Margaret, Princess of Hesse and by Rhine

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Today marks the 25th Anniversary of the death of Margaret, Princess of Hesse and by Rhine, who died on this day in 1997! The daughter of the 1st Baron Geddes, the British Ambassador to the United States from 1920 to 1924, and the American Isabella Ross, Margaret Geddes, known as ‘Peggy’, was born in Dublin, an only daughter with four brothers.

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In 1936, she met her future husband, Prince Louis of Hesse, the second son of Grand Duke Ernest Louis of Hesse and by Rhine and Princess Eleonore of Solms-Hohensolms-Lich, on a visit to Halls Hirth in Garmisch while attending the 1936 Olympics, and he secured a post as third secretary in the German Embassy in London to see her more frequently. The following year, the couple’s wedding was delayed by a month after the Grand Duke‘s death, but then further tragedy struck. The new Grand Duke (Prince Louis’s brother) and his wife, Princess Cecilie, along with Grand Duchess Eleonore, their two sons, and members of their suite were travelling to London for the wedding, when the heavily pregnant Grand Duchess Cecilie apparently went into labour during the flight, leading the plane to crash into a factory chimney while trying to land in dense fog in Belgium. The couple were waiting for their arrival at the airport, and then got married in mourning the next day, travelling to Belgium to reclaim his family’s bodies and possessions. Prince Louis became the next Head of the House of Hesse and by Rhine, inheriting a Palace and four Castle, taking the title of the Prince of Hesse and by Rhine, and the first time the new Princess was addressed as ‘Her Royal Highness’ was when she was suffering from nausea on the boat taking them to Belgium.

The couple, who would eventually not have any children of their own, first adopted the only surviving child of the late Grand Duke and Duchess, Princess Johanna, who tragically died two years later, and then later adopted his distant cousin, Prince Moritz, the Landgrave of Hesse, as their Heir. Prince Louis and Princess Margaret were close to Princess Sophie of Greece and Hannover (the sister of their late sister-in-law Princess Cecilie), the children of Princess Sophie and her first husband, Prince Christoph of Hesse, and Princess Beatrix of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, daughter of the Prince of Hohenlohe-Langenburg and Princess Margarita of Greece (Princess Cecilie’s elder sister), with Princess Beatrix serving as a secretary and companion to Princess Margaret in the last years of her life. Prince Louis and Princess Margaret were among the first German Royals to reestablish relations with the British Royal Family, especially the Duke of Edinburgh (the brother of Princess Cecilie) becoming very close to the British Royal Family, especially to the Prince of Wales, notably attending the Queen’s Coronation and the Queen’s 60th Birthday Ball at Buckingham Palace in 1986.

Residing mainly at Schloss Wolfsgarten during the Second World War, the couple hosted members of their extended family, who had been dispossessed during the War, later converting a wing of the Schloss into a refuge for disabled children. After the war, the Prince and Princess organized numerous exhibitions and museums, displaying the spectacular private collections of the House of Hesse-Darmstadt. The  couple welcomed numerous artists, composers, and designers to Schloss Wolfsgarten and Schloss Tarasp, including Sir Peter Pears, Sir Yehudi Menuhin, Julian Bream, Sir Edward Heath, Sir Benjamin Britten and Mick Jagger. One of the Princess’ projects was the ‘Madonna Children’, which allowed 20 Darmstadt children to spend four weeks a year in Davos in return for displaying the famous ‘Darmstadt Madonna’ (which had been rescued by the Monuments Men during the War) at the Kunstmuseum Basel. After the Prince’s death in 1968, Princess Margaret continued to be a popular figure in Darmstadt and in Royal Circles, continuing her charity work, patronage of the arts, and hosting a plethora of intellectual figures, with her 80th birthday celebrations bringing enormous crowds, and a special work composed in her honour by Hans Werner Henze for a concert attended by the Prince of Wales. Princess Margaret passed away on this day in 1997, and was buried at Neues in Rosenhöhe. Schloss Wolfsgarten  and the family collections passed to Prince Moritz and now belong to the “Hessische Hausstiftung”, the Foundation of the House of Hesse, which manages the family assets, including the Art, Castles, and Jewels.

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