse and by Rhine. The two were both visiting The Queen and she saw that they got along well and, coincidentally, even shared the same birthday.

Victoria Melita and Ernst Ludwig, 1894. source: Wikipedia

In 1893, her father succeeded to the ducal throne, and she became Princess Victoria Melita of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. The following year, on April 9, 1894, she and Ernie (who was now Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig of Hesse and by Rhine) married at Schloss Ehrenburg in Coburg. The couple had two children:

Despite the Queen’s observations, the New Grand Duchess of Hesse and by Rhine and her husband were horribly mismatched. She craved her husband’s attention, while he focused more on their daughter than his wife. For a few years, they seemed to make the best of it, enjoying each others company as well as entertaining friends and family from around Europe. But by the late 1890s, it was clear that the marriage was a mistake. Allegedly, the final blow for Ducky was finding her husband in an intimate situation with a male servant. Despite this, Queen Victoria would not permit a divorce and the two continued on with their unhappy lives. Following the Queen’s death in 1901, there was no longer any obstacle in ending their marriage, and they divorced on December 21, 1901. Ducky returned to her mother in Coburg, and she and her former husband shared custody of their young daughter. Two years later, while on a visit to the Russian Imperial Family, Princess Elisabeth fell ill with typhoid. Before Ducky could arrive, the young princess died. Her daughter’s death finally severed the connection that Ducky had with her former husband and her former home.

On October 8, 1905, she married for a second time. This time her husband was another first cousin, Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich of Russia, with whom she had had a mutual attraction for many years. They had first met in 1891 when Ducky traveled to Russia to attend the funeral of her aunt, Grand Duchess Alexandra Georgievna (the former Princess Alexandra of Greece). However, while the two were attracted to each other, her mother made every effort to dissuade Ducky from the thought of marrying him, as the Russian Orthodox Church did not permit marriages between first cousins.

Despite this, the two maintained their attraction for each other and eventually decided to marry. Upon finding out about the marriage, Tsar Nicholas II stripped Kirill of his royal funding and titles as well as his military appointments. He also banished him from Russia, so the couple settled in France. They had three children:

Victoria Melita with her husband and two daughters, c.1912. source: Wikipedia

In 1908, Tsar Nicholas II put personal feelings aside, and permitted Kirill and Victoria Melita to return to Russia. Recent deaths in the Imperial Family brought Kirill to 3rd in the line of succession, and it was deemed necessary to allow his return, and restore his funding and military appointments. Victoria Melita was given the style Imperial Highness and created Grand Duchess Viktoria Feodorovna.

During World War I, Ducky worked as a nurse with the Red Cross. Soon after the Tsar’s abdication in 1917, she and Kirill decided it was best to leave Russia, and traveled to Finland where they would remain for over two years. In the fall of 1919, they moved on to Munich where they reunited with her mother, and then all moved to Zurich.

After her mother’s death in 1920, the family now had two homes at their disposal – her mother’s villa in Nice and the Villa Edinburg in Coburg (which later became known as the Kirill Palace) – and for the next several years, split their time between the two. In 1926, they settled for the last time in France, purchasing a villa in Saint-Briac. Here they settled into a more quiet life, while Victoria Melita put her energies into raising her son and ensuring her daughters made significant marriages.

with her husband and two younger children, 1935. source: Wikipedia

In February 1936, while attending the christening of her fifth grandchild, Victoria Melita suffered a stroke. She passed away on March 1, 1936 at the age of 59. She was buried in the Ducal Mausoleum at the Glockenburg Cemetery in Coburg. In March 1995, her remains, as well as those of her husband, were moved to the Grand Ducal Burial Vault at the Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg, Russia.

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Prince Henry of Battenberg

Photo Credit – Wikipedia

The husband of Queen Victoria’s daughter Princess Beatrice, Prince Henry of Battenberg (Henry Maurice, German: Heinrich Moritz) was born on October 5, 1858 in Milan, Lombardy–Venetia, Italy. Henry (called Liko) was the fourth of the five children of Prince Alexander of Hesse and by Rhine and Countess Julia Hauke. As his parents’ marriage was morganatic, Henry and his siblings took their titles from their mother, who had been created Countess of Battenberg and was later elevated to Princess of Battenberg in 1858. See Unofficial Royalty: Who Are The Battenbergs?

