Prince Christoph of Hesse



Prince Christoph Ernst August of Hesse (14 May 1901 – 7 October 1943) was a nephew of Kaiser Wilhelm II. He was a German SS officer and was killed on active duty in a plane crash during World War II. His brother-in-law, Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark, fought on the British side and married the future Queen Elizabeth II after the war.[1]

Prince Christoph of Hesse was born in Frankfurt, the fifth son of Prince Frederick Charles of Hesse and Princess Margaret of Prussia. His father, Frederick Charles, a scion of the House of Hesse, was elected King of Finland in 1918, when Finland declared its independence after the collapse of the Russian Empire.[2] However, the overwhelming Republican victories in the 1919 Finnish parliamentary election effectively ended any ambitions for a Finnish monarchy.[2]

Christoph's mother was the daughter of Emperor Frederick III and of Victoria, Princess Royal. Prince Christoph was thus a great-grandson of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.[3] Christoph had several brothers, including Prince Philipp and Prince Wolfgang.[4] His two eldest brothers, Friedrich Wilhelm and Maximilian, both died in World War I.

Prince Christoph was a director in the Third Reich's Ministry of Air Forces, Commander of the Air Reserves, and held the rank of Oberführer in the SS.[5] His brother Prince Philipp joined Hitler's SA.[4] They were certainly not the only family members to embrace Nazism; their mother "Mossy" (a sister of Kaiser Wilhelm II) invited Adolf Hitler to tea and flew the swastika from her home at Schloss Kronberg.[6]

The historian Hugo Vickers claims that Prince Christoph was "disenchanted" with the Nazi Party by the time of the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich in 1942.[7] He told his mother: "The death of a certain dangerous and cruel man is the best news I had in a long time."[8]

Prince Christoph served in the Luftwaffe Research Office[9] and in 1942 he joined the staff of the Jagdgeschwader (fighter squadron) 53.[7] He was primarily based in Tunisia and Sicily, with missions to Malta.[7] After the Allied Invasion of Italy, he was recalled to Germany, but never made it home.[7]

On 7 October 1943, he was killed when his plane, a Siebel 104, collided with a hill in the Apennine Mountains near Forlì, Italy.[7] His body and the body of his copilot were found two days later and they were buried on the site.[7]

Christoph married his second cousin, once removed Princess Sophie of Greece and Denmark on 15 December 1930 in Kronberg im Taunus, Germany.[5] Princess Sophie was the youngest daughter of Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark and Princess Alice of Battenberg, and the sister of the future Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.[7]

They had five children:[10][11]

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