Princess Margaret of Prussia was born on 22 April 1872 as the daughter of the future Frederick III, German Emperor and Victoria, Princess Royal. Her mother wrote to her grandmother Queen Victoria after her birth, “You may imagine how disappointed I was to have another little girl – if it had been a boy I should have hoped with you for it to have been the youngest forevermore, as really what one has to endure is too wretched but it would be wrong of me to complain, and for myself alone a little girl is much nicer, and she will be a companion for Sophie. Though you take no interest in babies, I may mention that this one has got an immense lot of dark hair, which I am sorry to think will not remain.”1 Queen Victoria wrote back, “I am most thankful to hear you going on so satisfactorily. I never thought you care (have 3 of each) whether it was a son or a daughter; indeed I think many Princes a great misfortune – for they are in one another’s and almost everybody’s way.”2 The new baby received the name Margaret Beatrice Feodora and Queen Victoria was delighted with the name of her half-sister writing, “Feodora is a dear name which I love to see repeated.”3
Margaret and her elder siblings – Wilhelm (1859 – 1941), Charlotte (1860 – 1919), Henry (1862 – 1929), Sigismund (1864 – 1868), Victoria (1866 – 1929), Waldemar (1868 – 1879), Sophie (1870 – 1932) – were brought up between the Palace at Unter den Linden in Berlin and the Neue Palais in Potsdam. Margaret received the nickname “Mossy”, and on her first birthday, her mother wrote to Queen Victoria that she was “such a little love – so forward, so pretty and so good.”4 Margaret’s mother was affectionate, but she also demanded excellence. She watched over their behaviour and their education.
Margaret joined her parents in England for the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria before going to San Remo with them. Her father was by then already quite ill, and he had been advised to spend the winter there. Her father succeeded as Emperor on 9 March 1888, but by then he was already unable to speak and dying of throat cancer. He died just three months later on 15 June 1888. Margaret could only watch as her brother, now Emperor Wilhelm II, had his mother’s desks searched for private correspondence. Her mother, now known as Empress Frederick, took her three youngest daughters to Bornstadt. Empress Frederick wrote to her mother, “I have my three sweet girls – whom he (her husband) loves so much – they are my consolation.”5 The following year, Margaret’s elder sister Sophie married the future King Constantine I of Greece and Empress Frederick was sad to see her trio break up. Empress Frederick brought her two youngest daughters to see Sophie’s first son, who was born the following year. Margaret was about to lose her last sister to marriage as Victoria was due to marry Prince Adolf of Schaumburg-Lippe. Margaret was now the sole unmarried child, and she remained as her mother’s companion for now.
Margaret had grown up into a beautiful young woman, and it was not believed that she would remain unmarried for long. She was linked to the Tsarevich of Russia, Crown Prince Ferdinand of Bulgaria and the Duke of Clarence. Margaret herself was more interested in Prince Max of Baden, but then in 1892, Prince Frederick Charles of Hesse came knocking. The request of a proposal came as a shock to both her and her mother, but when the actual proposal came in June 1892, Margaret said yes. He was her third cousin, and it seemed likely that he would one day become Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel. Empress Frederick was sad to be losing her but wrote to her mother, “You can imagine how upset and agitated I am, although very thankful to think my own precious darling will be happy -though I shall now be left quite alone.”
On 25 January 1893, Margaret married Frederick Charles at the Stadtschloss in Berlin. Margaret “held herself so well and bore herself with such natural dignity and grace that everyone was charmed with her.” The newlyweds made their home at Schloss Rumpenheim, and Margaret soon found herself pregnant. Her first son was born a month early on 24 November 1893, and he was named Friedrich Wilhelm. Just 11 months later, she gave birth to a second son named Maximilian. Empress Frederick had missed both births because they were early, so she came even earlier for the third pregnancy. Margaret gave birth to twin boys on 6 November 1896 – they were named Philipp and Wolfgang.
On 22 January 1901, Queen Victoria died, and it was Margaret’s task to break the news to her mother – who was already very ill with spinal cancer. Margaret’s last pregnancy was once again twin boys and Richard and Christoph were born on 14 May 1901. Empress Frederick died on 5 August 1901 at Schloss Friedrichshof. Margaret had been appointed her literary executor, and she had been left Friedrichshof and most of its contents. To maintain it, Margaret and her family moved in, and English nannies were employed for their six boys. English remained a dominant language in their lives. Philip and Wolfgang were sent to be educated in England in 1910 and Margaret used the opportunity to visit family. She would often visit England and always enjoyed a cordial relationship with her cousins there. Shortly after the death of King Edward VII Margaret wrote, “I wish for nothing more than to go to dear old England again this year although it will be very sad, but how delightful it would be to see you all again. One can still hardly realise the King’s death, it all came too suddenly.” Margaret was in England when the Great War loomed in 1914, and she returned home on one of the last ships to leave England. Less than a week later, the war was declared on Germany.6
Part two coming soon.
- Roger Fulford – Darling Child – 3 May 1872
- Roger Fulford – Darling Child – 8 May 1872
- Roger Fulford – Darling Child – 11 May 1872
- Van der Kiste, John, The Prussian Princesses: Sisters of Kaiser Wilhelm II p.13
- Van der Kiste, John, The Prussian Princesses: Sisters of Kaiser Wilhelm II p.29
- Van der Kiste, John, The Prussian Princesses: Sisters of Kaiser Wilhelm II (US & UK)