Sophie of Greece and Denmark – An exiled Princess (Part one)

sophie greece
(public domain)

Princess Sophie of Greece and Denmark was born on 26 June 1914 as the fourth daughter of Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark and Princess Alice of Battenberg. Her grandmother Victoria arrived in early June to be with Alice as she gave birth, but Sophie arrived rather late. Victoria wrote on the day of her birth, “Well, the baby is here at last. She (alas!) made her appearance at 6 a.m. Of course, it is a disappointment her being another girl; she is a fine healthy, large child.”1 Her elder sisters were Margarita, Theodora and Cecilie. Her younger brother is Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

She spent her early years in Greece with her mother and sisters until they were forced to leave for Switzerland in 1917. The family’s main base became the Grand Hotel in Lucerne. In 1920, Sophie, Cecilie and their mother Alice became ill with influenza, but luckily they all recovered. They were briefly allowed back to Greece in 1920, and her younger brother Philip was born there on 10 June 1921. In 1922, Sophie and her sisters were invited to be bridesmaids at the wedding of Edwina Ashley to Alice’s brother 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.”2 She added, “Cécile will certainly be the prettiest of the lot, Tiny (Sophie) is great fun & the precious Philipp (sic) the image of Andrea (Andrew)”3

More trouble was to come as King Constantine abdicated for a second time in 1922, now in favour 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. Sophie later wrote, “There were staff of different nationalities. One of the maids came in and said that a footman had attacked her with a knife. There were always problems paying the bills.”4

While at St Cloud, Andrew often took the younger children on trips to Paris or for walks in the Boulogne woods. They also had a tennis court, and there was a big family lunch every Sunday. In 1923, the four girls once again acted as bridesmaids, this time for the wedding of Lady Louise Mountbatten to the future King Gustaf VI Adolf of Sweden.  In the summer of 1926, Cecilie and Sophie spent time at Kensington Palace. Even though Sophie was the youngest of the four sisters, she would be the first to marry; her future husband was Prince Christoph of Hesse.

Cecilie was busy preparing both her and Sophie’s trousseau in Paris. She wrote to their mother, “Tiny’s clothes are nearly ready. I saw her trying them on the other day. They are lovely, and her wedding dress is too beautiful for words. Satin and quite simple with a lace and tulle veil. They have not started mine yet.”5 On 15 December 1930, Sophie was helped into her dress by Theodora, Cecilie and Philip at Friedrichshof. She was loaned the Empress Frederick’s Diamond tiara by her father-in-law. A Greek Orthodox priest conducted the Orthodox wedding ceremony in the drawing-room at Friedrichshof, and Philip carried her train. A Protestant service was held in the church at Kronberg. Louise later wrote, “Tiny was like a child at a party in her own enjoyment & excitement over her wedding.”6 Cecilie married Georg Donatus, Hereditary Grand Duke of Hesse on 2 February 1931. Margarita was next to marry. On 20 April 1931, she married Gottfried, Prince of Hohenlohe-Langenburg. Theodora was now the last of the sisters left unmarried. In June, her engagement to Berthold, Margrave of Baden, was announced. They were married on 17 August 1931 at the Neues Schloß in Baden-Baden.

In October 1931, Christoph applied to join the Nazi Party but only a second application in the spring of 1933 made it official. He received the membership card number 1,498,608 on 3 July 1933, which was later backdated to 1 March. As it was more prestigious to have joined before 1933, his number was later revised to 363,176. Sophie would eventually join the Nazis’ women’s auxiliary (NS-Frauenschaft) in 1938. Christoph entered the SS in February 1932 with much enthusiasm. He wrote to his mother, “We are all terribly excited about the elections. I do hope they will bring the beginning of change which we are all longing for so much.”7 When Sophie celebrated her 18th birthday in 1932, she wrote, “I spent a very happy [birth] day on Sunday, although Chri was unexpectedly called away on duty this morning.”8 After the Nazis seized power in 1933, her husband’s career really took off. They had access to the highest ranks of the Nazi party, and they were both enthusiastic. On 10 April 1935, Sophie attended the wedding of Emmy Sonnemann and Hermann Göring, one of the most powerful figures in the Nazi Party.

On 10 January 1933, Sophie gave birth to her first child – a daughter named Christina Margarethe. Another daughter named Dorothea was born on 24 July 1934, followed by a son named Karl on 26 March 1937 and another son named Rainer on 18 November 1939. Shortly before the birth of Rainer, Christoph reported to the Luftwaffe, and he wrote to Sophie, “How I miss you here and long for you. It is simply terrible. I am so depressed and so miserable that I shall be pleased to get away from this house in which we have spent those lovely happy years together and enjoyed having our little Poonsies (their children). Oh, darling if only you were here! When I enter the house I think how often the door used to open like with magic and then you angel were there waiting for me smiling or laughing and giving me a thrill of happiness I feel a lump in my throat to think of it. I love you, love you, love you, my angel, and you mean everything to me… Lovingly as your old adoring Peech [Christoph]9

Tragedy struck in November 1937 when Sophie’s sister Cecilie was killed alongside her family in an aeroplane crash. The funeral took place on 23 November, and Sophie attended the funeral with her husband. He wore his SS-uniform as crowds saluted the procession with the Heil Hitler greeting.

Read part two here.

  1. Alice: Princess Andrew of Greece by Hugo Vickers p.110
  2. Alice: Princess Andrew of Greece by Hugo Vickers p.158
  3. Alice: Princess Andrew of Greece by Hugo Vickers p.158
  4. Alice: Princess Andrew of Greece by Hugo Vickers p.178
  5. Alice: Princess Andrew of Greece by Hugo Vickers p.223
  6. Alice: Princess Andrew of Greece by Hugo Vickers p.223
  7. Royals and the Reich by Jonathan Petropoulos p.116
  8. Royals and the Reich by Jonathan Petropoulos p.116
  9. Royals and the Reich by Jonathan Petropoulos p.92-93

About Moniek Bloks 2698 Articles
My name is Moniek and I am from the Netherlands. I began this website in 2013 because I wanted to share these women's amazing stories.

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