Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Grand Duchess Kira Part II

Marlene A. Eilers Koenig collection

Thanks to her aunt Marie, Kira was soon moving in the right circles.  She had become friends with her Greek cousin, Princess Marina, whose mother, Helen, was Grand Duke Kirill’s only sister, and with the Crown Princess Juliana of the Netherlands.   Princess Ileana of Roumania, another first cousin, was also a chum.

In December 1929, the 19-year-old Grand Duchess sailed to America to visit New York City and Washington, D.C., where she was feted and honored with lunches, balls, and dinner dances.  Two days before Christmas, Kira was a guest at dinner hosted by Mr. and Mrs. William Jay Schieffelin and then joined them at a dinner dance at the Colony Club, in New York.  Princess Enrico Ruspoli held a luncheon in Kira’s honor. 

The Grand Duchess had come to the US to help raise money for several Russian-related relief organizations, including the American Society for Relief of Russian Exiles.    Mrs. Henry P. Loomis “gave an entertainment,” in the Florentine Room at the Park Lane Hotel for Kira, an event that marked the end of the Russian New Year.  A special Russian buffet was served, and the entertainment included the Moscow Art Trio, the Cossack Chorus, and other Russian entertainers.  Kira was joined by Princess Rusipoli and the Duchesse de Richelieu, who had given a dinner for Kira at her home the night before.   She was also the guest of honor at a talk on the plight of the Russian exiles abroad given by Mrs. Loomis at the Colony Club.

As an exile herself, Kira understood the need to publicize the important cause.  She also was representing her father, who, for many, was the Emperor of all the Russias.

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She returned to France in March, sailing on the Cunard liner, the Aquitania, having “expressed herself as being greatly pleased with America and Americans.”

During her visit to New York City, she spent an hour visiting the New York Times Annex, where she got a first look at a newspaper plant.   She found it “very impressive and interesting.”

She was asked about her favorite sports, which she said were “riding and airplane riding.”  Only a few weeks earlier, the young Grand Duchess had taken her first airplane ride, a half-hour-long flight in Bridgeport, Connecticut.  She thought that the flight was “splendid.”    She also enjoyed hearing jazz, which she said was “good for dancing, but otherwise is not music.”

Kira  added: “I cannot say what I liked best in America, but it will always have a warm spot in my heart.”

During her interview at the New York Times, she said she would not discuss politics, but noted Russian religious problems.  She also acknowledged rumors of an impending marriage.  “I know there have been many rumors of my engagement, but none of them are true.  At the moment I am not thinking of that.”

Kira’s social whirl continued throughout the summer of 1930, as she attended a series of balls and other functions in London.

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In November 1934, she was a bridesmaid at the wedding of her cousin, Marina, to Prince George, Duke of Kent.   Although Ducky had visited London often, this was Kirill’s first visit to Britain in more than 20 years.  They were treated as official guests of Victoria Melita’s cousin, King George V.   Ducky found herself enjoying her stay, even though few knew of her personal sadness.  Although she and Kirill put on a brave front, it was not common knowledge that their marriage had problems due to Kirill’s infidelity with an unnamed woman.  Ducky was devastated when she learned of the affair, and she poured her heart out to her older sister, Marie.

It was during this time in Britain that Kira realized the importance of her mother’s birth.  King George V was respecting the fact that Victoria Melita was a Princess of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.  For Ducky, this acknowledgment was a “bastion of stability” during these difficult times in exile.

Queen Marie had also asked her good friend, the American-born Nancy Astor to keep an eye on Victoria Melita and her family during their time in Britain.  Missy was painfully aware that her sister “the creature I love best in the world” was unable to accept the views of others. In a letter to Nancy Astor, she confided that Ducky’s life is “fearfully melancholy, isolated, depressing, and as you can see he is poor company.”

Ducky’s depression affected her younger daughter, as Missy noted.  “Kira can be awfully nice, but because of their humiliating position, she is always on her defensive.”

It was not until 1935 when plans for a possible marriage with Prince Louis Ferdinand began to come to fruition.  Kira was in Paris when she was invited by a family friend, Olga de Mumm, to spend a week with her at her home at Johannisberg on the Rhine.   The Russian-born de Mumm was the wife of the scion of the champagne family.

