King George II had returned to the Greek throne in 1935 after a referendum, but the situation was still not very stable. Alice’s sister Louise wrote, “One is so happy for her starting again a simple, normal life on her own. I feel that none of us who have not gone through what Alice has can [know] what it must mean coming back after so many years & to fit in again to the average person’s life.”1 Philip visited her briefly and in May, he entered the British Navy as a cadet. In June, more tragedy followed as Cecilie’s only surviving child Johanna died of meningitis. Alice later wrote to Philip, “For we had such a sweet picture before our eyes of a lovely sleeping child with golden curls, looking for me so very like Cécili at that age that it was like losing my child a second time.”2
Then came the outbreak of the Second World War. Once more, Alice found herself in the middle of family loyalties, with her daughters all being married to Germans and her son being in the British navy. Alice returned to Athens and received a brief visit from Andrew. It would be the last time they saw each other. Alice spent much of the war in Greece though she was able to travel around a bit – like a holiday in Switzerland in August 1940. In April 1941, Germany invaded Greece, and most of the royal family left to avoid becoming captives. Only Alice and her sister-in-law Elena (Princess Nicholas) remained behind in Greece. Alice felt that she could be useful with her charity work.
The situation soon became dire due to food shortages, and many people died of starvation. Alice was mostly cut off from her family but was able to communicate messages through her sister Louise in Sweden. She moved out of her flat and into a house in the centre of Athens, and she occasionally received food parcels from Louise. She began to work in the soup kitchen, and she stayed mostly under the radar. In May 1942, she obtained a visa to visit Louise.
Once back in Athens, Alice also took care of orphans, and she organised nursing sisters. In addition, Alice also took in a Jewish family named the Cohens, for which she was later recognised as Righteous Among the Nations. Alice was sometimes questioned by the Gestapo, but she would then pretend not to be able to hear their questions, and they soon gave up.
In October 1944, Greece was liberated from the German occupation, but Athens remained chaotic. In early December, Alice received the news that her husband had died on 3 December without any further information. He had spent his final years living in Cannes and Monte Carlo, and he had died in Monte Carlo following a cardiac arrest. Later that month, Alice wrote to her mother, “As it was impossible to go to church, we had a priest to say the funeral mass & panichida for Andrea in the big drawing-room here (the girls will know it) & a few of Andrea’s friends managed to come to it.”3 By then, Elena had moved in with Alice as her house was in an area protected by British troops.
Alice continued her social work, often breaking curfew. A visitor wrote, “I told Princess Alice that it was very dangerous and that she might well be shot, at which she replied: ‘Well, they tell me that you don’t hear the shot that kills you and in any case I am deaf, so why worry about that? I wouldn’t know, would I?’ She added: ‘It’s my duty. What else was I born to do?'”4
In February 1945, Alice travelled to England and saw her mother for the first time in 5 years. Alice later wrote to her brother, “I am ashamed to say that at the beginning I was sometimes rather abrupt & sharp in my answers & I am now trying my best to remember her great age & that I must sadly renounce so much of the old Mama & let her talk on as she likes.”5
By then, it was also quite clear that one day Philip would marry into the British Royal Family, and he indeed proposed to Princess Elizabeth, the eldest daughter of King George VI, in the summer of 1947. Alice too began to spend more time in England, and she stayed with her mother at Kensington Palace. After the engagement, she went to tea with King George VI, Queen Elizabeth and Princess Elizabeth. On 9 July 1947, the engagement was officially announced. Alice was able to retrieve her jewels from the bank in Paris where they had been deposited since 1930, and some of the diamonds were used in Princess Elizabeth’s engagement ring.
None of Alice’s daughters were invited to the wedding due to them being married to Germans. Alice sat beside her mother in Westminster Abbey during the wedding on 20 November 1947. She later wrote to Philip, “How wonderfully everything went off & I was so comforted to see the truly happy expression on your face & to feel your decision was right from every point of view.”6 Once back in Athens, Alice wrote a 22-page description of the wedding to her daughters.
In November 1948, she received the news of the birth of Philip’s son Charles and wrote to him, “I think of you so much with a sweet baby of your own, of your joy and the interest you will take in all his little doings.”7 By 1949, Alice was living on the island of Tinos to help the sisterhood she was founding and she also bought a flat in Athens with two rooms and a bathroom. She was finally able to meet her grandson in July 1949, and by then, Alice was basically living as a nun – and dressing like one too.
- Alice, Princess Andrew of Greece by Hugo Vickers p.282
- Alice, Princess Andrew of Greece by Hugo Vickers p.284
- Alice, Princess Andrew of Greece by Hugo Vickers p.310
- Alice, Princess Andrew of Greece by Hugo Vickers p.311
- Alice, Princess Andrew of Greece by Hugo Vickers p.313
- Alice, Princess Andrew of Greece by Hugo Vickers p.328
- Alice, Princess Andrew of Greece by Hugo Vickers p.332