Countess of Athlone, Duke of Cambridge, Governor General of Canada, King George III of the United Kingdom, King George V of the United Kingdom, Prince Adolphus Duke of Cambridge, Prince Alexander of Teck, Princess Alice of Albany, Princess Alice of the United Kingdom, Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge, Princess Mary of Teck
Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone, (Alice Mary Victoria Augusta Pauline; February 25, 1883 – January 3, 1981) was a member of the British royal family. She is the longest-lived British princess by descent, and was the last surviving grandchild of Queen Victoria. She also held the titles of Princess of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and Duchess in Saxony from birth, as well as a Princess of Teck by marriage, until 1917 when the British royal family ceased usage of German titles.
Princess Alice was born February 25, 1883 at Windsor Castle. Her father was Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany, the youngest son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Her mother was Princess Helena of Waldeck and Pyrmont. She had one brother, Prince Charles Edward, Duke of Albany (1884–1954) and later reigning Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (1900–1918). As the granddaughter of the Sovereign through the male line, she was a Princess of the United Kingdom and as the daughter of the Duke of Albany, she was styled Her Royal Highness Princess Alice of Albany. She was baptised in the Private Chapel of Windsor Castle on March 26, 1883, and named Alice for her late paternal aunt, Princess Alice of the United Kingdom (1843 – 1878) the third child and second daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and wife of Grand Duke Ludwig IV of Hesse and By Rhine.
Prince Alexander of Teck
On February 10, 1904, at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, Princess Alice of Albany married her second cousin once-removed, Prince Alexander of Teck, the brother of Princess Mary, the Princess of Wales (later Queen Mary, consort of King George V of the United Kingdom) After their marriage, Princess Alice was styled Princess Alexander of Teck.
Prince Alexander of Teck was born at Kensington Palace on April 14, 1874, the fourth child and third son of Prince Francis, Duke of Teck, and Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge, daughter of Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge, the youngest surviving son of George III of the United Kingdom and Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. Although Prince Alexander’s mother was a granddaughter of King George III and first cousin to Queen Victoria, as the son of a Prince of Teck, a morganatic scion in the Kingdom Württemberg, he was styled from birth as His Serene Highness and held the title Prince Alexander of Teck.
Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone, with her children May and Rupert, circa 1909.
When the British royal family abandoned all Germanic titles in 1917, Prince Alexander of Teck adopted the surname Cambridge, relinquishing the title “Prince of Teck” in the Kingdom of Württemberg and the style Serene Highness. As such, their two children lost their Württemberg princely titles. He became (briefly) Sir Alexander Cambridge until, on November 7, 1917, his brother-in-law King George V, created him Earl of Athlone and Viscount Trematon. Athlone had declined a marquessate, as he thought the title did not sound British enough.
Princess Alice relinquished her titles of Princess of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and Duchess of Saxony, while her brother Charles Edward, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, who held a commission in the German Army, was stripped of his British titles. Alice remained, however, a Princess of Great Britain and Ireland and a Royal Highness in her own right, as granddaughter of Queen Victoria in the male line.
Princess Alice accompanied her husband to Canada where he served as Governor General from 1940 to 1946, residing primarily at Rideau Hall in Ottawa. Viewing his position as governor general as a link between Canadians and their monarch, the Count of Athlone also communicated in speeches that the King stood with them in their fight against Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime. As vicereine of Canada, Princess Alice also supported the war effort by serving as Honorary Commandant of the Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service, Honorary Air Commandant of the Royal Canadian Air Force Women’s Division and president of the nursing division of the St. John Ambulance Brigade.
Eleanor Roosevelt, Princess Alice, and Clementine Churchill at the Second Quebec Conference, during WWII
The war was brought close to home for the Athlones also because many of those belonging to displaced European royal families sought refuge in Canada and resided at or near the royal and viceroyal residence, Rideau Hall. Among the royal guests were Crown Prince Olav and Crown Princess Märtha of Norway; Grand Duchess Charlotte and Prince Felix of Luxembourg; King Peter II of Yugoslavia; King George II of the Hellenes; Empress Zita of Bourbon-Parma (Austria) and her daughters; as well as Queen Wilhelmina and her daughter, Princess Juliana.
In her lifetime, Princess Alice carried out many engagements and took part in many of the activities the royal family were involved in. Apart from her normal duties as vicereine of South Africa and then Canada, she attended the coronations of four British monarchs: Edward VII, George V, George VI, and Elizabeth II, as well as the investiture of the Dutch queen Juliana.
The Earl and Countess of Athlone, followed by Mackenzie King at the opening of parliament, September 6, 1945
The Earl of Athlone died in 1957 at Kensington Palace in London. Princess Alice lived there until her death, dying in her sleep on January 3, 1981, at age 97 years and 313 days. At her death, she was the longest-lived British Princess of royal blood and the last surviving grandchild of Queen Victoria. The funeral of Princess Alice took place in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, attended by all members of the royal family. She is buried alongside her husband and son in the Royal Burial Ground, Frogmore, directly behind the mausoleum of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, in Windsor Great Park. Her daughter and son-in-law are also buried close by.
She lived through six reigns: those of Victoria (grandmother), Edward VII (uncle), George V (cousin and brother-in-law), Edward VIII (first cousin once removed and nephew), George VI (first cousin once removed and nephew) and Elizabeth II (first cousin twice removed and grand-niece).