Henry had three brothers and one sister:

Henry received a military education and was commissioned a lieutenant in the 1st Regiment of the Rhenish Hussars of the Prussian Army.  He also served in the Gardes du Corps, the personal bodyguard of the King of Prussia and, after 1871, of the German Emperor.

In 1884, Henry’s brother Louis married Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine, the daughter of Queen Victoria’s third child Alice. Of course, Henry attended the wedding in Darmstadt and so did the bride’s aunt Princess Beatrice of the United Kingdom, the youngest child of Queen Victoria. Queen Victoria had expectations that Beatrice would never marry and remain her personal assistant and secretary. However, during the wedding celebrations, Henry and Beatrice fell in love. When Beatrice told her mother of her desire to marry Henry, Queen Victoria did not speak to Beatrice for seven months. Eventually, the Queen realized that Beatrice would not back down and decided to allow the marriage with several conditions: Henry must renounce his career, nationality, and home and agree to live with Beatrice and the Queen.

On the day before the wedding, Queen Victoria created Henry a Knight of the Garter and granted him the style Royal Highness. This style was in effect only in the United Kingdom, and not in the German Empire, where the Henry was still considered a Serene Highness. Beatrice and Henry were married on July 23, 1885 at Saint Mildred’s Church in Whippingham, Isle of Wight, England near Queen Victoria’s beloved home Osborne House. On the wedding day, a bill passed in the House of Lords making Henry a naturalized British subject. After the wedding, the couple was styled as Their Royal Highnesses Prince and Princess Henry of Battenberg.

Photo Credit – Wikipedia; THE BACK: (L-R): Prince Alexander of Bulgaria, Princess Louise of Wales, Princess Irene of Hesse and by Rhine, Princess Victoria of Wales, Prince Franz Joseph of Battenberg * THE MIDDLE: (L-R): Princess Maud of Wales, Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine, Princesses Marie Louise and Helena Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein * THE FRONT: (L-R): Princesses Victoria Melita, Marie and Alexandra of Edinburgh and bridal couple

Beatrice and Henry had three sons and one daughter. The Spanish Royal Family descends from their marriage.

Queen Victoria with Henry and Beatrice and their three eldest children in 1889; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Unfortunately, Beatrice was a hemophilia carrier. Henry and Beatrice’s son Leopold was a hemophiliac and their daughter Victoria Eugenie was a carrier. Leopold died after an emergency operation at Kensington Palace when he was almost 23. Victoria Eugenie, known as Ena, brought hemophilia into the Spanish Royal Family. Two of Ena’s sons had hemophilia. Her son Alfonso died in a car accident at age 31 and her son Gonzalo also died as the result of a car accident at age 20.
Unofficial Royalty: Hemophilia in Queen Victoria’s Family

NPG P1700(21b); Prince Henry Maurice of Battenberg by Walery

Prince Henry Maurice of Battenberg by Walery, albumen print, 1895 NPG P1700(21b) © National Portrait Gallery, London

Beatrice and Henry kept their promise and lived with Queen Victoria and Beatrice remained her full-time confidante and secretary. Henry was often bored by the lack of activity and in an effort to give him more to do, Queen Victoria appointed him Governor of Carisbrooke Castle and Captain-General and Governor of the Isle of Wight in 1889, Lieutenant-Colonel in the Army in 1887, Colonel in 1893, and a member of the Privy Council in 1894. In November of 1895, Henry persuaded Queen Victoria to allow him to go to West Africa to fight in the Anglo-Ashanti Wars. Henry arrived in Africa on Christmas Day of 1895. By January 10, 1896, Henry was sick with malaria and it was decided to send him back to England. Henry died aboard the ship HMS Blonde off the coast of Sierra Leone on January 20, 1896 at the age of 37. His funeral took place on February 5, 1896, at St. Mildred’s Church on the Isle of Wight where he had been married. He was interred at St. Mildred’s Church in what became known as the Battenberg Chapel.
San Francisco Call January 23, 1896: Prince Henry of Battenberg Dead
The Inquirer and Commercial News March 13, 1896: Funeral of Prince Henry of Battenberg
Poetry Nook: Funeral of the Late Prince Henry of Battenberg, Poem by William McGonagall

Beatrice survived Henry by 48 years, dying on October 26, 1944 at the age of 87, the last surviving child of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. She was buried with Henry at St. Mildred’s Church.

