Princess Alice of the United Kingdom
|Tenure||13 June 1877 – 14 December 1878|
|Spouse||Louis IV, Grand Duke of Hesse (m.1862–1878)|
|Victoria, Marchioness of Milford Haven
Grand Duchess Elizaveta Feodorovna of Russia
Irene, Princess Henry of Prussia
Ernest Louis, Grand Duke of Hesse
Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna of Russia
|Alice Maud Mary|
|House||House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (born)
House of Hesse-Darmstadt (wed)
|Father||Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha|
|Mother||Victoria of the United Kingdom|
25 April 1843|
Buckingham Palace, London, England
|Died||14 December 1878
Darmstadt, Hesse (Germany)
Princess Alice of the United Kingdom (Alice Maud Mary: Princess Louis and Grand Duchess of Hesse and by Rhine by marriage; 25 April 1843 – 14 December 1878) was the third child and second daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.
Alice's education was devised by Albert's close friend and adviser, Baron Stockmar. Like her other siblings, Alice spent her early childhood in the company of her parents and siblings, travelling between the British royal residences. In 1861, when Prince Albert became ill with typhoid fever, Alice nursed him through his final illness; he died on 14 December. Following his death, Queen Victoria entered a period of intense mourning and Alice spent the next six months acting as her mother's unofficial secretary. On 1 July 1862, while the court was still at the height of mourning, Alice married the minor German Prince Louis of Hesse, heir to the Grand Duchy of Hesse. The ceremony—conducted privately and with unrelieved gloom at Osborne House—was described by the Queen as "more of a funeral than a wedding". The Princess' life in Darmstadt was unhappy as a result of impoverishment, family tragedy, and worsening relations with her husband and mother.
Alice was a prolific patron of women's causes, especially nursing, and was a follower of Florence Nightingale. When Hesse became involved in the Austro-Prussian War, Darmstadt filled with the injured; and the heavily pregnant Alice devoted much of her time to the management of field hospitals. One of her organisations, the Princess Alice Women's Guild, became a national one, taking over much of the day-to-day running of the military hospitals. Furthermore, she befriended and promoted the theologian David Friedrich Strauss, who provided an intellectual basis for her faith instead of the traditional sentimentality of Victorian religion. In 1877, Alice became Grand Duchess upon the accession of her husband; and her increased duties put a further strain on her health. The following year, she travelled to England for the last time, holidaying in Eastbourne at the Queen's expense. In the latter months of 1878, diphtheria infected the Hessian court; and Alice nursed her family for over a month before falling ill herself.
She died on the 17th anniversary of her father's death, 14 December 1878, at the New Palace in Darmstadt. She was the first of Queen Victoria's nine children to die, and one of three to be outlived by their mother, who survived until 1901.
Princess Alice was mother of Empress Alexandra Feodorovna (the wife of Emperor Nicholas II of Russia) and the maternal great-grandmother of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, consort of Queen Elizabeth II. Another daughter, Princess Elisabeth of Hesse, died in Russia in 1918.
Alice was born on 25 April 1843 at Buckingham Palace, London. She was the second daughter and third child of the reigning British monarch, Queen Victoria, and her husband Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. She was named Alice to honour Victoria's first Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne, who was a passionate admirer of the Queen and had once commented that the name "Alice" was his favourite female name. Maud, the Anglo-Saxon name for Matilda, was chosen in honour of one of Alice's godparents, Princess Sophia Matilda of Gloucester, a niece of King George III. Mary was chosen because Alice was born on the same day as her great-aunt, Princess Mary, Duchess of Gloucester. Alice was christened in the private chapel at Buckingham Palace by William Howley, the Archbishop of Canterbury, on 2 June 1843. Her gender was greeted with a mixture of feeling from the public, and even the Privy Council sent a message to Albert expressing its "congratulation and condolence" on the birth of a second daughter. The godparents selected by the Queen were Ernest I, King of Hanover, for whom Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge stood proxy; Feodora, Princess of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, for whom Princess Victoria, Duchess of Kent stood proxy; Ernest II, Hereditary Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. for whom Frederick William, Hereditary Grand Duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz stood proxy; and Princess Sophia Matilda of Gloucester.
