Alice of Battenberg, Princess Andrew of Greece
Princess Alice was born the eldest child of Prince Louis of Battenberg and Princess Victoria of Hesse at Windsor Castle, which was then the residence of her maternal great-grandmother Queen Victoria. Alice was diagnosed with congenital deafness early in life. But by the time she reached adulthood she was a proficient lip reader and could speak in English, German, and French.
In 1902 at the coronation of her granduncle Kind Edward VII, Alice met Prince Andrew of Greece. The couple married in 1903 and settled in Greece. They had four daughters in the first twelve years of marriage: Margarita, Theodora, Cecilie, and Sophie. During the Balkan Wars Alice became a nurse and set up field hospitals, and was later awarded the Royal Red Cross. The effects of Greece’s neutrality in WWI caused great unrest and the eventual abdication of the king, forcing Alice and her family into exile. When the Greek monarchy was reinstated in 1920 they returned briefly. Alice gave birth to her fifth child, Philip, on the kitchen table of the family home in Corfu in 1921. Soon after the Revolutionary Committee took over in Greece and sentenced Prince Andrew and his family to banishment.
Alice, Andrew, and their children found refuge in England with her family. Soon, however, Alice began to show signs of mental illness. She became delusional and was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Eventually, at the insistence of her mother, Alice was forcibly admitted to a sanatorium in Switzerland. There she was experimented on by several doctors, including Sigmund Freud. At one point Alice’s ovaries were X-rayed in an attempt to kill her libido. These experiments were not consented to by Alice and she tried to leave the sanatorium several times. After two years she was released. By that time her marriage was effectively over, her daughters had married German princes, and her son Philip was shuffled away to English boarding schools. Alice never truly forgave her mother and other relatives for the treatment she endured. She spent several years wandering aimlessly in or around Germany alone.
The next time Alice saw her family was at the funeral of her daughter Cecilie, who died in a plane crash along with her husband and two children, in 1937. She settled in Greece, this time alone, on the eve of war. World War II found Alice in an awkward position. She was living in a country under Axis occupation while her daughters were married to German officers and her son was in the British Royal Navy. The Nazis in Greece assumed Alice to be pro-German and when asked if there was anything they could do for her she replied “Yes, you can get your troops out of my country.” Alice organized charities and soup kitchens for the starving citizens of Athens. She also hid a Jewish family, the Cohens, in her home to save them from being transported to concentration camps. When asked any questions by the Gestapo, Alice feigned total deafness and pretended not to understand them at all.
In 1947 Alice returned to England and attended the wedding of her son Prince Philip to Princess Elizabeth. Two years later she became a nun in the Greek Orthodox church and founded her own order of nurses. In 1952 Alice attended the coronation of her daughter-in-law as Queen Elizabeth II. She spent several more years working and traveling. Eventually her health began failing and Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth invited her to live at Buckingham Palace. Alice went, perhaps a bit unwillingly, back to England. She died in 1969 at the age of 84 with only three dressing gowns in her possessions, having given away her worldly goods to the needy. In 1988 Alice’s remains were re-interred on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, in accordance with her last wish.