Theodora of Greece and Denmark was born on 30 May 1906 at 11.45 P.M. at Tatoi Palace as the second daughter of Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark and Princess Alice of Battenberg. Andrew was away at the time to attend the wedding of Alfonso XIII of Spain and Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg, Alice’s cousin. Theodora was nicknamed Dolla in the family. She would be one of five siblings: Margarita (born 1905), Cecilie (born 1911), Sophie (born 1914) and Philip (born 1921).
In her childhood, she was described as being, “full of quaint ideas such as that she had seen fairies flitting about in the grounds. She used to have the funniest fits of absent-mindedness too, for which she was much derided by her very sprightly sister.”1 Theodora and her siblings were in the care of a governess, who taught them English and Greek. They also did gymnastics in a long corridor of the palace.
In 1917, the family was forced into exile for the first time. Theodora’s uncle King Constantine I of Greece abdicated in favour of his second son Alexander and Andrew and Alice went to live in St Moritz in Switzerland. Their main base became the Grand Hotel in Lucerne. Life changed again when King Alexander died in 1920 and Constantine was restored as King. Theodora and the family settled at Mon Repos where Prince Philip was born. In 1922, Theodora and her sisters were invited to be bridesmaids at the wedding of Edwina Ashley to Alice’s brother Louis (later 1st Earl Mountbatten of Burma). At the time their grandmother described them as, “quite natural and unaffected girls, really children, that do Alice credit, but though nice looking, they have merely the good looks of youth.”2
More trouble was to come as King Constantine abdicated for a second time in 1922, now in favour his eldest son George. It was arranged that the King and Queen would leave with Andrew, but he was not with them when they left. Alice and Andrew remained in Corfu with the children for now. Andrew was eventually arrested, leading to much worry. He was banished from Greece, and he gathered the family from Corfu where Alice had hurriedly packed a few belongings. Baby Philip was carried in a cot made from an orange box. Margarita and Theodora were left in the care of their grandmother in England, while Alice took the younger three siblings to Paris into the care of Andrew’s sister-in-law Princess Marie Bonaparte, the wife of Prince George of Greece and Denmark. She loaned the family a house in France where they would eventually live with the entire family.
Margarita and Theodora spent the autumn of 1923 at Kensington Palace, Christmas at Holkham and the new year at Sandringham. In January 1924, they attended the state opening of Parliament. In July, they were at the 30th birthday party of the Prince of Wales (future King Edward VIII) at Spencer House. However, as exiled Greek Princesses without money, they were hardly good catches, and it wasn’t until the end of the decade that either would find husbands.
Their younger sister Sophie was the first to marry. On 15 December 1930, she married Prince Christoph of Hesse. Theodora helped her sister into her dress at Friedrichshof. Cecilie married Georg Donatus, Hereditary Grand Duke of Hesse on 2 February 1931. Margarita was next to marry. On 20 April 1931, she married Gottfried, Prince of Hohenlohe-Langenburg. Theodora was now the last of the sisters left unmarried. In June, her engagement to Berthold, Margrave of Baden, was announced. They were married on 17 August 1931 at the Neues Schloß in Baden-Baden. Alice wrote, “I do hope Dolla will have a very happy life with Berthold because I think in some ways, she expects more than her sisters.”3 Berthold was the titular Grand Duke of Baden as the Grand Duchy had been abolished in 1918, along with many other German monarchies.
On 24 July 1932, after a twelve-hour labour – Theodora gave birth to her first child, a daughter named Margarita. A son named Maximillian was born on 3 July 1933, followed by a second son named Ludwig on 16 March 1937. Tragedy struck in November when Theodora’s sister Cecilie was killed alongside her family in an aeroplane crash. The funeral took place on 23 November, and Theodora attended it with her husband.
Early into the Second World War, Berthold was injured in the leg in France and was recovering at Giessen. He was left with a limp for life and returned home permanently. This means he had very little involvement with the Nazis and he and Theodora spend the rest of the war at their home in Salem. Though quite far away from the troubles of war, by the end of it, even Theodora was “sad and depressed.”4
Theodora and her surviving sisters came into some prominence when their younger Philip married the future Queen Elizabeth II. They had wanted to attend the wedding in 1947, but due to the anti-German sentiments at the time, it was decided that none of them would be invited to the wedding. Margarita, Sophie and Theodora went with Princess Elisabeth of Greece and Denmark (Countess of Törring-Jettenbach) – their first cousin – and the late Cecilie’s brother-in-law Louis and his wife Margaret to Marienburg where they celebrated the wedding together. Their mother Alice did attend the wedding, sitting on the north side of Westminster Abbey. She sent her daughters a 22-page description of the wedding.
In December 1949, just as her mother came to visit, Theodora began to suffer heart problems, which turned out to be a lasting problem. Theodora’s sister-in-law Princess Elizabeth became Queen in 1952 and Theodora and her sisters found themselves being invited to the coronation. They joined their mother Alice in the royal box behind Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. Theodora’s health continued to deteriorate with her mother commenting that she looked “old & haggard” after the wedding of Princess Sophia of Greece and Denmark and the future King Juan Carlos I of Spain in 1962. Alice later wrote to Philip, “There are days, she speaks with great difficulty & can’t manage her legs & then after some hours that passes & she talks & walks normally. For that reason, she walked about with a stick here as she never knows when these periods come on. It is the arteries narrowing so much more & preventing blood going to her head. Also, her heart is much worse. I thought I would warn you, as no one warned me.”5
In July 1963, Theodora had all her teeth extracted and was now sporting, “a dazzling smile to which one has to get accustomed.”6 She was apparently feeling better, and at the end of September, she went on a tour of Italy. She wasn’t with her husband when he suddenly slumped over dead in a car on his way to Baden-Baden with their son Ludwig on 27 October 1963. In 1965, Queen Elizabeth II visited Theodora with Philip. Margarita and Sophie also came to dinner.
Theodora died suddenly on 16 October 1969 at the Sanatorium Buedingen in Constance. She had moved there following an earlier hospitalisation. Philip’s son Charles flew to Salem to attend the funeral. Alice outlived her daughter for just five weeks – dying on 5 December 1969.
- Alice: Princess Andrew of Greece by Hugo Vickers p.89
- Alice: Princess Andrew of Greece by Hugo Vickers p.158
- Alice: Princess Andrew of Greece by Hugo Vickers p.231
- Alice: Princess Andrew of Greece by Hugo Vickers p.314
- Alice: Princess Andrew of Greece by Hugo Vickers p.374
- Alice: Princess Andrew of Greece by Hugo Vickers p.375