Princess Sophie of Greece and Denmark

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Princess Sophie
Princess of Greece and Denmark
Princess of Hesse
Princess of Hanover
Born (1914-06-26)26 June 1914
Villa Mon Repos, Corfu, Greece
Died Script error: The function "death_date_and_age" does not exist.
Munich, Germany
Spouse Prince Christoph of Hesse
Prince George William of Hanover
Issue Princess Christina Margarethe of Hesse
Princess Dorothea of Hesse
Prince Karl of Hesse
Prince Rainer of Hesse
Princess Clarissa of Hesse
Prince Welf Ernst of Hanover
Prince Georg of Hanover
Princess Friederike of Hanover
House Glücksburg
Father Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark
Mother Princess Alice of Battenberg

Princess Sophie of Greece and Denmark (Greek: Πριγκίπισσα Σοφία της Ελλάδας και Δανίας) (26 June 1914 – 3 November 2001) was the fourth child and youngest daughter of Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark and Princess Alice of Battenberg. The Duke of Edinburgh is her younger brother. Sophie was born at Villa Mon Repos on the island of Corfu in Greece.

Family and youth

Sophie's father was the fourth son of King George I of the Hellenes and Grand Duchess Olga Konstantinovna of Russia. Through King George, she was a great-granddaughter of King Christian IX of Denmark (hence her subsidiary title, Princess of Denmark). Through Queen Olga, she was a great-great-granddaughter of Emperor Nicholas I of Russia. Sophie was also a great-great-granddaughter of Queen-Empress Victoria, through descent from Victoria's second daughter, Alice, Grand Duchess of Hesse and by Rhine.

Sophie was the closest sister in age of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, the consort of Elizabeth II. Her three sisters were Margarita, Princess of Hohenlohe-Langenburg (1905–1981), Theodora, Margravine of Baden and Cecile, Hereditary Grand Duchess of Hesse-Darmstadt.

In 1913 Sophie's grandfather, King George I, was assassinated and in 1917 most of the Greek royal family went into exile when her uncle, King Constantine I, was deposed in favour of his younger son, King Alexander I. The family returned to Greece upon the brief restoration of Constantine to the throne when Alexander died in 1920, but left again when he abdicated in 1922, inaugurating the even briefer reign of Constantine's eldest son, George II. Banished with King George in 1924, the dynasty would not again be reinstated on Greece's throne until 1935, by which time Sophie had married and was raising a family in Germany.

During these periods of exile Sophie, her parents, and siblings lived abroad in reduced, though never uncomfortable, circumstances, sometimes in hotels and sometimes with relatives in France, England or Germany. In the late 1920s, her mother, Alice, became increasingly mentally unstable and was committed to a series of sanitariums in Germany by her mother, Princess Victoria of Hesse-Darmstadt, Marchioness of Milford Haven. Eventually released, Alice wandered Europe until, following the death in a plane crash of Sophie's sister, Cecile, in November 1937, she resumed contact with her children and took up a life dedicated to religious charity in Athens.

Meanwhile, Sophie's father remained in contact with his children, but lived apart from them, settling in Monaco. Sophie and her sisters lived under the care and at the expense of relatives, all four princesses marrying German princes between December 1930 and August 1931. Their brother Philip, not yet 10 years old, was sent to various boarding schools and, later, to a British naval academy.

First marriage

Although the youngest of four sisters, Sophie was the first to wed, marrying her second cousin-once-removed Prince Christoph of Hesse (1901–1943) on 15 December 1930 in Kronberg, Berlin; she was 16. A younger son of Prince Frederick Charles of Hesse and Princess Margaret of Prussia, Christoph was a great-grandson of Queen Victoria through her eldest daughter Victoria, Princess Royal, wife of Frederick III, German Emperor. A director in the Third Reich's Ministry of Air Forces and a commander in the German Air Reserves, Christoph held the rank of Oberführer in the Nazi SS.[1] On 7 October 1943, he was killed in an airplane accident in a war zone of the Apennine mountains near Forlì, Italy.[1] His body was found two days later.

