Alice of Battenberg: “Righteous among the Nations”

Once upon a time there was Princess Alice of Battenberg but then suddenly she was gone.

Princesses’ fairy tales usually end with “and they lived happily ever after”, but reality is full of sad princesses who have suffered devastating deaths like Caroline of Monaco or betrayals and a tragic end like Lady Diana.

Then there are moving stories like that of Alice of Battenberg who lived all kinds of experiences, from crazy love for her husband to exile, from asylum to mysticism, but history today consecrates her as a heroine.

Her life makes you think …

Alice was born on February 25, 1885 in Windsor Castle, Berkshire. Her parents were Princess Victoria Mountbatten, granddaughter of Queen Victoria, and Louis Prince of Battenberg.

She was the first of four children and it seemed that the mixture of English and German blood had worked, having given birth to a girl who looked healthy.

But a short time later she realized that something was wrong: she made senseless sounds and had no reaction if a vase fell on the ground or if the room she was in was shaken by the thunder of a storm. Alice suffered from deafness.

Thanks to the help of her family she learned to communicate by lip-reading in English, German, French and Greek. This handicap may have made her especially sensitive to the underprivileged and outcast.

When her great-grandmother Victoria died on 9 August 1902, during the coronation ceremony of King Edward VII in Westminster Abbey, Alice fell in love with Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark, son of King George I of Greece and Olga Constantine of Russia.

Alice was 17 and Andrea was 20. Princess Alice married Prince Andrew of Greece in 1903. The couple had five children: four daughters and a son – the future Duke of Edinburgh and consort to Queen Elizabeth II of England.

After her husband’s family’s expulsion from Greece (1923), when the republican regime overthrew the Greek monarchy in 1923, she lived in exile and was helped by her relatives. It is said that her son Andrew (18 months old) left Greece in an orange crate.

The years following that escape were particularly hard on Princess Alice. She was diagnosed with schizophrenia at the end of the 1920s and soon institutionalized. Sigmund Freud took an interest in Alice’s case because she experienced fantasies that were religious and sexual in nature. After leaving treatment she moved to Germany where she lived as a vagabond. Her daughter died in a plane crash and she came back to Greece.

During World War II she hid Jewish refugees in her home at the risk of her own life, protecting them from certain death in Nazi-occupied Greece. The country endured a Nazi occupation regime that imposed terror and starvation on hundreds of thousands of civilians and the princess worked to alleviate Hellenic suffering. Risking her life, Alice hid several members of a Jewish family in one of her Athens residences, and facilitated the escape of other members of the same family.

In 1949, Alice founded the Christian Sisterhood of Martha and Mary in 1949 and spent years attempting to secure funding for it.

When her son, Prince Philip, married Princess Elizabeth, who became Elizabeth II , queen of England, Alice could have returned permanently to England, but she did not. For many years, the princess lived in a small apartment in Athens, often traveling abroad to visit her children, with whom she remained close. When she became ill in Germany in 1966, Prince Philip flew to accompany her on her return trip to Greece. Until the last years of her life, she preferred to stay in a hotel for her London visits, rather than at one of the royal palaces. When military dictatorship was imposed on Greece in 1967, Alice was forced to flee Athens, her beloved country. Finally, Alice took up residence in one of the British royal family’s palaces. She died in London’s Buckingham Palace on December 5, 1969, at age 84.

Princess Alice’s heroic deeds were recognized after her death. In October 1994, she was awarded “Righteous Gentile” from Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial museum and research center and in 2010 the British Government named her “Hero of the Shoah”. The deaf and tormented princess entered the glory.

The life of this princess is an embodiment of the old saying that truth is sometimes stranger than fiction.

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Elena Attennante


II B – Furci Siculo

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