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Princess Alice of Battenberg (Victoria Alice Elizabeth Julia Marie; February 25, 1885 – December 5, 1969) was the mother of Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark (HRH The Duke of Edinburgh) and mother-in-law of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom.

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A great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria, she was born in Windsor Castle and grew up in the United Kingdom, the German Empire, and the Mediterranean. A Hessian princess by birth, she was a member of the Battenberg family, a morganatic branch of the House of Hesse-Darmstadt. She was congenitally deaf.

Alice was born in the Tapestry Room at Windsor Castle in Berkshire in the presence of her great-grandmother, Queen Victoria. She was the eldest child of Prince Louis of Battenberg and his wife Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine. Her mother was the eldest daughter of Ludwig IV, Grand Duke of Hesse and Princess Alice of the United Kingdom, Queen Victoria’s second daughter. Her father was the eldest son of Prince Alexander of Hesse and by Rhine through his morganatic marriage to Countess Julia Hauke, who was created Princess of Battenberg in 1858 by Ludwig III, Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine, Her three younger siblings, Louise, George, and Louis, later became Queen of Sweden, Marquess of Milford Haven, and Earl Mountbatten of Burma, respectively.

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Prince and Princess Andrew of Greece and Denmark

Princess Alice met Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark (known as Andrea within the family), the fourth son of King George I of Greece and Olga Constantinovna of Russia, while in London for King Edward VII’s coronation in 1902. They married in a civil ceremony on October 6, 1903 at Darmstadt. The following day, there were two religious marriage ceremonies; one Lutheran in the Evangelical Castle Church, and one Greek Orthodox in the Russian Chapel on the Mathildenhöhe. She adopted the style of her husband, becoming “Princess Andrew”.

The bride and groom were closely related to the ruling houses of the United Kingdom, Germany, Russia, Denmark, and Greece, and their wedding was one of the great gatherings of the descendants of Queen Victoria and Christian IX of Denmark held before World War I. Prince and Princess Andrew had five children, all of whom later had children of their own.

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Princess Alice with her two eldest daughters, Margarita and Theodora.

The global war effectively ended much of the political power of Europe’s dynasties. The naval career of her father, Prince Louis of Battenberg, had collapsed at the beginning of the war in the face of anti-German sentiment in Britain. At the request of King George V, he relinquished the Hessian title Prince of Battenberg and the style of Serene Highness on July 14, 1917, and anglicized the family name to Mountbatten. The following day, the King created him Marquess of Milford Haven in the peerage of the United Kingdom. The following year, two of her aunts, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna of Russia, and Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna, were murdered by Bolsheviks after the Russian revolution. At the end of the war the Russian, German and Austro-Hungarian empires had fallen, and Princess Andrew’s uncle, Ernst Ludwig, Grand Duke of Hesse, was deposed

In 1930, after suffering a severe nervous breakdown, Princess Andrew was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, first by Thomas Ross, a psychiatrist who specialised in shell-shock, and subsequently by Sir Maurice Craig, who treated the future King George VI before he had speech therapy. The diagnosis was confirmed at Ernst Simmel’s sanatorium at Tegel, Berlin. Princess Andrew was forcibly removed from her family and placed in Ludwig Binswanger’s sanatorium in Kreuzlingen, Switzerland.

Alice Of Battenberg

During Princess Andrew’s long convalescence, she and Prince Andrew drifted apart, her daughters all married German princes in 1930 and 1931 (she did not attend any of the weddings), and her son Prince Philip went to England to stay with his uncles, Lord Louis Mountbatten and George Mountbatten, 2nd Marquess of Milford Haven, and his grandmother, the Dowager Marchioness of Milford Haven.

During World War II, Princess Andrew was in the difficult situation of having sons-in-law fighting on the German side and a son in the British Royal Navy. Her cousin, Prince Victor zu Erbach-Schönberg was the German ambassador in Greece until the occupation of Athens by Axis forces in April 1941. She and her sister-in-law, Princess Nicholas of Greece, lived in Athens for the duration of the war, while most of the Greek royal family remained in exile in South Africa. She worked for the Red Cross, helped organise soup kitchens for the starving populace and flew to Sweden to bring back medical supplies on the pretext of visiting her sister, Louise, who was married to the Crown Prince. She organised two shelters for orphaned and lost children, and a nursing circuit for poor neighborhoods.

On December 3, 1944 Prince Andrew died in the Hotel Metropole, Monte Carlo, Monaco, of heart failure and arteriosclerosis just as the war was ending. He was 62.

Part II Tomorrow.