Princess Kingdom
British royalty
Princess Kingdom
The Princess Alice was a member of the British royal family, the third child and second daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Alice's education was devised by Albert's close friend and adviser, Baron Stockmar. Like her other siblings, Alice spent her early childhood in the company of her parents and siblings, travelling between the British royal residences.
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  • 1878
    Age 34
    Alice performed various royal duties on this trip and visited her mother at Osborne before returning to the New Palace at Darmstadt in late 1878.
    More Details Hide Details In November 1878, the Grand Ducal household fell ill with diphtheria. Alice's eldest daughter Victoria was the first to fall ill, complaining of a stiff neck in the evening of 5 November. Diphtheria was diagnosed the following morning, and soon the disease spread to Alice's children Alix, Marie, Irene, and Ernest. Her husband Louis became infected shortly thereafter. Elisabeth was the only child to not fall ill, having been sent away by Alice to the palace of the Princess Charles, her mother-in-law. Marie became seriously ill on 15 November, and Alice was called to her bedside, but by the time she arrived, Marie had choked to death. A distraught Alice wrote to Queen Victoria that the "pain is beyond words". Alice kept the news of Marie's death secret from her children for several weeks, but she finally told Ernest in early December. His reaction was even worse than she had anticipated; at first he refused to believe it. As he sat up crying, Alice broke her rule about physical contact with the ill and gave him a kiss. At first, however, Alice did not fall ill. She met her sister Victoria as the latter was passing through Darmstadt on the way to England, and wrote to her mother with "a hint of resumed cheerfulness" on the same day. However, by Saturday, 14 December, the anniversary of her father's death, she became seriously ill with the diphtheria caught from her son.
    She was too exhausted to attend the wedding of her niece, Princess Charlotte of Prussia, in Berlin, in January 1878.
    More Details Hide Details In the Autumn of 1878, Queen Victoria paid for the Grand Ducal family to holiday in Eastbourne, where they stayed in a house on the Grand Parade.
  • 1877
    Age 33
    While she tried to involve herself in the arts and sciences and distance herself from society protocols, she continued to feel the burden of her duties. Christmas 1877 provided respite for Alice, as all the family gathered together again, and she doted on her youngest daughters Alix and Marie.
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    She was hurt by her reputation in Darmstadt, and she became increasingly bitter towards it; Louis wrote in August 1877 expressing the hope that "bitterness of the salt water will drive away the bitterness that you still feel against Darmstadt.
    More Details Hide Details Please my darling, don't speak so harshly of it when I come to join you – it would quite spoil my happiness at seeing you again." Alice took Louis's letter to heart, responding: "I shall certainly say nothing to you about Darmstadt when you come I have no intention of saying anything unpleasant, least of all to you. You shake off anything unpleasant like a poodle shaking off the water when it comes to the sea – natures like yours are the happiest in themselves, but they are not made to help, comfort and advise others, nor to share with others the heat of life's noon-day or the cool of the evening, with insight, understanding and sympathy." In response, Louis sent a letter that "made Alice cry", and after this letter, Alice's letters to Louis were more encouraging, assuring him of his ability to make decisions by himself.
  • 1876
    Age 32
    From Balmoral, she wrote to her husband criticising the childishness of his letters: "if my children wrote me such childish letters – only short accounts – of where and what they had eaten or where they had been etc., and no opinions, observations and remarks, I should be surprised – and how much more so when you write like that!" On 3 October 1876, she wrote another despairing letter to Louis:
    More Details Hide Details I longed for real companionship, for apart from that life had nothing to offer me in Darmstadt So naturally I am bitterly disappointed with myself when I look back, and see that in spite of great ambitions, good intentions, and real effort, my hopes have nevertheless been completely ship-wrecked You say, darling, that you would never have caused me hardship intentionally I only regret the lack of any intention or desire – or rather insight – to be more to me, and that does not mean spending all your time with me, without wishing to share anything with me at the same time. But I am wrong to talk of these things. Your letters are so dear and kind – but so empty and bare – I feel myself through them that I have less to say to you than any other person. Rain – fine weather – things that have happened – that is all I ever have to tell you about – so utterly cut off is my real self, my innermost life, from yours I have tried again and again to talk to you about more serious things, when I felt the need to do so – but we never meet each other – we have developed separately and that is why I feel true companionship is an impossibility for us – because our thoughts will never meet I love you too so very much, my darling husband, and that is why it is so sad to feel that our life is nevertheless so incomplete But you are never intentionally to blame for this – I never think that, never
    In late 1876, she travelled to England for treatment due to an internal complaint caused by a backward curvature of the womb, and remained at Balmoral while she recovered.