They had five children:

  • Princess Christina Margarethe of Hesse (10 January 1933 – 21 November 2011), married first in Kronberg im Taunus on 2 August 1956 Prince Andrew of Yugoslavia (1929–1990), and had two children before divorcing in London in 1962; and married secondly in London on 3 December 1962 Robert Floris van Eyck (1916–1991),[2][3][4] and had two further children.
    • Princess Maria Tatiana of Yugoslavia b. 18 July 1957 married Gregory Thune-Larsen on 30 June 1990 and had two children.
    • Prince Christopher of Yugoslavia b. 4 February 1960 d. 14 May 1994
    • Hélène van Eyck b. 25 October 1963 married to Roderick Alan Harman, with whom she has two daughters.
    • Mark van Eyck b. 16 February 1966
  • Princess Dorothea Charlotte Karin of Hesse (b. Schloss Panker, 24 July 1934), married civilly at Schliersee, Upper Bavaria, on 31 March 1959 and religiously in Munich on 1 April 1959 to Prince Friedrich Karl zu Windisch-Grätz (7 July 1917 – 29 May 2002), and had two daughters.
    • Princess Marina of Windisch-Grätz b. 3 Dec 1960
    • Princess Clarissa of Windisch-Grätz b. 5 Aug 1966
  • Prince Karl Adolf Andreas of Hesse (b. Berlin, 26 March 1937), married at The Hague civilly on 26 March 1966 and religiously on 18 April 1966 to Countess Yvonne Margit Valerie Szapáry von Muraszombath, Széchysziget und Szapár (b. Budapest, 4 April 1944), and had issue, two children:
  • Prince Rainer Christoph Friedrich of Hesse (b. Kronberg im Taunus, 18 November 1939), unmarried and without issue.
  • Princess Clarissa Alice of Hesse (b. Kronberg im Taunus, 6 February 1944), married in Paris on 20 July 1971 and divorced in 1976 to Claude Jean Derrien (b. Boulogne-Billancourt, France 12 March 1948), son of Jean Guillaume Derrien and wife Jacqueline Laine, without issue; she went on to have a daughter, Johanna (b. 1980), by an unknown father.

Second marriage

Sophie's second marriage was to her cousin Prince George William of Hanover (who was a second cousin through Christian IX and a third cousin through Victoria to Sophie, and he also was a first cousin-once-removed of Sophie's first husband, Christoph, in descent from Victoria, Princess Royal) on 23 April 1946 in Salem, Baden. George was a younger son of Ernest Augustus III, Duke of Brunswick, who lost his duchy in 1918, and his consort, Princess Viktoria Luise of Prussia, the only daughter of Wilhelm II, German Emperor.

Sophie's marriage to George William constitutes the only known case of permission to marry being withheld by the British sovereign from a descendant of King George II, who had been obliged to solicit Royal authorisation to marry by the Royal Marriages Act 1772.[5] Although permission to marry had been granted by George VI in 1937 to George William's sister, Frederika of Hanover, future Queen of the Hellenes,[5] when Sophie became engaged to George William, a German citizen, it was 1945 and the United Kingdom was at war with Germany. When George William's father, Ernest Augustus III, Duke of Brunswick and Head of the House of Hanover, submitted the request to marry on his son's behalf—a formality his branch of George III's descendants had continued to observe even after obtaining the German crowns of the Kingdom of Hanover (in 1837) and the Duchy of Brunswick (in 1913)[5]—despite the fact that the dynastic titles and peerages of the Hanovers had been suspended since 1919, no British monarch had withheld marital authorisation to any kinsman or kinswoman who sought it. Although there was apparently no question of officially denying the request, the British government advised the king that it would be of dubious "propriety" to give royal assent to his cousin's petition. George VI then sought to arrange to have the Hanovers informally advised that the exigencies of war, rather than personal disapproval, prevented him from approving the marriage to Sophie (whose brother, Philip, would become informally engaged to the King's elder daughter, after years of courtship, a few months later). But after internal consultation the British government blocked the endeavour on the grounds that any such communication could be subsequently misconstrued.[5]

Thus, no official reply was made to the Duke of Brunswick's correspondence, the couple wed without George VI's consent, and after the war the practice of British monarchs receiving and acquiescing to requests to marry from the Hanovers resumed. At the time British officials reviewing the matter considered that the marriage and its issue would not be legitimate in the United Kingdom, having failed to obtain the prior consent of the King in Council.[6]

The repeal of the Royal Marriage Act as part of implementation of the Succession to the Crown Act 2013 does not specifically address the unique situation of the descendants of Sophie and George William's marriage (deemed legal in Germany). The latter act does not confer legitimacy upon the children of a marriage which formerly required approval under the Royal Marriage Act, if such approval was sought but not obtained. Nor does it confer succession rights upon a descendant of any marriage which has already transpired, if such rights were not already extant.

