Princess Rhine
Daughter of Ludwig IV, Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine and Princess Alice of the United Kingdom, wife of Prince Albert Wilhelm Heinrich of Prussia.
Princess Rhine
Princess Irene of Hesse and by Rhine (11 July 1866 – 11 November 1953) was the third child and third daughter of Princess Alice of the United Kingdom and Ludwig IV, Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine. Her maternal grandparents were Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom and Prince Albert. Her paternal grandparents were Prince Charles of Hesse and by Rhine and Princess Elizabeth of Prussia. She was the wife of Prince Albert Wilhelm Heinrich of Prussia, her first cousin.
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  • 1953
    Age 86
    Irene herself died in 1953, leaving her estate to her granddaughter.
    More Details Hide Details At her death, she was the last surviving child of Princess Alice and Ludwig IV, Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine.
  • 1945
    Age 78
    Irene grieved terribly when her haemophiliac eldest son, Waldemar, became ill in 1945 and died due to the lack of blood for a transfusion.
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  • 1920
    Age 53
    Irene later adopted Sigismund's daughter, Barbara, born in 1920, as her heir after Sigismund left Germany to live in Costa Rica during the 1930s.
    More Details Hide Details Sigismund declined to return to Germany to live after World War II.
  • 1913
    Age 46
    When Anna Anderson surfaced in Berlin in the early 1920s, claiming to be the surviving Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia, Irene visited the woman, but decided that Anderson could not be the niece she had last seen in 1913.
    More Details Hide Details Princess Irene was not impressed. I saw immediately that she could not be one of my nieces. Even though I had not seen them for nine years, the fundamental facial characteristics could not have altered to that degree, in particular the position of the eyes, the ear, etc... At first sight one could perhaps detect a resemblance to Grand Duchess Tatiana.” Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna, sister of the murdered tsar, commented on the visit of Princess Irene, It was an unsatisfactory meeting, but the woman's supporters said that Princess Irene had not known her niece very well and all the rest of it." Irene's husband, Heinrich, said that the mention of Anderson upset Irene too much and ordered that no one was to discuss Anderson in his presence. Heinrich died in 1929. Anna Anderson biographer Peter Kurth wrote that several years later, Irene's son (Prince Sigismund) posed questions to Anderson through an intermediary about their shared childhood and declared that her answers were all accurate.
  • 1912
    Age 45
    In 1912, Irene was a source of support to her sister Alix when Alexei nearly died of complications of haemophilia at the Imperial Family's hunting lodge in Poland.
    More Details Hide Details Irene's ties to her sisters were disrupted by the advent of World War I, which put them on opposing sides of the war. When the war ended, she received word that Alix, her husband and children and her sister Elizabeth had been killed by the Bolsheviks. Following the war and the abdication of the Kaiser, Germany was no longer ruled by the Prussian Royal Family, but Irene and her husband retained their estate, Hemmelmark, in northern Germany.
  • 1907
    Age 40
    In 1907, Irene helped arrange what later turned out to be a disastrous marriage between Elizabeth's ward, Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna of Russia, to Prince Vilhelm, Duke of Södermanland.
    More Details Hide Details Wilhelm's mother, the Queen of Sweden, was an old friend of both Irene and Elizabeth. Grand Duchess Maria later wrote that Irene pressured her to go through with the marriage when she had doubts. She told Maria that ending the engagement would "kill" Elizabeth.
  • 1894
    Age 27
    It was amidst the wedding festivities that Irene's youngest surviving sister, Alix, accepted the marriage proposal of Tsarevich Nicholas, a second cousin, and when Nicholas' father died prematurely in November 1894, Irene and her husband traveled to St. Petersburg, to be present at both the funeral and the wedding of Alix, who had taken the name Alexandra Feodorovna upon her conversion to Orthodoxy, to the new tsar, Nicholas II.
