Margarita of Greece and Denmark was born on 18 April 1905 as the eldest daughter of Princess Alice of Battenberg and Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark. She was born at the Royal Palace in Athens at 1 a.m. Her grandmothers Princess Victoria and Queen Olga, were by her mother’s side during the long labour. Her father also witnessed part of the labour because his mother said, “It is only right that men should see the suffering they cause their wives and which they completely escape.”1
In August, Margarita was presented to other members of the family at Heiligenberg, and her aunt Louise commented, “The baby is so very nice. It smiles, laughs all day long and hardly ever cries.”2 Margarita was joined in the nursery by a younger sister named Theodora the following year. Cecilie was born in 1911, followed by Sophie in 1914 and finally, Philip in 1921.
Margarita and her siblings were in the care of a governess, who taught them English and Greek. They also did gymnastics in a long corridor of the palace.
In 1917, the family was forced into exile for the first time. Margarita’s uncle King Constantine I of Greece abdicated in favour of his second son Alexander and Andrew and Alice went to live in St Moritz in Switzerland. Their main base became the Grand Hotel in Lucerne. Life changed again when King Alexander died in 1920 and Constantine was restored as King. Margarita and the family settled at Mon Repos, where Prince Philip was born. In 1922, Margarita and her sisters were invited to be bridesmaids at the wedding of Edwina Ashley to their uncle Louis (later 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma). At the time, their grandmother described them as “quite natural and unaffected girls, really children, that do Alice credit, but though nice looking, they have merely the good looks of youth.”3
More trouble was to come as King Constantine abdicated for a second time in 1922, now in favour of his eldest son George. It was arranged that the King and Queen would leave with Andrew, but he was not with them when they left. Alice and Andrew remained in Corfu with the children for now. Andrew was eventually arrested, leading to much worry. He was banished from Greece, and he gathered the family from Corfu, where Alice had hurriedly packed a few belongings. Baby Philip was carried in a cot made from an orange box. Margarita and Theodora were left in the care of their grandmother in England, while Alice took the younger three siblings to Paris into the care of Andrew’s sister-in-law Princess Marie Bonaparte, the wife of Prince George of Greece and Denmark. She loaned the family a house in France, where they would eventually live with the entire family.
Margarita and Theodora spent the autumn of 1923 at Kensington Palace, Christmas at Holkham and the new year at Sandringham. In January 1924, they attended the state opening of Parliament. In July, they were at the 30th birthday party of the Prince of Wales (future King Edward VIII) at Spencer House. However, as exiled Greek Princesses without money, they were hardly good catches, and it wasn’t until the end of the decade that either would find husbands.
In February 1927, Margarita had met Prince Franz Ferdinand of Isembourg-Birstein, but he was a Roman Catholic, and Margarita did not want to change her religion. Eventually, the romance died down, and he ended up marrying Irina von Tolstoy in 1939. By the end of the 1920s, Margarita’s mother Alice was facing mental health issues, and she was eventually forcibly taken to a sanatorium. Margarita wrote to her grandmother Victoria, asking her to come over. This meant that Alice would miss the weddings of all four of her daughters. Cecilie became engaged to Georg Donatus, Hereditary Grand Duke of Hesse, while Sophie became engaged to Prince Christoph of Hesse.
On 20 April 1931, Margarita married Prince Gottfried of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, who was also a descendant of Queen Victoria through her second son, Alfred, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. He was also a descendant of Queen Victoria’s half-sister Princess Feodora of Leiningen. They were married at Langenburg. Tragically, Margarita’s first pregnancy in the stillbirth of a daughter on 3 December 1933.4 However, the following four pregnancies ended with five surviving children, including a set of twins: Prince Kraft (born 25 June 1935), Princess Beatrix (born 10 June 1936), Prince Georg Andreas (born 24 November 1938), Prince Rupprecht and Prince Albrecht (born 7 April 1944).
Tragedy struck the family in November 1937 when Margarita’s sister Cecilie was killed alongside her family in an aeroplane crash. The funeral took place on 23 November, and Margarita attended it with her husband. Margarita’s parents had grown apart, and Cecilie’s funeral was one of the first occasions where they were together again. Her aunt Louise later wrote, “As poor Margarita said, it is hard that Cecilie had to die to bring them together.”5 They never actually returned to living together.
- Alice, Princess Andrew of Greece by Hugo Vickers p.73
- Alice, Princess Andrew of Greece by Hugo Vickers p.74
- Alice, Princess Andrew of Greece by Hugo Vickers p.158
- The Peerage
- Alice, Princess Andrew of Greece by Hugo Vickers p.274