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  • 1875
    Age 31
    After Frittie's death, Alice attached herself more closely to her only surviving son, Ernest, and her newborn daughter Marie. In 1875 she resumed her public duties, including fund-raising, medical and social work, which had always held her interest.
    More Details Hide Details She maintained active correspondence with the social reformer Octavia Hill. However, in these years, relations with her husband deteriorated.
  • 1873
    Age 29
    Tragedy befell Alice on 29 May 1873, when her youngest and favourite son, Friedrich, called "Frittie", died after falling 20 feet from a window.
    More Details Hide Details The child suffered from haemophilia, and although he regained consciousness, the internal bleeding could not be stopped. Alice never recovered from Frittie's death, writing to her mother two months later: "I am glad you have a little coloured picture of my darling. I feel lower and sadder than ever and miss him so much, so continually." However, the Queen's attention was more focused on the engagement of her son Prince Alfred to the Grand Duchess Marie Alexandrovna of Russia, the only surviving daughter of Tsar Alexander II and his first wife, Empress Marie Alexandrovna. The Tsar had refused to present his daughter for pre-marriage inspection in England, and instead invited the Queen to meet the family in Germany. Alice supported this suggestion, and on the same day she wrote the Queen about how much she missed Frittie, the Queen wrote Alice in scathing terms: "You have entirely taken the Russian side, and I do not think, dear child, that you should tell me what I ought to do."
  • 1871
    Age 27
    In 1871, she wrote to Alice's younger sister, Princess Louise, who had recently married: "Don't let Alice pump you.
    More Details Hide Details Be very silent and cautious about your 'interior'". In 1877, Alice became Grand Duchess upon the accession of her husband; her increased duties putting further strains on her health. In the latter months of 1878, diphtheria infected the Hessian court. Alice nursed her family for over a month before falling ill herself. Princess Alice was the mother of Tsaritsa Alexandra Feodorovna of Russia (empress consort of Tsar Nicholas II), maternal grandmother of Louis Mountbatten, 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma, the last Viceroy of India, and maternal great-grandmother of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, consort of Queen Elizabeth II. Another daughter, Elisabeth, who had married Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich of Russia, was, like the tsaritsa and her family, killed by the Bolsheviks in 1918.
  • 1870
    Age 26
    In 1870, Strauss wanted to dedicate his new work Lectures on Voltaire to Alice, but he was too afraid to ask her; she spared him the need by asking him to dedicate them to her.
    More Details Hide Details However, Alice's relationship with Strauss angered Empress Augusta, who labelled Alice a "complete atheist" after hearing about his promotion.
  • 1864
    Age 20
    Alice gave birth to her second daughter Elisabeth, nicknamed "Ella", on 1 November 1864; Alice's decision to breastfeed her newborn daughter upset her mother, who was against breastfeeding.
    More Details Hide Details The Queen was further upset at the realisation that Alice, having found true happiness, would be visiting England less and less. In 1866, Austria called for Prussia to hand over administration of Schleswig-Holstein, which had until that point been jointly administered by the two powers, to the Duke of Augustenberg. Prussia refused, and Otto von Bismarck sent troops into Austrian-administered Holstein. This provoked war between Austria and Prussia, with Hesse siding with the Austrians, technically making Alice and her sister Victoria enemies. Alice, heavily pregnant with her third child, saw Louis depart to command the Hessian cavalry against the Prussians, and sent her children to stay with Queen Victoria in England. Despite her pregnancy, she performed the royal duties expected of her sex and station, making bandages for troops and preparing hospitals. On 11 July, she gave birth to Princess Irene; Prussian troops were on the verge of entering Darmstadt, she begged the Grand Duke to surrender on Prussia's terms. This provoked fury from the fiercely anti-Prussian Prince Alexander, but Alice realised that the conquered German states would likely form a union which she, like her sister Victoria, supported.
