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Pamela Hicks lifted lid on years of tension between Philip’s German relatives and Palace

Prince Philip funeral: Queen arrives for service

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Philip’s funeral was limited to just 30 guests, in line with the Government’s strict Covid restrictions — but there were three surprising figures who made an appearance at the occasion. After isolating in Ascot, two of Philip’s great-nephews and one of his cousins from Germany attended the exclusive funeral: Bernhard, Hereditary Prince of Baden; Prince Donatus, Landgrave of Hesse; and Prince Philipp of Hohenlohe-Langenburg. This was in line with Philip’s final wishes after he reportedly requested a “rallying cry” of unity among his extensive family.

Bernhard is the grandson of Princess Theodora, the second eldest of Philip’s sisters.

Donatus is the head of the House of Hesse which two of Philip’s younger sisters married into — Princesses Cecilie and Sophie.

Philipp is the grandson of Princess Margarita, Philip’s eldest sister.

Despite having an extensive family, the Palace advised Philip not to invite any of his sisters to his 1947 wedding to the Queen.

Although Philip was born a Greek Prince, he had German heritage through his mother, Princess Alice of Battenberg, and his family spoke the language fluently.

All four of his older sisters then went on to marry into German aristocracy shortly before World War 2 broke out, while Philip was taken on by his British relatives, and educated in the UK.

When his engagement to the heir to the British throne — Princess Elizabeth — was announced in 1947 Europe was still reeling from the effects of World War 2, and this had a direct impact on Philip’s German relatives.

Royal biographer Ingrid Seward explained: “Anti-German feeling was still strong: although the war had been over for some 30 months, the country was still ravaged by its damage and everything was in short supply.

“King George VI certainly did not want to emphasise how many of both his and the bridegroom’s relations had strong German connections, most notably Philip’s three remaining sisters, all of whom had married German nobility.”

Philip’s former private secretary, Mike Parker, said: “We had just been through a war and Germans were Germans.”

Lady Pamela Hicks, Philip’s cousin who has German heritage herself from the Mountbatten line, explained: “I think Philip understood.”

But Lady Hicks suggested that Philip’s sisters did not, and “for years afterwards” would ask: “Why weren’t we allowed to come to your wedding?”

Lady Hicks added that the siblings weren’t exactly “storm troopers” — but other relatives were allowed.

Ms Seward added: “From his father’s seven brothers and sisters, all but one had died, but Philip’s favourite Uncle George came from France with his wife Marie Bonaparte, and their daughter, Eugenie, alongside various cousins.”

Lady Hicks herself was a bridesmaid during the wedding, although she went by her maiden name of Mountbatten at the time.

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The Duke of Windsor was also absent when they tied the knot, because Queen Elizabeth (later the Queen Mother) refused to invite his wife Wallis Simpson after he abdicated in 1936.

Philip’s mother, Princess Alice, was allowed to attend the wedding, and wrote an extensive description of the ceremony for her daughters.

By inviting the descendants of Philip’s spurned sisters, the Palace has taken a significant step away from the tensions which underlined the wedding.

Princess Xenia of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, one of Philip’s great-nieces, told the BBC it was a “huge honour” for her family to be represented at the funeral today.

She claimed her brother — one of the attendees — had told her: “It’s a very special time for the cousins to be together and to be representing what is a huge part of the Duke of Edinburgh’s family.

“You just have to think that there were 16 direct cousins of the Prince of Wales… that’s a huge number of people, and [the fact] there’s three descendants that are able to be there to represent us is a huge honour and is deeply felt.”

She added: “He’s been like a glue for the family, because sadly a lot of our grandmothers passed away much too early.

“But he was always there, he was the link, so he brought all of us cousins, even though we were in Germany — a lot of us but not all of us — he brought us all together on a lot of family occasions, the last one having been his 90th birthday celebrations 10 years ago at Windsor.”

‘Prince Philip Revealed: A Man of His Century’ by Ingrid Seward was published in 2020 by Simon & Schuster and is available here.

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