Tomb of Princess Beatrice and Prince Henry of Battenberg; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Wikipedia: Prince Henry of Battenberg

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Prince Friedrich Karl, Landgrave of Hesse

Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Prince Friedrich Karl of Hesse (Friedrich Karl Ludwig Konstantin), husband of Queen Victoria’s granddaughter Princess Margarete of Prussia, was born on May 1, 1869 at his family’s estate Gut Panker, in Plön, Holstein, Prussia (now in Germany). He was the fourth of the six children of Friedrich Wilhelm, Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel and his second wife Princess Anna of Prussia. Friedrich Wilhelm’s first wife Grand Duchess Alexandra Nikolaevna of Russia, the youngest daughter of Tsar Nicholas I of Russia, and his wife Princess Charlotte of Prussia, died in childbirth at the age of 19 after giving birth to a premature son who also died. Prince Friedrich Karl, known as Fischy, grew up in a home where his father never recovered from the loss of his first wife and treated his second wife politely, but in a distant manner. Fischy’s mother Anna was intelligent and a classically trained pianist who supported a number of musicians and composers including Johannes Brahms, Clara Schumann, and Anton Rubinstein. Fischy had two brothers and three sisters:

Prince Friedrich Karl 1892; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

In the summer of 1892, Fischy became engaged to Princess Margarete of Prussia (known as Mossy), the youngest child of Friedrich III, German Emperor and Victoria, Princess Royal. As a younger son, Fischy was not wealthy and did not own property, and it was with great reluctance that Mossy’s brother Wilhelm II, German Emperor gave the marriage his approval, telling his sister that he did so because “she was so unimportant.”

Prince Friedrich Karl and Princess Margarete in 1893; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Fischy and Mossy were married at the Friedenskirche in Potsdam, Prussia on January 25, 1893, the wedding anniversary of Mossy’s parents, which was bittersweet for Mossy’s widowed mother. Fischy and Mossy had six sons, including two sets of twins. Two of their sons were killed in action during World War I and one was killed in action during World War II.

Hesse-Kassel sons

Hesse-Kassel sons; Photo Credit – pinterest.com

Fischy and Mossy’s marriage was a happy one and in the early years of their marriage, they lived at Schloss Rumpenheim in Offenbach am Main, Hesse, (Germany). Upon the death of her mother in 1901, Mossy inherited Schloss Friedrichshof in Kronberg im Taunus, Hesse (Germany), the home her mother had built between 1889 and 1893 in honor of her late husband Friedrich III, German Emperor. Mossy was committed to retaining her mother’s home, so the family moved to Schloss Friedrichshof. The extensive art collection and the financial resources Mossy inherited along with Schloss Friedrichshof helped with the upkeep of her mother’s home. Today Schloss Friedrichshof, known as Schlosshotel Kronberg, is a five-star hotel which belongs to the House of Hesse.
Official Website: Schlosshotel Kronberg

Mossy and Fischy’s quiet life was interrupted in 1918. After becoming independent from Russia, the Finnish Parliament elected Fischy King of Finland of October 9, 1918. However, with the end of World War I, because of his German birth and the abdication of brother-in-law Wilhelm III, German Emperor and the ending of the monarchies in Germany, Fischy renounced the throne on December 14, 1918.

On March 16, 1925, Fischy’s brother abdicated as the head of the House of Hesse and was succeeded by Fischy. Even though Germany had done away with royal titles, Fischy was styled as Landgrave of Hesse. Fischy died on May 28, 1940 as the age of 72 and was buried at the family cemetery of the House of Hesse at the Schloss Kronberg (formerly Schloss Friedrichshof) in Taunus, Hesse, Germany. Mossy survived her husband by nearly 14 years, dying on January 22, 1954 at the age of 81, and was buried beside him.