  • 1863
    Age 19
    In 1863, she travelled to England for the marriage of her brother, the Prince of Wales, and Princess Alexandra of Denmark; Alice delivered her first child, Victoria Alberta Elisabeth Mathilde Marie, on 5 April in the presence of Queen Victoria.
    More Details Hide Details The Darmstadt court chaplain was called over to England especially for the christening. Alice's relationship with her mother became difficult, which would continue until her death. After returning to Darmstadt in May, Alice and Louis were given a new residence, Kranichstein, north-east of Darmstadt.
  • 1862
    Age 18
    Alice and Louis arrived at Bingen on 12 July 1862 and were greeted by cheering crowds gathered in spite of pouring rain.
    More Details Hide Details After being introduced to town officials, they took a train to Mainz, where they had breakfast, before taking a steamer along the Rhine to Gustavsburg. From there, they took a train to Darmstadt, where they were greeted with great enthusiasm. Alice wrote back to her mother that "I believe the people never gave so hearty a welcome", while her sister Helena wrote that "nothing could have been more enthusiastic than her entry into Darmstadt was″. Alice did not adapt immediately to her new surroundings. She was homesick, and could not believe that while she was so far away from England, her father was not still alive and comforting her mother. The Queen confided to her journal: Already nearly a fortnight since our dear Alice has left and strange to say – much as she has been to me – and dear and precious as a comfort and an assistance, I hardly miss her at all, or felt her going – so utterly alone am I – by that one dreadful loss – that one thought, that everything passed by unheeded!
    On 1 July 1862, Alice and Louis were married privately in the dining room of Osborne House, which was converted into a temporary chapel.
    More Details Hide Details The Queen was ushered in by her four sons, acting as a living screen blocking her from view, and took her place in an armchair near the altar. Alice was given away by her uncle, Albert's brother Ernest II, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, and was flanked by four bridesmaids: her younger sisters, Princesses Helena, Louise and Beatrice, as well as Louis's sister Princess Anna. For the ceremony, Alice wore a white dress with a veil of Honiton lace, but was required to wear black mourning clothes before and after the ceremony. The Queen, sitting in an armchair, struggled to hold back her tears, and was shielded from view by the Prince of Wales and Prince Alfred, her second son, who cried throughout the service. The weather at Osborne was dreary, with winds blowing up from the Channel. The Queen wrote to her eldest daughter, Victoria, that the ceremony was "more of a funeral than a wedding", and remarked to Alfred, Lord Tennyson that it was "the saddest day I can remember". The Queen gave her daughter a gold, diamond and pearl bracelet, enscribed as a gift from both parents To dear Alice from her loving parents Albert and Victoria R who though visibly parted are ever united, April 25, 1863. The ceremony—described by Gerard Noel as "the saddest royal wedding in modern times"—was over by 4 pm, and the couple set off for their honeymoon at St Claire in Ryde, a house lent to them by the Vernon Harcourt family.
    On 1 July 1862, while the court was still at the height of mourning, Alice married the minor German Prince Louis of Hesse, heir to the Grand Duchy of Hesse.
    More Details Hide Details The ceremony—conducted privately and with unrelieved gloom at Osborne House—was described by the Queen as "more of a funeral than a wedding". The Princess's life in Darmstadt was unhappy as a result of impoverishment, family tragedy, and worsening relations with her husband and mother. Alice was a prolific patron of women's causes and showed an interest in nursing, especially the work of Florence Nightingale. When Hesse became involved in the Austro-Prussian War, Darmstadt filled with the injured; the heavily pregnant Alice devoted much of her time to the management of field hospitals. One of her organisations, the Princess Alice Women's Guild, took over much of the day-to-day running of the state's military hospitals. As a result of this activity, Queen Victoria became concerned about Alice's directness about medical and, in particular, gynaecological, matters.
