GERMANY: Curse of Hesse

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When tragedy comes to the German grand ducal House of Hesse it strikes with all its fateful weight. First great blow to the ancient German family was the discovery that it had contributed to the spread of the dread blood disease, hemophilia. Marriage of two princes of Hesse to Princess Beatrice, Princess Alice, daughters of England's Queen Victoria, carried this curse to the blood of the imperial Russian and royal Spanish families. Princess Alice married Prince Louis of Hesse and was the mother of Alexandra, last Empress of Russia, who in turn transmitted hemophilia to her only son, Tsarevitch Alexis. Princess Beatrice married Prince Henry of Battenberg, son of Grand Duke Alexander of Hesse, and was the mother of Victoria of Spain, who passed on the curse to her son, Prince Alfonso, onetime heir to the Spanish throne, and the late Prince Gonzalo. Last week the ancient curse pointed up in a new form as the House of Hesse leaped into another tragic role in world headlines.

Prince Ludwig, 29, youngest son of the late Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig and Dowager Duchess Eleanore, impatiently paced the roof at London's Croydon Aerodrome waiting for the arrival of his family from Germany. Grand Duke George, 31, great-grandson of Queen Victoria; his 26-year-old wife, the former Princess Cecile of Greece & Denmark and cousin of England's Duchess of Kent; their two young sons, Prince Ludwig, 6, Prince Alexander, 4, and the 66-year-old Dowager Duchess were all flying to London for the wedding of Prince Ludwig, social attaché in the German Embassy at London, to Miss Margaret Campbell Geddes, daughter of Sir Auckland Campbell Geddes, onetime Cabinet Minister and onetime British Ambassador to the U. S.

Instead of welcoming the incoming plane, Prince Ludwig was informed by airway officials that the Belgian Sabena airliner carrying his family had crashed while attempting an emergency landing at fog-covered Ostend airport, killing all. Prostrate, young Prince Ludwig was rushed to the home of friends, Lord & Lady Louis Mountbatten, relatives of King George VI. Additional news from Ostend added the most horrifying note to the tragedy. Searchers poking in the charred wreck of the plane stumbled on the remains of an infant, prematurely delivered when the plane crashed, lying beside the crumpled body of Grand Duchess Cecile.

The British parents of Ludwig's fiancee, disappointed at one postponement of the wedding seven weeks ago when the old Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig died at his family home in Darmstadt, Germany, withdrew arrangements for a fashionable wedding but next day pushed through a private, hushed affair. With bridal costumes hurriedly changed to sombre black, the ceremony was performed before 50 sombre guests in London's swank St. Peter's Church, Eaton Square.