Ernst Ludwig (Hessen-Darmstadt)

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Ernst Ludwig of Hesse (1905)

Ernst Ludwig Karl Albrecht Wilhelm of Hesse and the Rhine (born November 25, 1868 in Darmstadt , † October 9, 1937 in Wolfsgarten Castle near Langen ) was the last Grand Duke of Hesse-Darmstadt from 1892 to 1918 .


Childhood and youth

Ernst Ludwig with his mother Alice before 1877

Ernst Ludwig came from the youngest line of the House of Hesse . His parents were Grand Duke Ludwig IV and his wife Alice of Great Britain and Ireland . His maternal grandparents were the British Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha .

Ernst Ludwig, called "Ernie" by the family, grew up with his siblings Viktoria , Elisabeth , Irene , Friedrich, Alix and Marie in Darmstadt.

Grand Duchess Alice was a charity and took her children to visits to hospitals and charities.

Ernst Ludwig in February 1879 with his grandmother Victoria, his father Ludwig IV and his sisters Viktoria, Elisabeth, Irene and Alix

In 1873, the then five-year-old witnessed the death of his younger brother Friedrich “Frittie” first hand. The boys were playing a game when Friedrich, who suffered from haemophilia , fell through a window onto the balcony thirty meters below. Ernst Ludwig was heartbroken and said to his governess : “If I die, you and everyone else must die too. Why can't we all die together? I don't want to die alone like Frittie. "

Diphtheria was rampant in Darmstadt in 1878 . Ernst Ludwig, his father and his siblings, with the exception of Elisabeth, who was staying with their paternal grandparents, were infected. Grand Duchess Alice looked after her children and her husband. The youngest daughter Marie died as a result of the illness on November 16. Alice kept Marie's death a secret from her children for a few weeks until Ernst Ludwig, who had a close relationship with his sister, asked about her. When she revealed Marie's death, he was overwhelmed with grief. Alice comforted her grieving son and thus infected herself with him. Due to the illness and the grief, the Grand Duchess died at the age of thirty-five on December 14, 1878.

After the events, Ernst Ludwig and his sisters mostly grew up with the grandmother Queen Victoria in England, who took care of her grandchildren.

Marriages and families

Ernst Ludwig and Victoria Melita on their wedding day, 1894

On April 19, 1894, Ernst Ludwig married his cousin Victoria Melita von Edinburgh (1876-1936), called Ducky , the daughter of his uncle Duke Alfred von Sachsen-Coburg and Gotha and Maria Alexandrowna Romanowa at Ehrenburg Castle in Coburg . The road to marriage was largely paved by Queen Victoria, who was very fond of the bond between her two grandchildren. The marriage was also welcomed by the bride's family. Ernst Ludwig and Victoria Melita thought less of the project, but then complied under pressure from the family. At the wedding, Ernst Ludwig's younger sister Alix became engaged to the future Russian tsar Nicholas II.

In 1895 the first child, daughter Elisabeth , was born. In 1900, Victoria Melita gave birth to a stillborn son.

Victoria Melita, who was considered unconventional, often gave house parties during her marriage to Ernst Ludwig, at which formalities were dispensed with in order to be able to have more fun. A cousin, Prince Nicholas of Greece , later recalled a stay with them "as the funniest, happiest house party I have ever been to in my life." These pleasures corresponded more to Victoria Melita's inclinations and illustrated the different characters and temperaments of the Married couple. Because of these differences, the marriage became increasingly unhappy. In addition, Victoria Melita found no fulfillment in her role as mother of the country and avoided doing the corresponding activities in her position. She left the correspondence unanswered and postponed visits to elderly relatives, whose company she did not like. On official occasions, she ignored high-ranking people who she found boring and only spoke to people she liked and who entertained her. Her inattention to her duties created further tension with her husband. There were loud arguments, which sometimes became physical.

