Princess Margaret of Prussia

Margaret of Prussia (German: Margarethe Beatrice Feodora; 22 April 1872 – 22 January 1954) was the youngest child of Frederick III, German Emperor, and Victoria, Princess Royal. As such, she was the younger sister of Emperor Wilhelm II and a granddaughter of Queen Victoria. She married Prince Frederick Charles of Hesse, the elected King of Finland, making her the would-be Queen of Finland had he not decided to renounce the throne on 14 December 1918. In 1926 they assumed the titles of Landgrave and Landgravine of Hesse. The couple had six sons and lost three in the First and Second World Wars.

Margaret of Prussia
Margarida Feodora da Prússia.jpg
Photograph by Alexander Bassano circa 1887
Queen consort-elect of Finland
Tenure9 October 1918 –
14 December 1918
Born(1872-04-22)22 April 1872
New Palace, Potsdam, Prussia, German Empire
Died22 January 1954(1954-01-22) (aged 81)
Schloss Friedrichshof, Kronberg im Taunus, Hesse, West Germany
Schloss Friedrichshof, Kronberg im Taunus, Hesse, Germany
(m. 1893; died 1940)
German: Margarethe Beatrice Feodora
English: Margaret Beatrice Feodora
FatherFrederick III, German Emperor
MotherVictoria, Princess Royal

Early lifeEdit

Princess Margaret in childhood

Princess Margaret of Prussia was the youngest of eight children born to Frederick III, then-Crown Prince of the German Empire and his wife, Victoria, Princess Royal, Britain's Queen Victoria's eldest daughter. Born on 22 April 1872 in the Hohenzollerns' New Palace in Potsdam, by the time the infant was christened, her head was covered with short hair like moss, from which she acquired her nickname "Mossy".[1] She was named Margarethe Beatrice Feodora. Crown Princess Margherita of Italy was her godmother[1] and Emperor Pedro II of Brazil was her godfather.[2]

Princess Margaret grew up amid great privilege and formality.[3] Together with her sisters, Princess Viktoria and Princess Sophie, Margaret was deeply attached to her parents, forming an antagonist group to that of her eldest siblings, William II, Princess Charlotte and Prince Heinrich. She remained close to her mother after the death of her father. Margaret was widely regarded as the most popular of Kaiser Wilhelm II's sisters, and she maintained good relations with a wide array of family members.[3] She was a first cousin of both King George V of the United Kingdom and Empress Alexandra of Russia, all three being grandchildren of Victoria. As an adult, she was said to resemble her aunt, Princess Alice.[4]


Princess Margaret in her wedding dress

Princess Margaret was first attracted to Prince Maximilian of Baden.[5] When he did not reciprocate her affection, she moved on to her second choice, Max's close friend, Prince Frederick Charles of Hesse, future head of the Hesse-Kassel dynasty and future elected King of Finland.[5] They were married on 25 January 1893 at the Hohenzollern Stadtschloss in Berlin on the anniversary of her parents' wedding.[6]

At the time of the wedding, Prince Frederick Charles was not the Head of the House of Hesse-Kassel.[7] The position was held by his older and virtually blind brother Landgrave Alexander Friederich, who relinquished it in the mid-1920s in order to enter an unequal marriage.[7] Prince Frederick Charles, as was his title when he married, was addressed as His Highness, while Princess Margaret warranted Royal Highness. This disparity came to an end in 1925 when Frederick Charles became Landgrave of Hesse and Head of the house of Hesse-Kassel.[7]

They were second cousins, both great-grandchildren of King Friedrich Wilhelm III of Prussia, he through his mother Anna, she through her father Friedrich. Initially, her brother Wilhelm opposed the match as he felt that Frederick Charles's position was too "minor" for the Kaiser's sister. Later, however, he gave his blessing, since Margaret herself "was so unimportant".[8] The marriage was very happy. Princess Margaret had a strong personality; she would always seem more secure and grounded than her husband.[5] The couple's main residence during the early years of marriage was Schloss Rumpenheim. Margaret's husband was her mother's favorite son-in-law.[8] In 1901, Princess Margaret inherited Schloss Friedrichshof at the death of her mother.[3] It was highly unconventional for a husband to reside in his wife's home. However, Margaret was committed to maintain the house of her mother which entailed a great expense and the family moved to Friedrichshof.[3]

In 1918, Margaret's husband accepted the offer of the throne of newly independent Finland, but due to German misfortunes in World War I, soon renounced it. She would have become the Queen of Finland. Her predecessor as Grand Duchess-consort of Finland was her first cousin, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna of Russia.