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Prince Louis Ferdinand had also been invited to Johannisberg, as Olga “had cherished the idea of a possible match” between the prince and Grand Duchess Kira.   Notwithstanding the close family connections, Kira’s parents were also in favor of a relationship.   Louis Ferdinand, after all, would one day be the head of the House of Hohenzollern, and Ducky, for one, was convinced that Adolf Hitler was going to restore the Hohenzollerns to their proper place in Berlin.

This would not be the first time that Kira met her cousin, Louis Ferdinand.  When she was 16 years old, Kira and her cousin, Princess Sibylla of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha visited Berlin where they were asked by Kira’s parents to pay their respects to Crown Princess Cecilie, whose mother was a Russian Grand Duchess.

“We drove out to Cecilienhof and had tea with the Crown Princess.  This was the first time that I met my future mother-in-law.  I liked her immensely.  We spoke Russian together, and she asked about my family.”

Kira thought “Cecilienhof to be the loveliest place in the world.”    Of course, at age 16, she had no inkling that she would marry the Crown Princess’s son.  But she did meet Louis Ferdinand at this time, as Cecilie had asked him and his brother Hubertus to show their cousins around the garden. 

“We were all rather shy of each other ....I am certain that we flappers did not make much impression upon our nineteen-and eighteen-year-old cousins. Nor were Sibylla and I overly struck by them.”

At Sibylla’s wedding in 1931, several family members hatched a plan to arrange a marriage between Louis Ferdinand’s brother, Prince Wilhelm, and Sybilla’s cousin, Princess Ingrid of Sweden. Wilhelm appeared very late at the pre-wedding dinner and failed to make an impression on the Swedish Princess, who had recently been courted by another cousin, the Duke of Kent.  In 1935, she married the future King Frederik IX of Denmark.

 It is unlikely that Kira and Louis Ferdinand would have married if the marriage between Wilhelm and Ingrid had taken place.   Wilhelm would not have renounced his rights, and Louis Ferdinand may have remained in America, where he enjoyed working for Ford.   According to Kira, Wilhelm “failed to attract Ingrid and nothing came of the meeting.”

Olga de Mumm also encouraged Louis Ferdinand to join the weekend party.  To Kira, she had described the prince as “a most attractive young man,” who had an “affection for everything Russian.”  This, of course, appealed to Kira, “whose curiosity was aroused.”

One should not always rely on first impressions as Louis Ferdinand thought Kira to be “too conventional.”   The prince, Kira quickly learned, disliked “convention and reserve.”

after breakfast, they were “dispatched” for a walk where they got better acquainted.  Kira noted that Louis Ferdinand “did most of the talking,” but there was no flirtation with each other.

Although Kira was determined “to seem casual” and to “give an impression of offhandedness and superiority,” which irked Louis Ferdinand.     He also liked short hair on women.  Kira’s “golden tresses” reached beyond her waist.    They did share a mutual interest in playing poker.

The following day, Kira and Louis Ferdinand visited Kira’s sister, Maria, at her home in Amorbach.   Kira noted that Louis Ferdinand and Mashka “were friends at once; kindred spirits in their lack of and dislike for conventionalities, their use of strong words (to put it mildly, and very Slavic temperaments.”

Kira was unsure of her meeting with Louis Ferdinand.  Mashka told her to give Lulu (the family’s nickname for Louis Ferdinand) a hug in the hallway while the rest of the party took a nap during the afternoon.   “We did not hug, but a spark of affection was kindled that evening” during the drive back to Frankfurt to catch their respective trains.

The two agreed to meet again at “some indefinite future date,” but they would not write to each other or consider themselves “in no way bound.”   Kira acknowledged that she did give Lulu “an uncousinly kiss.”

