Alice of Battenberg – A pensive Princess (Part four)

alice battenberg
(public domain)

Read part three here.

In early 1923, Alice, Andrew, his younger brother Christopher and his American-born wife Anastasia (born Nonie May Stewart) arrived in the United States for a much-needed two-month holiday. During their journey, they learned that King Constantine had died suddenly of heart failure – he was still only 54 years old. Alice and Andrew stayed at the Ambassador Hotel in New York with just a maid and a valet. They returned home without Christopher and Anastasia and settled back into their home at St Cloud. Princess Marie was generous, but they thought the house was a little cramped. The situation in Greece remained unstable, and at the end of 1923, King George II was exiled, and a republic was proclaimed on 25 March 1924.

Alice’s sister Louise married the widowed future King Gustaf VI Adolf of Sweden in 1923, with Alice’s daughters once more performing the duties of bridesmaids. Tragically, her only pregnancy produced a stillborn daughter, and she later wrote, “If possible, I appreciate all the more now what it is to have Gustaf & now how lucky I am to have him. He has my love now more than ever, all that I had for my baby I feel I have now also given him.”1

Her life in exile had deeply affected Alice. She also still felt the loss of her aunts in Russia deeply and wanted nothing more than to found her own sisterhood as her aunt Elizabeth had done. The trauma of almost losing Andrew to the firing squad had also been difficult. Over the years, Alice and Andrew began to drift apart as Alice’s mind focussed on more spiritual matters. In the spring of 1926, Alice travelled to Darmstadt, where she became a student of the philosopher Hermann von Keyserling.

In October 1928, Alice and Andrew celebrated their silver wedding at St Cloud, but this was probably the moment that Alice truly let go of her marriage. Just two weeks later, Alice was received in the Greek Orthodox Church. Her mother later wrote, “I think it will be a help & comfort to her & you know I have always thought that everyone should be free to believe as much or as little as they wish & if there is a church that they wish to join, they should do so, as long as they justify it to their own conscience.”2 However supportive the family was, it was clear that Alice was ill. She began to believe that she had the power to heal and that she could stop her thoughts. The fears for her health even reached her sister in Sweden, who wrote, “It is rather worrying & upsetting what you write about Alice. One can only hope that this phase will pass quickly. Alice always had had a tendence (sic) for the supernatural…”3

Christmas 1929 was a low point as she announced that she was a saint and talked of evil influences in the house. She then called a priest and announced that she was “having dinner with Jesus Christ.”4 Both Andrew and Margarita wrote to Victoria, who arrived early in 1930. Her gynecologist eventually diagnosed psychosis, and Princess Marie recommended the clinic of Dr. Ernest Simmel in Berlin. She was admitted there in February.

After extensive examinations, Dr. Simmel diagnosed her as paranoid schizophrenic with a fantasy of being married to Christ. He also believed she was suffering from a neurotic pre-psychotic libidinous condition, and he consulted Sigmund Freud about it. He advised, “an exposure of the gonads to X-rays, in order to accelerate the menopause.”5 A Dr. von Schubert carried out the procedure – presumably without consulting Alice. Alice gained some weight while in Berlin and seemed a little better, so Dr. Simmel allowed her some freedoms. While there, Alice learned that her daughter Cecilie had become engaged to Georg Donatus, Hereditary Grand Duke of Hesse. As Alice began to feel better, she wanted to go home, but the doctors urged her to stay. She eventually discharged herself after eight weeks and returned to St Cloud.

Her family at St Cloud did not think she was better, and she still talked a lot about Christ. Andrew once more involved Alice’s mother, and they consulted two more doctors. While Alice joined the family at Darmstadt to celebrate Cecilie’s engagement, a plan had been set in motion for Alice to be admitted to a sanatorium at Lake Constance. On 2 May 1930, Alice was forcibly sedated with an injection of morphine-scopolamine and taken to Kreuzlingen at the sanatorium of Dr. Ludwig Binswanger. This time, she did not have the authority to release herself.

Alice was placed in Villa Maria, which had room for ten women. Upon arrival, doctors noted her “slightly stereotype smile, she makes a rather pensive, but not directly psychotic appearance.”6 The following day, Alice angrily wrote to her mother that she had been brought there against her will. Victoria came to visit Alice and explained that a lengthy stay here was necessary, but it appeared that Alice was unaware of the role her mother had played in bringing her to the sanatorium. That same year, her daughter Sophie became engaged to Christoph of Hesse, and the flowers that were delivered to the sanatorium made Alice cry. Alice also wrote to young Philip as she had missed his ninth birthday.

Alice was briefly moved to Lucerne, but Alice soon began to give away all her possessions, and she marked 8 September in her bible as the day of her departure. She also wrote several goodbye letters, and then doctors intervened to take her forcibly back to Kreuzlingen before she could harm herself. Her condition was a cause for concern for quite a while, and Alice believed she was going to die. There was now no question of her attending Sophie’s wedding in December. Shortly after Christmas, Victoria arrived with Philip for a short visit, which went well, but Alice still told her mother that she would not live much longer.

Read part five here.

  1. Alice, Princess Andrew of Greece by Hugo Vickers p.191-192
  2. Alice, Princess Andrew of Greece by Hugo Vickers p.198-199
  3. Alice, Princess Andrew of Greece by Hugo Vickers p.200
  4. Alice, Princess Andrew of Greece by Hugo Vickers p.202
  5. Alice, Princess Andrew of Greece by Hugo Vickers p.205
  6. Alice, Princess Andrew of Greece by Hugo Vickers p.214

About Moniek Bloks 2666 Articles
My name is Moniek and I am from the Netherlands. I began this website in 2013 because I wanted to share these women's amazing stories.

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