Were Prince Philip's Sisters Nazis?
Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, was born into Greek and Danish royalty in 1921. He had a complicated early life with a family including four elder sisters, all of whom married German princes in the 1930s. Were his sisters truly Nazis, as is often repeated? This is a close examination of Prince Philip's sisters and their lives as royals in Weimar and Nazi Germany.
"You know why his three sisters aren't here," says Winston Churchill (as played by John Lithgow) at the wedding of Prince Philip and Princess Elizabeth on The Crown. "They're all married to Nazis," he says, before shouting: "Prominent Nazis!"
In the seven-plus decades since Queen Elizabeth II married Philip while still heir presumptive to the UK throne, there has been attention brought to the Nazi ties in Philip's family. How true is this troubling accusation, which lives on today with continued references in media like The Crown? Here's a closer look.
Prince Philip's four sisters married German princes in the 1930s
Philip was born a prince of Greece and Denmark in 1921, the youngest and only son of five children born to Prince Andrew and Princess Alice. The family lived unstable lives in the 1920s amid military conflicts in Greece and the eventual institutionalization of Princess Alice. As a result, Philip was raised mostly in the UK apart from his family, except for a brief stay in Germany in 1933.
Philip's four sisters were married to German princes in the final years of Weimar Germany. Princess Sophie married in 1930, while Princess Margarita, Princess Theodora, and Princess Cecilie all did the same in 1931. Adolf Hitler gained power in 1933, and all except for Theodora's husband would become senior Nazi Party members.
Were Prince Philip's sisters Nazis?
Cecilie and her husband, George Donatus, would perish prior to the outbreak of WWII in a 1937 plane crash, which took the lives of all 11 onboard. But they were members of the Nazi Party, having joined a few months prior to their deaths. They also received a Nazi funeral, which was attended by a teenage Prince Philip, photographed there among Nazi soldiers.
Sophie was also a Nazi Party member, and her husband Prince Christoph was a Nazi SS officer. He died in a 1943 plane crash while on active duty near Italy in WWII. A 2015 documentary revealed that Sophie later confessed they found Hitler a "charming and seemingly modest man." Though she said that they "changed our political view fundamentally some years later."
Margarita's husband Prince Gottfried was also a Nazi soldier. He was wounded on the Eastern Front, but his views on the Führer apparently changed during the war: He was dismissed from the army in 1944 after involvement in a plot to assassinate Hitler failed that year. It's unclear if Margarita was a Nazi Party member.
Finally, Theodora and her husband Berthold, Margrave of Baden, are not thought to have been affiliated with the Nazi Party. Despite this, she, along with her surviving sisters, was not invited to the 1947 wedding of Prince Philip and Princess Elizabeth. The two sisters' known Nazi connections were unacceptable in the postwar years, when anti-German sentiments were high and the full extent of Nazi crimes were still becoming known.
Prince Philip's mother did attend the wedding and, in fact, was later awarded the Righteous Among the Nations honorific for hiding a Jewish refugee family in Greece during the Holocaust. Philip, likewise, served with the British and the Royal Navy during the war.
In a 2006 interview, the Duke of Edinburgh addressed his family's wartime connections, saying that they and many others found "hope" in Hitler's early promises to recover Germany in the aftermath of WWI and the Weimar Republic. But he added that he was never "conscious of anybody in the family actually expressing anti-Semitic views."
Revisit Prince Philip's life through the years here.