Thursday, November 16, 2023

The Hesse air tragedy

all photos from Marlene A Eilers Koenig collection

November 16, 1937

Grand Duke Georg Donatus and Grand Duchess Cecilie of Hesse and by Rhine, their two young sons, Ludwig and Alexander, along with the Grand Duke's recently widowed mother, the Dowager Grand Duchess Eleonore, accompanied by several people, boarded a small plane bound for Ostend (to pick up other passengers) and then travel to London to attend the wedding of Georg Donatus' younger brother, Prince Ludwig, who was to marry the Hon. Margaret Geddes, on November 20.

The two little princes were to be pages at the wedding of Onkel Ludwig.

As the plane approached Ostend, the plane's wing hit a chimney.  The plane crashed, all aboard were killed.   The Grand Duchess was eight months pregnant.  The body of a stillborn child was found next to its mother.

Prince Ludwig and Miss Geddes were married privately the next day and traveled to Ostend to bring the bodies back to Darmstadt.  There would be no honeymoon.  Left behind in Darmstadt was Princess Johanna Marina, the youngest child of Georg Donatus and Cecilie, just a year old.   She was adopted by her aunt and uncle.  On June 14, 1939, Princess Johanna Marina died of meningitis.

At some point during the day, a student at Gordonstoun was called to the headmaster's office, where he was told of the tragedy.  Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark was 16 years old when his sister and her family died.


Diane Brown said...

Oh my this is so sad. The spontaneous birth of the baby is even more dreadful. One wonders if the baby was born alive? I once was on call in the operating room and a Mother came in with multiple trauma about 8.5 months along. We lost her on the table but the baby was coming... the baby was born alive and lived for a few hours.. so sad.

How awful for Phillip.

Marlene Eilers Koenig said...

I would doubt it as the plane crashed and in flames.

Unknown said...

Its so poignant to see the happy family pictures, the little boys and the baby are so sweet.

Unknown said...

Is that Prince Philip at the very front on the wedding photo?

Andrea said...

The stillborn child was a Boy?

I read this im a book.

Andrea said...


Diane Lynch said...

Grand Duchess Cecilie of Hesse and by Rhine so strongly resembles Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent. Were they cousins? From the photo, they could be sisters!

Marlene Eilers Koenig said...

Andrea, the sex was not known - as the official reports refer only to a stillborn child.

Marlene Eilers Koenig said...

Diane, they were first cousins as their fathers were brothers: Prince Andrew and Prince Nicholas