Ernst Ludwig with his daughter Elisabeth, around 1901

About George William Buchanan , the British charge d'affaires in Darmstadt, heard Queen Victoria of the difficulties in marriage, but she did not pull a divorce into consideration because of their daughter Elisabeth. For this reason, Ernst Ludwig also held back with plans for divorce. Efforts to save the marriage failed. After the stillbirth of their son in May 1900, the couple not only separated physically, Victoria Melita traveled a lot and Ernst Ludwig spent a lot of time with his daughter Elisabeth. At that time she developed a close bond with Ernst Ludwig, who adored his daughter and gave her a lot of affection and attention. The child replied and preferred her father to mother. Victoria Melita now spent much of the year in the south of France, spending huge sums in the casinos of Monte Carlo . With Queen Victoria's death in January 1901, opposition to a divorce came to an end. Ernst Ludwig and Victoria Melita were divorced on December 21, 1901 because of "invincible mutual antipathy" by a judgment of the Supreme Court of Hesse.

According to rumors in Darmstadt, Ernst Ludwig is said to have had extramarital relationships with women and men. After the divorce, Victoria reportedly told Melita that he was gay to some close relatives. She caught her husband in bed with a male servant when she returned in 1897 from a visit by her sister Queen Marie of Romania . She did not make her accusation public, but told a niece that “no boy is safe, from stable boys to kitchen helpers. He slept openly with all of them. "

After the divorce, Elisabeth remained in the care of her father, who now devoted himself completely to her upbringing. In 1902, Ernst Ludwig commissioned the Austrian architect Joseph Maria Olbrich to build the so-called Prinzessinnenhaus , a playhouse that is fully furnished according to the needs of a child. This still exists today.

In the autumn of 1903 Ernst Ludwig's niece, Princess Alice von Battenberg, married Prince Andreas of Greece in Darmstadt . His sister Alix and her husband Nikolaus also took part in the celebrations, who invited him and Elisabeth to accompany them to Poland to their hunting lodge in Skierniewice . Ernst Ludwig and Elisabeth traveled to Poland a few days later and planned a longer stay. Elisabeth spent a lot of time with her Russian cousins ​​and appeared to be in good health. On the morning of November 15, she complained of a sore throat, but it subsided as the day went on. Since Elisabeth was doing better, Ernst Ludwig and the imperial couple attended a theater performance that evening. After her return, however, Elisabeth felt increasingly worse, had chest pain and difficulty breathing, and passed out. Called doctors diagnosed typhoid , from which Elisabeth died on November 16, 1903 at the age of eight at seven in the morning.

Ernst Ludwig and his family in Tsarskoe Selo in the spring of 1912

In their last act as parents, Ernst Ludwig and Victoria Melita, who had followed, accompanied their deceased daughter's coffin back to Darmstadt. There, on November 19, 1903, a funeral procession took place on the Rosenhöhe , where the little princess was buried. The sculptor Ludwig Habich created an angel figure who guards the grave. Ernst Ludwig could never quite get over the death of his child. More than thirty years later, the still grieving father explained how he remembered the hours of the funeral procession. "My dearest Elisabeth was my only sunshine," he said.

After the death of his daughter, Ernst Ludwig took care of the promotion and expansion of the Darmstadt artists' colony , which he had founded in 1899. Thanks to its patronage, Darmstadt became a meeting place for important architects, sculptors, artists and craftsmen and the German capital of Art Nouveau . In the same year he also met his second wife, Eleonore zu Solms-Hohensolms-Lich (1871-1937), whom he married on February 2, 1905. The marriage was considered extremely happy. Eleanor has been described as loyal and warm. She fulfilled the tasks of her role with seriousness, followed the example of her mother-in-law Alice and became a charitable organization, for example organizing patient transports for the wounded and organizing charity bazaars during the First World War. Hereditary Grand Duke Georg Donatus, born in 1906, and his brother Ludwig (1908–1968) emerged from the marriage. The grand ducal family enjoyed extraordinary popularity at the time.

