Prince Philip was 'glue' that held wider family together, says German relative Princess Xenia

Gordon Rayner
·3 min read
Prince Philipp, the great nephew of Prince Philip, and Prince Donatus arrive for the Duke of Edinburgh's funeral at Windsor - Max Mumby
Prince Philipp, the great nephew of Prince Philip, and Prince Donatus arrive for the Duke of Edinburgh's funeral at Windsor - Max Mumby

The Duke of Edinburgh was the "glue" that held his wider family together, his German great niece said on Saturday.

Princess Xenia of Hohenlohe-Langenburg said the Duke's longevity meant he was the one common link to the past for foreign-based branches of the family, for whom he was an "idol".

Her brother, Prince Philipp, is one of three German relatives of the Duke given the honour of being among the 30 mourners at St George’s Chapel.

The Duke's four sisters all married into the German aristocracy but were not invited to his wedding in 1947 because of sensitivities around the Second World War. However Prince Philip, who outlived all his sisters by decades, remained close to their descendants and often visited them in Germany.

Speaking from Munich, Princess Xenia said: "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. We were all there, there was a huge bunch of us, and it was lovely."

Prince Philip's family tree
Prince Philip's family tree

Prince Philipp, the 51-year-old grandson of the Duke's eldest sister, Princess Margarita, is a committed environmentalist who spoke recently about the Duke's memories of playing hide and seek as a child in Langenburg Castle, the Prince's official residence.

Also at the funeral is Bernhard, Hereditary Prince of Baden, the grandson of the Duke's second sister, Princess Theodora, who died in 1969.

The Duke was close to Theodora, who was 15 years his senior, and lived with her for a period in Germany after their mother began suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.

The third German relative at the funeral is Prince Donatus, Landgrave of Hesse, who is related by marriage through the first husband of the Duke's youngest sister, Princess Sophie, who died in 2001.

The Duke's third sister, Princess Cecilie, said to be his favourite, was killed in an aeroplane crash in 1937 with her husband and children, meaning she has no surviving descendants.

Princess Xenia told the BBC: "To all of us, he was an idol, he was somebody to look up to, we had enormous respect for him and it was always very exciting when he came to visit, and he came often.

Princess Xenia with Prince Harry at the Duke's 80th birthday celebrations in 2001 - Ian Jones/Ian Jones
Princess Xenia with Prince Harry at the Duke's 80th birthday celebrations in 2001 - Ian Jones/Ian Jones

"And this has become clear to me in the week since he's died – the way he lived his life, his motto, which was an unwritten motto for us, this discipline, this selflessness, this lack of ego, but also his sense of humour always underlying all of that.

"His hard work and the philosophy that the Duke of Edinburgh Awards have given so many young people is something that is constantly underlying our lives, and it’s certainly something that I've always aspired to live up to."

Speaking about her brother's attendance at the funeral, she said: "It's a huge honour, obviously, and having spoken to my brother yesterday, he's just saying 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."