It would be three years before Kira and Louis Ferdinand would again meet.    Her own life would be beset with tragedy and sadness.  In December 1935, Kira’s mother, who was already in poor health, was in Wurzburg to be with Mashka, who was expecting her fifth child.  She gave birth to Mechtilde, on January 2, 1936.  After Mashka had recovered from the birth, the family returned to Schloss Amorbach, the Leiningens’ family home, where Ducky’s further deteriorated.  The day after  Mechtilde’s baptism, Victoria Melita suffered a stroke.  Kira arrived on February 5, only to find that her mother’s condition had worsened.  Ducky was already unconscious when Kirill and Wladimir arrived a few days later.   Grand Duchess Victoria Feodorovna died on March 2, 1936.  She was 59-years-old.
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Kira tried to take her mother’s place, “to be a companion to my father and a mother to my younger brother.  I learned to think of others more than myself.”

Mashka noticed the change in her sister, telling her that Kira had become human.  “Mashka’s remark made me reflect on what an extremely selfish and self-centered person I had been before.”

Kira began the new year in 1937 in the Netherlands where she was one of several bridesmaids at the marriage of Crown Princess Juliana to Prince Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld.   By that fall, Kira was back in London as a guest of her mother’s youngest sister, Infanta Beatrice of Spain.  It was another season of parties, balls, and charity functions. 

Kira joined her father and brother as the guests of honor at the Russian Charities Ball at Grosvenor House on December 2, 1937.  The ball benefitted the Grand Duchess Kirill charity fund to aid the Russian Red Cross Society, the Russian Church in London, and other Russian benevolent organizations.   Several nights later, they joined the Infanta Beatrice and Queen Victoria Eugenie of Spain, for a midnight matinée performance at the May Fair Hotel in aid of the Destitute Spanish women and Children’s Relief Fund.

Beatrice also took it upon herself to find a husband for Kira, and the Prussian princes were at the top of her list.

“Aunty Bee thought it would be a splendid thing if Louis’s brother, Hubertus, and I could meet and come to like each other.”     It seemed that no one no longer considered a marriage between Kira and Louis Ferdinand.

“So I now became interested in Hubertus and thought no more of Louis.” 
But Hubertus never showed up, but Kira did meet the youngest brother, Friedrich Georg, who was working in London.  He asked his mother if she would invite Kira and Wladimir to join the family for Christmas at Cecilienhof. 
Neither Hubertus nor Louis Ferdinand was home when Kira and her brother arrived where they were welcomed by Crown Prince Wilhelm and Crown Princess Cecilie.   Louis Ferdinand arrived two days later.  Kira notes in her husband’s memoirs, The Rebel Prince, that when they met just before dinner, “Louis was very courteous.  I fancied even that I detected something new in his attitude towards me.  But I was not going to “kid” myself.  For my part, I felt at once and rather perturbing attracted to Louis.  Had we both changed?”

Kira didn’t know what Hubertus felt about her, but she knew that if “Fate was to give me the choice between him and his brother, Louis would win.”

The proposal – of sorts – came on December 23 as the family gathered to decorate the Christmas tree.  Kira noticed Louis looking at her.  “This time I felt sure that I interpreted his expression correctly.”

Prince Louis Ferdinand escorted Kira and Wladimir to their bedrooms.  After Wladimir had gone to bed, Louis Ferdinand took Kira’s hand, and said “Well, how about it? Is it a deal?”

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They talked for more than an hour, and Kira accepted Louis Ferdinand’s proposal of marriage.  But rather than wait until later that morning on Christmas eve, they proceeded to wake Wladimir as well as the Crown Prince and Princess, all of whom gave their blessings.  But an official announcement could not be made until the Kaiser in Door gave his permission for the marriage.

The formal announcement came on December 29, 1937, when Kira and Louis Ferdinand joined the Kaiser and other members of the family at a dinner at Doorn.  Neither the Crown Prince,  who was suffering from a cold, nor Grand Duke Kirill, who was at home in St. Briac, were able to attend the celebration.  The couple sent a telegram to Grand Duke Kirill with the news that they were engaged to be married and added that the Kaiser was delighted.   Grand Duke Wladimir was the only member of Kira’s family who was at the dinner.

Crown Princess Juliana of the Netherlands telephoned Kira to offer her good wishes and excitement at the news.

 “The greatest gathering of men and women of royal blood seen in many years,” gathered at a pre-wedding gala on April 30  at Cecilienhof.  The guests included King Ferdinand of Bulgaria, Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Ingrid of Denmark, Princess Ileana of Romania and her husband, Archduke Anton of Austria, as well as nearly every member of the Prussian royal family, apart from Kaiser Wilhelm II.