In the month after his death in October 1937, his wife and son Georg Donatus and his wife Cecilia and their children Ludwig and Alexander died in a plane crash near Ostend . They are all buried in a communal grave in the Rosenhöhe Park in Darmstadt .

House of Hessen-Darmstadt


Pedigree of Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig of Hesse and the Rhine

Grand Duke
Ludwig I of Hesse and the Rhine (1753–1830)
⚭ 1777
Luise Henriette Karoline of Hesse-Darmstadt (1761–1829)

Karl Ludwig von Baden
⚭ 1774
Amalie von Hessen-Darmstadt

Friedrich V of Hessen-Homburg
⚭ 1785
Karoline of Hessen-Darmstadt (1746–1821)

Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia
⚭ 1769
Friederike von Hessen-Darmstadt

Franz von Sachsen-Coburg-Saalfeld (1750–1806)
⚭ 1777
Countess Auguste Reuss zu Ebersdorf (1757–1831)

August von Sachsen-Gotha-Altenburg (1772–1822)
⚭ 1797
Luise Charlotte zu Mecklenburg (1779–1801)

George III of Great Britain and Ireland (1738–1820)
⚭ 1761
Sophie Charlotte von Mecklenburg-Strelitz (1744–1818)

Franz von Sachsen-Coburg-Saalfeld (1750–1806)
⚭ 1777
Auguste Reuss zu Ebersdorf

Great grandparents

Grand Duke
Ludwig II of Hesse and the Rhine (1777–1848)
⚭ 1804
Wilhelmine of Baden (1788–1836)

Wilhelm of Prussia (1783–1851)
⚭ 1804
Maria Anna Amalie of Hessen-Homburg (1785–1846)

Duke Ernst I of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (1784–1844)
⚭ 1817
Luise of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg (1800–1831)

Edward Augustus, Duke of Kent and Strathearn (1767–1820)
⚭ 1818
Victoire von Sachsen-Coburg-Saalfeld (1786–1861)


Karl von Hessen-Darmstadt (1809–1877)
⚭ 1836
Elisabeth of Prussia (1815–1885)

Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (1819–1861)
⚭ 1840
Queen Victoria of Great Britain and Ireland (1819–1901)


Grand Duke Ludwig IV of Hesse and the Rhine (1837–1892)
⚭ 1862
Alice of Great Britain and Ireland (1843–1878)

Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig of Hesse and the Rhine (1868–1937)

The Grand Duke and Grand Duchess of Hesse with their children, 1912


From the marriage with Victoria Melita von Sachsen-Coburg and Gotha :

From the marriage with Eleonore zu Solms-Hohensolms-Lich :


Ernst Ludwig in 1885 as a second lieutenant

Hans von Dadelsen was initially responsible for the education of Prince Ernst Ludwig and, from March 1879, Moritz Muther. The educators also took over the school education. This took place according to the curriculum of the Darmstadt Realgymnasium . Those subjects that Moritz Muther could not cover were covered by the subject teachers at the secondary school. The rector of the secondary school, Ludwig Münch, gave chemistry as a subject. The music lessons were given by the court conductor Willem de Haan .

From May 1889 to the summer of 1890 he studied at the University of Leipzig law . He was accompanied by Gustav Römheld , who would later become Ernst Ludwig's head of cabinet. In the winter semester of 1890/91 he moved to the Hessian State University of Giessen , where he finished his studies in the spring of 1891.

