Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The tragedy and sorrow of the House of Hesse

The House of Hesse has produced some of the most illustrious European royals. Members of this German line have contracted dynastic links with the royal families of Britain, Russia, Spain, Greece, Germany and Sweden, but behind these glittering marriages, tragedy and sorrow have marked numerous of these relatives with a special vengeance.


1855-1880- Princess Marie of Hesse, who had married Tsar Alexander II of Russia and became Empress Maria Alexandrovna, lives a lonely life at the Russian court while her husband engages in numerous extramarital affairs and fathers a number of illegitimate children. When Marie dies in 1880, the Tsar contracts a morganatic marriage with his mistress Ekaterina Dolugorki less than a month later and moves her and their three children into the apartments above those occupied by the Empress in the Winter Palace.




1851- Prince Alexander of Hesse, brother of Grand Duke Ludwig III, marries Julia Hauke, a Polish aristocrat who is a lady-in-waiting to Alexander's sister, Empress Maria of Russia. The marriage is viewed with scandal, and Julia Hauke is barred from sharing her husband's royal rank. She is created Princess Julia of Battenberg, and their children will all bear the title Prince/Princess of Battenberg.





1886- Alexander of Battenberg, who had reigned as the sovereign Prince of Bulgaria since 1879, is forced off his throne by a military coup and flees Sofia in disgrace.




1873- Prince Friedrich of Hesse, youngest son of Grand Duke Ludwig IV and Grand Duchess Alice of Hesse, tumbles from a bedroom window and, being a hemophiliac, begins bleeding internally. He dies hours later, aged two.


1878- Princess Alice of the United Kingdom, daughter of Queen Victoria and the Grand Duchess of Hesse as the wife of Grand Duke Ludwig IV, dies of diphtheria just a few weeks after the illness had killed her youngest daughter.


1896- Prince Henry of Battenberg, a son of Prince Alexander of Hesse and Princess Julia of Battenberg, who had married Queen Victoria's youngest daughter, Beatrice, dies aboard a military cruiser off the coast of Sierra Leone after contracting malaria during the Ashanti War in Africa. He leaves behind his widow and their four children; their only daughter, Victoria Eugenie, later becomes the queen of Spain.




1901- Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig of Hesse, son of Princess Alice and brother to Empress Alexandra of Russia, is granted a divorce from his wife, Victoria Melita. This causes a major scandal among Europe's royalty and Victoria Melita sequesters herself in the French Riviera.



1903- Princess Elisabeth of Hesse, only daughter of Grand Duke Ernst and Victoria Melita, dies of typhoid fever at the age of 8.


1914- Prince Maurice of Battenberg, son of Prince Henry of Battenberg and Princess Beatrice of Britain, is killed in action at the first battle of Ypres during World War I.




1917- Prince Louis of Battenberg, son of Alexander of Hesse and Julia of Battenberg, is forced to retire as First Sea Lord in the British Navy as anti-German sentiments rage through Britain. The Battenberg family are forced by a proclamation from King George V to renounce their princely titles, and change their family name to Mountbatten.





1918- Empress Alexandra of Russia, daughter of Princess Alice and Grand Duke Ludwig IV, is murdered by the Bolsheviks along with her husband, Tsar Nicholas II, and their five children. One day later, Alexandra's sister, Elisabeth of Hesse, who had also married into the Russian imperial family, is hurled alive down a mine shaft with a group of Russian princes and killed when the Bolsheviks throw a grenade into the shaft.


1918- During the German Revolution of 1918, Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig of Hesse follows a multitude of other German duchies and principalities and abdicates.


1937- A Junkers Ju 52 aircraft carrying various members of the Hessian family crashes in Ostend, Belgium and kills all on board. Those killed from the House of Hesse are-
- Prince Georg Donatus, Hereditary Grand Duke of Hesse
- His wife, Princess Cecilie (born Princess Cecilie of Greece and Denmark and a sister of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh)
- Their sons, Princes Ludwig and Alexander of Hesse
- Dowager Grand Duchess Eleonore of Hesse, Georg Donatus' mother and the widow of Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig
- The unborn son of Prince Georg Donatus and Princess Cecilie. The baby's corpse is found among the remains of the crash, indicating that the trauma of the crash caused Princess Cecilie to go into labor.
The family had been traveling from Cologne, Germany to London to attend the wedding of Georg Donatus' brother, Prince Louis of Hesse.


1938- Princess Johanna of Hesse, daughter of Prince Georg Donatus and Princess Cecilie and the only one of her family who was not killed in the 1937 plane crash (she had been too young to travel with the family), contracts meningitis and dies at the age of two.

1979- Louis Mountbatten, Earl Mountbatten of Burma, the son of Prince Louis of Battenberg and Princess Victoria of Hesse, is killed when the IRA detonates a bomb planted in his fishing boat off the coast of County Sligo, Ireland. Mountbatten's grandson, Nicholas Knatchbull, and Baroness Bradbourne, mother-in-law of Mountbatten's daughter Patricia, are also killed in the blast.







2 comments:

  1. What a tragic story of the Hesse Family. I too has been following their story for many years cause such order of tragedies is just beyond me. Is it curse or just plain bad luck following this family through no fault of their own. Who knows. May their soul rest in peace and hope no more tragedies for the future generation. Thanks for the post and echoing exactly my own thought.

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  2. You might want to include George Mountbatten, 2nd Marquess of Milford Haven and Louis Mountbatten's elder brother, who died of bone cancer at the age of 45.

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