Three of Prince Philip’s German relatives were among the small UK crowd of people who attended his funeral on Saturday, their presence due to his specific request for that side of his family to be represented despite its past Nazi connections.
Two great-nephews and a cousin’s grandson were at the burial procession, held at Windsor Castle, that included just 30 people.
They were Bernhard, hereditary prince of Baden, Prince Philipp of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, and Prince Donatus, landgrave of Hesse.
“It really is an incredible honor and we are all extremely touched and privileged to be included on behalf of the wider family,” Prince Philipp of Hohenlohe-Langenburg said in a statement ahead of the funeral.
Prince Philipp and Bernhard are descendants of Prince Philip’s sisters, whose marriages to German aristocracy caused awkwardness after World War II due to some of them being members of the Nazi party. Prince Donatus’s grandfather, Philip’s cousin, was also a Nazi party member.
Though no members of the German side of his family were invited to Prince Philip’s 1947 marriage to then-Princess Elizabeth due to their Nazi affiliation, in later years the Duke of Edinburgh maintained contact with his German relatives, with whom he had a close relationship.
In a post on his Instagram page last week, Prince Philipp wrote: “Our grieving thoughts and condolences go with Her Majesty the Queen and all of your family in England. Prince Philip was a true gentleman with a great sense of humor, an incredible sense of duty, and a wide range of interests.”
He also wrote that Duke of Edinburgh was “very familiar with us in Langenburg,” where the family home is located.
Philip had four sisters, princesses Margarita, Theodora, Cecilie, and Sophie, all of whom went on to marry German nobles after the family was exiled from Greece in 1922 following a coup that ousted the royal family.
His youngest sister, Princess Sophie, married Prince Christoph of Hesse, a German SS officer, in 1930. One of their sons — the Duke of Edinburgh’s nephew — Prince Karl Adolf Andreas of Hesse, is said to have been named after Adolf Hitler, who they had met in the early 1930s. Sophie in a late-life memoir acknowledged that they were “impressed by this charming and seemingly modest man, and by his plans to change and improve the situation in Germany.” Later, they “changed our political view fundamentally,” she wrote.
Philip’s eldest sister, Princess Margarita, married Prince Gottfried of Hohenlohe-Langenburg of Germany, who was related distantly to Queen Victoria. In 1937 he joined the Nazi party, fought as an officer in the German army during World War II and was badly injured. However, he was reportedly dismissed from the army in the wake of an aborted attempt on Adolf Hitler’s life in 1944.
In 1931, Princess Theodora married Berthold, Margrave of Baden, who was injured as a soldier in the German army during the war.
"The remarkable photograph from 1937 shows Prince Philip, then just 16, in a funeral procession for his older sister Cecile, who was killed in an air crash." https://t.co/ol5OTi5kB5
— Carol Sundahl (@SundahlCarol) April 9, 2021
The same year, Princess Cecilie married the man who would go on to become Grand Duke George Donatus of Hesse. Both joined the Nazi party in 1937. Cecilie, George and three of her children were killed several months later in a plane crash, while a fourth child died of meningitis in 1939 aged two.
Philip, at the time just 16, attended her funeral in 1937 in Darmstadt, near Frankfurt. A photo from the time shows him surrounded by her family members and dignitaries, many of whom wore Nazi uniforms while crowds lining the streets gave the Nazi salute and reportedly cried out “Heil Hitler.”
While Philip would later go on to serve as an officer in the Royal Navy during World War II, two of his brothers-in-law fought with the German forces.
The three descendants that attended the funeral remain key figures in German aristocracy.
Prince Donatus, 54, is the head of the House of Hesse, the household that Philip’s sisters Cecilie and Sophie both married into. His grandfather, Philipp, landgrave of Hesse, joined the Nazi party in 1930 and was close to Hitler, but later ran afoul of the Fuhrer, who had him imprisoned in the Flossenburg concentration camp. His wife, Princess Mafalda, was taken to Buchenwald where she died in a bombing attack on the concentration camp, the Spectator reported in 2006. Philipp was released from Flossenburg by the Allies, interrogated and later released.
Princess Margarita’s grandson, Prince Philipp, 51, and Princess Theodora’s grandson — Bernhard, hereditary prince of Baden, 50 — are both great-nephews of Britain’s Prince Philip.
The three Germans arrived in Britain last week and underwent their mandatory quarantine at a house near Ascot ahead of the funeral.
While Philip’s sisters became intimately tied to the Nazis, his mother, Princess Alice of Greece, saved a Jewish family by hiding them during World War II, earning her the honor of “Righteous Among the Nations” from Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust museum.
Evy Cohen, whose grandmother, uncle and aunt were saved from the Nazis by Princess Alice, described the “extraordinary” princess in an Israeli television interview broadcast as Prince Philip was being laid to rest.
Alice sheltered the family for more than a year.
“At one time the Gestapo came to her residence because they might have heard that there were some Jews in [there],” said Cohen. “She used her true deafness — she could lip-read very very well — but she used her deafness to say she couldn’t understand what they were talking about. So the Gestapo left and never returned.”
Prince Philip, who died on April 9 at age 99 and was laid to rest on Saturday, made a historic visit to Israel to 1994 — the first by a British royal — to honor Alice, who is buried on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem.
He came to accept Yad Vashem’s recognition of his mother as a “Righteous Among the Nations,” for saving the three Cohen family members, and said in a speech at the event that his mother had never told him about her actions.
He was accompanied on that visit by his sister Princess Sophie, the mother, among others, of Prince Karl Adolf Andreas.
In a memoir, written in her old age, Princess Sophie described her admiration for Hitler after having met the Nazi leader and one of his most senior officials, Hermann Goering, the Daily Mail reported in 2015. The memoir was never published, but in 2015 Britain’s Channel 4 aired contents from the personal chronicle.
Sophie wrote that Goering had been very keen for her and her husband to meet Hitler, which they eventually did, hosting them in 1931 or 1932, before Hitler had become the Chancellor of Germany.
“As Goering was insistent we should meet Hitler personally, we decided to ask him to lunch at our flat,” she wrote. “I have to say here, that, although Chri [Prince Christoph] and I changed our political view fundamentally some years later, we were impressed by this charming and seemingly modest man, and by his plans to change and improve the situation in Germany.”
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.