Kira’s gown was far more resplendent than Louis Ferdinand’s grey German Air Force uniform.  She “wore a “Schiaparelli evening gown of frosted silver on white.  It was low in the back and high in the front with a bodice richly encrusted with beads and silver embroidery.  She also wore a white fox cape occasionally.”
The bride’s entire trousseau was made in Paris by Schiaparelli.

As he could not attend the festivities in Potsdam, Kaiser Wilhelm wanted the wedding ceremony to take place at Doorn.  But because Haus Doorn could not accommodate all the guests, it was decided that the couple would be married first in a civil ceremony, as required by German law, in Potsdam, and then go through a Russian Orthodox service at Cecilienhof.

The civil wedding took place first, just before the Russian Orthodox wedding.  According to Kira, the Bürgermeister, “was a good man, though a Nazi official,” who tried to lend “dignity to the occasion.”    German law required that the newlyweds be presented with a copy of Hitler’s Mein Kampf, following the ceremony.  The only witnesses at the civil ceremony were Crown Prince Wilhelm and Grand Duke Kirill.

More than one hundred guests were present for the Russian service, where Kira wore a “magnificent gown” that had belonged to her grandmother, Grand Duchess Marie of Russia, had worn when she married Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh in 1874.  The gown was “a court dress of heavy, encrusted brocade,” and the train “was more than two yards long, which hung from the waist and was richly encrusted with silver embroidery and pearls.”

No alterations were needed for the wedding gown which had been kept at Coburg for 80 years. Crown Princess Cecilie lent Kira a small tiara and a “very fine, old lace veil.”

At the Russian service, which was conducted in Old Slavonic, the bride was attended by Grand Duchess Anastasia of Mecklenburg, and her marshals were her brother, Wladimir, Grand Duke Dimitri of Russia, Princes Vsevolode of Russia, the Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and his younger son, Duke Christian Ludwig.

Prince Louis Ferdinand was attended by his brothers, Hubertus and Friedrich, and his cousins, Princes Oskar, Burchard, and Karl Franz Joseph of Prussia.  Due to the “private character” of the wedding – and perhaps the omnipresent Nazis – no members of reigning royal houses were invited except for Louis Ferdinand’s aunt, Queen Alexandrine of Denmark (Cecilie’s sister), and her son and daughter-in-law, Crown Prince Frederik and Crown PrincessIngrid.

The marriage vows were repeated two days later on May 4 in a Lutheran service at Doorn.

Kira’s close friends, Crown Princess Juliana and Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands were able to attend the festivities at Doorn.

“My dear Louis Ferdinand, you have a task,” the Kaiser urged in a “deeply moved voice.”

You can fulfill it only with the help of God. Under His blessing and with a strong belief in His Son, our Master, I hope you can build your house. 
“Work with all your might to honor God, to the honor of our house, and to the honor of our German Fatherland, and be an example to your people,” he said, as he raised his glass in a toast to the newly-married couple.

The wedding reminded many of “the glamour of imperial courts,” which was not encouraged or appreciated by the National Socialists.

Despite Kira’s parents, especially her mother’s, vocal support for the Nazis, neither Kira nor Louis Ferdinand considered Adolf Hitler to be the Savior for Germany.    It came as no surprise that their honeymoon was largely spent in the United States.

Some years later, Prince Louis Ferdinand talked about how his older brother’s marriage changed his own plans to stay in America.  Wilhelm’s decision to marry Dorothea von Salviati in 1933 had a profound effect on Louis Ferdinand’s life.   “Well, yes, in a very definite way because I had planned on staying in the United States – I had emigrated really; I had an emigration visa, so it only would have taken me one or two years to get American citizenship.  I had it renewed up to the last moment until I got married.  I always could have gone back.  But then I said - no, no.”

He added that he would have been happy to stay in America.  “Probably yes.  But my marriage so definitely changed my whole life and made me very, very happy.  I don’t think I would have found somebody like my wife there.”

After the reception, Lulu and Kira returned to Germany where they began around the world trip, a present from the Kaiser. 