  • 1861
    Age 17
    Between the engagement and the wedding, Alice's father Prince Albert died on 14 December 1861.
    More Details Hide Details Despite the Queen's grief, she ordered that the wedding should continue as planned.
    Alice was engaged to Prince Louis of Hesse on 30 April 1861, following the Queen's consent.
    More Details Hide Details The Queen persuaded the Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston, to vote Alice a dowry of £30,000 (£ as of). Although the amount was considered generous at the time, Prince Albert remarked that "she will not be able to do great things with it" in the little realm of Hesse, compared to the riches that her sister Victoria would inherit as future Queen of Prussia and German Empress. Furthermore, the couple's future home in Darmstadt, the Grand Ducal seat, was uncertain. Although Queen Victoria expected that a new palace would be built, the people of Darmstadt did not want to meet that expense, and the resulting controversy caused resentment there. This meant that Alice was unpopular in Darmstadt before she even arrived.
    Alice's compassion for other people's suffering established her role as the family caregiver in 1861.
    More Details Hide Details Her maternal grandmother and paternal great-aunt Victoria, Duchess of Kent, died at Frogmore on 16 March 1861. Alice had spent much of her time at her grandmother's side, often played the piano for her in Frogmore's drawing room, and nursed her through the final stages of illness. Following her mother's death, the Queen broke down with grief and relied heavily on Alice, to whom Albert had given the instruction: "Go and comfort Mama." The Queen wrote to her uncle, King Leopold of Belgium, that "dear good Alice was full of intense tenderness, affection and distress for me". Only a few months later, on 14 December 1861, Albert died at Windsor Castle. During his final illness, Alice remained at his bedside. Alice sent for the Prince of Wales by telegram, without the knowledge of the Queen, who refused to notify him because she blamed him for Albert's death. The Queen was distraught by her husband's death, and the court entered a period of intense mourning. Alice became her mother's unofficial secretary, and for the next six months, the physical representation of the monarch. Through her passed the Queen's official papers to and from her government ministers, while the Queen secluded herself from all public life. Alice was aided in this task by her younger sister Princess Louise. Although Princess Helena, Louise's elder sister, would normally have been selected to assist, her inability to go long without crying was held against her.
  • 1858
    Age 14
    Victoria's marriage to Prince Frederick of Prussia in 1858 greatly upset her.
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  • 1854
    Age 10
    In 1854, during the Crimean War, the eleven-year-old Alice toured London hospitals for wounded soldiers with her mother and her eldest sister.
    More Details Hide Details She was the most emotionally sensitive of her siblings and was sympathetic to other people's burdens, possessing a sharp tongue and an easily triggered temper. In her childhood, Alice formed a close relationship with her brother, the Prince of Wales, and her eldest sister, The Princess Royal.
  • 1843
    She was christened "Alice Maud Mary" in the private chapel at Buckingham Palace by The Archbishop of Canterbury, William Howley, on 2 June 1843.
    More Details Hide Details She was named "Alice" to honour Victoria's first Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne, who was a passionate admirer of the Queen and had once commented that the name "Alice" was his favourite female name. "Maud", the Anglo-Saxon name for Matilda, was chosen in honour of one of Alice's godparents, Princess Sophia Matilda of Gloucester, a niece of King George III. "Mary" was chosen because Alice was born on the same day as her maternal great-aunt, The Duchess of Gloucester. Her gender was greeted with mixed feelings from the public, and even the Privy Council sent a message to Albert expressing its "congratulation and condolence" on the birth of a second daughter. Her godparents were The King of Hanover, for whom The Duke of Cambridge stood proxy; The Princess of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, for whom The Dowager Duchess of Kent stood proxy; The Hereditary Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, for whom The Hereditary Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz stood proxy; and Princess Sophia Matilda of Gloucester.
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