Margaret’s husband and her elder sons took up arms in the name of the Fatherland. Her husband was appointed to command the 81st Infantry Regiment. He was injured in September 1914 in Belgium from grenade fragments, and he contracted blood poisoning. Although he survived his injuries, he was no longer fit for combat. Margaret’s two eldest sons were not quite so lucky. Maximilian was seriously wounded by machine-gun fire in Flanders and was evacuated to a monastery. When British forces took control of the monastery, he was transferred to a British field hospital. His wounds were too severe, and he died on 13 October 1914. Before his death, he had asked a British doctor to send a chain and locket to his mother, but the doctor was killed just two days later. Fortunately, he had written a note alongside the locket, and it was sent to the doctor’s widow. She passed it to Queen Mary, who gave it to Crown Princess Margaret of Sweden and the Dowager Grand Duchess of Baden who was working for the Red Cross and it eventually made its way to Margaret.
Margaret was devastated by his death, “Words cannot express what I feel like, nor how great my misery is. That boy was so much to me & nothing will ever make the wound heal.” On 12 September 1916, her eldest son Friedrich Wilhelm was killed in combat in Romania. Prince Wolfgang – who was serving with the same regiment – asked to see his brother’s body and noted that he had had his throat slit. Margaret’s brother the Emperor ordered that her two other serving sons Philipp and Wolfgang should be kept out of harm’s way. Friedrich Wilhelm was buried in the chapel at Friedrichshof while Maximilian’s body was hidden by villagers who kept the location a secret until the war was over and reparations had been paid. His body was not returned until 1920 and was also interred at Friedrichshof.
Shortly before the end of the war, the former Grand Duchy of Finland proclaimed its independence and Margaret’s husband Frederick Charles was recommended by Germany as its new King. Margaret suddenly found herself Queen of a new Kingdom. But it was not to last. When the First World War ended, it no longer seemed feasible to have the brother-in-law of the abdicated German Emperor on the Finnish throne. Margaret and Frederick Charles were not quite so heartbroken. Friedrichshof was taken over by French troops, and the family was banished to a cottage on the grounds. They were eventually allowed to move back in, but they soon realised they could no longer afford the upkeep of the main house.
In 1924, Prince Wolfgang married Princess Marie Alexandra of Baden and the following year, Prince Philipp married Princess Mafalda of Savoy. Margaret’s first grandson – named Moritz – was born in 1926. Margaret’s relationship with her brother the former Emperor improved over the years even though he now lived in exile in the Netherlands. She and her husband also visited him in Doorn from time to time. Margaret was greatly affected by the death of her last sister Sophie in 1932. She wrote, “Sometimes I try not to think, but it is a useless struggle. She is always present wherever I am or whatever I do, as she always was, ever since I existed.” Margaret was now the last surviving daughter of Empress Frederick – Charlotte had died in 1919 and Victoria in 1929.
Margaret lived to see yet another war. Her son Philipp joined the Nazi party in 1930, followed by Christoph in 1931 and Richard and Wolfgang in 1932. Margaret began to share in the anti-Semitism and wrote, “So sad for me to see England against us once more & the Jewish influence so evident.” Margaret and her husband became members of the Nazi party in 1938. Margaret hoped that one day her brother would be restored to his position. On 28 May 1940, Margaret’s husband died at the age of 72. His final act had been a Heil Hitler salute as he was informed of early German victories. Adolf Hitler sent a wreath of condolence to Margaret, who in return wrote him a letter of thanks. She wrote, “May [God] crown you with success in all further great goals; that would be my own and my family’s lasting wish, as well as that of my beloved husband.” The former Emperor Wilhelm II died the following year in his exile in Doorn. Margaret travelled to the Netherlands to attend the funeral. Adolf Hitler came to Friedrichshof twice – in 1931 and 1932 – “for tea.”
Margaret was to lose one more son to the Fatherland. Christoph died on 7 October 1943 in a fighter plane crash in Italy. His widow Sophie moved to Friedrichshof, where she gave birth to their fifth child Clarissa. In 1944, Margaret’s daughter-in-law Marie Alexandra was killed in an air raid on Frankfurt. In the spring of 1945, American troops arrived at the gates of the Friedrichshof and Margaret, Sophie and Margaret’s nine grandchildren were told to leave within four hours. Margaret was in bed with pneumonia and protested that she was too ill to be moved. One of the sergeants threatened to shoot her, and she eventually relented. An American colonel later allowed Margaret two rooms in one of the houses on the estate, but the family was forced to split up. Friedrichshof was not returned to the family until 1953.
Margaret herself died on 22 January 1954 – exactly 53 years after Queen Victoria – in the rooms that had been allocated to her by the Americans. Her body lay in state in the entrance hall of Friedrichshof, and she was laid to rest in the chapel. 1