The couple received numerous gifts including “a necklace pendant of studded blue sapphires with a rare yellow sapphire in the middle.”  The necklace was a gift from King Boris.  The Kaiser’s present was a diamond and platinum necklace with matching earrings, and Queen Elizabeth and King George VI sent an “elaborate traveling toilet case with fittings in delicately worked gold.” 

A sapphire parure was given to Kira by her mother-in-law, and the Queen of Denmark’s gift was a diamond butterfly brooch, and a toilet set in silver.

Marriage gave Kira official citizenship, albeit as a citizen of the Third Reich, although she had spent a large part of her youth in Coburg, where she “romped with her closest chum,” Princess Sibylla of Sweden.   The language would not prove difficult as she was fluent in German, as well as French and Russian.  English, however, was the language that she spoke at home with her parents. 

Exile and the tragedy of the Russian revolution had shaped her own sympathies. “The experience of our family has given me a great human understanding,” Kira said in a pre-wedding interview with the American news organization, the Associated Press.  “I am much more interested in people than I am in their calling or their station in life.  It isn’t the social calendar that interests me, but the intrinsic worth of people.”

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 Both Kira and Louis Ferdinand were passionate about their enthusiasm for America and Americans. 

  “It’s as though a champagne bottle had been uncorked. – that’s how the exuberance and joy-of-living of the Americans affect me,” Kira added, as she “flicked the ashes of her American cigarette.”

She noted that her experience of the United States was limited to Philadelphia, New York, Washington, D.C., and Florida, but with “Lulu, who knows America like a book, I expect to see much more of your country during our honeymoon.”

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The new Prince and Princess Louis Ferdinand of Prussia arrived in New York City on May 26, having sailed on the SS  Bremen.    In an interview in the ship’s Ritz-Carlton restaurant, the newlyweds said that their marriage was a “love match.”   Although their touring plans remained tentative, they hoped to visit the American historian Poultney Bigelow, at his home in Malden on Hudson, New York.  Bigelow was an old friend of the Kaiser’s and had recently returned home from his annual visit to Doorn.  Lulu and Kira had also been invited to Hyde Park to visit President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s mother, Sarah.  The President was expected to also join them at Hyde Park.

The honeymoon plans included trips to Detroit and the Ford Motor plant, the West Coast, and then sail to Hawaii and the Orient.    The couple spent four weeks in Hawaii, where they learned that Kira was pregnant with their first child.
The couple was traveling in the Far East when they learned that Kira’s father, Grand Duke Kirill died in Paris on October 16.    He was 62-years-old and had suffered from arteriosclerosis.  Kira’s younger brother, Wladimir, was now the de jure Russian emperor, and head of the House of Romanov.

Louis Ferdinand and Kira returned to Europe in late November, where they traveled to  Doorn.  The Kaiser welcomed them home with a bouquet of roses, and, noting Kira’s condition, he said: “Now be a good girl, and lie down right away.”

Kira and Louis Ferdinand moved into a new home in one of Berlin’s leafy suburbs, Grünewald, where Henry Ford’s wedding present, a blue Ford Cabriolet, was waiting for them.   It was difficult to maintain normality as the possibility of war drew even closer.    “Kira applied all her art of interior decorating to make it [the house] even more gemütlich ... Kira, who love music no less than I do, thoroughly approved of my bachelor habit of inviting musicians,” Louis Ferdinand wrote in his memoirs, Rebel Prince.

The couple’s first son was born on February 9, 1939, shortly before midnight.   As the German press was forbidden to mention even the name of Louis Ferdinand’s family in the papers,  Louis Ferdinand “played a trick,” by inserting a paid birth announcement in several German newspapers.   Louis Lochner, one of Louis Ferdinand’s closest friends – and an American – made sure that the news got out of Germany. 

The little boy was to have been called Louis Ferdinand, but the Kaiser insisted on family tradition that the child be known as Friedrich Wilhelm.   The baptism took place at  Cecilenhof in April 1939.  The little prince was given the names Louis Ferdinand Friedrich Wilhelm Hubertus Michael Kirill but would be styled as HRH Prince Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia.  None of the godparents – Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark, who was Louis Ferdinand’s first cousin, Princess Sibylla of Sweden, and Crown Princess Juliana of the Netherlands – were able to attend the ceremony.

