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Princess Anna of Prussia

Princess Anna of Prussia
Princess Frederick William of Hesse-Kassel

Spouse Prince Frederick William of Hesse-Kassel
Frederick William II of Hesse
Elisabeth, Hereditary Princess of Anhalt
Prince Alexander Frederick
Prince Frederick Charles of Hesse
Princess Marie-Polyxene
Princess Sybille Marguerite
Full name
German: Maria Anna Friederike
House House of Hohenzollern
Father Prince Charles of Prussia
Mother Princess Marie of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach
Born (1836-05-17)17 May 1836
Died 12 June 1918(1918-06-12) (aged 82)
Prussian Royalty
House of Hohenzollern
Descendants of Frederick William III
   Prince Friedrich Karl
   Louise, Landgravine of Hesse-Philippsthal-Barchfeld
   Charlotte Frederica, Hereditary Princess of Saxe-Meiningen
   Princess Anna
   Prince Albert
   Princess Elisabeth
   Princess Alexandrine

Maria Anna Friederike (born May 17, 1836 in Berlin; died June 12, 1918 in Frankfurt) was a Princess of Prussia. She was usually called Anna.



Anna was the youngest of the three children of Prince Charles of Prussia and Princess Marie of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach.

As a beautiful young princess, she was the object of much attention at court. In the winter of 1852, the young Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria met her in Berlin, fell in love, and wished to propose to her. His mother, Archduchess Sophie of Austria, wrote to her sister Queen Elise of Prussia referring to "the happiness that showed itself to him like a fleeting dream and made an impression on his heart -- alas -- much stronger and deeper than I had first thought."[1] However, Anna was already engaged at that time, and as an added complication, there were strong feelings against an alliance with Austria among Prussian statesmen. Franz Joseph's mother asked, "whether there is any hope that this sad marriage, which they are imposing on this charming Anna and which leaves her no prospect of happiness whatsoever, could be prevented,"[1] but to no avail.

Marriage and issue

On May 26, 1853, Anna married Prince Frederick William of Hesse-Kassel at Charlottenburg Palace in Berlin. Anna was the second wife of her new husband, who nine years previously had experienced the traumatic death in childbirth of his beloved first wife, Grand Duchess Alexandra Nikolaevna of Russia. He never got over this loss, which took place less than a year after his wedding to Alexandra, and it is believed that this was the reason his relationship with Anna was polite but emotionally distant.

They had six children:

  • Prince Frederick William II of Hesse (1854–1888); never married; died at sea on a voyage from Batavia to Singapore.
  • Princess Elisabeth Alexandra Charlotte of Hesse (1861–1955); married Leopold, Hereditary Prince of Anhalt and had issue.
  • Prince Alexander Frederick of Hesse (1863–1945); married Baroness Gisela Stockhorner von Starheim and had issue.
  • Prince Frederick Charles of Hesse, King of Finland (1868–1940); married Princess Margaret of Prussia and had issue.
  • Princess Marie-Polyxene of Hesse (1872–1882); died at age 10 of osteomyelitis; never married.
  • Princess Sybille Marguerite of Hesse (1877–1925); married Baron Friedrich von Vincke (divorced 1923).

Victoria, Princess Royal wrote of Anna:

"...[she] is very pretty, the most splendid figure you ever saw, but I do not like her style quite, her gowns are a good deal fuller than the Empress' and so low, I cannot bear that; and I do not like to see the Princesses dancing about with everybody ...".[2]

She was the subject of one of the most famous paintings by Franz Xavier Winterhalter, in which she is depicted wearing a sweeping dress of tulle over pink silk.

However, Anna was also a highly intelligent woman who presided over a court salon of outstanding artists and musicians, including Johannes Brahms, Clara Schumann, Anton Rubinstein,and Julius Stockhausen. She herself was a classically trained pianist of great talent and ability who studied under Theodor Kullak.[3]

Unusually for a Hessian landgravine, she converted to Catholicism in 1901, which led to political complications.[4]

Death and burial

Anna died on June 12, 1918, in Frankfurt at the age of 82. She is buried in Fulda Cathedral before the altar to St. Anne. The Latin inscription is: Hic iacet Serenissima Landgrafia Hassiae ANNA Principissa Borussiae nata Berolini die 17. maii 1836 obiit Francofurti die 12. junii 1918 + Misericordias Domini in aeternum cantabo R.I.P. [translation: Here lies the most serene Landgravine of Hesse, ANNA, Princess of Prussia, born in Berlin on May 17, 1836, died in Frankfurt on June 12, 1918. I will sing the mercies of the Lord forever. R.I.P.]

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