Hermine Reuss of Greiz was one of the five daughters of Heinrich XXII, Prince Reuss of Greiz and his wife Princess Ida of Schaumburg-Lippe. Her childhood was overshadowed by the death of her mother in childbirth and the incurable disability of her only brother. A 13-year marriage to Prince Johann Georg of Schönaich-Carolath produced five children before her husband’s death of tuberculosis. However determined never to be married again, Hermine ended up meeting the exiled German Emperor Wilhelm II, and soon fate had other plans.
The book Hermine: An Empress in Exile is available now in the UK and in the US.
This article originally appeared as part of the book tour.
Princess Hermine had suffered many losses in her life, even before becoming an adult. In 1905, she had sat by the deathbed of her favourite sister Caroline, who died of influenza after just two years of unhappy marriage to the Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach. Her two elder sisters had already married, and Hermine and her younger sister Ida were now the last sisters who remained unmarried. Their brother Heinrich was not expected to marry due to his disability, and with the death of their father in 1902, a regent ruled in his place.
Hermine wrote, “A stranger reigned in place of my father, my mother was dead. My unhappy brother was a burden, no comfort. He found himself unable to cope with life. It is sometimes hard to understand the justice of heaven. Caroline was dead, and my brother was alive. When Grand Duchess Luise found me sobbing at my sister’s deathbed, she tenderly took me in her arms. And so, the death of my sister gave me a foster mother.” Luise told her, “Come with us to Karlsruhe; you are for me the sacred legacy of our dear dead.”
Hermine had found a mother’s love in Luise and even became close friends with Luise’s daughter Viktoria, who later became Queen of Sweden. In Karlsruhe, Hermine also received a better education than before. There were often lectures being held by the professors of the University of Heidelberg, and Hermine often attended them with the Grand Duchess. In yet another twist of fate, Hermine was tasked with reading letters to Luise, who increasingly suffered from failing eyesight, and every week a letter would arrive from Luise’s niece by marriage – the Emperor’s first wife, Auguste Viktoria.
When Hermine married the exiled German Emperor in 1922, many of his family were against the match. Nevertheless, Luise supported Hermine, and she wrote to Wilhelm, “That it is my dear Hermo, with whom I have always had a maternal bond, whose immensely great task it is to be able to stand by your side in the loneliness.”
Shortly after their marriage, Hermine went to visit her foster-mother in Karlsruhe, and it would be their last meeting. Luise told her to stand by her new husband as so many had deserted him. “He needs your love.” Luise, Grand Duchess of Baden, died on 23 April 1923.
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