In August 1901, Alice made her first visit to Russia, where her two aunts Elizabeth and Alexandra, were living. Elizabeth had married Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich of Russia in 1884, while Alexandra had married Tsar Nicholas II in 1894. By October, Alice and her family were once again settled at Malta, where her father joined the Mediterranean Fleet. The following year, Alice and her mother returned to England to join the coronation of King Edward VII. However, he became ill with peritonitis, and the coronation had to be postponed.
Alice and her mother stayed at Buckingham Palace with several other royals, like Crown Prince Constantine of Greece and his wife Sophie, along with two of his brothers George and Andrew. It is unclear if this was the first time that Alice met Andrew, but it is certain that they fell in love around this time. Alice later described her first sighting of Andrew to her grandson, the Prince of Wales, “He was exactly like a Greek God.”1 The coronation was postponed indefinitely as the new King had to undergo an operation, and Alice returned to Darmstadt in early July with a spring in her step.
In August, the coronation was back on, and Alice and her mother joined both George and Andrew in the carriage procession. During these days in London, Alice and Andrew spent as much time together as they could. When Alice returned to Germany, they were unofficially engaged, but Andrew had ten months of military service to do. Alice would spend her last Christmas as an unmarried woman at Kiel with her aunt Irene. The family then returned to London, where the waiting seemed even more endless, and Andrew’s arrival was postponed by two more months. Finally, on 8 May 1903, Andrew arrived, and two days later, the engagement was officially announced. At the time, Alice was just 18 and Andrew just 21.
The wedding was set to take place in Darmstadt in October, and a great number of royals travelled to be there, including the Tsar and Tsarina and Queen Alexandra and her daughter Victoria. On 6 October, the civil marriage took place, followed by the religious ceremonies the following day. Alice wore a lace dress with a veil of myrtle of orange blossoms. Alice misheard the questions and answered “no” when asked if she assented freely to marriage and “yes” when asked about having promised her hand to another. Following the ceremonies, the newlyweds departed for Heiligenberg, where they were to honeymoon for a week and were able to return to Darmstadt in time for the party for the departing guests. After the honeymoon, Alice and Andrew settled in the Alte Palais in Darmstadt while Andrew resumed his military service with the Red Dragoons.
The following year, Alice and Andrew moved to Greece and settled in the Royal Palace and the family’s country home at Tatoi. Alice quickly joined her sister-in-law Elena in Greek lessons, but Elena, born a Russian Grand Duchess, looked down on Alice, who had been born a Serene Highness. Alice became involved in social welfare work, most notably at the Greek School of Embroidery.
On 18 April 1905, Alice gave birth to her first child – a daughter named Margarita – with her mother and her mother-in-law Queen Olga by her side. On 30 May 1906, a second daughter – named Theodora – was born at Tatoi while Andrew was away to attend the wedding of King Alfonso XIII of Spain and Alice’s cousin Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg. During this time, Alice also became involved in a society that trained girls as private nurses. The next few years were difficult for the Greek royal family due to the Greek press and machinations of politicians. Luckily, Alice and Andrew spent the next two years travelling between England, Germany, Malta and Russia. She was also painted by Philip de László in 1907, and another sister-in-law – Princess Marie Bonaparte – joined the family when she married Andrew’s brother George. Marie described Alice on her arrival as “a beautiful blond Englishwoman with ample flesh, smiles a lot and doesn’t say much since she’s deaf.”2
While in Russia in 1908, Alice became reacquainted with her aunt Elizabeth, who had lost her husband in an assassination in 1905. She had bought a property in Moscow where one building would serve as a hospital, where nurses would also be trained, and the other would serve as her residence. She also intended to build a church. Alice later attended the foundation ceremony for the church. The idea had inspired Alice, but it would be many years before she could implement her own ideas in Greece.
Revolutionary rumblings began to shake the Greek monarchy, but by March 1910, King George was able to stay on as a constitutional monarch. It also led to Andrew resigning from the army, much to Alice’s sadness. She wrote, “His work was stopped, just when it was beginning to bear fruit.”3 Just a short while later, Alice and Andrew were supposed to visit Alice’s parents in England, but the visit became more urgent as King Edward VII fell ill. They arrived in early May, and the King died the following day. Alice and Andrew stayed for the funeral and the following confirmation of the new Prince of Wales.
On 22 June 1911, Alice gave birth to her third daughter – named Cecilie – at Tatoi. It was also King George V’s coronation day, and Andrew asked him to be a godparent. The following year, the First Balkan War began, and Andrew was reinstated in the army. Meanwhile, Alice threw herself into volunteer work. The School of Greek Embroidery was directed to make clothes for the troops and the refugees. She also established a hospital at the front line and was joined there by two nurses from a hospital that had been founded by her grandmother in Darmstadt. The experiences there would change her life. She wrote, “What things we saw! Shattered arms, and legs and head, such awful sights – and then to have to bandage those dreadful things for three days and three nights. The corridor full of blood and cast-off bandages knee-high.”4