Princess Irene of Hesse and by Rhine

Princess Irene
Princess Henry of Prussia
Princess Irene of Hesse.jpg
Born(1866-07-11)11 July 1866
New Palace, Darmstadt, Grand Duchy of Hesse
Died11 November 1953(1953-11-11) (aged 87)
Schloss Hemmelmark, Barkelsby, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany
Burial15 November 1953
Schloss Hemmelmark, Barkelsby, Schleswig-Holstein, Germany
Spouse
Prince Henry of Prussia
(m. 1888; died 1929)
IssuePrince Waldemar of Prussia
Prince Sigismund of Prussia
Prince Henry of Prussia
Full name
Irene Luise Marie Anne
HouseHesse-Darmstadt
FatherLouis IV, Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine
MotherPrincess Alice of the United Kingdom
Grand Ducal Family of
Hesse and by Rhine
Wappen-HD (1902-1918).svg
Louis IV
Children
Victoria, Marchioness of Milford Haven
Grand Duchess Elizaveta Feodorovna of Russia
Irene, Princess Heinrich of Prussia
Ernest Louis
Prince Friedrich
Alexandra Feodorovna, Empress of Russia
Princess Marie

Princess Irene of Hesse and by Rhine (Irene Luise Marie Anne, Princess 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 Louis IV, Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine. Her maternal grandparents were Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Her paternal grandparents were Prince Charles of Hesse and by Rhine and Princess Elizabeth of Prussia. She was the wife of Prince Henry of Prussia, a younger brother of Wilhelm II, German Emperor and her first cousin. The SS Prinzessin Irene, a liner of the North German Lloyd was named after her.

Her siblings included Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine, wife of Prince Louis of Battenberg, Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna of Russia, wife of Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich of Russia, Ernest Louis, Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine, and Empress Alexandra Feodorovna of Russia, wife of Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. Like her younger sister, the empress, Irene was a carrier of the hemophilia gene, and Irene would lose her sisters Alix and Elisabeth in Russia to the Bolsheviks.

Early life

Princesses Irene, Victoria, Elisabeth and Alix of Hesse in 1885.

She received her first name, which was taken from the Greek word for "peace," because she was born at the end of the Austro-Prussian War.[1] Alice considered Irene an unattractive child and once wrote to her sister Victoria that Irene was "not pretty."[2] Though not as pretty as her sister Elizabeth, Irene did have a pleasant, even disposition. Princess Alice brought up her daughters simply. An English nanny presided over the nursery and the children ate plain meals of rice puddings and baked apples and wore plain dresses. Her daughters were taught how to do housework, such as baking cakes, making their own beds, laying fires and sweeping and dusting their rooms. Princess Alice also emphasized the need to give to the poor and often took her daughters on visits to hospitals and charities.[3]

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.[4] 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.[5] In the autumn of 1878 Irene, her siblings (except for Elizabeth) and her father became ill with diphtheria. 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.[6]

Princess Irene of Hesse and by Rhine, far left, with her grandmother Queen Victoria and, from left to right, her sister Elisabeth, brother Ernest Louis, sister Victoria and, kneeling, her sister Alix in February 1879, two months after the death of her mother.

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.[7] With her sister Alix, Irene was a bridesmaid at the 1885 wedding of their maternal aunt, Princess Beatrice to Prince Henry of Battenberg.[8]

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