Alice's birth prompted her parents to find a larger family home. Buckingham Palace was not equipped with the private apartments that Victoria's growing family needed, including suitable nurseries. Therefore, in 1844, Victoria and Albert purchased Osborne House on the Isle of Wight as a family holiday home. Alice's education was devised by her father and his close friend, Baron Stockmar. At Osborne, Alice and her siblings were taught practical skills such as housekeeping, cooking, gardening and carpentry. Victoria and Albert favoured a monarchy based on family values; and Alice and her siblings, who wore middle class clothing on a daily basis, slept in sparsely furnished bedrooms with little heating. Alice was fascinated with the world outside the Royal Household; and, at Balmoral, where she seemed happiest, she visited the tenants living and working on the estate. On one occasion, she escaped from her governess at the chapel at Windsor Castle and sat in a public pew, so she could better understand people who were not strict adherents to royal protocol. In 1854, during the Crimean War, the eleven-year old Alice toured London hospitals for wounded soldiers with her mother and her eldest sister. She was the most emotionally sensitive of her siblings and was sympathetic to other people's burdens, possessing a sharp tongue and an easily triggered temper.
In her childhood, Alice formed a close relationship with her brother, the Prince of Wales, and her eldest sister, Victoria, the Princess Royal. Alice shared a close companionship with her sister, and was upset when she married Prince Frederick of Prussia in 1858. After that, she was closest to the Prince of Wales, with whom she held a tight and intimate bond.
Alice's compassion for other people's suffering established her role as the family caregiver in 1861. Her grandmother Victoria, Duchess of Kent, Queen Victoria's mother, died at Frogmore on 16 March 1861. Alice had spent much of her time at her grandmother's side, often played the piano for her in Frogmore's drawing room, and nursed her through the final illness. Following her mother's death, the Queen broke down with grief and relied heavily on Alice, to whom Albert had given the instruction: "Go and comfort Mama." The Queen wrote to her uncle, King Leopold of Belgium, that "dear good Alice was full of intense tenderness, affection and distress for me".
Only a few months later, on 14 December 1861, Albert died at Windsor Castle. During his final illness, Alice remained at his bedside. Alice sent for the Prince of Wales by telegram, without the knowledge of the Queen, who refused to notify him because she blamed him for Albert's death. The Queen was distraught by her husband's death, and the court entered a period of intense mourning. Alice became her mother's unofficial secretary, and for the next six months, the physical representation of the monarch. Through her passed the Queen's official papers to and from her government ministers, while the Queen secluded herself from all public life. Alice was aided in this task by her younger sister Princess Louise. Although Princess Helena, Louise's elder sister, would normally have been selected to assist, her inability to go long without crying was held against her.
Alice's matrimonial plans were begun in 1860 by her mother. Queen Victoria had expressed her wish that her children should marry for love, but this did not mean that her choice of suitors was extended to anybody outside the royal houses of Europe. Raising a British subject to royalty, however high their rank, was politically objectionable, and also wasted any opportunity for a useful foreign alliance. The Queen instructed her daughter Victoria, Princess Royal, recently married to the future German Emperor Frederick III, to produce a list of eligible princes in Europe. Her search produced only two suitable candidates: William, Prince of Orange; and Prince Albert of Prussia, cousin to Victoria's husband Frederick. The Prince of Orange was soon discounted, as it was revealed that he was smitten with a Catholic archduchess and showed no interest in Alice despite strong pressure from his pro-British mother, Queen Sophie of the Netherlands. Nevertheless, he journeyed to Windsor Castle so that Queen Victoria could look him over in person, but he proved unpalatable to Alice. Prince Albrecht, too, was spurned; Alice's brother-in-law, Princess Victoria's husband Prince Frederick of Prussia, remarked that his cousin would not do for "one who deserves the very best". Queen Victoria was strongly anti-Catholic, and discounted her cousin Peter V of Portugal purely because of his religion.
