Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Royal Profile: Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone

At the time of her death Princess Alice Mary Victoria Augusta Pauline was the oldest ever member of the royal family, the longest lived princess of the blood royal, and she has the distinction of being the longest surviving grandchild of Queen Victoria. She was born on February 25, 1883 at Windsor Castle, the daughter of Queen Victoria's youngest son, Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany, and his wife, Helen, the Duchess of Albany. Her father had haemophilia and died when Alice was a little over a year old. She had one brother, Charles Edward, who was born four months after their father had died.

In February 1904 Princess Alice married His Serene Highness Prince Alexander of Teck, brother of Queen Mary. After her marriage she was known as HRH Princess Alexander of Teck. They had three children: May, Rupert and Maurice, who died while still an infant. Princess Alice inherited the haemophilia gene from her father and her eldest son Rupert suffered from it, eventually dying at age 21. In 1917 Prince Alexander gave up his German name and titles and was created Viscount Tremation and Earl of Athlone, adopting the name Cambridge. Princess Alice, however, was a princess of Great Britain and Ireland and a Royal Highness in her own right, and from 1917 until her death she was known as Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone.

Princess Alice was active in war work from 1914 to 1918 and later lived in South Africa and Canada during her husband's terms as Governor-General of each country. She was an expert gardener and during her husband's tenure in Ottawa, she designed and helped to build rock gardens. She overcame the restrictions of short summers and extreme winters by keeping five hothouses running in order to produce beautiful plants and flowers. Princess Alice was 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's Ambulance Brigade.

After her husband's death in 1957 she lived in their home in Kensington Palace. During her lifetime she carried out many royal duties and she attended the coronations of four monarchs: Edward VII, George V, George VI and Elizabeth II. Her pastimes included needlework, gardening and reading and in 1966 she published her memoirs, For My Grandchildren, giving an inside view of Queen Victoria and her family.

She died in January 1981, aged 97 years, 10 months and 9 days. She is buried beside her husband in the Frogmore burial grounds, Windsor.

© Marilyn Braun 2005

1 comment:

Ian Richardson said...

Marilyn thankyou I really enjoyed your profile [bio] of Princess Alice - an excellent photo too