After the christening,  Kira and Louis Ferdinand drove to Doorn so that the Kaiser could meet the baby.  Kira stayed with Wilhelm II, who doted on her and on his first great-grandson while Louis Ferdinand did his air service near Hanover.

The Prince, who had been on a year’s leave with Lufthansa, the German airline, decided that it would be best if he did not return.  It was more important for him to concentrate on family matters.  Hitler’s invasion of Poland in September 1939 meant that Louis Ferdinand would have to report for duty in the German Air Force.  His unit was made up mostly of former Lufthansa employees.

Kira gave birth to a second son on Good Friday, March 22, 1940.    They wanted to name their son Michael, but the Kaiser intervened.  The new baby had been born on Wilhelm I’s birthday, and as the Kaiser had greatly admired his grandfather, he insisted that the boy be named Wilhelm Heinrich. 

 The baby was baptized on Kira’s birthday at home.  Pastor Bruno Doehring, who had performed their Lutheran wedding, christened the prince Wilhelm Heinrich Michael Louis Ferdinand Friedrich Franz Wladimir.   Despite the Kaiser’s wish, Kira’s second son has always been known as Michael or Mikie.

Adolf Hitler tried to use Kaiser Wilhelm II’s death in June 1941 as a political statement.  The family feared that the Nazi dictator would bring the Kaiser’s remains back to Germany for an elaborate funeral, but a codicil to Wilhelm’s will in 1933, stated that the Kaiser did not want to be buried in Nazi Germany.  Nor did he want any symbols of National Socialism at his funeral. 

Louis Ferdinand’s position became more precarious after the deaths of his grandfather and his older brother, who had been killed in action in 1941.  His own commander knew that Louis Ferdinand was not enthusiastic about the Nazis.   The prince was transferred to Klützow, an airport in Pomerania, where he qualified as an instructor.   Kira, although she enjoyed her life in Berlin, was delighted to move to the country away from air raids and other issues.  They moved into a family property, Schloss Cadinen, which had not been used since before the first world war.   As the house was open to the public, Kira and Louis Ferdinand and their growing family moved into the second floor, as the first floor was visited nearly every day by tourists.

It was after Prince Wilhelm’s funeral that Adolf Hitler gave a secret order that removed members of Germany’s former ruling families from the armed forces.  No prince could be sent to the front lines, as “Hitler and his henchmen feared that popular discontent with the regime might lead to a counter-revolution in favor of restoring the monarchy.”

Louis Ferdinand and Kira knew that there would be no promotion in the Luftwaffe after they had learned about the secret order.  The prince talked over the situation with his father and decided that the best – the safest – thing to do was to resign his commission.  He received an honorable discharge on December 30, 1941. 

Crown Prince Wilhelm decided that Louis Ferdinand could take over running Cadinen.  Louis Ferdinand felt that this was a “natural solution,” to stay at Cadinen for the war’s duration, and “for many years after.” 

Their Berlin house was closed, and the furniture was brought to Cadinen.  Kira’s own furniture, from her home in Coburg, which had been sold after her father’s death, was also added to the house’s decor.  Cadinen “became cozy and livable.”
It was at Cadinen where Kira gave birth to her third and fourth children, Marie-Cécilé Kira Viktoria Luise and Kira Auguste Viktoria Friederike of Prussia, who were born in 1942 and 1943 respectively.

But the family was also being watched by local Nazi administrators, who “terrorized” Louis Ferdinand’s farm laborers.  It was difficult for Kira and Louis Ferdinand to trust their workers as they knew that most of their employees were spying on them.  As Louis Ferdinand wrote in his memoirs, “nobody suspected that the Gutsherr of Cadinen was up to his neck in a conspiracy against Hitler and his regime.”

Kira and Louis Ferdinand adored Cadinen, and they considered the East Prussian estate as their home.  They believed that they would remain on the estate for years to come.  But by the summer of 1944, they knew that life at Cadinen was coming to an end, as Soviet armed forces were moving west toward East Prussia.  Kira was expecting a child that August, and she and her husband talked about leaving the children and heading westward.  Louis Ferdinand confided his fears to trusted friends, all of whom advised to get out of East Prussia, and head for a family estate west of the Oder River.

