Thursday, December 20, 2012

Irene to learn of son's illness


December 20, 1898

The Marquise de Fontenoy's latest dispatch focuses on Princess Henry of Prussia's trip to China, where she will learn about the news that her eldest son, Prince Waldemar, is "critically ill with diphtheria."

Princess Irene, "forced solely against her will by the Kaiser to undertake the long and arduous trip to China for political purposes at the shortest possible notice, " Princess Henry will arrive in Hong Kong, where she will be told about Prince Waldemar's condition. 

She was forced to leave her two sons behind at Kiel, where nine-year-old Waldemar became "critically ill."  For a time, his "life was despaired of," and one of Europe's finest surgeons, Professor von Bergmann, "was summoned by special train from Berlin" to perform a tracheotomy.

The young prince is now out of danger and will provide some relief for his mother, who knows well that diphtheria is a serious illness.  Her mother, the Grand Duchess of Hesse and By Rhine, and a younger sister, Princess Marie, both succumbed to the disease in late 1878.

The princess's older sister, Princess Louis of Battenberg, left her family in Darmstadt when she learned of her nephew's illness.  She could not "bear the idea" that her nephew was alone "in the hands of strangers, no matter how devoted they were."

Prince and Princess Henry's younger son, Prince Sigismund, has not become ill with the disease.

Kaiser Wilhelm II also wished to visit his nephew, but his physicians would not permit him to leave Berlin.

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