Wikipedia: Prince Friedrich Karl, Landgrave of Hesse

Princess Margarete of Prussia, Landgravine of Hesse

Photo Credit – Wikipedia

A granddaughter of Queen Victoria, Princess Margarete of Prussia (Margarete Beatrice Feodora) was born on April 22, 1872 at the Neues Palais in Potsdam, Prussia (Germany). She was given the name Margarete in honor of one of her godparents, Crown Princess Margharita of Italy, born Margherita of Savoy, the wife of the future King Umberto I of Italy. The youngest of the eight children of Friedrich III, German Emperor and Victoria, Princess Royal, the infant princess’ head was covered with short, moss-like hair and therefore, her family name was Mossy. Her mother was particularly close to her three youngest daughters and called them “my three sweet girls.” Mossy had four brothers and three sisters.

NPG x95907; Group photo of three sisters of Prussia. Margarete, Victoria and Sophie. by Alexander Bassano

Group photo of three sisters of Prussia. Margarete, Victoria and Sophie. by Alexander Bassano, half-plate glass negative, circa 1887 NPG x95907 © National Portrait Gallery, London

Mossy’s father had died in 1888 and since the marriage of her sister Victoria (Moretta) in 1890, she had been her mother’s constant companion. However, Mossy’s mother would not dream of insisting her youngest daughter and her husband make their home with her as her mother Queen Victoria had insisted her youngest daughter Beatrice do. There was talk of Mossy marrying Tsarevich Nicholas of Russia (the future Tsar Nicholas II) and her cousin Prince Eddy (Albert Victor of Wales). At the time of these discussions, Mossy was infatuated with Prince Max of Baden, who did not reciprocate. In the summer of 1892, Mossy became engaged to Prince Friedrich Karl of Hesse (Fischy), the third son of Frederick William of Hesse, Landgrave of Hesse. As the third son, Fischy was not wealthy and did not own property, and it was with great reluctance that Mossy’s brother Wilhelm II, German Emperor gave the marriage his approval, telling his sister that he did so because “she was so unimportant.”

Princess Margarete and Prince Friedrich Karl of Hesse in 1893; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Mossy and Fischy were married at the Friedenskirche in Potsdam, Prussia on January 25, 1893, on the wedding anniversary of Mossy’s parents, which was bittersweet for Mossy’s widowed mother. Mossy and Fischy had six sons, including two sets of twins. Two of their sons were killed in action during World War I and one was killed in action during World War II.

Hesse-Kassel sons

Hesse-Kassel sons; Photo Credit – pinterest.com

Mossy, who lived until 1954, had a number of family tragedies to endure:

  • Prince Maximilian of Hesse-Kassel: second child, killed in action during World War I on October 13, 1914.  See Unofficial Royalty: October 1914 – Royalty and World War I
  • Prince Friedrich Wilhelm of Hesse-Kassel: eldest child, killed in action during World War I on September 12, 1916.  See Unofficial Royalty: September 1916 – Royalty and World War I
  • Princess Mafalda of Savoy: wife of her son Prince Philipp of Hesse-Kassel, daughter of King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy, died in Buchenwald concentration camp on August 27, 1944 during World War II. Philipp was also imprisoned in concentration camps after his fall-out with Hitler
  • Prince Christoph of Hesse-Kassel: youngest child, killed in action during World War II on October 7, 1943
  • Princess Marie Alexandra of Baden: wife of her son Prince Wolfgang of Hesse-Kassel, killed during an American air-raid on Frankfurt am Main on January 29, 1944 during World War II. Marie Alexandra and seven other women, who were all aid workers, were killed when the cellar, in which they had taken refuge, collapsed under the weight of the building

Mossy and Fischy’s marriage was a happy one and in the early years of their marriage, they lived at Schloss Rumpenheim in Offenbach am Main, Hesse, (Germany). Upon the death of her mother in 1901, Mossy inherited Schloss Friedrichshof in Kronberg im Taunus, Hesse (Germany), the home her mother had built between 1889 and 1893 in honor of her late husband Friedrich III, German Emperor. Mossy was committed to retaining her mother’s home, so her family moved to Schloss Friedrichshof. The extensive art collection and the financial resources Mossy inherited along with Schloss Friedrichshof helped with the upkeep of her mother’s home. Today Schloss Friedrichshof, known as Schlosshotel Kronberg, is a five-star hotel which belongs to the House of Hesse.
Official Website: Schlosshotel Kronberg

Schlosshotel Kronberg, 2007; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Mossy and Fischy’s quiet life was interrupted in 1918. After becoming independent from Russia, the Finnish Parliament elected Fischy King of Finland on October 9, 1918. However, with the end of World War I, because of his German birth and the abdication of brother-in-law Wilhelm III, German Emperor and the ending of the monarchies in Germany, Fischy renounced the throne on December 14, 1918.

