Wedding of Prince Louis of Hesse and by Rhine, 1937

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The Duke of Kent and Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent were among the Guests while Lord Louis Mountbatten, cousin of the Groom, was the Best Man at the Wedding of Louis, the Prince of Hesse and by Rhine, the second son of Grand Duke Ernest Louis of Hesse and by Rhine and Princess Eleonore of Solms-Hohensolms-Lich, and Margaret ‘Peggy’ Geddes, daughter of the 1st Baron Geddes and Isabella Ross, at St. Peter’s Church in Eaton Square in London on this day in 1937, which was held in mourning the day after the tragic death of his family enroute to London for the Wedding. 

The newlyweds travelled to Belgium to reclaim his family’s bodies and possessions, including the Family Jewels which survived the crash in a strongbox. Prince Louis became the 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, though the first time the new Princess was addressed as ‘Your Royal Highness’ was when she was suffering from nausea on the boat taking them across the Channel. The 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. After the Prince’s death in 1968, the Princess was the last member of the House of Hesse and by Rhine, passing away in 1997.

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Like many of the British between the wars, Margaret went on holiday to Bavaria and while on a skiing trip  fell in love. The object of her affections and her eventual fiancé and future husband was Prince Ludwig von Hessen und bei Rhein, a son of the last reigning Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig von Hessen und bei Rhein and his second wife, Princess Eleonore zu Solms-Hohensolms und Lich. Darmstadt, was a middle-ranking state of the former German Empire.

Prince Ludwig was a poet and academic, and he and Peg looked forward to living the quiet, simple life in a small house in Darmstadt reserved for a younger son.

Surprisingly in spite of the differences in rank, it seemed to be of no importance to Ludwig’s family. In fact, Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig seemed pleased with his son’s choice. Ludwig’s mother didn’t raise objections to his choice either, as she was a pretty minor princess herself in the first place.

The Hessian family stamp of approval seemed to have been extended by the entire family! Only the sudden death of Ludwig’s father prevented him from attending the event. Also, at the time of the engagement, Ludwig was behind his father, brother and 2 nephews. There really wasn’t any reason to think his marriage was important dynastically.  The only individual who raised any objections to the match was the bride’s father, who was disappointed that his daughter was marrying a German.

The excitement over the impending nuptials changed dramatically and abruptly with the unexpected death of Ludwig’s father, Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig on October 9, 1937 at Wolfsgarten.  In spite of the absence of his father and the family in mourning, it was decided to keep the marriage date as planned.

More tragedy was in store for the family when an airplane crash wiped out the rest of the prince’s family on their way to his wedding at St. Peter’s Eaton Square. Ludwig’s brother, Grand Duke Georg Donatus, his wife, Grand Duchess Cecilie (sister to Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh) their two son’s Princes Ludwig and Alexander, and Ludwig’s mother, Grand Duchess Eleonore all died instantly in Ostend, Belgium after the plane on which they were traveling in bad weather clipped a factory smoke stack.

This tragic accident left Ludwig as head of the family and owner of a palace, four castles and the Hessen crown jewels. Instead of honeymooning the young couple returned to Darmstadt accompanied by five coffins. Margaret had planned to marry in Bavarian peasant dress, instead she wore black.

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