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The Tragic Death of Prince Philip's Sister, Princess Cecille


A life so young and promising that ended in tragedy. The tragic story of The Hereditary Grand Duke and Grand Duchess of Hesse.

HRH Princess Cecille was the third daughter of Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark and Princess Alice of Battenberg, thus, older sister of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh. 

     Prince Georg and Princess Cecille 

While Prince Georg Donatus was the son of The Grand Duke of Hesse, Ernest, and his second wife, Princess Eleanor. 

Ernest was the eldest son of Princess Alice, second daughter of Queen Victoria of England. The maternal uncle of Prince Philip's mother, making Georg Donatus and Cecille first cousin once-removed. 


In February 1931 when Cecille was barely 20 and Georg Donatus was 24, they got married in Darmstadt, Hesse.

Their first child, Louis, was born by October that year and the second son, Alexander, in 1933. Their daughter, Joanna, was born in 1936. 

In 1937 October, Grand Duke Ernest died, Georg Donatus was supposed to inherit his title, but monarchy was already abolished in 1918, thus, being Grand Duke of Hesse was only titular. 

However, three weeks after Ernest's death, a tragedy struck in the family. Prince Louis, the younger brother of Prince Georg Donatus, was to marry The Hon. Margaret Geddes, daughter of a British Baron, in England on the 17th of November 1937. 

In November 16, Georg and Cecille, who was heavily pregnant, together with their two sons, Georg's mother Princess Eleanor, the children's nurse, three flight crew, a family friend, boarded a Junker helicopter operated by a Belgian airline, Sabena, for London. 

But when they traversed the Belgian airspace, the aircraft hit a tall chimney of a factory in Ostend, under low visibility, killing all people on board. 

Resulting investigation rolled that the pilot might have attempted an emergency landing when Princess Cecille went into labor midway through the flight. Her stillborn baby was found in the wreckage. 

The wedding of Prince Louis went ahead but largely subdued with attendees dressed in mourning outfit. He and his wife visited the crash site afterwards. 

He adopted his brother's daughter, Princess Joanna, but died of meningitis in 1939. 

It was the first tragedy experienced by Prince Philip, who was only 16 at that time, in his direct family.


He attended the funeral at Darmstadt with his parents, sisters and brothers-in-law and his uncle, Lord Mountbatten. 

With the death of Georg Donatus and all his children and Prince Louis being childless, the male line of Grand Duke Ernest became extinct. 

The family of Prince Philip experienced another tragedy six years later, when his brother-in-law, Prince Christoph of Hesse, a German military officer and first husband of his sister, Princess Sophie, died in action in a plane crash during World War II. 

By then, Prince Philip was already a Royal Navy lieutenant and fought on the British side.

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