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|Hereditary Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine|
|Head of the House of Hesse-Darmstadt|
|Tenure||9 October 1937 – 16 November 1937|
|Predecessor||Grand Duke Ernest Louis I|
|Born||8 November 1906|
Darmstadt, Grand Duchy of Hesse, German Empire
|Died||16 November 1937 (aged 31)
Ostend, Kingdom of Belgium
|Burial||23 November 1937|
Rosenhöhe Park Cemetery, Rosenhöhe Park, Darmstadt
( m. 1931)
|Father||Ernest Louis, Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine|
|Mother||Princess Eleonore of Solms-Hohensolms-Lich|
Grand Ducal Family of|
Hesse and by Rhine
Georg Donatus, Hereditary Grand Duke of Hesse (Georg Donatus Wilhelm Nikolaus Eduard Heinrich Karl, 8 November 1906 – 16 November 1937) was the first child of Ernest Louis, Grand Duke of Hesse, and his second wife, Princess Eleonore of Solms-Hohensolms-Lich. He was a nephew of Empress Alexandra and Emperor Nicholas II of Russia.
On 2 February 1931, at Darmstadt, Georg, a great-grandson of Queen Victoria, married his first cousin once removed, Princess Cecilie of Greece and Denmark, daughter of Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark and Princess Alice of Battenberg (and thus a sister of Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark (later Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh), a great-great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. The couple had four children:
|Prince Ludwig Ernst Andreas of Hesse and by Rhine||25 October 1931||16 November 1937||Killed in air accident|
|Prince Alexander Georg Karl Heinrich of Hesse and by Rhine||14 April 1933||16 November 1937||Killed in air accident|
|Princess Johanna Marina Eleonore of Hesse and by Rhine||20 September 1936||14 June 1939||Died from meningitis.    |
|Unnamed son||16 November 1937||Apparently born in or just before air accident. |
In October 1937, Georg Donatus' father, Grand Duke Ernst Ludwig of Hesse, died. A few weeks after the funeral, the new Grand Duke's younger brother, Prince Louis, was due to be married to the Hon. Margaret Geddes, daughter of Lord Geddes. On 16 November 1937, Georg Donatus, Cecilie, their two young sons, Georg's mother Grand Duchess Eleonore, the children's nurse, a family friend, a pilot and two crewmen, flew from Darmstadt bound for the United Kingdom, where Prince Louis was due to be married. The Junkers Ju-52 aeroplane hit a factory chimney near Ostend and crashed into flames, killing all those on board. Cecilie was heavily pregnant with her fourth child at the time of the crash, and the remains of the newborn baby were found in the wreckage, indicating that Cecilie had gone into labour during the flight; the Belgian inquiry into the crash suggested that the pilot was attempting to land in Ostend despite the poor weather conditions because of the birth. 
Prince Louis' wedding had been scheduled for the 20th but, following discussions with his future father-in-law Lord Geddes, was brought forward to the day following the accident (17 November), as a small and quiet ceremony with the guests dressed in mourning. 
Immediately afterwards, he set off with his new wife Margaret to Belgium to visit the crash site. The funeral and burial of Georg Donatus and his family took place at the Rosenhöhe, Darmstadt, Hesse, a few days later. Attending were Prince Philip,  Prince Christoph of Hesse, Gottfried, Prince of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, Prince Philipp of Hesse, Berthold, Margrave of Baden, Prince August Wilhelm of Prussia and Lord Louis Mountbatten, among others. A photograph of the funeral procession, showing Prince Louis as chief mourner, shows crowds saluting the mourners with the Hitler salute. World War II began less than two years later.
The Hereditary Grand Duke and Duchess' fourteen-month-old daughter, Johanna, was the only one of the family who was not on board the aircraft. She was adopted by her uncle Prince Louis and aunt Princess Margaret in early 1938.   Johanna died of meningitis in 1939.    
With the death of the childless Prince Louis in 1968, the male line of the Hesse and by Rhine became extinct.
The crash figures in the plot of A Matter of Honour by Jeffrey Archer, in which Grand Duke Georg has in his possession the jewels of his aunt, the last Tsarina of Russia, which the KGB are looking for. There is no evidence in reality that this was the case.
Georg Donatus never acceded to the grand ducal throne as it had been abolished at the end of the First World War. Titles became surnames after that point, and it was rare for the head of a royal, grand ducal or ducal family to change his title upon accession as head of a house.
|Ancestors of Georg Donatus, Hereditary Grand Duke of Hesse|