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Princess Sophie of Greece and Denmark

Princess Sophie of Greece and Denmark

Greek-Danish princess
The basics
Gender female
Birth June 26, 1914 (Corfu)
Death November 3, 2001 (Munich, Upper Bavaria, Bavaria, Germany)
Mother: Princess Alice of Battenberg
Father: Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark
Siblings: Princess Cecilie of Greece and DenmarkPrincess Margarita of Greece and DenmarkPrincess Theodora of Greece and Denmark
Spouse: Prince George William of HanoverPrince Christoph of Hesse
Children: Prince Welf Ernst of HanoverPrince Georg of HanoverPrincess Friederike of HanoverPrincess Christina Margarethe of Hesse
The details

Princess Sophie of Greece and Denmark (Greek: Πριγκίπισσα Σοφία της Ελλάδας και Δανίας) (26 June 1914 – 3 November 2001) was the fourth child and youngest daughter of Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark and Princess Alice of Battenberg. The Duke of Edinburgh is her younger brother. Sophie was born at Villa Mon Repos on the island of Corfu in Greece.

Family and youth

Sophie's father was the fourth son of King George I of the Hellenes and Grand Duchess Olga Konstantinovna of Russia. Through King George, she was a great-granddaughter of King Christian IX of Denmark (hence her subsidiary title, Princess of Denmark). Through Queen Olga, she was a great-great-granddaughter of Emperor Nicholas I of Russia. Sophie was also a great-great-granddaughter of Queen-Empress Victoria, through descent from Victoria's second daughter, Alice, Grand Duchess of Hesse and by Rhine.

Sophie was the closest sister in age of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, the consort of Elizabeth II. Her three sisters were Margarita, Princess of Hohenlohe-Langenburg (1905–1981), Theodora, Margravine of Baden and Cecile, Hereditary Grand Duchess of Hesse-Darmstadt.

In 1913 Sophie's grandfather, King George I, was assassinated and in 1917 most of the Greek royal family went into exile when her uncle, King Constantine I, was deposed in favour of his younger son, King Alexander I. The family returned to Greece upon the brief restoration of Constantine to the throne when Alexander died in 1920, but left again when he abdicated in 1922, inaugurating the even briefer reign of Constantine's eldest son, George II. Banished with King George in 1924, the dynasty would not again be reinstated on Greece's throne until 1935, by which time Sophie had married and was raising a family in Germany.

During these periods of exile Sophie, her parents, and siblings lived abroad in reduced, though never uncomfortable, circumstances, sometimes in hotels and sometimes with relatives in France, England or Germany. In the late 1920s, her mother, Alice, became increasingly mentally unstable and was committed to a series of sanitariums in Germany by her mother, Princess Victoria of Hesse-Darmstadt, Marchioness of Milford Haven. Eventually released, Alice wandered Europe until, following the death in a plane crash of Sophie's sister, Cecilie, in November 1937, she resumed contact with her children and took up a life dedicated to religious charity in Athens.

Meanwhile, Sophie's father remained in contact with his children, but lived apart from them, settling in Monaco. Sophie and her sisters lived under the care and at the expense of relatives, all four princesses marrying German princes between December 1930 and August 1931. Their brother Philip, not yet 10 years old, was sent to various boarding schools and, later, to a British naval academy.

First marriage

Although the youngest of four sisters, Sophie was the first to wed, marrying her second cousin-once-removed Prince Christoph of Hesse (1901–1943) on 15 December 1930 in Kronberg, Berlin; she was 16. A younger son of Prince Frederick Charles of Hesse and Princess Margaret of Prussia, Christoph was a great-grandson of Queen Victoria through her eldest daughter Victoria, Princess Royal, wife of Frederick III, German Emperor. A director in the Third Reich's Ministry of Air Forces and a commander in the German Air Reserves, Christoph held the rank of Oberführer in the Nazi SS. On 7 October 1943, he was killed in an airplane accident in a war zone of the Apennine mountains near Forlì, Italy. His body was found two days later.