Both of the leading candidates now discounted, Princess Victoria suggested Prince Louis of Hesse, a minor German royal, the nephew of Grand Duke Louis III of Hesse. Princess Victoria had gone to the court of Hesse to inspect Louis's sister, Princess Anna, as a potential bride for her brother, Albert Edward, Prince of Wales. Although not favourably impressed with Princess Anna, she was impressed with Louis and his brother Prince Henry. Both were invited to Windsor Castle in 1860, ostensibly so they could watch the Ascot Races in the company of the royal family; but in reality, the visit was a chance for the Queen to inspect her potential son-in-law. The Queen admired both Louis and Henry, but noted how well Louis and Alice got along together. When the Hessian family departed, Louis requested Alice's photograph, and Alice made it clear that she was attracted to him.
Engagement and wedding
Alice was engaged to Prince Louis of Hesse on 30 April 1861, following the Queen's consent. The Queen persuaded the Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston, to vote Alice a dowry of £30,000. Although the amount was considered generous at the time, Prince Albert remarked that "she will not be able to do great things with it" in the little realm of Hesse, compared to the riches that her sister Victoria would inherit as future Queen of Prussia and German Empress. Furthermore, the couple's future home in Darmstadt, the Grand Ducal seat, was uncertain. Although Queen Victoria expected that a new palace would be built, the people of Darmstadt did not want to meet that expense, and the resulting controversy caused resentment there. This meant that Alice was unpopular in Darmstadt before she even arrived.
Between the engagement and the wedding, Alice's father Prince Albert died on 14 December 1861. Despite the Queen's grief, she ordered that the wedding should continue as planned. On 1 July 1862, Alice and Louis were married privately in the dining room of Osborne House, which was converted into a temporary chapel. The Queen was ushered in by her four sons, acting as a living screen blocking her from view, and took her place in an armchair near the altar. Alice was given away by her uncle, Albert's brother Ernest II, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, and was flanked by four bridesmaids: her younger sisters, Princesses Helena, Louise and Beatrice, as well as Louis's sister Princess Anna. For the ceremony, Alice wore a white dress with a veil of Honiton lace, but was required to wear black mourning clothes before and after the ceremony. The Queen, sitting in an armchair, struggled to hold back her tears, and was shielded from view by the Prince of Wales and Prince Alfred, her second son, who cried throughout the service. The weather at Osborne was dreary, with winds blowing up from the Channel. The Queen wrote to her eldest daughter, Victoria, that the ceremony was "more of a funeral than a wedding", and remarked to Alfred, Lord Tennyson that it was "the saddest day I can remember". The ceremony—described by Gerard Noel as "the saddest royal wedding in modern times"—was over by 4 pm, and the couple set off for their honeymoon at St Claire in Ryde, a house lent to them by the Vernon Harcourt family. Alice's entourage consisted of Lady Churchill, General Seymour and Herr Westerweller (a Hessian courtier).
Alice was careful not to displease the Queen after her marriage. When the Queen visited the couple at St Claire, Alice tried not to appear "too happy". Despite this, Alice's displays of romantic bliss made the Queen jealous of her daughter's happiness.
Princess Alice and Prince Louis had seven children:
- Princess Victoria (1863–1950), who married Prince Louis of Battenberg in 1884;
- Princess Elisabeth (1864–1918), known as ‘Ella’ within the family, who married Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich of Russia in 1884 and was murdered during the Bolshevik Revolution;
- Princess Irene (1866–1953), who married her cousin, Prince Henry of Prussia, in 1888;
- Prince Ernest Louis (1868–1937), the last Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine;
- Prince Friedrich (1870–1873), known as 'Frittie', who died of haemophilia;
- Princess Alix (1872–1918), who married Tsar Nicholas II, and was murdered at Ekaterinburg;
- Princess Marie (1874–1878), known as 'May', who died in the same diphtheria outbreak that killed her mother.
