Death of German prince at Northamptonshire palace ruled an accident after fall from horse

A German prince killed after falling from his horse in the grounds of a Northamptonshire palace has had his death ruled as an accident by the county coroner.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 9th January 2019, 2:48 pm
Updated Thursday, 10th January 2019, 3:01 pm
Prince Georg Constantin died following the horse riding accident last June. Picture by Terry Harris
Prince Georg Constantin died following the horse riding accident last June. Picture by Terry Harris

Georg Constantin Prinz von Sachsen Weimar Eisenach died after falling from his horse in a bridleway at Apethorpe Palace, near Oundle, on Saturday June 9 last year. But the inquest could not establish how he had fallen from his horse or how the fatal injuries had been inflicted.

The prince was out for an evening ride with his friend Jean Christophe Iseux, Baron von Pfetten, who owns the stately home. He had arrived at the venue earlier in the day from Germany to spend time with the baron, who was described as ‘almost a brother’ to the prince.

Baron von Pfetten broke into tears while giving evidence to coroner Anne Pember at County Hall in Northampton this afternoon (January 9). He said he heard ‘no screaming’ when he turned back to see the horse galloping back from where they had come, with the prince lying on the ground. He had been wearing a helmet.

Apethorpe Palace was a favourite royal residence for James I and Charles I

He described Georg Constantin as a ‘very good rider’, who had been riding with the horse during visits for the last three years. The baron rode to a nearby building on the estate to alert staff members to call the emergency services before returning to the scene.

He said: “We were chatting and laughing when the horse got a bit frisky, and so we went in front. We were only at a walking pace, we were not galloping. Approximately a minute later I heard a noise behind me. I looked behind and the horse had started galloping back to where we came from. There was no screaming or anything like that. I could see that Georg was lying on his back.”

The baron described how he listened for the prince’s heartbeat but couldn’t hear anything. Despite him administering chest compressions there was no sign of reaction. East Midlands Ambulance Service arrived after being called at 8.30pm, but paramedics declared the prince dead at 9.24pm.

“I thought I hadn’t done enough,” said the baron, before breaking down. He was told that there was ‘nothing that could have been done’ in a report from the pathologist.

The court heard how the 41-year-old prince was well known back in Germany, but had enjoyed life in England with virtually no media intrusion. Having married his wife Olivia, who was present at the inquest, he was said to live an ‘independent life’ though had enormous respect for the monarchy of which he was part.

His sister Countess Désirée Hoensbroech said that Georg Constantin was a ‘warm, welcoming and witty person’, who had ‘a talent for forming relationships’.

In a tribute read out by the coroner, she said: “I feel the richness of his life can never be transcribed into a statement. He had a wealth of charisma. I have been moved by the number of people who have been in touch with our family to express their condolences.”

Professor Kevin West, from Leicester Royal Infirmary, carried out the post-mortem and found no external signs of damage, but discovered that a number of the prince’s ribs had been fractured and ‘extremely displaced’.

But he was unable to pinpoint the exact mechanism that led to the trauma, expressing doubts that such injuries would be inflicted by a fall. He also indicated there were no ‘obvious signs of injury’ or hoof marks that could identify what had happened. He could ‘not rule out’ though that the horse had rolled over or fell onto him.

Recording his death as accidental, coroner Anne Pember said: “We don’t know how Prince Georg Constantin fell from his horse. I am sure though that he was doing something that he loved, riding out with his very good friend.”