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HSH The Princess of Erbach-Schönberg, formerly HSH Princess Marie Caroline of Battenberg was born on 15th February 1852 in Strasbourg, France, the eldest child and only daughter of Prince Alexander of Hesse & By the Rhine (1823-1888) and The Princess of Battenberg, formerly Countess Julia VON Hauke (1825-1895).  Due to the obvious embarrassment that her mother fell pregnant prior to her marriage (28th October 1851), Marie insisted years later that she was born on 15th July 1852 - her father's birthday.  She was named 'Marie' after her aunt - Tsarina Maria Alexandrova of Russia, formerly Princess Marie of Hesse & By the Rhine (1824-1880), the wife of Tsar Alexander II of Russia (1818-1881).  

Marie, The Princess of Erbach-Schönberg (Princess Marie of Battenberg)  ​

Princess Marie,
The Princess of Erbach-Schönberg

(Princess Marie of Battenberg)


Due to Marie's parents morganatic marriage (where her mother did not share her husband's rank), from birth Marie was styled 'Countess Marie of Battenberg' with the style of Illustrious Highness and was not permitted to use the higher title and style he would have had from her father. Marie and her siblings were all barred from the line of succession to the Hessian Grand Ducal Throne.  On 21st December 1858, Marie's mother was created Princess of Battenberg with the style of Serene Highness which her children shared and subsequently Marie adopted the new style of 'Princess Marie of Battenberg'.  Following her birth, Marie and her parents returned to Hesse, but Prince Alexander and his 'Battenberg family' were still not welcome within society and were financially dependent on his sister and her husband (then The Tsarevitch).  Throughout her childhood as the eldest daughter, Marie looked after her younger brothers - this made up for their mother's coldness and their father's absences due to his military service.  Marie admitted that she was clearly influenced by her own dominant governess but had a happy childhood.   

marie with louis milfordh.jpg

Princess Marie with her younger brother - 
Prince Louis
(later 1st Marquess of Milford Haven)



ABOVE: The Arms of The Princes
of Erbach-Schönberg

RIGHT: Gustav, 1st Prince
of Erbach-Schönberg


On 19th April 1871 in Darmstadt, Marie married Gustav, The Count of Erbach-Schönberg (1840–1908), who had succeeded his father to his title and estates in 1863.  Marie and Count Gustav met at the unveiling of the memorial in Worms to Martin Luther (1483-1546) in 1868 and became engaged in 1870.  Gustav served as a secretary to the Landtag from 1879-1890 and in 1881 he was appointed a Colonel in the Hessian Army and subsequently served as a diplomat in the Court at Darmstadt.  On 18th August 1903, to raise Gustav in precedence in line with his Royal relations, his wife's cousin - Grand Duke Ernst Louis, The Grand Duke of Hesse & By the Rhine (1868-1937), whose sister was Mountbatten's mother, created him Prince of Erbach-Schönberg and Duke of Breuberg & Wildenstein with the qualification of Serene Highness.

Gustav,  The Count (later Prince) of Erbach-Schönberg  ​


Marie's marriage was not entirely happy.  It was noted that prior to her marriage she was fun, lively and spontaneous, but after she became dull and became as tedious as her husband. However Queen Victoria (1819(1837-1901) liked Marie and said of her - "I am so very fond of her who is so dear, sensible & good."  The Queen also visited Marie at Schönberg Castle, and even planted a tree in the gardens to mark the occasion. 

Gustav and Marie had 4 children - 


  • Prince Alexander 'Alexi' Ludwig Alfred Eberhard, 2nd Prince of Erbach-Schönberg, 2nd Duke of Breuberg & Wildenstein and Count of Erbach-Schönberg (1872-1944), born 12th September 1872 in Schönberg, Hesse.  On 3rd May 1900 in Arolsen, Hesse, he married - Princess Elisabeth of Waldeck & Pyrmont (1873-1961), the daughter of Prince George Victor, The Prince of Waldeck & Pyrmont (1831-1893) and a sister of Queen Emma of The Netherlands (1858-1934).  He died on 18th October 1944 in Benshiem, Hesse, and had issue:


  • Princess Imma Gustava Marie Louise Pauline Edda Adolphine Hermine of Erbach-Schönberg (1901-1947)

  • Prince Georg Ludwig, 3rd Prince of Erbach-Schönberg, 3rd Duke of Breuberg & Wildenstein and Count of Erbach-Schönberg (1903-1971)

  • Prince Wilhelm Ernst Heinrich Alfred of Erbach-Schönberg (1904-1947), who died in an internment camp at Krassni-Lubsch, Russia. 

