Princess Margarete of Prussia (1872-1954)

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– Margarete

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Margarete Beatrice Feodora was born in the Neues Palais, Potsdam, on 22 April 1872 and was the youngest of eight children born to Frederick III, German Emperor, and Victoria, Princess Royal.

Margarete, nicknamed Mossy, and her two older sisters, Viktoria and Sophia, were raised in the English style and they enjoyed a closer relationship with their parents that their elder siblings ever achieved. Kind-natured Margarete was considered to be the most popular of the younger sisters and she managed to maintain a good relationship with the rest of the family.

Marriage

At a young age, Margarete fell in love with Prince Maximilian of Baden but her feelings were not returned and she soon turned her attention to his friend, Prince Frederick Charles of Hesse, future head of the Hesse-Kassel dynasty and future elected King of Finland. Margarete and Frederick Charles were married on 25 January 1893 at the Hohenzollern Stadtschloss in Berlin on the anniversary of her parent’s marriage. While Margarete retained her title of Her Royal Highness, Frederick Charles was only entitled to use the style of His Highness as he did not inherit the landgravine of Hesse-Kassel until 1925. Frederick Charles’s low ranking had not pleased Margarete’s older brother, Kaiser Wilhelm, however he gave his consent to the marriage as he did not consider his sister to be of any importance.

The marriage was a very happy one and Frederick Charles soon became a favourite of the Dowager Empress which is why she left the Schloss Friedrichshof to her daughter. Margarete and Frederick Charles had six children, including two sets of twins, however the two eldest sons were killed in the First World War and the youngest was killed in the Second World War. The eldest son, Friedrich Wilhelm, born in November 1893, died on 12 September 1916 in Romania when his throat was slit by an enemy bayonet. The second eldest and favourite son, Maximilian, born in October 1894, was wounded by machine gun fire in October 1914, near Aisne, France, and later died.

Second World War

The third son, Philipp, born in November 1896, and the youngest son, Christoph, born in May 1901, both joined the Nazi party hoping it would lead to the restoration of the monarchy. Since Philipp was married to Princess Mafalda of Savoy, daughter of King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy, he was appointed to Hitler’s personal staff, since he could be a useful channel of communications between Germany and Italy. However, when Philipp learned the extent of the cruelties being done by the Nazis, he began to use his position to provide passports for Jews and to help them escape to the Netherlands.

When Italy capitulated, Hitler took his anger out on Philipp by imprisoning him in a concentration camp for political prisoners. Mafalda was taken to Buchenwald, however she died of a haemorrhage caused by the amputation of her arm which had been injured in a bombing raid on the camp.

A director in the Third Reich’s Ministry of Air Forces and a commander in the German Air Reserves, Christoph held the rank of Oberführer in the Nazi SS but he also became disenchanted with the Nazi regime and had planned on resigning before his death in a plane crash on 7 October 1943. Christoph was married to Princess Sophie of Greece, a granddaughter of George I of Greece and sister of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

The war wasn’t finished with Margarete’s family though as her daughter-in-law, Marie Alexandra of Baden, was killed in an attack by the US Army Air Forces during an air raid on Frankfurt am Main on 29–30 January 1944. Marie Alexandra, married to Philipp’s twin, Wolfgang, was sheltering with seven other women in a cellar when the building collapsed on top of them.

After The War

Frederick Charles was elected as the king of Finland on 9 October 1918, however he renounced the throne on 14 December 1918 due to his German birth and the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II. Frederick Charles inherited the landgravine of Hesse-Kassel on 16 March 1925 after the abdication of his older brother who wanted to make an unequal marriage. Frederick Charles retained the title until his death on 28 May 1940 and was succeeded by his eldest surviving son, Philipp.

After the end of the Second World War, Margarete devoted herself to looking after her grandchildren but her beloved Schloss Friedrichshof was turned into an officers club during the American occupation and it led to the theft of family jewellery estimated to be worth more than £2 million. The jewels had been buried in the cellar during the war but were discovered by the manager of the club, Captain Kathleen Nash, and her future husband, Colonel Jack Durant, who smuggled the jewellery out of Germany. Margarete did not discover the theft until the jewellery was needed for the wedding of her daughter-in-law, Sophia, who was to marry her second husband, George William of Hanover. The theft was reported to the authorities but only a fraction was recovered after the arrest of the culprits in 1951.

Margarete died in Kronberg on 22 January 1954, the last surviving child of Emperor Frederick III, and was buried in Schloss Friedrichshof. 

The Children

  • Friedrich Wilhelm of Hesse-Kassel
  • Maximilian of Hesse-Kassel 
  • Philipp, Landgrave of Hesse
  • Wolfgang of Hesse
  • Richard Wilhelm Leopold of Hesse-Kassel
  • Christoph of Hesse

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