On July 20, 1944, an attempt was made on Hitler’s life, although he survived.  Although not directly involved with the plot to kill Hitler, Prince Louis Ferdinand was in contact with several of the men involved in the plot.   He was openly anti-Nazi, but even the local Gestapo never learned of Louis Ferdinand’s meetings with others to discuss and plan Germany's future after Hitler’s defeat.
The failure of the plot was compounded by Soviet troops marching west toward Berlin.  Louis Ferdinand had no choice, but to get his family out of Cadinen.  Kira was distraught and tired, as Michael was suffering from meningitis.

Both knew that the Gestapo would soon be knocking at the door.  Despite her fear for her young son, Kira was completely aware that she and the children would have to leave Cadinen.  “Never have I adored my wife as deeply at the moment.”

This would be the third time that Kira would lose her home, “including the last of her personal belongings and art objects.”

Kira - a Russian Grand Duchess – knew what was expected of her - and what to do.   She kept her fears in check as she dealt with her son’s illness and the immediate possibility of her husband’s arrest.  “But she lived up to the occasion – every inch a mother, a wife, a princess.”

Louis Ferdinand made arrangements for his wife and children to move to Golzaw, Neumark, another family estate.   Michael’s health began to improve as the convulsions ceased.  The little boy was out of danger, and the family could leave.  Kira’s doctor advised that they travel soon, as the baby was due in less than four weeks.  The trains were still moving westward, and Louis Ferdinand, with the assistance of several friends, was able to make travel arrangements.   Their departure was nearly ruined when the Gestapo arrived to question the prince about his involvement in the July 20  plot.    But after a seven-hour session at Cadinen, the officers left, satisfied that they had no further information of the prince’s involvement in the plot.

On August 25, 1944, at Golzow, Kira gave birth to a fifth child, Louis Ferdinand.  After the baby’s christening, Kira and Louis Ferdinand returned to Cadinen, for three weeks.  It was “the quiet before the storm on the Eastern front.”   Kira packed up winter clothes and other possession to bring to Golzow. She knew that this would be her last visit to her beloved home.  Louis Ferdinand would return one more time as he was the administrator of the estate.  He knew he had to “keep up appearances,” for the benefit of the local Gestapo.  The evacuation came in January 1945, although the Nazis tried to convince the residents that nothing untoward was going to happen to them.  This was difficult to believe as scores of German officials were fleeing westward as well, as the Soviets moved closer. 

Louis Ferdinand knew it was time to leave.  The men who remained in Cadinen were deported by the Soviets, and many died en route to the Soviet Union.    The prince made his way to Danzig, where he managed to get on one of the last trains heading west.   When he reached a town a few miles near Golzow, he ran into a friend who told him that his family had already fled Golzow and were headed toward Potsdam.

  Kira had no idea what had happened to her husband.  She feared that he had been taken prisoner by the Red Army.  But she and her children were also in danger at Golzow.  Thanks to friends, Crown Princess Cecilie was able to send a truck and a car to Golzow to bring Kira, the children, and other family members back to Potsdam.

In her diary on January 23, 1945, Kira wrote: “The next few days and the coming weeks, perhaps months, will be the most fateful in our lives.... The worst has not yet happened to us.”   She was truly worried about her husband as she had heard from him in days. “Lulu is in Cadinen.  I know nothing of what is going on there.... Every thought of mine is with him; I long to be at his side, to be of use there at home, to share his burden of responsibility and worry.  I do not think out our beloved home, of all that we may lose.  Others, too, lost all their all and still must face life.  We shall build another home, wherever that may be, and still be happy.   If only God grants us to remain together and keep our children safe.”

On January 24,   Prince Hubertus, his wife, Madeleine, and their infant daughter, Anastasia, arrived at Golzow.  Kira was told about Crown Princess Cecilie’s plan to bring her and the children back to Potsdam.   Kira decided it would be best not to tell the children until the time to leave.    The truck arrived the next day, as did a letter from Louis Ferdinand and news of the evacuation from Cadinen.