On March 16, 1925, Fischy’s brother abdicated as the head of the House of Hesse and was succeeded by Fischy. Even though Germany had done away with royal titles, Fischy was styled as Landgrave of Hesse and Mossy was styled as Landgravine of Hesse. Fischy died on May 28, 1940 at the age of 72.

In 1945, at the end of World War II, Schloss Friedrichshof was occupied by American troops and Mossy took refuge in a cottage on the grounds. Her extensive jewel collection, largely inherited from the mother, had been hidden in Schloss Friedrichshof. The jewels were found and smuggled out of Germany by three American officers. The thieves were not imprisoned until August 1951. Only 10% of the stolen jewels were recovered and they were returned to the Hesse family.

Mossy died on January 22, 1954 at the age of 81 at her home. She was buried with her husband at the family cemetery of the House of Hesse at the Schloss Kronberg (formerly Schloss Friedrichshof) in Taunus, Hesse, Germany.

Wikipedia: Princess Margarete of Prussia

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Princess Marie “May” of Hesse and by Rhine

photo: Wikipedia

Princess Marie of Hesse and by Rhine

Princess Marie of Hesse and by Rhine (Marie Viktoria Feodore Leopoldine) was the youngest of seven children of Princess Alice of the United Kingdom and Grand Duke Ludwig IV of Hesse and by Rhine. Known as ‘May’, she was born on May 24, 1874 at the Neues Palace, in Darmstadt.

May was described as “enchanting” by her mother and was closest to her sister Alix, the next youngest child. The two were inseparable, sharing a nursery and often being dressed identically.

May had six siblings:

Princess Marie (center front) with her siblings, 1878. photo: Wikipedia

At the beginning of November 1878, diphtheria began to make its rounds in the Grand Ducal Family. Princess Marie fell ill on November 12th, and sadly was the only one of the children not to recover. She died on the morning of November 16, 1878 and was buried in the Neues Mausoleum at Rosenhöhe Park, Darmstadt, beside her parents and brother Friedrich.

May’s death devastated her brother Ernst Ludwig. It was their mother Alice’s efforts to console him, with a hug and kiss, which led to her contracting the illness and passing away less than a month later.

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Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna of Russia

Source: Wikipedia

Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna of Russia

Queen Victoria’s 23rd grandchild, Princess Alix of Hesse and by Rhine, is perhaps remembered best as Alexandra Feodorovna, the last Empress of Russia. She was born on June 6, 1872 at the New Palace in Darmstadt, the sixth of seven children of Princess Alice of the United Kingdom and Grand Duke Ludwig IV of Hesse and by Rhine.

She was christened Alix Victoria Helena Luise Beatrice – named for her mother and her four maternal aunts – on July 1, 1872 (her parents’ tenth wedding anniversary) with the following godparents:

Alix had six siblings:

Hesse and by Rhine family in 1876; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Nicknamed Sunny, she was, by all accounts, a happy and beautiful child. She was very close with her brother Ernie and would remain so through her life. The family lived a rather simple life, as they were not very wealthy by royal standards. In 1877, Alix’s father became the reigning Grand Duke, but the children’s lives remained mostly unchanged. They spent time with Queen Victoria each year, relishing their visits to ‘Grandmama’ and looking forward to the next one. This relationship would become even closer in the coming years.

In 1878, most of the family became ill with diphtheria. Sadly, Alix’s younger sister, May, succumbed to the illness, followed a few weeks later by their mother, Princess Alice. Queen Victoria stepped in to serve as a surrogate mother to the children, managing nearly every detail of their lives.