Princess Louis of Hesse
Settling in Darmstadt
Alice and Louis arrived at Bingen on 12 July 1862 and were greeted by cheering crowds gathered in spite of pouring rain. After being introduced to town officials, they took a train to Mainz, where they breakfasted, before taking a steamer along the Rhine to Gustavsburg. From there, they took a train to Darmstadt, where they were greeted with great enthusiasm. Alice wrote back to her mother that "I believe the people never gave so hearty a welcome", while her sister Helena wrote that "nothing could have been more enthusiastic than her entry into Darmstadt was″. Alice did not adapt immediately to her new surroundings. She was homesick, and could not believe that while she was so far away from England, her father was not still alive and comforting her mother. The Queen confided to her journal: "Already nearly a fortnight since our dear Alice has left and strange to say – much as she has been to me – and dear and precious as a comfort and an assistance, I hardly miss her at all, or felt her going – so utterly alone am I – by that one dreadful loss – that one thought, that everything passed by unheeded!"
The question of Alice's residence became an issue after her arrival, with the Grand Duke unwilling to fund a residence befitting a daughter of Queen Victoria with the low Hessian funds. The pair were given a house in Darmstadt's "Old Quarter", which overlooked the street. The carts rumbling past could easily be heard through the house's thin walls. However, it seemed to suit Alice well, and she spent as much time in Hesse as possible to familiarise herself with her new surroundings. In 1863, she travelled to England for the marriage of her brother, the Prince of Wales, to Princess Alexandra of Denmark, and delivered her first child, Victoria Alberta Elizabeth Matilda Marie, on 5 April in the presence of Queen Victoria. The Darmstadt court chaplain was called over to England especially for the christening.
After returning to Darmstadt in May, Alice and Louis were given a new residence, Kranichstein, north-east of Darmstadt. Alice gave birth to her second daughter Elizabeth, nicknamed "Ella", on 1 November 1864. Alice's decision to breastfeed her newborn daughter upset her mother, who was against breastfeeding. Furthermore, the realisation by the Queen that Alice had found true happiness and would therefore be visiting England less began the difficult relations between mother and daughter that would continue until Alice's death.
In 1866, Vienna called for Berlin to hand over the joint Habsburg-Hohenzollern administration to the Augustenborg family. Berlin refused, and Otto von Bismarck sent troops into Austrian-administered Holstein. This provoked war between the Austrian Empire and Prussia, with Hesse siding with the Austrians, technically making Alice and her sister Victoria enemies.
Alice, heavily pregnant with her third child, saw Louis depart to command the Hessian cavalry against the Prussians, and sent her children to stay with Queen Victoria in England. Despite her pregnancy, she performed the royal duties expected of her sex and station, making bandages for troops and preparing hospitals. On 11 July, she gave birth, and when Prussian troops were on the verge of entering Darmstadt, she begged the Grand Duke to surrender on Prussia's terms. This provoked fury from the fiercely anti-Prussian Prince Alexander, but Alice realised that the conquered German states would likely form a union which she, like her sister Victoria, supported.
Alice and Louis communicated extensively during the war, with Alice urging Louis not to take too many risks, and Louis urging her not to worry. Panic ensued in Darmstadt, with the youth corps fleeing their posts, leaving only the palace sentries to defend the city. One general's hysterical behaviour angered Alice after he rushed into a hospital shouting "The Prussians are coming, every man for himself" at 1 am. Eventually an armistice between Prussia and Hesse was concluded, and Louis wrote that they were now "safe". He was reunited with Alice after the two met unexpectedly in the street, and they visited the wounded together. The Prussians entered Darmstadt, and Alice devoted much of her time to the sick and wounded. She was a friend of Florence Nightingale, who was able to collect and send money from England, and Alice used Nightingale's advice as to cleanliness and ventilation in hospitals.
