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Princess Cecilie of Greece and Denmark (Greek: Πριγκίπισσα Καικιλία της Ελλάδας και Δανίας) (22 June 1911 – 16 November 1937) was the wife of Hereditary Grand Duke Georg Donatus of Hesse and third-eldest sister to Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

Birth and ancestry

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Cecilie was the third child and daughter of Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark and Princess Alice of Battenberg. She was born on 22 June 1911 at the summer estate of the Greek Royal Family at Tatoi, fifteen kilometres north of Athens. Although her given name was Cecilie, she was known to her family as Cécile.

Cecilie was baptised at Tatoi on 2 July 1911. Her godparents were King George V of the United Kingdom (who had his coronation as the king of the United Kingdom on the day of Cecilie's birth), Grand Duke Ernst Louis of HessePrince Nicholas of Greece and Duchess Vera of Württemberg.

Through her father, Cecilie was a grandchild of King George I of Greece and his wife Grand Duchess Olga Konstantinovna of Russia (a granddaughter of Tsar Nicholas I of Russia); through her mother, she was a great-great granddaughter of Queen Victoria. Cecilie had three sisters: Margarita (wife of Prince Gottfried of Hohenlohe-Langenburg), Theodora (wife of Berthold, Margrave of Baden) and Sophie (wife firstly of Prince Christoph of Hesse and secondly of Prince Georg Wilhelm of Hanover). Her brother Philip, later Duke of Edinburgh, is the husband of Queen Elizabeth II.

In 1922 Cecilie and her sisters were bridesmaids at the wedding of their maternal uncle Lord Louis Mountbatten (later Earl Mountbatten of Burma) to Edwina Ashley.

Marriage and children

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Princess Cecilie with her children Princes Alexander and Ludwig and Princess Johanna.

On 2 February 1931 at Darmstadt, Cecilie married Georg Donatus, Hereditary Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine, her maternal first cousin once removed. They had four children:

Name Birth Death Notes
Prince Ludwig of Hesse and by Rhine 25 October 1931 16 November 1937 Killed in air accident
Prince Alexander of Hesse and by Rhine 14 April 1933
Princess Johanna of Hesse and by Rhine 20 September 1936 14 June 1939 Died from meningitis.
Stillborn son 16 November 1937 16 November 1937 Born on an aircraft mid-flight and killed in air accident

On 1 May 1937 Cecilie and her husband both joined the Nazi Party.

Death

In October 1937, Cecilie's uncle Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig of Hesse died. A few weeks after the funeral, her brother-in-law Prince Ludwig was due to be married to Margaret Campbell Geddesin London.

On 16 November 1937, Georg Donatus, Cecilie, their two young sons and Georg's mother Grand Duchess Eleonore left Darmstadt for London, where they planned to attend the wedding. The aircraft in which they were travelling crashed in flames after hitting a factory chimney near Ostend, Belgium, killing all on board. At the time, Cecilie was eight months pregnant with her fourth child, and the remains of the baby were found in the wreckage. A Belgian enquiry concluded she had given birth mid-flight and the landing attempt was made in bad weather because of this.

Cecilie was buried with her husband and three of her children in Darmstadt at the Rosenhöhe, the traditional burial place of the Hesse family. Cecilie's daughter Johanna was adopted by Prince Ludwig and Princess Margaret. However, Johanna died two years later from meningitis and is buried with her parents and siblings. Cecilie was the first of Prince Andrew and Princess Alice's children to die.

In popular culture

The crash figures in the plot of A Matter of Honour by Jeffrey Archer, in which Grand Duke Georg has in his possession the jewels of his aunt, the last Tsaritsa of Russia, which the KGB are looking for. There is no evidence in reality that this was the case.

She is depicted in the Netflix series The Crown as Prince Philip's favourite sister. She appears in flashbacks in the second episode and the ninth episode of the second season portrayed by German actress Leonie Benesch.

Titles, styles and honours

Titles and styles

  • 22 June 1911 – 2 February 1931: Her Royal Highness Princess Cecilie of Greece and Denmark
  • 2 February 1931 – 16 November 1937: Her Royal Highness The Hereditary Grand Duchess of Hesse and by Rhine

Honours

National honours

Foreign honours

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