One detail which was of great importance Queen Victoria was the marriages of her grandchildren. The Queen had promoted a marriage Alix and her first cousin, Prince Albert Victor of Wales, but Alix showed no interest. She had already found her true love — her second cousin, Nicholas, the Tsarevich of Russia. The couple had first met in Russia in 1884 at the wedding of Alix’s elder sister Ella to Nicholas’ uncle, Grand Duke Serge Alexandrovich. Several years later, on a visit to her sister, Alix and Nicholas realized their feelings for one another and began their courtship. Despite misgivings from both The Queen and Nicholas’ parents, the couple continued their courting for several years. It was in 1894, while the family was all gathered in Coburg for the wedding of Alix’s brother Ernie and their first cousin, Victoria Melita of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, that the couple finally became engaged.

Engagement photo of Alix and Nicholas, 1894. Source: Wikipedia

Alix had turned down Nicholas’ first proposal. A devout Lutheran, she was initially unwilling to give up her religion and convert, as would be required of her. However, after encouragement from her sister Ella, she finally relented and accepted the second time Nicholas asked. Their announcement still met with great resistance, particularly from his parents. However, several months later, Tsar Alexander III fell ill, and his feelings seem to have changed. Perhaps sensing death approaching, he allowed Nicholas to summon Alix to Russia and insisted on greeting and welcoming her in full military uniform.

The wedding of Nicholas and Alexandra, painting by Laurits Tuxen. Source: Wikipedia

Tsar Alexander III died on November 1, 1894, leaving Nicholas as the new Tsar Nicholas II. The following day, Alix was received into the Russian Orthodox Church and was given the name Grand Duchess Alexandra Feodorovna. Although originally planning to marry the following spring, the wedding was quickly arranged and the couple married on November 26, 1894, in the Grand Church of the Winter Palace. The young princess from Darmstadt was now Empress of All the Russians. Over the next ten years, the couple had five children:

Alexandra found it very difficult to relate to the Russian people and was perceived as being very haughty and aloof. Those who knew her attribute this to her extreme shyness. This was magnified by the drastic difference in personality of her mother-in-law, the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna, who was very outgoing and greatly loved. Alix was also met with distrust by the Russian people, due to her German roots. This would be greatly magnified in years to come, during World War I.

Having had four daughters, Alexandra felt great pressure to provide an heir. Finally, in 1904, she gave birth to a son, Alexei. However, it would soon become apparent that she was a carrier of hemophilia, and her young son was a sufferer. This would cause great pain to the Empress, and great measures were taken to protect him from harm and to hide the illness from the people. When it eventually became public knowledge, it led to more dislike for the Empress, with many of the Russian people blaming her for the heir’s illness.  See Unofficial Royalty: Hemophilia in Queen Victoria’s Descendants.

After working with many physicians to help Alexei, the Empress turned to mystics and faith-healers. This led to her close, and disastrous, relationship with Grigori Rasputin. Several times he appeared to have brought the Tsarevich back from the brink of death, which further cemented Alexandra’s reliance. To many historians and experts, this relationship would contribute greatly to the fall of the Russian monarchy.

 

During World War I, in March 1915, Nicholas was forced to abdicate. The family was held under house arrest first at the Alexander Palace, and later in Tobolsk. Following the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, they were moved to the Ipatiev House in Yekaterinburg. It was here on the morning of July 17, 1918, that the family were brought to a room in the basement and assassinated. Their bodies were initially thrown down a mine, then retrieved and hastily buried.

In 1979, a mass grave was discovered, believed to include the remains of the Imperial Family. They were exhumed in 1991, and in 1998, through DNA testing, it was announced that the remains were of Nicholas, Alexandra and three of their daughters. On July 17, 1998 – 80 years to the day of their murders – the bodies were interred in the St. Catherine Chapel at the St. Peter and St. Paul Cathedral in St. Petersburg. The remains of the last two children were found in a nearby grave in 2007, and positively identified the following year. They were buried alongside the rest of the Imperial Family.

The St Catherine Chapel, with the tombs of the Imperial Family. Source: Wikipedia

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Prince Friedrich “Frittie” of Hesse and by Rhine

photo: Wikipedia

Prince Friedrich of Hesse and by Rhine

Born on October 7, 1870, Prince Friedrich Wilhelm August Viktor Leopold Ludwig of Hesse (known as ‘Frittie’) was the fifth child, and youngest son of Princess Alice of the United Kingdom and Grand Duke Ludwig IV of Hesse and by Rhine. One of his given names was Leopold, in honor of his uncle, Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany.