Despite being relieved that war was over, Alice was shocked by the behaviour of Prussian troops in Hesse; Berlin took the grand duchy's railways and telegraph systems, and assessed Hesse for three million florins in indemnity. Alice wrote to her mother, who in turn wrote to Victoria, who responded that there was nothing she could do to relieve the "painful and distressing position darling Alice was in" as it was "one of the unavoidable results of this dreadful war". Influence came from the Emperor of Russia, who urged the Prussian King to allow the Grand Duke to keep his throne. The facts that the Emperor's mother was the Grand Duke's aunt and Alice's sister was also the Prussian Crown Princess is likely to have influenced Prussia's generosity. However, Alice was angered by an untactful visit by Princess Victoria to the conquered region of Homburg, originally part of Hesse, shortly after it became Prussian territory.
Alice developed a friendship with the theologian David Friedrich Strauss. He was a controversial figure at the time; in 1835, he published The Life of Jesus, which argued that the Bible could not be literally interpreted as God's word, a view akin to heresy in orthodox circles. Alice's view was similar to Strauss', and she believed that contemporary Victorian society was presenting God in a way that would be "unrecognisable to early Christians". Strauss also offered Alice an intellectual companionship that her husband was not equipped to provide, and he was regularly invited to the New Palace to read to Alice privately. The friendship flourished; Strauss was introduced to Alice's sister Victoria and her brother-in-law Frederick, and he was invited by them to Berlin. In 1870, Strauss wanted to dedicate his new work Lectures on Voltaire to Alice, but he was too afraid to ask her; she spared him the need by asking him to dedicate them to her. However, Alice's relationship with Strauss angered Empress Augusta, who labelled Alice a "complete atheist" after hearing about his promotion.
1871: Family and political relations
January 1871 saw the formation of the German Empire, but Alice's feelings were torn. She was proud that Germany had become united, but was distressed to part with her husband, who was now fighting for the Prussians. They were separated for nearly the whole year, only seeing each other during short breaks, and Alice lamented that "the past year has been so unhappy". Late in 1871, Alice travelled to Balmoral to see her mother, but she was recovering from two serious illnesses, and Alice was given the feeling that her mother did not want her there. Alice and Louis therefore went to stay with the Prince and Princess of Wales at Sandringham, where Louis was able to shoot. Shortly before the couple were due to depart Sandringham, however, the Prince of Wales became seriously ill with typhoid fever. The Prince's condition was critical, but after a tense period, he recovered.
After the Prince's recovery, the Queen was anxious that the credit for his recovery should be focused on the Princess of Wales, rather than Alice. The Queen was still mindful that Alice had opposed her choice of husband for Princess Helena, and relations between mother and daughter continued to sour until Alice's death. The Queen was disenchanted with Alice's choice to breastfeed her children, as well as her interest in gynecological matters and the human body. When Alice's sister Louise was married on 21 March 1871, the Queen wrote to Louise: "I would rather you had not met her [Alice] so soon, for I know her curiosity and what is worse and what I hardly like to say of my own daughter–and I know her indelicacy and coarseness...When she came over in '69 and saw Lenchen again and asked her such things, that Christian was shocked..." The Queen was also annoyed by Alice's begging letters, pleading poverty, and her habit of trying to cheer the Queen up whenever she visited. The Queen, content in her sorrow, did not want to be cheered up. Alice's dislike of her mother's funerary seclusion worsened their relationship.
Tragedy befell Alice on 29 May 1873, when her youngest and favourite son, Friedrich, called "Frittie", died after falling 20 feet from a window. The child suffered from haemophilia, and although he regained consciousness, the internal bleeding could not be stopped. Alice never recovered from Frittie's death, writing to her mother two months later: "I am glad you have a little coloured picture of my darling. I feel lower and sadder than ever and miss him so much, so continually." However, the Queen's attention was more focused on her son Prince Alfred's engagement to the Grand Duchess Marie of Russia. The Tsar had refused to present his daughter for pre-marriage inspection in England, and instead invited the Queen to meet the family in Germany. Alice supported this suggestion, and on the same day she wrote the Queen about how much she missed Frittie, the Queen wrote Alice in scathing terms: "You have entirely taken the Russian side, and I do not think, dear child, that you should tell me...what I ought to do."