    More Details Hide Details Despite the disagreement that she had over the conversion of two of her sisters to Russian Orthodoxy, she remained close with all of her siblings.
  • 1892
    Age 25
    In 1892, Irene's father, Grand Duke Louis IV, died, and her brother, Ernest, succeeded him as Grand Duke of Hesse, and two years later, in May 1894, Ernest Louis was married off by Queen Victoria to a first cousin, Victoria Melita of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.
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  • 1889
    Age 22
    However, Empress Victoria was shocked because Irene did not wear a shawl or scarf to disguise her pregnancy when she was pregnant with her first son, the haemophiliac Prince Waldemar, in 1889.
    More Details Hide Details Empress Victoria, who was fascinated by politics and current events, also couldn't understand why Heinrich and Irene never read a newspaper. However, the couple were happily married and they were known as "The Very Amiables" by their relatives because of their pleasant natures. The marriage produced three sons. Their descendants also include two grandchildren, two great-grandchildren and six great-great grandchildren. Irene transmitted the haemophilia gene to her eldest and youngest sons, Waldemar and Heinrich. Waldemar's health worried her from early childhood. She was later devastated when the youngest child, four-year-old Heinrich, died after he fell and bumped his head in February 1904. Six months after little Heinrich's death, Irene became an aunt to Tsarevich Alexei of Russia, son of her youngest sister, Tsarina Alexandra, who also had hemophilia. Two of her first cousins, Queen Victoria Eugenia of Spain and Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone, would also give birth to hemophiliac sons.
  • 1888
    Age 21
    Irene married Prince Henry of Prussia, the third child and second son of Frederick III, German Emperor and Victoria, Princess Royal on May 24, 1888 at the chapel of the Charlottenberg Palace in Berlin.
    More Details Hide Details As their mothers were sisters, Irene and Henry were first cousins. Their marriage displeased Queen Victoria because she had not been told about the courtship until they had already decided to marry. At the time of the ceremony, Irene's uncle and father-in-law, the German emperor, was dying of throat cancer, and less than a month after the ceremony, Irene's cousin and brother-in-law, ascended the throne as Kaiser Wilhelm II. Heinrich's mother, Victoria, Empress Victoria, was fond of Irene.
  • 1885
    Age 18
    With her sister Alix, Irene was a bridesmaid at the 1885 wedding of their maternal aunt, Princess Beatrice to Prince Henry of Battenberg.
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  • 1884
    Age 17
    Irene, raised to believe in a proper Victorian code of behaviour, was easily shocked by what she saw as immorality. In 1884, the same year that her elder sister Victoria married Prince Louis of Battenberg, another sister, Elizabeth, married Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich of Russia, and when Elizabeth converted from Lutheranism to Russian Orthodoxy, in 1891, Irene was deeply upset.
    More Details Hide Details She wrote to her father that she "cried terribly" over Elizabeth's decision.
  • 1878
    Age 11
    In the autumn of 1878 Irene, her siblings (except for Elizabeth) and her father became ill with diphtheria.
    More Details Hide Details Her younger sister Princess Marie, nicknamed "May," died of the disease. Her mother, exhausted from nursing the children, also became infected. Knowing she was in danger of dying, Princess Alice dictated her will, including instructions about how to bring up her daughters and how to run the household. She died of diphtheria on 14 December 1878. Following Alice's death, Queen Victoria resolved to act as a mother to her Hessian grandchildren. Princess Irene and her surviving siblings spent annual holidays in England and their grandmother sent instructions to their governess regarding their education and approving the pattern of their dresses.
  • 1873
    Age 6
    The family was devastated in 1873 when Irene's haemophiliac younger brother Friedrich, nicknamed "Frittie," fell through an open window, struck his head on the balustrade and died hours later of a brain hemorrhage.
    More Details Hide Details In the months following the toddler's death, Alice frequently took her children to his grave to pray and was melancholy on anniversaries associated with him.
  • 1866
    Born on July 11, 1866.
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