Alice – The Queen’s Mother-in-Law

Day 294 of Colourisation Project – February 25

Challenge: to publish daily a colourised photo that has some significance around the day of publication.

The beautiful woman in today’s colourisation is Princess Alice of Battenberg, the mother of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and mother-in-law of Queen Elizabeth II. It’s a rather complicated lineage but Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip are kissing cousins, several times removed. They share the same great, great, grandmother, Queen Victoria and both are also descended from Christian IX of Denmark.

Princess Alice’s story is a remarkable one. Born on this day, February 25, 1885 at Windsor Castle, she was raised as an English princess, although both her parents were German.  In 1903 she married Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark and went to live in Greece.

Fast forward to Queen Elizabeth’s coronation in 1953 and Princess Alice is dressed head to toe in full nun’s regalia; a long drab gray dress and cloak, white wimple, cord, and rosary beads.  Quite the oddball amongst all the velvet finery, royal jewels and coronets, she exuded an unworldly piety. Now, not many people get to have a nun for a mother.

Photographer: Henry Walter Barnett  ~  Princess Alice 1903 ~ Colourised by Loredana Crupi

Born congenitally deaf, Princess Alice’s life was overshadowed by wars, revolutions, the infidelity of a bisexual husband and enforced periods of political exile, all of which took a toll on her mental health. She suffered a mental breakdown and around 1930 she was hearing voices. She believed she was having a physical relationship with Jesus. Diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, she was committed to a sanatorium in Switzerland on the advice of Sigmund Freud who recommended blasting her ovaries with X-rays to cure her of frustrated sexual desires.

Princess Alice was effectively abandoned by her playboy husband, Prince Andrew of Greece, who took off with his mistress to live on her yacht anchored off Monte Carlo on the French Riviera.

Released from the sanatorium in 1932, Princess Alice lived a reclusive life in Athens at the palace of her brother-in-law, Prince George of Greece, doing charity work for the Swedish and Swiss Red Cross and sheltering Jewish refugees during World War II. Ironically, her four daughters’ German husbands fought on the German side, while her son, Philip served in the British Royal Navy.

After the war she turned her back on the trappings of royal life to become a nun. She gave away all her possessions and in 1949 founded a Greek Orthodox nursing order of nuns known as the Christian Sisterhood of Martha and Mary.

Following the imposition of military rule in Greece in 1967, she was invited by Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth to live at Buckingham Palace in London. Two years later in 1969, she passed away at the age of 84. Her remains were placed in the Royal Crypt in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle.

Shortly before she died she penned a letter to her son, who had had little to do with his mother since the age of nine.

‘Dearest Philip, be brave, and remember I will never leave you, and you will always find me when you need me most. All my devoted love, your old Mama.’

Princess Alice had expressed the wish to be buried in the Church of Maria Magdalene in Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives, Jerusalem, next to her aunt, Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna, who, like Princess Alice, had become a nun and had founded a convent. The Grand Duchess’s life came to a grisly end during the Russian revolution, which in 1918 wiped out the most of the Romanov dynasty.

In 1988, nineteen years after her death, Princess Alice’s remains were transferred to the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, where she was laid to rest with her aunt.

In 1994, Prince Philip and his sister Sophie, Princess George of Hanover, went to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem to witness a ceremony recognizing their mother as “Righteous Among the Nations,” (the highest Israeli honour to non-Jews who risked their lives during the Holocaust) for having hidden a Jewish family in her home in Athens during WWII.

In 2010, the Princess was posthumously awarded a ‘Hero of the Holocaust’ by the British Government.

Such was her life.

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