They had five children, nine grandchildren, thirteen great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren:

  • Princess Christina Margarethe of Hesse (10 January 1933 – 22 November 2011), married Prince Andrew of Yugoslavia (1929–1990) on 2 August 1956 and divorce in London in 1962. They had two children and two granddaughters. She remarried Robert Floris van Eyck (1916–1991) on 3 December 1962 and had two further children and two granddaughters.
    • Princess Maria Tatiana of Yugoslavia (born 18 July 1957) married Gregory Thune-Larsen on 30 June 1990 and had two daughters:
      • Sonia Tatiana Thune-Larsen (born 29 October 1992)
      • Olga Kristin Thune-Larsen (born 26 October 1995)
    • Prince Christopher of Yugoslavia (6 February 1960 – 14 May 1994)
    • Hélène Sophie van Eyck (born 25 October 1963) married to Roderick Alan Harman, with whom she has two daughters:
      • Sascha Alexandra Sophia Harman (born 26 July 1986)
      • Pascale Olivia Harman (born 19 March 1989)
    • Mark van Eyck (born 16 February 1966) married Joanne Green in 1992 but they separated
  • Princess Dorothea Charlotte Karin of Hesse (born 24 July 1934), married Prince Friedrich Karl zu Windisch-Grätz (7 July 1917 – 29 May 2002) on 31 March 1959 and had two daughters, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
    • Princess Marina Margarita Sofia Leontina Christina of Windisch-Grätz (born 3 December 1960) married Gyula Lajos Jakabffy on 8 May 1988. They have two daughters:
      • Réka Dorothea Sita Jakabffy (born 17 September 1988)
      • Sophia Magdolna Jakabffy (born 27 August 1989)
    • Princess Clarissa Elisabeth Fiore of Windisch-Grätz (born 5 August 1966) married Eric De Waele on 16 November 1985. They have four children and two grandchildren:
      • Michel Jean Henri de Waele (born 18 May 1986) married Caroline Libbrecht in 2011. They have two children:
        • Raphaël De Waele (born 2013)
        • Lucy De Waele (born 2015)
      • Alexander Federico Mark de Waele (born 3 July 1987)
      • Mathieu Paul Philippe de Waele (born 16 December 1988)
      • Rubi Jade de Waele (born 26 January 1994)
  • Prince Karl Adolf Andreas of Hesse (born 26 March 1937) married Countess Yvonne Margit Valerie Szapáry von Muraszombath, Széchysziget und Szapár (born 4 April 1944 in Budapest) on 26 March 1966 and two children and three grandchildren:
    • Prince Christoph of Hesse (born 18 June 1969) unmarried and without issue.
    • Princess Irina of Hesse (born 1 April 1971), married Alexander, Count of Schönburg-Glauchau (born 15 August 1969) on 30 April 1999 and have three children:
      • Countess Maria-Letitia Jolanta of Schönburg-Glauchau (born 30 July 2001)
      • Count Maximus Carolus Joachim Maria of Schönburg-Glauchau (born 25 May 2003)
      • Count Valentin Polykarp Josef Maria of Schönburg-Glauchau (born 23 January 2005)
  • Prince Rainer Christoph Friedrich of Hesse (born 18 November 1939), unmarried and without issue.
  • Princess Clarissa Alice of Hesse (born 6 February 1944) married Jean-Claude Derrien (born 12 March 1948) on 20 July 1971 and were divorced in 1976. She has an illegitimate daughter:
    • Johanna von Hesse (born 25 August 1980)
Name Birth Death Marriage Their children
Date Spouse
Princess Christina Margarethe of Hesse 10 January 1933 22 November 2011 2 August 1956
Divorced 31 May 1962
Prince Andrew of Yugoslavia Princess Maria Tatiana of Yugoslavia
Prince Christopher of Yugoslavia
3 December 1962
Divorced 3 February 1986
Robert Floris van Eyck Sophie van Eyck
Mark van Eyck
Princess Dorothea of Hesse 24 July 1934 31 March 1959 Prince Friedrich Karl zu Windisch-Grätz Princess Marina of Windisch-Grätz
Princess Clarissa of Windisch-Grätz
Prince Karl of Hesse 26 March 1937 26 March 1966 Countess Yvonne von Muraszombath, Széchysziget und Szapár Prince Christoph of Hesse
Princess Irina of Hesse
Prince Rainer of Hesse 18 November 1939
Princess Clarissa of Hesse 6 February 1944 20 July 1971
Divorced 1976
Jean-Claude Derrien
Johanna von Hesse

Second marriage

Sophie's second marriage was to her cousin Prince George William of Hanover (who was a second cousin through Christian IX and a third cousin through Victoria to Sophie, and he also was a first cousin-once-removed of Sophie's first husband, Christoph, in descent from Victoria, Princess Royal) on 23 April 1946 in Salem, Baden. George was a younger son of Ernest Augustus III, Duke of Brunswick, who lost his duchy in 1918, and his consort, Princess Viktoria Luise of Prussia, the only daughter of Wilhelm II, German Emperor.