Frittie had six siblings:

Hesse and by Rhine family in 1876; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Following a cut to his ear in February 1873, it was discovered that Frittie suffered from hemophilia when the wound took days to stop bleeding. Ironically, it was the same disease suffered by his uncle, and godfather, Prince Leopold.
Unofficial Royalty: Hemophilia in Queen Victoria’s Descendants

In May 1873, Frittie and his brother Ernst Ludwig were playing in their mother’s bedroom at the Neues Palais. Ernst went into another room to look through the window (which was at an angle to the window in Alice’s bedroom). While Alice was out of the room to get Ernst, Frittie climbed up to the window in the bedroom to try and see Ernst. From all accounts, the chair he had climbed on tipped over and Frittie fell from the window to the ground below.

Due to his hemophilia, Prince Friedrich died from his injuries on May 29, 1873. He is buried in the Neues Mausoleum at Rosenhöhe Park, Darmstadt along with his parents and younger sister Marie.

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Princess Eleonore of Solms-Hohensolms-Lich, Grand Duchess of Hesse and by Rhine

photo: Wikipedia

Princess Eleonore of Solms-Hohensolms-Lich, Grand Duchess of Hesse and by Rhine

Princess Eleonore of Solms-Hohensolms-Lich was the second wife of Ernst Ludwig, Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine, a grandson of Queen Victoria. She was born Eleonore Marie Ernestine on September 17, 1871, the fourth of seven children of Hermann, The Prince of Solms-Hohensolms-Lich and Countess Agnes of Stolberg-Wernigerode.

Eleonore (known affectionately as Onor) married Ernst Ludwig on February 2, 1905 in Darmstadt. He was the son of Princess Alice of the United Kingdom and Grand Duke Ludwig IV of Hesse and by Rhine. The couple had two sons:

Onor quickly became popular with the people of Hesse and was known for her down-to-earth and approachable manner. It was partially due to this that they were treated rather well at the end of World War I. While many of Ernie’s counterparts were stripped of their possessions, and in some cases, exiled from their homelands, Ernie and Onor remained much loved by the Hessian people. They lived out the rest of their lives at Wolfsgarten and the New Palace in Darmstadt.

She was widowed on October 9, 1937 when her beloved Ernie passed away. Just weeks later, on November 16, 1937, she boarded a plane bound for London accompanied by her elder son Georg Donatus, his wife and their two sons. The group was heading to London for the wedding of Onor’s younger son, Ludwig. Tragically, the plane crashed in Ostend, Belgium, and all were killed.
Unofficial Royalty: November 16, 1937 – Deaths of the Grand Ducal Family of Hesse and by Rhine

The last Grand Duchess of Hesse and by Rhine was buried alongside her husband in the burial ground in Rosenhöhe Park, Darmstadt. Around them are the graves of their children and grandchildren.

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Ernst Ludwig, Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine

photo: Wikipedia

Ernst Ludwig, Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine

Ernst Ludwig, Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine was the fourth child of Princess Alice of the United Kingdom and Grand Duke Ludwig IV of Hesse and by Rhine. He was born Ernst Ludwig Karl Albrecht Wilhelm (known as Ernie), on November 25, 1868 in Darmstadt. He had six siblings:

In 1874, his younger brother Frittie died after falling from a window while the two were playing. A hemophiliac, Frittie succumbed to a brain hemorrhage. Ernie was distraught and developed what would become a lifelong fear of death, and particularly of dying alone. This fear would soon be reinforced upon the deaths of his mother and youngest sister. In late 1878, most of the family fell ill with diphtheria. Sadly, Ernie’s youngest sister, Princess May, did not recover and died in November. While consoling Ernie, Alice gave him a hug and kiss, thus exposing herself to the illness. Due to her weakened state, she quickly fell ill herself and died on December 14, 1878.

After Alice’s death, Queen Victoria stepped in as a surrogate mother to the Hessian children, often having them stay with her in her various residences in the United Kingdom. Ernie’s three elder sisters also helped to contribute to his upbringing, and he remained particularly close to both Victoria and Ella.