Together they had three children:

Name Birth Death Notes
Prince Welf Ernst of Hanover 25 January 1947 10 January 1981 Married on 23 May 1969 to Wibke van Gunsteren (born 26 November 1948). One daughter:
Prince Georg of Hanover 9 December 1949 Married on 15 September 1973 to Victoria Anne Bee (born 6 March 1951). Two daughters:
  • Princess Vera of Hanover (born: 5 November 1976) married to Manuel Dmoch, with issue.
  • Princess Nora Sophie of Hanover (born: 15 January 1979) married to Christian Falk, with issue.
Princess Friederike of Hanover 15 October 1954 A god-daughter of Elizabeth II.[7] Married on 17 August 1979 to Jerry William Cyr (born 16 January 1951). They had two children:
  • Julia Emma Cyr (born: 17 September 1982)
  • Jean-Paul Welf Cyr (born: 6 March 1985)

Later years and death

Styles of
Princess Sophie of Greece and Denmark
Arms of a Prince of Greece.svg
Reference style Her Royal Highness
Spoken style Your Royal Highness
Alternative style Ma'am

Until her death on 3 November 2001 in Munich, Sophie was a frequent visitor to her brother, Prince Philip and her sister-in-law, Queen Elizabeth II. She was a godmother to their son, Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex. Sophie was often seen at events such as the annual Windsor Horse Show in the presence of her brother and his family. She was survived by her second husband, seven of her eight children and her younger brother, Prince Philip.

Titles, styles, honours and arms

Titles and styles

  • 26 June 1914 – 15 December 1930: Her Royal Highness Princess Sophie of Greece and Denmark
  • 15 December 1930 – 23 April 1946: Her Royal Highness Princess Christoph of Hesse
  • 23 April 1946 – 3 November 2001: Her Royal Highness Princess George William of Hanover



Family of Princess Sophie of Greece and Denmark
16. Frederick William, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg
8. Christian IX of Denmark
17. Princess Louise Caroline of Hesse-Cassel
4. George I of the Hellenes, Prince of Denmark
18. Landgrave William of Hesse-Kassel
9. Princess Louise of Hesse-Kassel
19. Princess Louise Charlotte of Denmark
2. Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark
20. Nicholas I of Russia
10. Grand Duke Constantine Nikolaevich of Russia
21. Princess Charlotte of Prussia
5. Grand Duchess Olga Constantinovna of Russia
22. Joseph, Duke of Saxe-Altenburg
11. Princess Alexandria of Saxe-Altenburg
23. Duchess Amelia of Württemberg
1. Princess Sophie of Greece and Denmark
24. Louis II, Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine
12. Prince Alexander of Hesse and by Rhine
25. Princess Wilhelmine of Baden
6. Prince Louis of Battenberg
26. Count John Maurice Hauke
13. Countess Julia Hauke
27. Sophie Lafontaine
3. Princess Alice of Battenberg
28. Prince Charles of Hesse and by Rhine
14. Louis IV, Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine
29. Princess Elizabeth of Prussia
7. Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine
30. Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
15. Princess Alice of the United Kingdom
31. Queen Victoria


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  3. Eilers, Marlene. Queen Victoria's Descendants (Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1987), page 167
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  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 After consultations with the Foreign Office, Home Office and King George VI's private secretary, Sir Alan Lascelles, a ciphered telegram dated 18 April 1945 and crafted by Sir Albert Napier, permanent secretary to the Lord Chancellor, was transmitted from the British Foreign Office to the Foreign Adviser to the British Commander in Chief at Berlin: "The Duke of Brunswick has formally applied to The King by letter of March 22nd for the consent of His Majesty under the Act 12 Geo. III, cap. 11 to the marriage of his son Prince George William with Princess Sophia Dowager Princess of Hesse. The marriage is understood to he taking place on April 23rd. Please convey to the Duke an informal intimation that in view of the fact that a state of war still exists between Great Britain and Germany, His Majesty is advised that the case is not one in which it is practicable for His consent to be given in the manner contemplated by the Act." The National Archives (UK) LCO 2/3371A: Marriage of Prince George William, son of the Duke of Brunswick, with Princess Sophia, Dowager Princess of Hesse. Request for The King's consent.
  6. Eagleston, Arthur J. The Home Office and the Crown. pp. 9–14. The National Archives (United Kingdom)|TNA, HO 45/25238, Royal Marriages.
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