Princess Alice of Battenberg was born on 25 February 1885 as the daughter of Prince Louis of Battenberg and Princess Victoria of Hesse and By Rhine. Her great-grandmother Queen Victoria was present when she was born. She was diagnosed with congenital deafness and she learned to lip-read and speak in both English and German.
Alice was a bridesmaid for George, Duke of York (later King George V) and Mary of Teck in 1893 and she attended the funeral of Queen Victoria. She met Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark at the coronation of King Edward VII in 1902. They fell in love and married in a civil ceremony on 6 October 1903. The following day they had two religious ceremonies (Lutheran and Greek Orthodox). She adopted the style of her husband and was henceforth known as Princess Andrew of Greece and Denmark.
They had five children:
- Princess Margarita of Greece and Denmark (18 April 1905 – 24 April 1981)
- Princess Theodora of Greece and Denmark (30 May 1906 – 16 October 1969)
- Princess Cecilie of Greece and Denmark (22 June 1911 – 16 November 1937)
- Princess Sophie of Greece and Denmark (26 June 1914 – 24 November 2001)
- Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark (born 10 June 1921)
Alice became very involved in charity work. She acted as a nurse and set up field hospitals during the Balkan Wars, for which she was awarded the Royal Red Cross in 1913. Her brother-in-law was forced to abdicate and they were headed for exile in Switzerland. They briefly returned to Greece upon King Constantine’s restoration in 1920, but they were soon back into exile.
They settled in Paris, where Alice helped in charity shop for Greek refugees. She also entered the Greek Orthodox Church on 20 October 1928. She began claiming that she was receiving messages from God and that she had healing powers. She suffered a nervous breakdown in 1930 and was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. She was placed in a sanatorium in Switzerland. She made repeated protests against her hospitalisation. She and her husband drifted apart during this time. She was released after two years and lived incognito in Central Europe. She saw her husband for the first time in six years at her daughter Cecilie’s funeral. In 1938 she returned to Athens to resume her charitable works.
She was in a difficult situation during the Second World War. Her son Philip was in the British Royal Navy while her sons-in-law were on the German side. She worked for the Red Cross, where she helped organise soup kitchens and even flew to Sweden for medical supplies under the pretext of visiting her sister Louise. During this time Alice hid a Jewish widow named Rachel Cohen and two of her five children. About 60,000 out of a total of 75,000 Jews in Greece were being deported to Nazi concentration camps.
Athens was liberated in October 1944 and by then Alice was living in squalid conditions. She was widowed by the end of the year as well. They had not seen each other since 1939. Alice returned to England in 1947 to attend the wedding of her son Philip to Princess Elizabeth.
She was invited to live permanently at Buckingham by her daughter-in-law in 1967. She died at Buckingham Palace on 5 December 1969. She was initially buried at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle before her remains were moved to Convent of Saint Mary Magdalene in Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem in 1988.
Her son, by then the Duke of Edinburgh and her daughter, Princess George of Hanover (née Princess Sophie of Greece and Denmark) travelled to Jerusalem in 1993 to witness a ceremony honouring her as Righteous Among the Nations. Prince Philip said,
“I suspect that it never occurred to her that her action was in any way special. She was a person with a deep religious faith, and she would have considered it to be a perfectly natural human reaction to fellow beings in distress.”