After Frittie's death, Alice attached herself more closely to her only surviving son, Ernest, and her newborn daughter Marie. In 1875 she resumed her public duties, including fund-raising, medical and social work, which had always held her interest. She maintained active correspondence with the social reformer Octavia Hill. However, in these years, relations with her husband deteriorated. In late 1876, she travelled to England for treatment due to an internal complaint caused by a backward curvature of the womb, and remained at Balmoral while she recovered. From Balmoral, she wrote to her husband criticising the childishness of his letters: "[i]f my children wrote me such childish letters – only short accounts – of where and what they had eaten or where they had been etc., and no opinions, observations and remarks, I should be surprised – and how much more so when you write like that!" On 3 October 1876, she wrote another despairing letter to Louis:
I longed for real companionship, for apart from that life had nothing to offer me in Darmstadt...So naturally I am bitterly disappointed with myself when I look back, and see that in spite of great ambitions, good intentions, and real effort, my hopes have nevertheless been completely ship-wrecked...You say, darling, that you would never have caused me hardship intentionally...I only regret the lack of any intention or desire – or rather insight – to be more to me, and that does not mean spending all your time with me, without wishing to share anything with me at the same time. But I am wrong to talk of these things. Your letters are so dear and kind – but so empty and bare – I feel myself through them that I have less to say to you than any other person. Rain – fine weather – things that have happened – that is all I ever have to tell you about – so utterly cut off is my real self, my innermost life, from yours...I have tried again and again to talk to you about more serious things, when I felt the need to do so – but we never meet each other – we have developed separately...and that is why I feel true companionship is an impossibility for us – because our thoughts will never meet...I love you too so very much, my darling husband, and that is why it is so sad to feel that our life is nevertheless so incomplete...But you are never intentionally to blame for this – I never think that, never...
The following day, Alice wrote a much shorter letter to Louis in which she looked forward to their meeting, and hoped that "my letter did not distress you – but it is better to be quite honest about all one's feelings".
Despite marital problems, Alice remained a strong supporter of her husband, highly critical when his abilities or talents were not fully recognised. On 20 March 1877, Louis' father Prince Charles died, making Louis heir apparent. On 13 June the same year, Grand Duke Louis III died, and Louis and Alice became the Grand Duke and Duchess of Hesse. However, her continued unpopularity in Darmstadt, coupled with her mother not wanting her in England, caused strain, and she and her children spent July and August in Houlgate, Normandy, where Louis often visited them. She was hurt by her reputation in Darmstadt, and she became increasingly bitter towards it; Louis wrote in August 1877 expressing the hope that "bitterness of the salt water will drive away the bitterness that you still feel against Darmstadt. Please my darling, don't speak so harshly of it when I come to join you – it would quite spoil my happiness at seeing you again."
Alice took Louis's letter to heart, responding: "I shall certainly say nothing to you about Darmstadt when you come...I have no intention of saying anything unpleasant, least of all to you. You shake off anything unpleasant like a poodle shaking off the water when it comes to the sea – natures like yours are the happiest in themselves, but they are not made to help, comfort and advise others, nor to share with others the heat of life's noon-day or the cool of the evening, with insight, understanding and sympathy." In response, Louis sent a letter that "made [Alice] cry", and after this letter, Alice's letters to Louis were more encouraging, assuring him of his ability to make decisions by himself.
Alice and Louis's return to Darmstadt as Grand Duke and Duchess was met with celebration that Alice did not expect. However, she found her duties overwhelming, writing to her mother that she "dreaded everything". Alice used her new role to reform the social conditions of Darmstadt, but found the responsibility of being Landesmutter (mother of her people) strenuous. In another letter to her mother, she wrote that her duties were "more than she could stand in the long run". She was distressed by a rumour that she was once unkind to Louis's aunt, Grand Duchess Mathilde Caroline, and she was hurt by an unkind letter from Queen Victoria. Alice complained to Louis that the letter "made me cry with anger...I wish I were dead and it probably will not be too long before I give Mama that pleasure." However, no mention is made of what provoked this angry outburst.