Sophie's marriage to George William constitutes the only known case of permission to marry being withheld by the British sovereign from a descendant of King George II, who had been obliged to solicit Royal authorisation to marry by the Royal Marriages Act 1772. Although permission to marry had been granted by George VI in 1937 to George William's sister, Frederika of Hanover, future Queen of the Hellenes, when Sophie became engaged to George William, a German citizen, it was 1945 and the United Kingdom was at war with Germany. When George William's father, Ernest Augustus III, Duke of Brunswick and Head of the House of Hanover, submitted the request to marry on his son's behalf—a formality his branch of George III's descendants had continued to observe even after obtaining the German crowns of the Kingdom of Hanover (in 1837) and the Duchy of Brunswick (in 1913)—despite the fact that the dynastic titles and peerages of the Hanovers had been suspended since 1919, no British monarch had withheld marital authorisation to any kinsman or kinswoman who sought it. Although there was apparently no question of officially denying the request, the British government advised the king that it would be of dubious "propriety" to give royal assent to his cousin's petition. George VI then sought to arrange to have the Hanovers informally advised that the exigencies of war, rather than personal disapproval, prevented him from approving the marriage to Sophie (whose brother, Philip, would become informally engaged to the King's elder daughter, after years of courtship, a few months later). But after internal consultation the British government blocked the endeavour on the grounds that any such communication could be subsequently misconstrued.

Thus, no official reply was made to the Duke of Brunswick's correspondence, the couple wed without George VI's consent, and after the war the practice of British monarchs receiving and acquiescing to requests to marry from the Hanovers resumed. At the time British officials reviewing the matter considered that the marriage and its issue would not be legitimate in the United Kingdom, having failed to obtain the prior consent of the King in Council.

The repeal of the Royal Marriage Act as part of implementation of the Succession to the Crown Act 2013 does not specifically address the unique situation of the descendants of Sophie and George William's marriage (deemed legal in Germany). The latter act does not confer legitimacy upon the children of a marriage which formerly required approval under the Royal Marriage Act, if such approval was sought but not obtained. Nor does it confer succession rights upon a descendant of any marriage which has already transpired, if such rights were not already extant.

Together they had three children, five grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren:

  • Prince Welf Ernst of Hanover (25 January 1947 – 10 January 1981) married Wibke van Gunsteren on 23 May 1969. They have one daughter and three grandchildren:
    • Princess Saskia of Hanover (born 24 July 1970) married Michael Alexander Robert Naylor-Leyland on 6 July 1990 and were divorced. They have two sons. She remarried Edward Hooper on 27 January 2007. They have one son.
  • Prince Georg of Hanover (born 9 December 1949) married Victoria Anne Bee, daughter of Robert Bee and Eleonore Vera Alexia Anna Maria Gräfin Fugger von Babenhausen, on 15 September 1973. They have two daughters and four grandchildren:
    • Princess Vera of Hanover (born 5 November 1976) married Manuel Dmoch on 12 August 2006. They have two daughters.
    • Princess Nora of Hanover (born 15 January 1979) married Christian Falk on 3 March 2007. They have two sons.
  • Princess Friederike of Hanover (born 15 October 1954) A god-daughter of Elizabeth II; married Jerry William Cyr on 17 August 1979. They have two children:
    • Julia Emma Cyr (born 17 September 1982)
    • Jean-Paul Welf Cyr (born 6 March 1985)
Name Birth Death Marriage Their children
Date Spouse
Prince Welf Ernst of Hanover 25 January 1947 10 January 1981 23 May 1969 Wibke van Gunsteren Princess Saskia of Hanover
Prince Georg of Hanover 9 December 1949 15 September 1973 Victoria Anne Bee Princess Vera of Hanover
Princess Nora of Hanover
Princess Friederike of Hanover 15 October 1954 17 August 1979 Jerry William Cyr Julia Emma Cyr
Jean-Paul Welf Cyr

Later years and death

Until her death on 3 November 2001 in Munich, Sophie was a frequent visitor to her brother, Prince Philip and her sister-in-law, Queen Elizabeth II. She was a godmother to their son, Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex. Sophie was often seen at events such as the annual Windsor Horse Show in the presence of her brother and his family. She was survived by her second husband, seven of her eight children and her younger brother, Prince Philip.

Titles, styles, honours and arms

Titles and styles

  • 26 June 1914 – 15 December 1930: Her Royal Highness Princess Sophie of Greece and Denmark.
  • 15 December 1930 – 23 April 1946: Her Royal Highness Princess Christoph of Hesse.
  • 23 April 1946 – 3 November 2001: Her Royal Highness Princess George William of Hanover.


  • Kingdom of Greece Dame Grand Cross of the Order of Saints Olga and Sophia.


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Family and youth First marriage Second marriage Later years and death Titles, styles, honours and arms Ancestry
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