Princess Marie, The Princess of Erbach-Schönberg
Her Serene Highness The Princess of Erbach-Schönberg,
formerly 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). Due to Marie's parents morganatic marriage, 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.
Marie, The Princess of Erbach-Schönberg
(Princess Marie of Battenberg)
After a brief visit to Geneva (for the sake of propriety), Marie and her parents returned to Hesse, but the Prince Alexander and his Battenberg family were still not welcome within society and financially depended on his sister and her husband (then The Tsarevitch). Throughout her childhood, 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 dominant governess but had a happy childhood.
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 in the Court at Darmstadt as a diplomat. Some years later to raise him in precedence in line with his Royal relations, on 18th August 1903, Count Gustav was created Prince of Erbach-Schönberg and Duke of Breuberg & Wildenstein with the qualifcation of Serene Highness by his wife's cousin - Grand Duke Ernst Louis, The Grand Duke of Hesse & By the Rhine (1868-1937), whose sister Princess Victoria was Mountbatten's mother.
The Count (later Prince) of Erbach-Schönberg
The arms of The Princes 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 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). In Arolsen, Hesse, he married in 1900 - Princess Elisabeth of Waldeck & Pyrmont (1873-1961), the daughter of Prince George Victor, The Prince of Waldeck & Pyrmont (1831-1893). He died in Benshiem, Hesse.
Count Maximilian 'Maxi' of Erbach-Schönberg (1878-1892). He was born severely disabled and suffered from fits. He died in Schönberg aged 14yrs.
Prince Victor Sergius Heinrich Bruno Karl of Erbach-Schönberg (1880-1967). He married in 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 in Munich.
Princess Marie Elisabeth 'Edda' Donata of Erbach-Schönberg (1883-1966). She married in 1910, in Schönberg - Wilhelm, Count of Stolberg-Wernigerod (1870-1931). She died in Schlitz, Hesse.
Marie, The Princess of Erbach-Schönberg
Marie and Gustav visited her brother - Prince Alexander, who was the reigning Prince of Bulgaria 1879-1893 in the turbulent days of Bulgaria's history as an independent country. Whilst sailing along the Danube on the Royal Yacht, Alexander 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 Prince Alexander, 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 in 1886, Marie's brother - Prince Alexander was created Count VON Hartenau, he returned to Austria and caused a scandal by marrying an actress in 1889, which greatly upset their mother - Julia, The Princess of Battenberg. On hearing the news that Prince Alexander was seriously ill in November 1893, Marie hurried to Darmstadt to persuade their mother to join her to go to his bedside. Sadly their mother did not go, and Marie received the news that Prince Alexander had died whilst she was travelling to her brother. In fact it was left to Marie to inform Johanna, Prince Alexander'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.
Gustav died aged 68yrs on 29th January 1908 at Darmstadt and was succeeded by his eldest son - Alexander as Prince of Erbach-Schönberg etc. Marie -who became styled as Princess Mother in widowhood, continued to live at Schönberg until her death there on 20th June 1923, aged 71yrs. They were buried together in the Marienkirche, Schönberg.