Military ranks

As a high nobleman, it was common for Ernst Ludwig to embark on a military career. He therefore received basic military training and was regularly promoted to higher ranks without having any significant military activity. So he became:

date rank unit
0June 9, 1884 Hessian second lieutenant à la suite 1st Grand Ducal Hessian Infantry (Leibgarde-) Regiment No. 115
April 21, 1885 Prussian Second Lieutenant à la suite 1st Grand Ducal Hessian Infantry (Leibgarde-) Regiment No. 115
August 16, 1888 Officer's exam in Berlin 0
0December 9, 1889 Hessian Prime Lieutenant à la suite 1st Grand Ducal Hessian Infantry (Leibgarde-) Regiment No. 115
0April 1, 1891 Prussian Prime Lieutenant 1st Guards Regiment on foot
March 15, 1892 Owner of the Kaiserl. Soot. Dragoon Regiment No. 18 "Kliastizy"
March 22, 1892 Prussian colonel à la suite 1st Guards Regiment on foot
March 22, 1892 Hessian colonel à la suite 1st Grand Ducal Hessian Infantry (Leibgarde-) Regiment No. 115
November 25, 1892 Owner of the 1st Grand Ducal Hessian Infantry (Leibgarde-) Regiment No. 115
May 15, 1893 Kuk Upper Austrian Infantry Regiment "Ernst Ludwig Grand Duke of Hesse and the Rhine" No. 14
November 21, 1893 Owner of the Bayr. 5th Infantry Regiment "Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig of Hesse and the Rhine"
April 19, 1894 Major general à la suite 1st Guards Regiment on foot
August 18, 1895 Chief of 1st Grand Ducal Hessian Guard Dragoons Regiment No. 23 and the Grand Ducal Hessian Field Artillery Regiment No. 25
January 27, 1896 Lieutenant General à la suite
January 27, 1900 General of the Infantry
June 16, 1913 Chief of Infantry regiment "Graf Barfuß" (4th Westphalian) No. 17
Mosaic on the Mathildenhöhe with a quote from the Grand Duke: "Have awe of the old and have the courage to dare the new, stay true to your own nature and true to the people you love"


In 1896 Ernst Ludwig signed a contract with Prussia on a railway community for the Hessian Ludwig Railway. With the aim of "flourish My Hesse country and his art", Ernst Ludwig in 1899 Darmstadt artists' colony ( " Mathildenhöhe ") and promoted as a patron of the arts are the most famous artist Peter Behrens , Hans Christiansen , Ludwig Habich , Bernhard Hoetger , Albin Mueller and Joseph Maria Olbrich . In 1901 the first exhibition of the artist colony took place under the title A Document of German Art in Darmstadt. Three further exhibitions followed in 1904, 1908 and 1914.

20 marks from 1900
Hessian bravery medal with the image of Ernst Ludwig

After the November Revolution of 1918, he refused to abdicate and was therefore deposed by the Darmstadt Workers 'and Soldiers' Council on November 9, 1918. Hessen-Darmstadt thus became a people's state .

Detail from a window donated by Ernst Ludwig with the Hessian coat of arms in the Friedberg town church


With the dismissal of the Grand Duke, there was a need to separate his private assets from the state assets. An agreement was reached on May 9, 1919 between the People's State of Hesse and the Grand Duke. The principles here were that the domains should become state property, but the grand ducal house was entitled to compensation for this. The yardstick for the compensation was not the value of the domains, but the amount of the civil list minus state tasks (e.g. the financing of the court theater ), which the monarch had previously disputed from it. The severance payment was set at 10 million marks, which was paid as a government bond with 4% interest, and a cash payment of 900,000 marks. The Seeheim Castle, the New Palace and the Tarasp Castle were agreed as the casket . The domains of Hötensleben and Öbisfelde in Saxony and the castle and domain of Fischbach in Silesia also remained as caskets because they were outside of Hesse.

The treatment of the fortunes of the former ruling houses was the subject of controversial discussion across the country. In 1926 a referendum that called for the expropriation of the princes without compensation failed . In other countries there were expropriations under state law, which were overturned due to the property guarantee in Article 153 of the Weimar Constitution (a landmark judgment was the judgment of the Reichsgericht of June 18, 1925 regarding the claims of the Dukes of Saxe-Gotha) .