Christmas 1877 provided respite for Alice, as all the family gathered together again, and she doted on her youngest daughter Marie. She was too exhausted to attend the wedding of her niece, Princess Charlotte of Prussia, in Berlin, in January 1878. Instead, she involved herself in the arts and sciences and distanced herself from society protocols. However, she continued to feel the burden of her duties. In the Autumn of 1878, Queen Victoria paid for the Grand Ducal family to holiday in Eastbourne, where they stayed in a house on the Grand Parade. Alice performed various royal duties on this trip and visited her mother at Osborne before returning to the New Palace at Darmstadt in late 1878.
Final illness and Death
In November 1878, the Grand Ducal household fell ill with diphtheria. Alice's eldest daughter Victoria was the first to fall ill, complaining of a stiff neck in the evening of 5 November. Diphtheria was diagnosed the following morning, and soon the disease spread to Alice's children Alix, Marie, Irene and Ernest. Her husband Louis became infected shortly thereafter. Elizabeth was the only child to not fall ill, having been sent away by Alice to the palace of the Princess Charles, her mother-in-law.
Marie became seriously ill on 15 November, and Alice was called to her bedside. However, she was too late; Marie had choked to death by the time Alice arrived. She was distraught, writing to Queen Victoria that the "pain is beyond words". For several weeks, Alice kept the news of Marie's death secret from her children, but she finally told Ernest in early December. His reaction was even worse than she had anticipated, and at first, he refused to believe it. As he sat up crying, Alice broke her rule about physical contact with the ill and gave him a kiss. At first, however, Alice did not fall ill. She met her sister Victoria as the latter was passing through Darmstadt on the way to England, and wrote to her mother with "a hint of resumed cheerfulness" on the same day. However, by Saturday, 14 December, the anniversary of her father's death, she became seriously ill with the diphtheria caught from her son. Her last words were "dear Papa", and she fell unconscious at 2:30 am. Just after 8:30 am, she died. Alice was buried on 18 December 1878 at the Grand Ducal mausoleum at Rosenhöhe outside Darmstadt, with the Union Jack draped over her coffin. A special monument of Alice and her daughter Marie was erected there by Joseph Boehm.
She was the first child of Queen Victoria to die; her mother outlived her by more than 20 years, outliving two more of her children – Leopold and Alfred – in the process.
Alice's death had an emotional effect both in Britain and Hesse. The Times wrote: "The humblest of people felt that they had the kinship of nature with a Princess who was the model of family virtue as a daughter, a sister, a wife and a mother...Her abundant sympathies sought for objects of help in the great unknown waste of human distress". The Illustrated London News wrote that the "lesson of the late Princess's life is as noble as it is obvious. Moral worth is far more important than high position". The death was also heavily felt by the royal family, especially by Alice's brother and sister-in-law, the Prince and Princess of Wales. The Princess of Wales, upon meeting the Queen after Alice's death, exclaimed "I wish I had died instead of her". The Prince, meanwhile, wrote to the Earl of Granville that Alice "was my favourite sister. So good, so kind, so clever! We had gone through so much together..."
On the day of Alice's death, Queen Victoria referred in her journal to the recent sufferings of the family, opening her entry, "This terrible day come round again!" Shocked by grief, she wrote to her daughter Princess Victoria: "My precious child, who stood by me and upheld me seventeen years ago on the same day taken, and by such an awful and fearful disease...She had darling Papa's nature, and much of his self-sacrificing character and fearless and entire devotion to duty!" The animosity that Victoria had towards Alice was no longer present. Princess Victoria expressed her grief to her mother in a 39-page letter, and deeply mourned Alice, the sister to whom she was closest. However, both she and her husband were forbidden from attending the funeral by the Emperor of Germany, who was worried about their safety.
Alice's descendants went on to play significant roles in world history. Her fourth daughter, Alix, married Tsar Nicholas II of Russia; Alix passed her mother's gene for haemophilia on to her son, the crown prince Tsarevich Alexei. Alix, her husband, and her children were shot and killed by the Bolsheviks after the Russian Revolution of 1917. Similarly, Alice's second daughter, Elizabeth, who married Grand Duke Sergei of Russia, was murdered in 1918. Alice's grandson, Louis Mountbatten, was the last Viceroy of India, and her great-grandson, Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark, married Queen Elizabeth II.
