Princess Sophie of Greece and Denmark

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Princess Sophie
Princess Christoph of Hesse
Princess George William of Hanover
Born(1914-06-26)26 June 1914
Mon Repos, Corfu, Greece
Died24 November 2001(2001-11-24) (aged 87)
Munich, Bavaria, Germany
Burial30 November 2001
Schliersee, Bavaria, Germany
Prince Christoph of Hesse
(m. 1930; died 1943)

Prince George William of Hanover
(m. 1946; died 2001)
IssuePrincess 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
FatherPrince Andrew of Greece and Denmark
MotherPrincess Alice of Battenberg

Princess Sophie of Greece and Denmark (Greek: Πριγκίπισσα Σοφία της Ελλάδας και Δανίας) (26 June 1914 – 24 November 2001[1][2]) 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[edit]

Sophie's father was the fourth son of King George I of Greece 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 Victoria, through descent from Victoria's second daughter, Alice, Grand Duchess of Hesse.

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 Greek monarchy was reinstated in 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, Cecilie, 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[edit]

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.[3] On 7 October 1943, he was killed in an airplane accident in a war zone of the Apennine mountains near Forlì, Italy.[3] His body was found two days later.

They had five children:

  • Princess Christina Margarethe of Hesse (10 January 1933 – 22 November 2011), marriedd Prince Andrew of Yugoslavia (1929–1990) on 2 August 1956 and was divorced in London in 1962. They had two children. She remarried Robert Floris van Eyck (1916–1991) on 3 December 1962 and had two further children.
    • Princess Maria Tatiana of Yugoslavia (18 July 1957), the first 4x-great-grandchild of Queen Victoria via matrilineal descent. Married Gregory Thune-Larsen on 30 June 1990 and had children:
      • Sonia Tatiana Thune-Larsen (29 October 1992)
      • Olga Kristin Thune-Larsen (26 October 1995)
    • Prince Christopher of Yugoslavia (6 February 1960 – 14 May 1994)
    • Hélène Sophie van Eyck (25 October 1963) married to Roderick Alan Harman, with whom she had children:
      • Sascha Alexandra Sophia Harman (26 July 1986)
      • Pascale Olivia Harman (19 March 1989)
    • Mark van Eyck (16 February 1966) married Joanne Green in 1992, from whom she was later separated
  • Princess Dorothea Charlotte Karin of Hesse (24 July 1934), married Prince Friedrich Karl of Windisch-Grätz (7 July 1917 – 29 May 2002) on 31 March 1959 and had children.
    • Princess Marina Margarita Sofia Leontina Christina of Windisch-Grätz (3 December 1960) married Gyula Lajos Jakabffy on 8 May 1988, and had children:
      • Réka Dorothea Sita Jakabffy (born 17 September 1988)
      • Sophia Magdolna Jakabffy (born 27 August 1989)
    • Princess Clarissa Elisabeth Fiore of Windisch-Grätz (5 August 1966) married Eric de Waele on 16 November 1985, and had children:
      • Michel Jean Henri de Waele (18 May 1986), the first 5x-great-grandchild of Queen Victoria. He married Caroline Libbrecht in 2011 and had children:
        • Raphaël de Waele (2 September 2013) - would be the first legitimate 6x-great-grandchild of Queen Victoria through Princess Alice of the United Kingdom (as he is her first 5x great-grandchild), but because of intermarriage he is not. On account of Queen Victoria's eldest child, Victoria, Princess Royal, he is actually only a 5x great grandchild.
        • Lucy de Waele (2015)
      • Alexander Federico Mark de Waele (3 July 1987)
      • Mathieu Paul Philippe de Waele (16 December 1988)
      • Rubi Jade de Waele (26 January 1994)
  • Prince Karl Adolf Andreas of Hesse (26 March 1937) married Countess Yvonne Margit Valerie Szapáry von Muraszombath, Széchysziget und Szapár (4 April 1944 in Budapest) on 26 March 1966 and had children:
    • Prince Christoph of Hesse (18 June 1969).
    • Princess Irina of Hesse (1 April 1971), married Alexander, Count of Schönburg-Glauchau on 30 April 1999 and had children:
      • Countess Maria-Letitia Jolanta of Schönburg-Glauchau (30 July 2001)
      • Count Maximus Carolus Joachim Maria of Schönburg-Glauchau (25 May 2003)
      • Count Valentin Polykarp Josef Maria of Schönburg-Glauchau (23 January 2005)
  • Prince Rainer Christoph Friedrich of Hesse (18 November 1939).
  • Princess Clarissa Alice of Hesse (6 February 1944) married Jean-Claude Derrien (12 March 1948) on 20 July 1971, from whom she was divorced in 1976, and had a child out of wedlock:
    • Johanna von Hesse (25 August 1980)

Second marriage[edit]

Sophie's second marriage was to Prince George William of Hanover (her second cousin through Christian IX and third cousin through Victoria, ahaving also been 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.[4] 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,[4] 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)[4]—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).[4]

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.[5]

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 children:

  • Prince Welf Ernst of Hanover (25 January 1947 – 10 January 1981) married Wibke van Gunsteren on 23 May 1969, and had children:
    • Princess Saskia of Hanover (born 24 July 1970) married Michael Alexander Robert Naylor-Leyland on 6 July 1990, later divorced, and had children. She remarried Edward Hooper on 27 January 2007, and had a child.
  • Prince Georg of Hanover (born 9 December 1949) married Victoria Anne Bee, daughter of Robert Bee and Countess Eleonore Fugger von Babenhausen, on 15 September 197, and had children:
    • Princess Vera of Hanover (born 5 November 1976) married Manuel Dmoch on 12 August 2006, and had children.
    • Princess Nora of Hanover (born 15 January 1979) married Christian Falk on 3 March 2007, and had children.
  • Princess Friederike of Hanover (born 15 October 1954) A god-daughter of Elizabeth II; married Jerry William Cyr on 17 August 1979, and had children:
    • Julia Emma Cyr (born 17 September 1982) she married Miguel Sanchez in 2004, later divorced, and they had a child. She remarried John Smart in 2014, and they had a child.
    • Jean-Paul Welf Cyr (born 6 March 1985)

Later years and death[edit]

Until her death on 24 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 and styles[edit]

  • 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 – 24 November 2001: Her Royal Highness Princess George William of Hanover


National honours[edit]

Foreign honours[edit]



  1. ^ "Obituaries: H R H Princess George of Hanover". The Telegraph. 30 Nov 2001. Retrieved 18 June 2018.
  2. ^ "Prince Philip's elder sister dies at 87". The Scotsman. 30 Nov 2001. Retrieved 18 June 2018.
  3. ^ a b Almanach de Gotha. Gotha, Germany: Justus Perthes. 1944. pp. 61–62.
  4. ^ a b c d After consultations with the Foreign Office, Home Office and King George VI's private secretary, Sir Alan Lascelles, a ciphered telegram dated 18 April 1946 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 be 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.
  5. ^ Eagleston, Arthur J. The Home Office and the Crown. pp. 9–14. The National Archives (United Kingdom), HO 45/25238, Royal Marriages.