Alice’s wish to found a sisterhood had begun to form long ago and was inspired by her aunt Elizabeth. She was given a piece of land on Tinos by the Church of the Virgin and on 17 July 19481, she ‘withdrew from the world’ and wrote to Philip, “I think I told you about the religious sisterhood of Martha & Mary I want to start along to lines of Aunt Ella’s foundation in Moscow. Now that the last of my children is married & has a home, I feel the need of a whole-time job to keep me occupied.”2 It was probably around this time that Alice travelled to Jerusalem, where Elizabeth had been buried.
Alice never actually became a nun, but her dressing like one had a practical purpose. Her sisterhood was often in need of money, and dressing like a nun rather than a princess helped with the fundraising. It also meant that she did not have to worry about her clothes or having her hair done. Her mother rather mockingly said, “What can you say of a nun who smokes and plays Canasta?”3 By 1949, she was having trouble on Tinos, and she decided to move the sisterhood to just outside Athens. She also travelled to the US to advise the new archbishop on the establishment of a similar sisterhood outside New York.
In September 1950, Alice’s mother Victoria passed away. Alice was there, and she wrote to Philip, “She was practically sitting up to ease the breathing & so we had a good view of her with such a calm & peaceful expression, as one who is having a good sleep & the breast rising & falling so evenly & gently, until it quietly stopped at 8 a.m., a beautiful end.”4
Alice was in the United States to raise money for her sisterhood when King George VI died in February 1952. She immediately wrote to Philip telling him that Andrew was with him in spirit and that he should commune with him. Alice and her three surviving daughters were invited to the coronation of the new Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. Alice sat behind Elizabeth’s mother in the royal box and drew some press attention in her nun’s clothes. It was the last major public function for Alice, and she occasionally appeared in the country for family events.
In February 1955, Alice celebrated her 70th birthday in Salem, and just two years later, she became a great-grandmother when Sophie’s daughter Christina gave birth to a daughter named Tatiana. Alice had plenty of surviving grandchildren, and the family continued to grow. The Prince of Wales said of her, “She used to come and have lunch with us in the nursery, I remember. We were terrified if we were late. She was very strict.”5
Despite her age, Alice refused to slow down, and in January 1960, she visited India at the invitation of the Minister of Health. Unfortunately, the trip had to be cut short after Alice became ill. Alice later claimed to have had an out-of-body experience. Queen Elizabeth II had given birth to her third child in February 1960, and Alice was thrilled that he was named Andrew. She wrote to Philip, “I am so happy about Papa’s name being given to the baby. The people’s delight here about this is really touching. Unknown people waved to me in the streets, calling out Andreas. He is not forgotten here & still very much loved.”6
In December 1964, Alice’s sister Louise suffered a heart attack, and Alice was soon by her sister’s side. Louise appeared to be doing well, but on 3 March, she was in some pain and was taken to the hospital by ambulance. She had an operation to remove a blood clot in the main artery to her heart, and she survived the initial operation. However, she fell unconscious three days later and died on 7 March. Alice joined her brother-in-law for the funeral on 13 March. When Alice returned to Athens, she wrote, “Both she & I knew it was our last meeting, but we were determined to ignore that. So, we had such a peaceful & truly happy week together, for which I thank God with all my heart.”7
Over the years, Alice had begun to have bouts of illness, but she always managed to recover. However, as she grew older, many of her friends and family passed away, and she was also concerned for the health of her daughter Theodora and the political situation in Greece. Philip invited his mother to come live at Buckingham Palace, which she initially declined. The situation in Greece deteriorated, and a second invitation was issued by Philip’s wife, Queen Elizabeth. Alice then said, “Lilibet said that? We go this afternoon.”8 This was easier said than done, and she finally left Greece in May 1967.
Alice moved into two rooms on the first floor of Buckingham Palace, which overlooked the Mall. Eventually, there were two full-time nurses to care for her as her health deteriorated further. Her daughter Theodora died in October 1969, and Alice would only live for two months more – she had lost the will to live. Her brother Louis saw her the evening before she died and later said, “I saw her at 6.15 on the night she died, and she was very peaceful and seemed happy and talked of recollections of the past.”9 She died in her sleep on 5 December 1969.
Alice’s funeral took place on 10 December at St George’s Chapel. Alice had requested to be buried in Jerusalem near her aunt. For years, her coffin remained in the royal vault, and it wasn’t until 3 August 1988 that Alice was buried in Jerusalem. Her coffin stands on a marble bier, covered with the Greek royal standard.
- Coincidentally also the 30th anniversary of the murders of her aunt Alexandra and her family
- Alice, Princess Andrew of Greece by Hugo Vickers p.334
- Alice, Princess Andrew of Greece by Hugo Vickers p.336
- Alice, Princess Andrew of Greece by Hugo Vickers p.339
- Alice, Princess Andrew of Greece by Hugo Vickers p.360
- Alice, Princess Andrew of Greece by Hugo Vickers p.369-370
- Alice, Princess Andrew of Greece by Hugo Vickers p.381
- Alice, Princess Andrew of Greece by Hugo Vickers p.389
- Alice, Princess Andrew of Greece by Hugo Vickers p.394