On This Day: Birth of Landgrave Philipp of Hesse
One hundred twenty years ago today, Prince Philipp of Hesse was born in Schloss Rumpenheim in Offenbach. The prince was the third son of Prince Friedrich Karl of Hesse and Princes Margaret of Prussia, sister of Emperor Wilhelm II and grand daughter of Britain’s Queen Victoria. The prince had a younger twin-brother, Prince Wolfgang.
During his childhood the prince went to schools in England and Germany. At the beginning of the First World War the prince joined the the Hessian Dragoon-Regiment Nr. 24 along with his older brother Maximilian. They served first in together in Belgium where Maximilian was killed in October 1914.During the war Philipp continued to serve in the Ukraine and the Siegfried Line, but never rose above the rank of lieutenant.
In 1916, Philipp’s oldest brother Friedrich Wilhelm died during the Dobrujan campaign in Romania. Thus Philipp became second in line -after his father- to succeed his uncle Alexander as Head of the Electoral House of Hesse.
In October 1918, Philipp’s father Friedrich Karl was elected king of Finland. He was known as Charles I (Kaarle I). The plan was for Philipp to eventually succeed his father as head of the house of Hesse-Kassel while his twin brother Wolfgang would succeed to the Finnish throne. Plans for the Finnish monarchy came to a quick end after the revolution in and defeat of Germany in November 1918 and Finland became a republic in July 1919.
Afterthe war Philipp followed several studies, none of which he completed. In 1923 he moved to Rome where he established himself as an interior designer. In 1925 he married Princess Mafalda of Italy, daughter of King Victor Emmanuel III. The couple had four children: Möritz, Heinrich, Otto and Elisabeth.
In Italy the prince became interested in fascism. On his return to Germnay in 1930 he became a member of Hitler’s NSDAP and in 1932 he joined the SA. The prince developed a friendship with Hermann Göring, head of the German airforce.
In 1933 the prince was appointed governor of the province of Hesse-Nassau. Due to his family connections Philipp acted as go-between for Hitler in Italy. During the war, the attitude of the National Socialist authorities towards members of the German princely houses changed. They now decided to distance themselves even from those princes who had supported them. In late April 1943, Philipp was ordered to report to Hitler’s headquarters, where he stayed for most of the next four months. In May 1943, Hitler issued the “Decree Concerning Internationally Connected Men” declaring that princes could not hold positions in the party, state, or armed forces. The arrest of Mussolini by Philipp’s father-in-law King Victor Emanuel in July 1943 made Phillip’s position even more difficult. Hitler believed that Philipp and his family were complicit in Mussolini’s downfall.
On 8 September 1943, Philipp was arrested. He was stripped of his membership in the party and dismissed from the Luftwaffe. On 25 January 1944, his political disgrace became public when he was dismissed from his office as Governor of Hesse-Nassau.
In September 1943, Philipp was sent to Flossenbürg concentration camp.He was placed in solitary confinement and was not permitted any contact with the outside world. He was granted some privileges: wearing civilian clothes and eating the same food as the guards.
Philipp’s wife Princess Mafalda was arrested and placed under military custody in Rome. She was sent to Munich and Berlin for questioning and eventually to Buchenwald concentration camp where she was housed next to an armaments factory. In August 1944, the factory was bombed by the Allies. Mafalda was seriously injured and died several days later following a belated operation by camp medical staff.
As the Allies advanced into Germany in April 1945, Philipp was transferred to the Dachau concentration camp. After only ten days, he was transferred to Tyrol along with about 140 other prominent prisoners, where he was arrested by US troops on 4 May 1945 in Niederdorf in the Italian Dolomites.
On account of his former position as Governor of Hesse-Nassau, Philipp was held by the Allies first on the island of Capri and then at a series of other detention centres until released in 1947.
On 28 May 1940, Philipp succeeded his father as Head of the Electoral House of Hesse. In 1968, upon the death of his distant relative, Prince Louis of Hesse-Darmstadt. Philipp succeeded to the total headship of the entire House of Hesse. Louis had nominally adopted Philipp’s son Moritz, who at that time inherited the Hessian and by-Rhine properties, including remarkable cultural collections. Philipp died in Rome, Italy in 1980.
Filed under Germany, Historical Royals
Tagged Biography, Birth, House of Hesse, House of Hesse-Kassel, Philipp Landgrave of Hesse.