  • Princess Helene Sophie Louise Hedwig Emilie Martha of Erbach-Schönberg (1907-1979)

  • Count Maximilian 'Maxi' of Erbach-Schönberg (1878-1892), born 27 March 1878 in Schönberg, Hesse.  He was severely disabled and suffered from fits.  His mother referred to him being "sent by God with a shadowed mind."  He died on 15th March 1892 in Schönberg, aged 14yrs.

  • Prince Victor Sergius Heinrich Bruno Karl of Erbach-Schönberg (1880-1967), born 26th September 1880.  He married on 9th November 1909 in Somogyvár, Hungary - Countess Elisabeth Széchényi VON Sárvár-Felsövidék (1888-1977).  He saw service in the Prussian Army 1901-1909 and became a diplomat.  He served as German Ambassador to Greece from 1936 until the Axis Powers invaded in April 1941.  He died on 27th April 1967 in Munich, Germany.

  • Princess Marie Elisabeth 'Edda' Donata of Erbach-Schönberg (1883-1966), born 7th July 1883 in Schönberg, Hesse.  She married in 19th January 1910, in Schönberg - Prince Wilhelm of Stolberg-Wernigerod (1870-1931).  She died on 12th March 1966 in Schlitz, Hesse, and had issue:

  • Prince Ludwig-Christian Otto Gustav Alexander Romanus of Stolberg-Wernigerod (1910-1945), killed in action during World War II, aged 34yrs.

  • Princess Anna of Stolberg-Wernigerod (1912-1914)


Princess Marie,
The Princes of Erbach-Schönberg
(Princess Marie of Battenberg)


Marie and Gustav visited her brother - Prince Alexander, known as 'Sandro' (the reigning Prince of Bulgaria 1879-1893) during the turbulent days of Bulgaria's history as an independent country. Whilst sailing along the Danube on the Royal Yacht, Sandro had discovered that his own River Navy were officially "holding manoeuvres with live torpedoes" but in reality they were planning to sink the Royal Yacht. They had a lucky escape and Marie was unaware of the danger to the Royal party.  Marie was to later publish her account of her visit to Bulgaria in "My Trip to Bulgaria", which was published in 1884.  She also published her memoirs and translated several novels. 

In July 1886, Marie received a letter from Sandro, who was facing yet another campaign by Russia to oust him from his Throne.  He told her - "Beset on all sides like a hunted stag, overworked to such an extent that my eyes, for the first time in my life refuse their office. I am now only able to write to you once more... How the situation stands today is difficult to determine, or how Russia's fight to dispossess me will end... my Throne will be like a laid train of dynamite."   After his abdication on 20th August 1886 and his father's death in 1888, Sandro persuaded his cousin - Grand Duke Louis IV of Hesse & By the Rhine (1837-1892) to grant him a title and he subsequently created Sandr0 on 11th January 1889 Count VON Hartenau.  Sandro returned to Austria and caused a scandal by marrying an actress in 1889, which greatly upset their mother - Julia, The Princess of Battenberg (1825-1895).  


On hearing the news that Sandro was seriously ill in November 1893, Marie hurried to Darmstadt to persuade their mother to join her at his bedside. Sadly, Julia refused to go to Sandro, as she never forgave him for marrying beneath him, and Marie received the news that Sandro had died whilst she was travelling to her brother's deathbed.  In fact, it was left to Marie to inform Sandro's devastated widow of his decision to buried in Sofia, Bulgaria and that she would not (when the time came) be buried alongside him as she had thought. 

Alexander I, The Prince of Bulgaria
(Prince Alexander of Battenberg)


Marie, Princess Mother of Erbach-Schönberg  ​

ABOVE: Princess Marie,
The Princess Mother of Erbach-Schönberg

RIGHT: A widowed Princess Marie
with her family - (left to right)
Princess Marie; Princess 'Edda'
Prince Wilhelm of Stolberg-Wernigerod;
Prince Alexi (at rear)
and his wife Princess Elizabeth 


Gustav died aged 68yrs on 29th January 1908 at Darmstadt and was succeeded by his eldest son - Alexander 'Alexi' as Prince of Erbach-Schönberg etc.  Marie, who became styled as 'Princess Mother' in widowhood, continued to live at Schönberg until her own death on 20th June 1923, aged 71yrs.  They were buried together in the Marienkirche, Schönberg.

RIGHT: The joint grave of Gustav & Marie
at the Marienkirche, Schönberg


The joint grave of  Gustav & Marie,  in the cemetery of the Marienkirche, Schönberg  ​
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