Horrified onlookers watched as the plane emerged from the clouds and clipped a factory chimney, tearing off a wing and losing an engine. The plane then burst into flames and crashed to the ground. None of the 11 people on board survived.
When emergency workers reached the wreckage, they were horrified to find a newborn baby among the casualties. A Belgian official inquiry concluded that Cecilie had given birth to a son mid-flight and the landing attempt was made in bad weather because of this.
Unaware of the crash, the couple’s family and friends eagerly awaited the plane’s arrival in London. When they eventually heard the news, they were devastated.
While the wedding still went ahead, immediately afterwards the groom and his new bride, Margaret, flew to Ostend to arrange for the bodies to be transported.
Cecilie’s funeral took place a few days later in Germany. As the funeral procession went by, crowds gave the Nazi salute, while Adolf Hitler reportedly sent a wreath.
In a scene repeated by his grandsons decades later after their mother died, Philip walked behind the coffins as they made their way through the streets.
Johanna, the only surviving member of the family, was adopted by Ludwig and Margaret. In another tragic twist, however, she died of meningitis two years later.
The Netflix series The Crown claimed Cecilie had initially planned to stay behind to look after her then-16-year-old brother Philip. But when Philip was forced to remain at his British boarding school as punishment for punching another student, she decided to make the fateful journey. The series also showed their father blaming Philip for his sister’s death.
Royal historian Hugo Vickers says the series used poetic licence: “This is a truly shocking invention since Prince Philip had nothing to do with his sister’s air flight to Britain.
“He was in no way responsible for the accident,” Hugo told the Daily Mail. “It is very harsh and unfair to Prince Philip who is still living with this tragedy.”
Years after the crash, Prince Philip wrote of being told of the accident by his headmaster, a moment Vickers explains was “one of the worst things that ever happened” to him.
The Duke of Edinburgh has said of this moment: “I have the clearest recollection of the profound shock with which I heard the news of the crash and the death of my sister and her family.”
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