Prince Alexander of Hesse and by Rhine - Wikipedia Jump to content

Prince Alexander of Hesse and by Rhine

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Prince Alexander
Born(1823-07-15)15 July 1823
Darmstadt, Hesse
Died15 December 1888(1888-12-15) (aged 65)
Jugenheim, Hesse
Rosenhohe, Darmstadt
SpouseJulia, Princess of Battenberg
Alexander Ludwig Georg Friedrich Emil
FatherLouis II, Grand Duke of Hesse (officially)
August von Senarclens de Grancy (rumored)
MotherWilhelmine of Baden

Prince Alexander of Hesse and by Rhine GCB (Alexander Ludwig Georg Friedrich Emil; 15 July 1823 – 15 December 1888), was the third son and fourth child of Louis II, Grand Duke of Hesse, and Wilhelmine of Baden. He was a brother of Tsarina Maria Alexandrovna, wife of Tsar Alexander II of Russia. The Battenberg-Mountbatten family descends from Alexander and his wife Countess Julia von Hauke, a former lady-in-waiting to his sister.

Family and background[edit]

It was openly rumoured that Alexander and his sister Marie were not the children of the Grand Duke, but that their father was actually August von Senarclens de Grancy, their mother's chamberlain. His mother, although married to the grand duke, lived apart from her husband, who did not repudiate paternity of any of the four children born during the marriage. His ancestry listed below assumes his legitimacy. See Grancy's page for his rumored paternal ancestry.

When the future emperor Alexander II of Russia, as tsarevich, chose the sixteen-year-old Marie as consort, his parents consented to the match as worthy due to the Grand Duke's acknowledgement of her as his daughter. Because of her youth, Alexander escorted his sister to Russia for her wedding, remaining at the Russian court and joining the inner circle of his brother-in-law the tsarevich after the rest of Marie's entourage returned to Hesse.

Alexander's marriage[edit]

Alexander fell in love with Countess Julia von Hauke, lady-in-waiting to his sister (known, since her conversion to Orthodoxy, as Maria Alexandrovna, ranking only after her mother-in-law the Empress Alexandra Feodorovna). The countess was an orphaned German-Polish ward of the Russian Emperor, and daughter of the Emperor's former minister of war, Count Johann Moritz von Hauke, a Polish general of German descent. At that time, the Emperor Nicholas I was considering Alexander as a possible husband for his niece and, when he heard of Alexander's romance, he forbade the couple to marry.

Alexander left for England to contemplate his future, but then returned to Russia and eloped with Julia from St. Petersburg, being stricken by the Emperor's orders from the roll of the Russian imperial army for insubordination. The two were married in Breslau in 1851.

Alexander's older brother Louis III, Grand Duke of Hesse, allowed him to re-patriate to Hesse with his bride, although he did not recognize their marriage as dynastic. He granted her the new, hereditary title of Gräfin von Battenberg (Battenberg was a small town and ruined castle in the north of the grand duchy which, according to the memoirs of their eldest child Marie, the family visited once during her youth, although it never became their residence).

Alexander's wife would deliver his first child barely six months after their elopement. Nonetheless, Julia von Hauke was a countess in her own right, as well as a former ward of the Russian Emperor whose husband retained, despite exile from Russia, the sympathetic support of the tsarevich and tsarevna. Grand Duke Louis III therefore chose to distinguish her from several non-royal wives of other Hessian princes by conferring upon her, along with the Battenberg countship, the style of Erlaucht (Illustrious Highness), usually reserved in Germany for counts of mediatized (i.e., dynastic) rank.


As a cadet of the Hessian grand ducal dynasty, Prince Alexander had followed the martial tradition of his family by offering his sword to the military service of a Great Power while still a teenager, having accompanied his sister to St. Petersburg. He became a respected commander in the Russian army, with the prospect of a distinguished career. He had a regiment of lancers named after him and was awarded the Order of St. George 4th class. His elopement, in sending him abroad AWOL, terminated his military career and made him, initially, a fugitive from Russia.

But once his elder brother recognized his wife, he was able to obtain an appointment in the Austrian army, where he resumed his military career, although remaining sufficiently in disgrace never to be billeted in Vienna. Each of his children would be born in a different city, depending upon where in the Austro-Hungarian empire Prince Alexander was stationed.