As a result, there were renewed negotiations, which ended in the treaty of May 6, 1930 between the country and the Grand Duke. In this contract, the regulations of 1919 were largely confirmed and the amount of compensation (especially with regard to inflation ) set at 8 million gold marks . In 1934 the regulation (with the only change that Ernst Ludwig's ownership of Schloss Romrod was changed to a lifelong right of residence) was finally enshrined in state law.


After his death on October 9, 1937 in Wolfsgarten Castle near Langen , Ernst Ludwig was buried in Darmstadt, close to his daughter Elisabeth , as he wished . In the complex, designed as a communal grave on Rosenhöhe , the dead from the Hesse air accident in Ostend in 1937 are also buried.


Ernst Ludwig worked as an author and also as a composer.

Under the pseudonym "E. Mann ” the children's play Bonifacius was performed on December 19, 1909 in the Hoftheater Darmstadt . The piece, which was performed seven times until 1914, was penned by the Grand Duke (the music was by Willem de Haan). With Easter in 1919 (new edition 1921) he created another play (under the pseudonym E. K. Ludhard). The premiere took place on March 21, 1921 at the Deutsches Schauspielhaus in Hamburg under Paul Eger . The volume of poems Verse was published in Leipzig in 1917 by Kurt Wolff Verlag . In addition, he left two texts that were not intended for publication:

  • An autobiography : Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig's memories . In: Eckhart G. Franz (ed.): Remembered - records of the last Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig of Hesse and the Rhine . Darmstadt 1983, ISBN 3-7929-0131-5 , pp. 19-162.
  • Basic ideas of a constitutional prince . In: Eckhart G. Franz (ed.): Remembered - records of the last Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig of Hesse and the Rhine . Darmstadt 1983, ISBN 3-7929-0131-5 , pp. 163-178.

He was also the composer of a number of smaller musical works, including the Suite Draußen - Six moods for piano , which was published by Schott in Mainz.


A grammar school in Bad Nauheim and a primary school in Worms are named after him "Ernst Ludwig School". The Ernst-Ludwig-Platz in Mainz was named after him. In addition, streets in several cities and municipalities of the former Grand Duchy still bear his name.

The Technical University of Darmstadt (today Technical University of Darmstadt ) awarded him an honorary doctorate (doctoral engineer) on July 6, 1900 . He had previously granted the university the right to award doctorates on November 25, 1899. In 1918 the Ernst Ludwig University Society was founded in his presence .


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Ernest Louis | grand duke of Hesse-Darmstadt. Retrieved August 1, 2019 .
  2. a b c d e f g h Scott: Ernst Ludwig, Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine. In: Unofficial Royalty. March 18, 2015, Retrieved August 1, 2019 (American English).
  3. a b c d e f g Ernst Ludwig, Grand Duke of Hesse - Blog & Alexander Palace Time Machine. Retrieved August 1, 2019 .
  4. John van der Kiste: Princess Victoria Melita . Sutton Publishing, ISBN 0-7509-3469-7 , p. 54.
  5. ^ Agreement between the former Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig of Hesse, also representing the Grand Ducal House, and the State of Hesse, represented by the entire Ministry on May 6, 1919
  6. Law on the dispute between the People's State of Hesse and the formerly ruling Princely House of January 30, 1934
  7. Gravesites of the grand ducal family - Stadtlexikon Darmstadt
  8. Peter P. Pachl: Siegfried Wagner Compendium I: Report on the first international symposium Siegfried Wagner, Cologne 2001 . 2003th edition. Centaurus Verlag & Media, Herbolzheim 2003, ISBN 978-3-8255-0401-4 , p. 236 .
  9. Appearance of the Dr. Ing. - 1902 Technical University of Darmstadt ; Retrieved January 12, 2013
predecessor Office successor
Ludwig IV. Grand Duke of Hesse