Louis IV (German: Ludwig IV; 12 September 1837 – 13 March 1892) was the Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine, reigning from 13 June 1877 until his death. Through his own and his children's marriages he was connected to the British Royal Family, to the Imperial House of Russia and to other reigning dynasties of Europe.
Louis was born at the Prinz-Karl-Palais in Darmstadt, the capital of the Grand Duchy of Hesse and by Rhine in the German Confederation, the first son and child of Prince Charles of Hesse and by Rhine (23 April 1809 – 20 March 1877) and Princess Elisabeth of Prussia (18 June 1815 – 21 March 1885), granddaughter of King Frederick William II of Prussia. As his father's elder brother Louis III (1806-1877), the reigning Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine, had been married to his first wife since 1833 without legitimate children and from 1868 was married morganatically, Prince Louis was from birth second-in-line to the grand ducal throne, after his father.
On 1 July 1862, Louis married Princess Alice, a daughter of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. On the day of the wedding, the Queen issued a royal warrant granting her new son-in-law the style of Royal Highness in the United Kingdom. The Queen also subsequently made Prince Louis a knight of the Order of the Garter.
Although an arranged marriage orchestrated by the bride's father Albert, Prince Consort, the couple did have a brief period of courtship before betrothal and wed willingly, even after the death of the Prince Consort left Queen Victoria in a protracted state of grief that cast a pall over the nuptials. Becoming parents in less than a year following their marriage, the young royal couple found themselves strapped financially to maintain the lifestyle expected of their rank. Princess Alice's interest in social services, scientific development, hands-on child-rearing, charity and intellectual stimulation were not shared by Louis who, although dutiful and benevolent, was bluff in manner and conventional in his pursuits. The death of the younger of their two sons, Frittie, who was afflicted with hemophilia and suffered a fatal fall from a palace window before his third birthday in 1873, combined with the wearying war relief duties Alice had undertaken in 1870, evoked a crisis of spiritual faith for the princess in which her husband does not appear to have shared.
In 1866 the Austrians suffered defeat in the Austro-Prussian War and the Hessian grandduchy was in jeopardy of being awarded as the spoils of war to victorious Prussia, which annexed some of Austria's other allies (Hanover, Hesse-Cassel, Nassau), a fate from which Hesse-Darmstadt appears to have been spared only by a cession of territory and the close dynastic kinship between its ruler and the Emperor of Russia (Alexander II's consort, Empress Maria Alexandrovna, was the sister of Hesse's Grand Duke Louis III and of Prince Charles).
In the Franco-Prussian War provoked by Bismarck's manipulation of the Ems telegram in 1870, Hesse and by Rhine this time found itself a winning ally of Prussia's, and Prince Louis was credited with courageous military service, especially at the Battle of Gravelotte, which also afforded him the opportunity of mending the previous war's grievances with the House of Hohenzollern by fighting on the same side as his brother-in-law and future emperor, Prince Frederick of Prussia.
In March 1877, Louis became heir presumptive to the Hessian throne when his father died and, less than three months later, found himself reigning grand duke upon the demise of his uncle, Louis III.
A year and a half later, however, Grand Duke Louis was stricken with diphtheria along with most of his immediate family, from which he recovered but to which his four-year-old daughter Marie succumbed, along with his wife of 16 years. From then on, he reigned and raised his five surviving children alone.
During the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, Louis commanded the Hessian cavalry in support of the Austrian side. In the 1870-71 Franco-Prussian War, Louis led the Hessian contingent of the armies of the North German Confederation.
On 13 June 1877, he succeeded his uncle as Grand Duke of Hesse, taking the name "Ludwig IV".
Grand Duchess Alice having died in 1878, Louis IV contracted a morganatic marriage on 30 April 1884 in Darmstadt (on the eve of the wedding of his eldest daughter, for which Queen Victoria and other relatives of his first wife were gathered in the Hessian capital) with Countess Alexandrina Hutten-Czapska (3 September 1854 – 8 May 1941), the former wife of Aleksander Kolemin, the Russian chargé d'affaires in Darmstadt. His second wife received the title Countess von Romrod on 31 May 1884. But the couple, facing objections from the Grand Duke's in-laws, separated within a week and the marriage was annulled within three months.
Grand Duke Ludwig IV died on 13 March 1892 of a heart attack in the New Palace in Darmstadt and was succeeded by his son, Ernest Louis. His remains are buried at Rosenhöhe, the mausoleum for the Grand Ducal House outside of Darmstadt.
|By Princess Alice:|
|Victoria Alberta Elisabeth Mathilde Marie||5 April 1863||24 September 1950||m. April 30, 1884 Prince Louis of Battenberg, later Marquess of Milford-Haven (May 24, 1854-September 11, 1921); 2 sons, 2 daughters (including Queen Louise of Sweden). She was the maternal grandmother of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, consort of Queen Elizabeth II.|
|Elisabeth Alexandra Louise Alice||1 November 1864||18 July 1918||Took the name Yelisaveta Fyodorovna on her baptism into the Russian Orthodox Church; m. June 15, 1884 Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich of Russia (May 11, 1857-February 17, 1905), the seventh child and fifth son of Tsar Alexander II of Russia; had no issue|
|Irene Louise Marie Anne||11 July 1866||11 November 1953||m. May 24, 1888 Prince Henry of Prussia (August 14, 1862-April 20, 1929), son of Frederick III, German Emperor; had 3 sons. Irene passed hemophilia on to two of her three sons: Prince Waldemar of Prussia and Prince Henry of Prussia.|
|Ernest Louis Charles Albert William||25 November 1868||9 October 1937||Succeeded as Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine, 13 March 1892 abdicated 9 November 1918; m. (1), April 9, 1894 his first cousin Princess Victoria Melita of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (November 25, 1876-March 2, 1936); 1 son (stillborn) and 1 daughter, div. December 21, 1901. m. (2), February 2, 1905, Princess Eleonore of Solms-Hohensolms-Lich (September 17, 1871-November 16, 1937); 2 sons.|
|Friedrich William Augustus Victor Leopold Louis||7 October 1870||29 May 1873||Suffered from haemophilia and died from internal bleeding after a fall from a window at age two and a half.|
|Alix Victoria Helena Louise Beatrice||6 June 1872||17 July 1918||Took the name Alexandra Feodorovna on her baptism into the Russian Orthodox Church; m. November 26, 1894 Tsar Nicholas II of Russia (May 18, 1868-July 17, 1918); 1 son and 4 daughters. Their only son, Tsarevich Alexei Nikolaevich of Russia, suffered from hemophilia.|
|Marie Victoria Feodore Leopoldine||24 May 1874||16 November 1878||Died of diphtheria at age four.|
|Ancestors of Louis IV, Grand Duke of Hesse|