Alice of Battenberg – Escaping reality (Part five)

(public domain)

Read part four here.

Alice’s daughter Cecilie married on 2 February 1931, but Alice was not there as she was still at Kreuzlingen. She suffered a physical setback, though it is unclear if this had an actual physical cause. Alice asked for a holiday from Kreuzlingen, but this was denied her. She celebrated her 46th birthday there on 25 February but spent the day refusing to speak to Dr. Binswanger. Eventually, he informed her that he could not release her without the permission of her mother. Alice reportedly froze, and she never forgave her mother for this. Her mother came to visit her with Philip while en route to Margarita’s wedding in April, and Alice expressed resentment over her transfer to Kreuzlingen. Shortly after Margarita’s wedding to Prince Gottfried of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, Andrew finally visited his wife – it was his only visit.

In June, Alice suffered from mood swings, but she was happy to hear of the engagement between her last daughter Theodora to Berthold, Margrave of Baden, and they were married in August. She received visits from Theodora and Berthold and also from Cecilie and her husband. Soon, Alice was becoming obsessed with wanting to be released, and Dr. Binswanger reported to her mother that the religious aspects were becoming more dominant, and he had placed a nurse in the room next to her during the night. When she received a photo of Cecilie with her newborn son, she tore it up. She also began to plan an escape and told her nurse that she would continue to plan escapes until she succeeded.

Alice often appeared well around people, but the doctors remained worried. Dr. Binswanger wrote, “The mental activity of the princess is dominated by a complex of ideas and sensations which are clearly unhealthy. Despite her often correct external behaviour, her attitude towards life and people is abnormal.”1 Early the following year, Alice generally felt physically weak and resigned to staying at Kreuzlingen. Nevertheless, on 27 July 1932, Alice jumped for a window and ran towards the nearby railway station. She was caught as she waited for the train to depart. When she was returned to Kreuzlingen, she told them that she was “fed up being a princess.”2 On 23 September, Alice left Kreuzlingen and was transferred to the Martinsbrunn Sanatorium in South Tyrol, on the recommendation of the Queen of Italy (born Elena of Montenegro).

Surprisingly, Alice improved at Martinsbrunn, and she was given much more freedom there than at Kreuzlingen. However, she refused to improve the relations with her family and still felt betrayed by them. She made friends with a Swedish woman named Miss Heilskov, who began to act as her secretary. In early 1933, Alice was able to leave Martinsbrunn, and she settled in Nervi on the Italian Riviera with Miss Heilskov. In the following years, Alice was mostly out of touch with her family, and she became something of a nomad. Her mother wrote in the summer of 1935, “Bodily she is well, mentally no better…”3

Some normal contact with her family resumed at the end of 1936 when she wrote to Cecilie to thank her for the photograph of her newborn daughter Johanna and of Philip. By then, Alice was at Breibach, and she stayed there for most of 1937. Her mother came to see her in April, and shortly after, she had lunch with Cecilie, her husband and Philip in Bonn. It was the first time she had seen any of her children in four years. Tragedy was soon to come – on 16 November 1937, a pregnant Cecilie, her husband, their two sons, her mother-in-law, Baron von Riedesel and lady-in-waiting Aline Hahn flew to England for the wedding of Cecilie’s brother-in-law Louis to Margaret Geddes. Tragically, the plane crashed into a chimney as it descended through the fog to pick up more passengers, and all passengers were killed in the fiery crash. Only Cecilie’s daughter Johanna, who had been left behind, now remained.

Alice’s sister Louise wrote, “My thoughts are hardly here at all & to think of Lu above all is more than one can bear, To lose one’s entire nearest and & dearest in just over a month4 is unbelievably awful.”5 Alice travelled from Berlin with her daughter Sophie for the funeral while Andrew came with Philip from London – and so Alice saw her husband for the first time since April 1931. Alice was dealing with the tragedy a lot better than expected of her. Her mother wrote to Dr. Binswanger, “Everybody found her exactly the way she was before her illness. She has cried bitterly, but showed a moving concern for all the surviving.”6

Photo by Moniek Bloks

Alice wandered around for a bit before settling on a new goal – returning to Greece. She visited the graves of Cecilie and her family at Rosehöhe on the first anniversary of the crash before travelling on to Greece. She found a flat in Athens and wrote to Philip, “I have taken a small flat just for you and me.”7 She believed that Philip should have a base in Greece as a Greek prince. Alice returned to England to celebrate Christmas there before fully beginning her new life in Greece at the beginning of 1939.

Read part six here.

  1. Alice, Princess Andrew of Greece by Hugo Vickers p.235
  2. Alice, Princess Andrew of Greece by Hugo Vickers p.242
  3. Alice, Princess Andrew of Greece by Hugo Vickers p.252
  4. Cecilie’s father-in-law had passed away in October 1937 as well
  5. Alice, Princess Andrew of Greece by Hugo Vickers p.273
  6. Alice, Princess Andrew of Greece by Hugo Vickers p.274
  7. Alice, Princess Andrew of Greece by Hugo Vickers p.281

About Moniek Bloks 2698 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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