Ernie was educated privately, and then in 1885 began serving with the First Hessian Infantry Regiment as a sub-lieutenant. He became a first lieutenant in 1889 and then attended the University of Leipzig and the University of Glessen. In 1891, following his father’s example, he was attached to the First Prussian Regiment of Foot Guards at Potsdam. Then, on March 13, 1882, Ernie became the reigning Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine upon his father’s death.

 

On April 9, 1894 in Coburg, Ernie married his first cousin, Princess Victoria Melita of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. She was the daughter of Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh and Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, and Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia. The wedding was attended by Queen Victoria and many of her extended family. It was at this gathering that Ernie’s younger sister, Alix, became engaged to the future Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. While that marriage turned out to be a happy one, the same could not be said for Ernie and Victoria Melita. Having been pushed into marriage by Queen Victoria, the couple shared little in common and quickly grew to resent each other. Despite this, they had two children:

  • Elisabeth (1895-1903) – died of typhoid, age 6
  • stillborn son (1900)
Queen Victoria, surrounded by the 'Royal Mob' gathered for Ernie's wedding, 1894.

Queen Victoria, surrounded by the ‘Royal Mob’ gathered for Ernie’s wedding, 1894.

Disenchanted with each other, Ernie and Victoria Melita wished to divorce, but their grandmother would not allow it. However, following Queen Victoria’s death, they quickly separated and were divorced on December 21, 1901. They shared custody of their daughter, to whom Ernie was particularly close. Victoria Melita went on to marry another first cousin, Grand Duke Kirill Vladimirovich of Russia.

The Hesse siblings, October 1903. L-R: Ernie, Alix (with Nicholas), Irene (with Heinrich), Ella (with Serge), Victoria (with Louis). photo: Wikipedia

Following a large family gathering in Darmstadt in October 1903 for the wedding of his niece, Princess Alice of Battenberg, Ernie and his daughter went to visit the Russian Imperial Family at their hunting lodge in Poland. While there, Elisabeth fell ill. At first, it was just believed to be exhaustion from so much playing with her cousins, but her condition quickly worsened. A telegram was sent to her mother, imploring her to come quickly, as it seemed the child would not survive. Unfortunately, the telegram would arrive too late. Princess Elisabeth died on November 16, 1903. Rumors at the time were that she had been poisoned by eating or drinking something which was intended for her uncle, Tsar Nicholas II. However, it was discovered that she had died from typhoid. Ernie, of course, was distraught. His daughter had been, in his own words, “the sunshine of my life.”

On February 2, 1905, Ernie married Princess Eleonore of Solms-Hohensolms-Lich, in Darmstadt. Eleonore was the daughter of Hermann, The Prince of Solms-Hohensolms-Lich and Countess Agnes of Stolberg-Wernigerode. This marriage, from all accounts, was a very happy one. The couple had two sons:

  • Georg Donatus (1906-1937) – married Princess Cecilie of Greece, had issue
  • Ludwig (1908-1968) – married The Hon. Margaret Geddes, no issue

Eleonore with the couple’s two sons, 1911. photo: Wikipedia

Ernie was well loved in Hesse and involved himself with maintaining and supporting the arts, particularly music. Sadly, the later years of his life were marred by tragedy. World War I brought the murders of two sisters, Alix and Ella, in Russia, as well as the loss of the Grand Ducal throne. With the fall of the German states, Ernie refused to abdicate, but still lost his throne on November 9, 1918. However, unlike many of his counterparts, he was allowed to remain in Hesse, and retained several of the family’s properties, including Schloss Wolfsgarten and the New Palace in Darmstadt.

Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig of Hesse and by Rhine died at Wolfsgarten on October 9, 1937. Tragically, just weeks later, a plane crash in Belgium took the lives of many of his remaining family – his widow, elder son, daughter-in-law and two grandsons. The plane crash took place on November 16, 1937 – ironically, this was the anniversary of the deaths of both Ernie’s sister May (in 1878) and his daughter Elisabeth (in 1903). Ernie is buried in the Rosenhöhe Park in Darmstadt, alongside his wife and family.

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