Kira and the children reached Cecilienhof on the 27th.  Crown Princess Cecilie was happy to have her family under her roof again.  That evening, a delighted Kira received news of Lulu, who was making his way to Potsdam.   He arrived at the palace, “tired out, grimy, without luggage, but well,” on the morning of the 29th.   Knowing that it was impossible to stay in Potsdam as the Soviet troops were expected soon, Kira made the decision, even before Louis Ferdinand’s arrival, to move further westward to Bad Kissingen.

Now, at least, the family could leave together, which they did later that day although the journey was a “nightmare.”  Once they arrived in Kissingen, they settled into two rooms, which would be their home for the next year.
Louis Ferdinand noted that the new home was a “come down.”  Kira responded: “Let’s be thankful that we are all united and alive; so many people aren’t.”
Shortly afterward, Crown Princess Cecilie and Prince Hubertus and his family also fled Potsdam and arrived in Kissingen.  The Crown Prince was safe in Bavaria.

The end of the war in May 1945 did not mean an end to the family’s difficulties.  Nearly everything they owned was gone, now lost to Soviet occupiers. They were refugees in their own country.   Louis Ferdinand’s contacts with the American military made life a bit easier as he was sought out for his views on a postwar Germany.   In December 1947, Louis Ferdinand moved his family -now six children as Kira had given birth to a fourth son, Christian-Sigismund, in March 1946 – to a home, in Borgfeld, a suburb of Bremen.   In December 1949, 40-year-old Kira gave birth to a seventh child, a daughter, who was baptized with a Russian first name, Xenia.

Post-war Germany brought new challenges to the family, as so much was lost during the war, including a major portion of the Prussian estates that Louis Ferdinand would have inherited in 1951 following the death of his father.
After the second world war, Kira organized a special aid program designed for refugees from former German provinces, now in Poland.

It was not until May 1951 that Kira and Louis Ferdinand traveled outside Germany, since the start of the second world war  They boarded a steamer in Hamburg and sailed to Barcelona, traveling “like any other citizen.”  From Barcelona, they traveled to Madrid, where they were met by Kira’s brother, Wladimir, and his wife, Leonida.   This was a time for a family reunion between Kira and her younger brother, who had settled in Madrid four years earlier.  It was while they were in Madrid that they learned that the Crown Prince had suffered a heart attack.   Louis Ferdinand was assured that the doctors were not worried about his father’s heart condition.  After returning to Bremen in July, the prince called his father, who said he was feeling much better.   

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On July 20, 1951, Crown Prince Wilhelm suffered another heart attack and died in the wee hours of the morning.  Prince Louis Ferdinand succeeded as the de jure Kaiser and the official head of the House of Hohenzollern.  He was able to restore a good portion of the family fortune, despite the loss of important estates.   Bremen had become the family home, although Louis Ferdinand also maintained an office in West Berlin.

Later in the year, the family suffered another loss when Kira’s older sister, Maria, who was in Madrid visiting her brother, suffered a heart attack died.  She was 44-years-old.

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By the early 1960s, Kira’s elder children were approaching an age where the question of acceptable marriages would arise.  The Grand Duchess and her husband certainly believed that their children, especially their elder sons, would make equal marriages.   Unfortunately, neither Prince Friedrich Wilhelm nor Prince Michael made marriages that were considered acceptable for inheritance purposes.  Both were required to renounce their rights when they married Waldtraud Freydag and Jutta Jörn.

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Princess Marie Cecile’s marriage in 1965 to Duke Friedrich August of Oldenburg was approved as this was an equal marriage.

Kira was visiting her brother, Wladimir, at St. Briac, where she suffered a stroke, “brought on by an excessive fondness for food.”   She was buried in the family vault at Schloss Hechingen.  Some years later, her coffin was cracked by tremors from an earthquake.

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In an interview with Hello magazine in the early 1990s, Prince Louis Ferdinand said he was “immensely grateful” as “life has been extraordinary, despite all the ups and downs.  I married a marvellous woman, Princess Kira, who died too soon, unfortunately.   We had seven children, we were a very close, and a very happy family.  I thank God for all of this.”          
One of Kira’s greatest wishes was to visit her homeland, even though she was aware of the difficulties.    Throughout her life, she maintained an interest in Russian charities and instilled a love of the country in her children, especially her daughter, Kira, who continued her mother’s work after her death.

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