Family tragediesEdit

Margaret's elder sons, Friedrich Wilhelm and Maximilian, were killed in action during World War I. Prince Maximilian, Princess Margaret's second and favorite son, was serving near Aisne when he was seriously wounded by machine gun fire in October 1914.[9] He died soon afterward and his body was secretly buried in the village of Caestre by the local people, who learned he was the Kaiser's nephew. The priest refused to identify the grave until the Germans had left Belgium and a compensation was paid.[who?] Max's younger brother Wolfgang appealed for help to the British authorities, and eventually, after an enquiry was made, Maximilian's body was returned to his family. Princess Margaret's oldest son, Friedrich Wilhelm died on 12 September 1916 at Kara Orman in Romania. He was killed in close fighting; his throat was slit by an enemy bayonet.[10]

Her two other sons, Philipp and Christoph, embraced Nazism, and Margaret, who was a sister of the last Kaiser Wilhelm II, invited Adolf Hitler to tea and flew the swastika from her home at Schloss Kronberg.[11] Philipp married Princess Mafalda, daughter of King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy.[12] Due to his close relations with the King of Italy, Philipp was appointed in 1939 to Hitler's personal staff, since he could be a useful channel of communications between Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. When he realised the reality of Nazism, he tried to resign, but he was not able to do so. He used his position and his money to provide passports for Jews and help them to escape to the Netherlands[citation needed]. Publicly, he continued with his duties and occasionally he made private missions in Italy for Hitler. When Italy capitulated, he personally informed Hitler. Hitler's revenge recoiled on Philipp, who was imprisoned in a concentration camp for political prisoners. Mafalda was taken to Buchenwald, where she died of a haemorrhage caused by the amputation of her arm, which had been mangled in a bombing raid on the camp.[13]

Landgravine Margaret's fifth son, Christoph, was a staunch supporter of the German war effort, but after the Battle of Stalingrad, he became frustrated by the limitations placed on his own role in the conflict, and increasingly critical of the German leadership.[14] Christoph's reaction to the assassination of Heydrich, whom he called a "dangerous and cruel man",[15] in 1942 was that it was "the best news I had in a long time".[15] The Nazi regime had turned against his family by the time he died in a plane crash near Forli on 7 October 1943.[15][16] He was married to Princess Sophie of Greece, a sister of Philip, Prince of Greece and Denmark who, in 1947, married the heir to the throne of the United Kingdom and, in 1952, became Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, consort of Queen Elizabeth II.

Landgravine Margaret also lost another one of her daughters-in-law during the war. Wolfgang's wife, Princess Marie Alexandra, when she and seven other women who were aid workers were killed in a bomb attack on Frankfurt on 29–30 January 1944.[17] The cellar in which they had taken refuge collapsed under the weight of the building, rendering Marie Alexandra's body barely recognisable.[18]

Landgravine Margaret, very much the matriarch, was at the centre of her large and dynamic family.[5] During and after World War II, she took care of many of her grandchildren and tried to preserve a centre at Friedrichshof as their parents faced various tribulations.[5]

Last yearsEdit

Landgravine Margaret had difficult years after 1945; they were compounded by the theft from Schloss Friedrichshof in November 1945 of the family jewellery, valued at over £2,000,000.[19] After World War II, Friedrichshof was used as an officer's club by the military authorities during the American occupation. Princess Margaret's son Wolfgang, fearing for the jewels, had buried them in a sub-cellar of the castle.[19] On 5 November 1945, the manager of the club, Captain Kathleen Nash, discovered the jewels and together with her future husband, Colonel Jack Durant, and Major David Watson, stole the treasure and took it out of Germany.[20] In early 1946, Princess Margaret discovered the theft when the family wanted to use the jewels for the wedding of Princess Sophia who was preparing to remarry. Princess Sophia and Landgravine Margaret reported it to the Frankfurt authorities, and the culprits were imprisoned in August 1951. The Hesse family received what had been recovered: only 10 percent of what had been stolen.[21]

Landgravine Margaret, the last surviving child of Emperor Frederick III and last grandchild of emperor Emperor Wilhelm I, died in Kronberg on 22 January 1954,[22] 14 years after her husband and exactly 53 years to the day after her British grandmother Queen Victoria. She was 81 years old.


