Victoria Alice Elizabeth Julia Marie of Battenberg was born in 1885 in the Castle of Windsor, at the court of her great-grandmother Queen Victoria. She was the daughter of a Prince and a Princess, Louis of Battenberg coming from a morganatic Hessian branch, and Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine, daughter of Alice of the United Kingdom, favourite of the Queen Victoria.

Below: princess “Andrew” of Greece and Denmark, Alice of Battenberg,  by Philip de László, 1907

Even though she was born in a minor family with not too many resources, she had rather important relatives. Other than her great grandmother, her mother’ sisters were the Zarine Aleksandra Fëdorovna Romanova and the Martyr Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna of Russia.

Alice’s life could have been the typical life of a princess living in a court divided between one dance and another but, while growing, the family noticed a delay in learning. They realised she was deaf; her mother pushed her into learning the labial language and so she learnt both English and German.

Below: princess Alice painted by Philip de László,1922

In 1902 to the ceremony of the coronation of her great uncle Edward VII she met her Prince Charming, Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark, younger son of the King of Greece. Her life seemed to proceed normally, they had 4 daughters, she became member of the court of Greece and got involved in charity organisations. She travelled much to her relatives in England, Germany and Russia, and there she also attended the first stone set up for the construction of the convent founded by her aunt Elizabeth Feodorovna.

On her way back home, she found the Greek Kingdom in turmoil.

The Great War had blown up and her brother in law tried to keep a neutral position

The bombing led Alice to hide with her daughters inside the basement of the Royal Palace and subsequently the situation was so critic that the family had to go into exile. In 1920 they briefly came back in Greece and in Corfu in 1921 their last child and most popular one was born, Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh. Probably the serious Greek situation, the constant escaping, the fact they did not have a stable dwelling where to live anymore and the barbaric killing of the Russian aunts and cousins provoked on her a terrible mental breakdown. She resorted to several German care homes.

Her delicate conditions took her to divide from her husband and this prevented her from attending the weddings of her children with Princes of German dynasties. Alice rejoined her family only in a tragic circumstance. In 1937 her daughter Cecile, married with the cousin George Donatus, was travelling towards London with her husband and their children. The airplane had an accident and all its passengers died in the crush. During the funeral she met her husband and her Philip, now adolescent and given to the care of his uncle Louis Mountbatten, famous last Viceroy of India.

At this point every woman would have given up to the sorrow, but not Alice

Once she restored her health she came back to Greece, living with her sister in law the Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna while dedicating her life entirely to the needy people, away from courts, luxury jewels and sumptuous parties. During the 2WW, while the Nazi party expected her to be ally of Germany due to her German heritage and her 2 sons in law member of the SS groups, she gave shelter to the Cohen, Jewish family that otherwise would have been deported to the concentration camps.

Below: German tanks in the middle of Athen city centre

Alice life was still far from its end and full of surprises too. In 1947 her son Philip, the youngest and most neglected one, married the future most powerful woman of the world, Princess Elizabeth, future Queen Elizabeth II.

Alice, maybe to be forgiven for the many years of absence, gave to Philip one of her diadems so he could get an engagement ring for his Elizabeth

The following year the woman, now widow, decided to continue with her aunt Elizabeth’s dream, as in founding an Orthodox convent leaving her old mother speechless. It was rather unusual to see a nun with a cigarette who would travel the world looking for fundings for her convent. In 1952 during the coronation of her daughter in law, she appeared in Westminster dressed with the tunic from her religious order.

Below: Alice with her daughters, Margarita and Theodora, 1910

Even though older, deaf and ill, her constant priority was always the needy people of Greece, that in 1967 she had to leave because of the coup of the Greek Junta which overruled the great niece Constantine II.

Alice ended up living with her son at Buckingham Palace and there she met death in 1969, surrounded by her left sons and her brother Louis Mountbatten.

Below: princess Elizabeth with prince Philip in 1950. Picture shared via Wikipedia – licence Creative Commons 2.0

According to her last will she was buried in Jerusalem where in 1994, in the presence of the son Duke of Edinburgh and daughter Sophie of Greece and Denmark, she was honoured as  “Righteous Among the Nations”. Not much has been said about Alice although she has always been a woman out of her time, probably because she has never given much importance to her noble titles and focused way more on the importance of the other people’s needs.

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Rachele Goracci

DESIGNER, COSTUME MAKER AND LANGUAGE ENTHUSIAST. I HAVE ALWAYS HAD A HUGE PASSION FOR MYSTERY, ODDITIES AND PSYCHOLOGY. BY COLLABORATING WITH VANILLA MAGAZINE I HAVE THE CHANCE TO NURTURE (ALMOST) ALL THESE INTERESTS AT ONCE

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