The Queen's Mother In Law: Princess Alice and Her Incredible Life Story

Born congenitally deaf and wrongly regarded as “slow” on account of her disability,  Princess Alice of Battenberg chose a life of service to the poor and marginalized.

Despite the many tragedies in her life she volunteered to help the wounded in WW1 and WW2, she almost got arrested by the Gestapo for saving Jewish families during the Holocaust, became a nun, was sterilized by Sigmund Freud after erroneously being diagnosed as a schizophrenic and died poor, after selling all her jewelry and possessions to help those less fortunate. If you like our content, please become a patron to unlock our premium episodes ad-free.

Princess Victoria Alice Elizabeth Julia Marie of Battenberg of Greece and Denmark was the mother of Prince Philip, and mother-in-law of Queen Elizabeth II. A great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria, Alice was born in Windsor Castle on Feb 25th 1885 and grew up in Great Britain, Germany and Malta. A Hessian princess by birth, she was a member of the Battenberg family, a morganatic branch of the House of Hesse-Darmstadt.

Despite the stigma attached to her illness, she learned to lip-read and speak in English, German and French by the time she was 8 years old.

After her marriage, Princess Alice became involved in charity work, while her husband Prince Andrew continued his career in the military. In 1908, she visited Russia for the wedding of Grand Duchess Marie of Russia and Prince William of Sweden. While there, she talked with her aunt Grand duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna who was at the time working on plans for the foundation of a religious order of nurses.

In 1913, King George V awarded her the Royal Red Cross in for her service helping the wounded. Princess Alice and her children were forced to shelter in the palace cellars during the bombardment of Athens by the French on 1 December 1916. They had to escape unrest in Greece twice, very traumatic experiences for her. 1

In France, Princess Alice became active in a charity organization for Greek refugees. She became deeply religious and, in October 1928, converted to the Greek Orthodox Church. Then her mental health started declining and Princess Alice was forcibly removed from her family and placed in an asylum, Sigmund Freud recommended “X-raying her ovaries in order to kill off her libido" and induce early menopause as treatment for “schizophrenia”.

During WW2 she sheltered Jewish refugees, including the Cohen family, and helped them escape death, and for this she is recognised as “Righteous Among The Nations” by Israel's Holocaust memorial institution, Yad Vashem. In 2010, the Princess Alice was posthumously named a Hero of the Holocaust by the British Government.

Her nursing order of nuns was named Christian Sisterhood of Martha and Mary. Princess Alice was also a chain smoker and played canasta.

She passed away at Buckingham Palace on December 5 1969. She left no possessions, as she had given everything away to the poor.

Initially her remains were placed in the Royal Crypt in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, but before she died she had expressed her wish to be buried at the Convent of Saint Mary Magdalene in Ghethsemane on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem near her beloved aunt Elizabeth who was made a Russian orthodox saint, we think Princess Alice should be made one too. 2

1. Philip Chrysopoulos. Princess Alice, Philip’s Mother, and Her Life of Philanthropy in Greece. Greek Reporter. July 2022. 

2. Timeline Documentaries. The Other Queen Mother: The Forgotten WW2 Hero: The Queen's Mother in Law. Youtube. August 2018.