Royals Who Lost Parents Young

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Recently, both Prince William and Prince Harry have spoken of the pain and grief of losing Diana–20 years ago next year. But what about other royal children? Have others lost a parent? The answer is yes–and within the lifetime of the current queen and the generation before her.

The Kent Children

Photos are embeddable from Getty Images  but reduced in size here.

72 years ago this week, the Queen’s youngest (surviving)  paternal uncle, Prince George, Duke of Kent, was killed in a plane crash leaving 3 children without a father. Those children are today’s Duke of Kent (the “other” Prince Edward–named for his Uncle, Edward VIII), his sister Princess Alexandra of Kent and their brother Prince Michael of Kent. Prince Edward was then the nation’s youngest Duke. Prince Michael, born on the 4th of July, was named Michael George Charles Franklin–the last being for his war-time Godfather, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt.

This royal tragedy was hardest on Prince Edward–Eddie as he is known in the family. His Uncle, King George VI, became almost a surrogate father to him. He had a difficult time growing up–so much so that his mother, Prince Philip’s cousin the former Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark, removed him from Eton and sent him on to Le Rosey in Switzerland where his fellow pupils included King Albert II of Belgium and the Aga Khan. For Alexandra, just that much younger, and for baby Michael, the loss did not resonate as strongly. Eddie spent much of his life at school or fobbbed off on tutor Giles St. Aubyn (“tutor” in this case is an archaic term for a “male minder”–a younger man who keeps track of his aristocratic, or in this case royal, protege for a living).


Fate would deal Eddie another blow. His uncle, George VI, died when Eddie was just a 16 year-old schoolboy.

In the photo (right) right, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, is seen in the top hat, walking in the procession with his uncle (and Godfather) the disgraced Edward VIII (aka, Duke of Windsor).  Photo source unknown, but possibly Getty.

The Hesse and by Rhine Royal Family

Before the Duke of Kent’s tragic death, an air crash claimed the lives of Prince Philip’s sister, Princess Cecilie of Hesse  and her husband (also his mother) and three of their four children (one of whom was born at the time of the crash). The surviving child was Princess Johanna–Prince Philip’s niece. Johanna’s elder brothers, Alexander and Ludwig, were killed in the crash as the family traveled to their Uncle’s wedding in London where the boys were to be little paige boys in the ceremony.

 Photo sources: I believe these to be in the public domain.

The photo top right is the couple with their first three children, Alexander, Ludwig and baby Johanna. At the bottom right is the funeral procession–the blonde boy in the front row, carrying his top hat, is Prince Philip–Queen Elizabeth’s husband. His sister, Cecilie, is shown in the lower left corner.

This story had another tragedy yet to come. Although she survived the crash by being left at home with her Nanny and other relatives, little Johanna (who was adopted by her Paternal Uncle and his brand new wife–the wedding went ahead privately and they rushed back to Darmstadt to adopt the surviving child) died of meningitis only two years later. Johanna is shown at the top left with her surviving Uncle–adoptive father, Prince Ludwig, Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine, and her adoptive mother, the former Miss Margaret Geddes who was English.

 The Battenbergs

396ed241550fcd99d0834187e72c1ac1Prince Philip’s Great Uncle, Prince Henry of Battenberg, married the Great-Great Aunt of both Philip and Queen Elizabeth–Queen Victoria’s ninth and youngest child, Princess Beatrice. The couple were allowed to marry on the condition that they lived with the Queen. Therefore Beatrice and Henry’s four lively children were perhaps the best know to Victoria of all her many (40+) grandchildren. They are shown, looking suitably somber, in the  photo at the left–obviously taken not long after their father’s death.

In 1895 one of the many “Little Wars” of Victoria’s reign started. Known as the Ashanti War, it was in West Africa and named for the principle ethnic group in the area. Prince Henry went off to fight. Sadly, he died of malaria before he reached the war. His body was supposedly preserved in rum so it could be returned to England for burial. His death left  Princes Alexander (known as Drino), Leopold (a hemophiliac like his name sake Uncle, Victoria’s youngest son) and Maurice, who would die in World War I as well as a daughter who grew up to be Queen Ena of Spain. Ena, hereself, was nearly killed by a bomb on her wedding day! But wait! There’s more! 4 of Ena’s sons tragically inherited hemophilia from Queen Victoria who was a carrier and one was rendered deaf by illness. (Photo is in the public domain).

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