Alice of Battenberg – A twice exiled Princess (Part three)

alice battenberg
Alice by Philip de László in 1922 (public domain)

Read part two here.

Alice wrote of her experiences as a nurse to her mother, who distributed at least two of her letters amongst the British Royal Family. Her brother George commented, “I have never read anything so interesting. It filled me with an intense admiration and sympathy for Alice; she has surpassed herself in bravery & tirelessness of effort.”1 In November 1913, she received the Royal Red Cross from King George V, “in recognition of her services in nursing the sick and wounded among the Greek soldiers during the recent war.”2 Just two days after receiving the Royal Red Cross, Alice’s father-in-law King George I of Greece (Hellenes) was assassinated.

George was walking through the street with just an equerry and two gendarmes when he was shot in the back on 18 March 1913. He died almost instantly. Alice was at the Royal Palace with Andrew and George, and they broke the news to Queen Olga. The assassin later committed suicide. Crown Prince Constantine returned to Athens and took the oath – becoming King Constantine I. Alice and Andrew inherited the residence of Mon Repos on Corfu, which became their new home. Alice also founded a hospital in Athens during this time.

The following year, Alice was pregnant again, and she gave birth to a fourth daughter – named Sophie – on 26 June 1914. Her mother had joined her in Greece for the labour, and Victoria wrote on the day of her birth, “Well, the baby is here at last. She (alas!) made her appearance at 6 a.m. Of course, it is a disappointment her being another girl; she is a fine healthy, large child.”3

The outbreak of the First World War left Alice in the middle of family loyalties. Her parents lived in England, two of her aunts lived in Russia, and another was married to the brother of the Kaiser. Alice herself was deeply devoted to Greece and lived a relatively quiet existence in Corfu for now. She remained in Greece until 1917, bringing up her four daughters, until the political situation made it impossible to stay. They were forced to leave for Switzerland in 1917. The family’s main base became the Grand Hotel in Lucerne. King Constantine’s second son Alexander became King in his place (the elder son George was considered to be unsuitable by the Allied powers as he trained in the military in Berlin), but he reigned for just three years – dying after being bitten by a monkey, leaving behind a pregnant morganatic spouse.

In 1918, the family learned that Alice’s aunts Elizabeth, Alexandra and other Romanovs had been murdered. Alice’s mother later wrote, “If ever anyone has met death without she (Elizabeth) will have & her deep & pure faith will have upheld & supported & comforted her in all she has gone through so that the misery poor Alicky (Alexandra) will have suffered will not have touched Ella’s (Elizabeth) soul & maybe, had she lived, years of solitary suffering.”4 Alice found herself exiled following the First World War and found solace in religion.

The family was briefly allowed back to Greece in 1920, with King Constantine resuming his reign. Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, Alice’s family renounced their German titles. Her father was created Marquess of Milford Haven, and her mother also dropped her German title and became the Marchioness of Milford Haven. Alice’s sister became Lady Louise Mountbatten, George became Earl of Medina and Louis became Lord Louis Mountbatten (he was later created Earl Mountbatten of Burma). Alice was already a Greek Princess by marriage and thus never became a Mountbatten.

Alice and Andrew settled back in at Mon Repos on Corfu, and Alice was also finally able to share with the family that she was expecting her fifth child. On 10 June 1921, Alice gave birth to her only son – Philip (later known as the Duke of Edinburgh as the husband of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom) at Mon Repos. She later wrote, “He is a splendid, healthy child, thank God. I am very well, too. It was an uncomplicated delivery & I am now enjoying the fresh air on the terrace.”5 Just three months later, Alice’s father Louis died of a sudden heart attack, and she travelled to London – taking the infant Philip with her as she was still nursing him.

King George V offered Alice’s mother an apartment at Kensington Palace, and she moved there with Louise in December 1922. Alice returned to Greece as Andrew’s position in Greece during the Greco-Turkish War deteriorated, and he was criticised in the press. In June 1922, Alice and her five children travelled to England to attend the wedding of her brother Louis to heiress Edwina Ashley. Her daughters were bridesmaids while young Philip remained at their residence. Alice visited Scotland before returning to Greece, which was in disarray.

In September, King Constantine abdicated the throne in favour of his eldest son, who now became King George II. King Constantine, Queen Sophie, Prince Nicolas and Princess Katherine left Greece at the end of September, but for now, Alice and Andrew remained at Corfu. Andrew was eventually taken away and questioned about his role in the last war while Alice anxiously waited for news under police surveillance. Andrew was eventually found guilty of disobeying orders, but he escaped a death sentence. Alice quickly gathered the children at Mon Repos – with Philip famously being transported in a cot made from an orange box – and they all left Greece on the Calypso.

Through Italy and France, the family intended to travel to London although the government thought it “undesirable” that they should come to England. After a delay of six days, the family was finally allowed to travel to England, and they settled into rooms at the Stafford Hotel. Eventually, the elder daughters Margarita and Theodora remained with their grandmother Victoria, while Alice and Andrew took the younger three children to Paris. Alice’s sister-in-law Marie (Bonaparte – Princess George of Greece) loaned them a house where they would live for the next seven years.

Read part four here.

  1. Alice, Princess Andrew of Greece by Hugo Vickers p.100
  2. Alice, Princess Andrew of Greece by Hugo Vickers p.104
  3. Alice: Princess Andrew of Greece by Hugo Vickers p.110
  4. Alice: Princess Andrew of Greece by Hugo Vickers p.135
  5. Alice: Princess Andrew of Greece by Hugo Vickers p.153

About Moniek Bloks 2730 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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