After serving Austria with distinction in several battles, he was given a major command in Hesse's small army in its war, as an ally of Austria, with Prussia in 1866. By this time his wife and children had taken up their home at Alexander's small castle at Seeheim-Jugenheim in Hesse, to which he retired after Prussia defeated Austria and Hesse. Although the electorate of Hesse-Kassel, ruled by another branch of Alexander's family, was annexed by Prussia for adhering to the losing side, the fact that Hesse-Darmstadt's grand duke was the brother-in-law of the Russian tsar saved its independence, although not without loss of territory. Henceforth, Alexander and his family alternated between their castle in the grandducal capital of Darmstadt, and their country home a few hours away by carriage.

Alexander was often in attendance at his elder brother's court. But a shift occurred when his sister, now Empress of Russia, began to pay annual visits to her brother in the 1870s along with her husband, children, and a large entourage. Louis III, while benefitting from his kinship to the tsar, preferred to defer entertaining him to Alexander and Marie at Heiligenberg. These annual visits had the twofold effect of enhancing the international prestige of the grandduchy while socially rehabilitating Alexander's morganatic household. The memoirs of his daughter, Marie of Battenberg, document the cordiality between Alexander and his eldest brother, while also recording the growing importance of her own family's household as diplomats who wished to pay court to the Russian emperor would await his annual visit to the Hessian countryside to do so discreetly in the more intimate setting of Alexander's home.


Although Prince Alexander retained his own dynastic rights and appanage, his morganatic wife lived a quiet life. Their family lived primarily at Heiligenberg Castle, in southern Hesse. In 1858 Grand Duke Louis III raised his sister-in-law from "Countess" to "Princess" (Prinzessin) von Battenberg, her children sharing in the princely title, and accorded them the style of Serene Highness (Durchlaucht).

Alexander of Hesse and Julia of Battenberg had five children. The children were:

Prince Alexander of Hesse died of cancer in 1888; Princess Julia of Battenberg, having converted to Lutheranism in 1875, died at Schloss Heiligenberg in 1895 at the age of 70. They lived to see four of their five children, who had no rights of succession to the Hessian throne, mount a throne or marry dynastically, and to become welcome in-laws to Queen Victoria, whose correspondence reflected a consistent respect and fondness for the Battenberg family.


Prince Alexander's children formed marital ties with several reigning families.

Honours and awards[edit]

Prince Alexander received the following awards:[1]



  1. ^ Hof- und Staats-Handbuch des Großherzogtum Hessen (1886/7), Genealogy pp. 3-4
  2. ^ Hof- und Staats-Handbuch ... Hessen (1879), "Großherzogliche Orden und Ehrenzeichen" pp. 9, 46, 146
  3. ^ Hessen-Kassel (1866). Kurfürstlich Hessisches Hof- und Staatshandbuch: 1866. Waisenhaus. pp. 15, 42.
  4. ^ Bayern (1870). Hof- und Staatshandbuch des Königreichs Bayern: 1870. Landesamt. p. 9.
  5. ^ Hof- und Staats-Handbuch des Großherzogtum Baden (1862), "Großherzogliche Orden" pp. 32, 44
  6. ^ Staats- und Adreß-Handbuch des Herzogthums Nassau (1866), "Herzogliche Orden" pp. 9, 12
  7. ^ "Königlich Preussische Ordensliste", Preussische Ordens-Liste (in German), 1, Berlin: 5, 11, 1048, 1886
  8. ^ "Königliche Ritter-orden", Staatshandbuch für den Freistaat Sachsen (1873) (in German), Dresden, 1873, p. 4{{citation}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  9. ^ Staatshandbuch für das Großherzogtum Sachsen / Sachsen-Weimar-Eisenach (1859), "Großherzogliche Hausorden" p. 13 Archived 2019-08-22 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ Württemberg (Kingdom). Statistisches Landesamt (1877). Staatshandbuch für Württemberg. Druck von W. Kohlhammer. p. 22.
  11. ^ "Ritter-Orden", Hof- und Staatshandbuch der Österreichisch-Ungarischen Monarchie, 1888, pp. 80, 82, 87, retrieved 2 April 2020
  12. ^ Jørgen Pedersen (2009). Riddere af Elefantordenen, 1559–2009 (in Danish). Syddansk Universitetsforlag. p. 287. ISBN 978-87-7674-434-2.
  13. ^ Sovereign Ordonnance of 23 April 1865
  14. ^ a b c d List of Cavaliers of Russian Imperial and Tsarist Orders (in Russian), St. Petersburg, 1845, pp. 3, 5, 7, 20
  15. ^ Shaw, Wm. A. (1906) The Knights of England, I, London, p. 198

External links[edit]

Media related to Prince Alexander of Hesse at Wikimedia Commons