The Alice Hospital, which she founded in Darmstadt, treated the city's sick and wounded. The organisation continued to flourish long after Alice's death, and in 1953, her grandson Louis gave a lecture on the hospital. He spoke highly of Alice, for whom "the point of departure always remained a human being who was ill and needed help, and his needs in war and peace. At his side stood the person willing to give help, wishing to ameliorate his needs and for this purpose could make use of an organisation which was becoming more and more streamlined." Among Alice's other establishments were the Alice Society for Women's Training and Industry, for the purpose of educating women, and the Princess Alice Women's Guild, where nurses were trained. These organisations were especially active and important during the Austro-Prussian war, but the time Alice dedicated to them annoyed her husband, who saw them as consuming his wife's time at his expense.
Titles, styles, honours and arms
Titles and styles
- 25 April 1843 – 1 July 1862: Her Royal Highness The Princess Alice
- 1 July 1862 – 13 June 1877: Her Royal Highness Princess Louis of Hesse and by Rhine
- 13 June 1877 – 14 December 1878: Her Royal Highness The Grand Duchess of Hesse and by Rhine
In 1858, Alice and the three younger of her sisters were granted use of the royal arms, with an inescutcheon of the shield of Saxony, and differenced by a label argent of three points. On Alice's arms, the outer points bore an ermine spot each, and the centre bore a rose gules.
|Victoria Alberta Elisabeth Matilda Mary||5 April 1863||24 September 1950||Married Prince Louis of Battenberg, later Marquess of Milford Haven (24 May 1854 – 11 September 1921) and had issue.|
|Elisabeth Alexandra Louise Alice||1 November 1864||18 July 1918 †||Took the name Yelisaveta Fyodorovna on her baptism into the Russian Orthodox Church, m. Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich of Russia (11 May 1857 – 17 February 1905), son of Tsar Alexander II of Russia and had no issue. Had been courted by her first cousin, William II, German Emperor, but rejected him.|
|Irene Louise Mary Anne||11 July 1866||11 November 1953||Married her first cousin Prince Henry of Prussia, (14 August 1862 – 20 April 1929), son of Frederick III, German Emperor and had issue. Irene passed haemophilia on to two of her three sons: Prince Waldemar of Prussia and Prince Henry of Prussia.|
|Ernest Louis Charles Albert William||25 November 1868||9 October 1937||Succeeded as Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine, 13 March 1892; abdicated 9 November 1918; married his first cousin HRH Princess Victoria Melita of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (25 November 1876 – 2 March 1936) and had issue, divorced in 1903; married HH Princess Eleonore of Solms-Hohensolms-Lich (17 September 1871 – 16 November 1937) and had issue.|
|Frederick William Augustus Victor Leopold Louis||7 October 1870||29 May 1873||Suffered from haemophilia and died from internal bleeding after a fall from a window at the age of two and a half.|
|Alix Victoria Helena Louise Beatrice||6 June 1872||17 July 1918 †||Took the name Alexandra Fyodorovna on her baptism into the Russian Orthodox Church, m. Tsar Nicholas II of Russia (18 May 1868 – 17 July 1918 †), and had issue. Their only son, Tsarevich Alexei, suffered from haemophilia.|
|Marie Victoria Feodore Leopoldine||24 May 1874||16 November 1878||Died from diphtheria.|
|† killed in the events that followed the Bolshevik Revolution|
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Princess Alice of the United Kingdom|
- Alexander Palace Time Machine – Princess Alice of Hesse and by Rhine
- Historical Images of Princess Alice Monument at Frogmore Mausoleum
Princess Alice of the United Kingdom
Cadet branch of the House of WettinBorn: 25 April 1843 Died: 14 December 1878
Title last held byMathilde Caroline of Bavaria
|Grand Duchess of Hesse and by Rhine
13 June 1877 – 14 December 1878
Title next held byVictoria Melita of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha