Prince Alexander of Hesse

From Academic Kids

Prince Alexander of Hesse and by Rhine (15 July, 1823 - 1888).

There are several translations and variations of the full name "Hesse and by Rhine". The family generally referred to themselves in conversation and writing as simply "Hesse", and the Grand Duchy, restyled in 1816 "Hesse and by Rhine" when it obtained the district of Rhinehesse from Prussia in exchange for territories in northern Hesse itself, continued to be generally referred to as Hesse-Darmstadt.

The younger sons of the Grand Dukes of Hesse (a mid-sized German state) are generally unknown. Prince Alexander is the exception. The Grand Ducal family were very adroit at making 'good' marriages. During the 19th century they provided Russia with two empresses and Queen Victoria with a son-in-law. By even greater chance the descendants of the family's black sheep Prince Alexander, the third son and fourth child of Grand Duke Ludwig II and his wife Wilhelmina of Baden, have been in the 20th century the consorts of three European sovereigns:

Princess Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg - Queen of Spain
Princess Louise of Battenberg - Queen of Sweden
Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh - Consort of Elizabeth II

Prince Alexander's descendants currently occupy the Spanish throne and will, in time, as Mountbattens, sit on the throne of the United Kingdom.

Remarkably, not only was Prince Alexander's own marriage one of the scandals of the 19th century, but his own parentage was also the subject of scandal: it was openly said that Alexander's father, and that of his sister Marie (who became Tsarina), was actually Baron Augustus Senarxlens, their mother's chamberlain.

Whatever the truth, Prince Alexander's legitimate father, Grand Duke Ludwig II of Hesse-Darmstadt, married his daughter Marie to the Tsarevich of Russia, later Alexander II. The Grand Duke's younger son, Prince Alexander, decided that his future too lay in Russia. He followed the martial tradition of his family, and served in the Russian Army, where he became a distinguished soldier with a glittering career ahead of him. He had a regiment of lancers named after him and was awarded the Cross of St. George. The fact that his sister was the Tsarevna (Crown Princess) of Russia was not a disadvantage to his prospects.

Alexander however decided to ruin his own prospects. He fell in love with a lady-in-waiting to his sister, Countess Julia von Hauke, an orphaned German-Polish ward of the Tsar, daughter of the Tsar's former Minister of War. Alexander was at that time in favor with (his sister's father-in-law) Tsar Nicholas I, who was considering him as a possible husband for his niece. Hearing of the romance, the Tsar forbade the couple to marry; it was unthinkable at that time that a person belonging to any ruling house could marry a mere countess. The Almanach de Gotha, lexicon and guide of Europe's titled classes, was very clear on the subject of who could marry whom.

Alexander left for England to contemplate his future, but he could not live without Julia. He returned to Russia for her, and the couple eloped from St. Petersburg and were married in Breslau (Silesia) in 1851.

They returned to Hesse where his older brother Grand Duke Ludwig III was also displeased by the lowly dynastic status of his brother's wife. Alexander was allowed to retain his rank of Prince, and Julia was given the defunct title of Countess of Battenberg (Battenberg is a small town in the north of Hesse where they first lived in seclusion), but their children would have no claim to the Grand Ducal throne. The Countess was later elevated to the rank of a 'non royal' Princess, and the couple eventually returned to the residence of Darmstadt itself.

Having forgone his dynastic claims, Prince Alexander and his morganatic wife lived a quiet life. Their family was raised primarily at Heiligenberg Castle, near Jugenheim, in southern Hesse.

Alexander of Hesse and Julia of Battenberg had five children, and they inherited their mother's title and surname. The children were:-

Prince Louis of Battenberg 1854 - 1921
Princess Marie of Battenberg 1852 - 1923
Prince Alexander of Battenberg, 1857 - 1893
Prince Henry of Battenberg 1858 - 1896
Prince Francis Joseph of Battenberg 1861 - 1924

Prince Alexander of Hesse died in 1888, Princess Julia of Battenberg died at Schloss Heiligenberg in 1895 at the age of 70. Their legacy lives on in the royal houses of von Hessen-Darmstadt sv:Alexander av Hessen-Darmstadt


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