Landgravine Margaret and her husband Frederick Charles of Hesse had six sons, including two sets of twins:




  1. ^ a b Pakula, An Uncommon Woman, p. 298
  2. ^ Longo, James McMurtry. Isabel Orleans-Bragança: the Brazilian princess who freed the slaves. Jefferson: McFarland & Company, 2008, p.192
  3. ^ a b c d Petropoulos, Royals and the Reich, p. 34
  4. ^ Packard, Jerrold M. (1999). Victoria's Daughters. St Martin's Press. p. 295. ISBN 9780312244965.
  5. ^ a b c d e Petropoulos, Royals and the Reich, p. 35
  6. ^ Pakula, An Uncommon Woman, p. 557
  7. ^ a b c Petropoulos, Royals and the Reich, p. 33
  8. ^ a b Packard, p. 295
  9. ^ Petropoulos, Royals and the Reich, p. 43
  10. ^ Petropoulos, Royals and the Reich, p.44
  11. ^ Philip, Mansel. "The Prince and the F". The Spectator (UK). Retrieved 13 December 2017.
  12. ^ Petropoulos, Royals and the Reich, p. 75
  13. ^ Petropoulos, Royals and the Reich, p. 303
  14. ^ Petropoulos, Royals and the Reich, p. 307
  15. ^ a b c Vickers, Hugo (2003). Alice: Princess Andrew of Greece. St. Martin's Griffin. pp. 301. ISBN 9780312302399.
  16. ^ Petropoulos, Royals and the Reich, p. 308
  17. ^ Petropoulos, Royals and the Reich, p. 317
  18. ^ Petropoulos, Royals and the Reich, p. 318
  19. ^ a b Petropoulos, Royals and the Reich, p. 344
  20. ^ Petropoulos, Royals and the Reich, p. 345
  21. ^ Petropoulos, Royals and the Reich, p. 349
  22. ^ Pakula, An Uncommon Woman, p. 599
  23. ^ Handbuch über den Königlich Preußischen Hof und Staat (1918), Genealogy p. 4
  24. ^ "Goldener Löwen-orden", Großherzoglich Hessische Ordensliste (in German), Darmstadt: Staatsverlag, 1914, p. 2 – via
  25. ^ Joseph Whitaker (1894). An Almanack for the Year of Our Lord ... J. Whitaker. p. 112.
  26. ^ a b Meisner, Heinrich Otto (1961), "Friedrich III", Neue Deutsche Biographie (in German), vol. 5, Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, pp. 487–489; (full text online)
  27. ^ a b c d e f Louda, Jiří; Maclagan, Michael (1999). Lines of Succession: Heraldry of the Royal Families of Europe. London: Little, Brown. p. 34. ISBN 1-85605-469-1.
  28. ^ a b Marcks, Erich ADB:Wilhelm I. (deutscher Kaiser) (1897), "Wilhelm I. (deutscher Kaiser)", Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB) (in German), vol. 42, Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot, pp. 527–692
  29. ^ a b Goetz, Walter (1953), "Augusta", Neue Deutsche Biographie (in German), vol. 1, Berlin: Duncker & Humblot, pp. 451–452; (full text online)


  • Henri van Oene, Genealogy of the Royal Family of Prussia, 13 May 1998, 18 September 2011 <Genealogy of the Royal Family of Prussia>.
  • Pakula, Hannah, An Uncommon Woman, Simon & Schuster, New York, 1995, ISBN 0-684-84216-5
  • Petropoulos, Jonathan, Royals and the Reich, Oxford University Press, New York, 2006, ISBN 0-19-516133-5
  • Van der Kiste, John, The Prussian Princesses: Sisters of Kaiser Wilhelm II, Fonthill, 2014