Prince Philip opposed Princess Alice’s burial request says expert
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An eccentric and enigmatic royal, Princess Alice of Battenberg was the mother of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, mother-in-law of Queen Elizabeth II, and the paternal grandmother of King Charles III. She was born on February 25, 1885, in Windsor Castle and was the great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria. At the age of 18, she married Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark, and the pair went on to have five children — four daughters and their only son, Philip. Alice had known unfathomable wealth from birth and her wedding marked the height of her life’s extravagance, however, this did not last forever.
Alice came up against several obstacles throughout the course of her life, as royal biographer Hugo Vickers later wrote: “…virtually every point of stability was overthrown.”
In the early Twenties, the Greek royal family were toppled and Alice had to flee with her young family to Paris.
Soon after, the Princess’s mental health took a turn for the worse. Having been born deaf, she found herself isolated and began to experience “religious delusions”.
In 1930, she was placed in a sanatorium in Switzerland, diagnosed with schizophrenia and separated from her children.
It wasn’t until seven years later that Alice was reunited with Philip, at the funeral of her daughter — and Philip’s sister — Cecilie, who died in an air accident with her husband and children.
After several years, she left the sanatorium and returned to Athens. There, she founded a Greek Orthodox nursing order of nuns known as the Christian Sisterhood of Martha and Mary, which trained sisters to take care of poor children and the sick.
During World War Two, the Princess sheltered persecuted Jews in her Athens home and was posthumously honoured with the Righteous Among the Nations. She continued to live and work as a nun for decades.
By the time of her death, on December 5, 1969, Alice had reportedly given away all of her possessions.
A single note she left to her son read: “Dearest Philip, be brave, and remember I will never leave you, and you will always find me when you need me most. All my devoted love, your old Mama.”
Originally, she was interred in the royal crypt in Windsor Castle, but according to her wishes, her remains were transferred to the Russian Orthodox Church of St Mary Magdalene in Jerusalem in 1988.
In 1994, when Alice was posthumously honoured with the Righteous Among the Nations, the Duke of Edinburgh said of his mother: “I suspect that it never occurred to her that her action was in any way special. She was a person with deep religious faith and she would have considered it to be a totally human action to fellow human beings in distress.”
Alice died at Buckingham Palace having moved to England two years earlier.
When military rule was imposed in Greece in 1967, Alice’s safety was doubted and she was subsequently brought to live with Philip and the Queen.
By this point, the Princess was an elderly, chain-smoking nun, supposedly at the embarrassment of the Duke of Edinburgh.
During episode four of season three of The Crown — called Bubbikins, based on the nickname Philip’s mother gave him — an embarrassed Philip (played by Tobias Menzies) said Alice was only ever “technically” his mother: “It means she gave birth to me.”
However, history suggests that Philip was in fact very fond of his idiosyncratic mother.
The Duke supplied Alice with a house in Athens that she could use as a base for her charity, and when she made periodic visits to Munich for medical treatment, he would sometimes fly to Germany, piloting his own aircraft, and take her back to Athens, according to Mr Vickers.
She was a frequent guest at Buckingham Palace and became fond of her daughter-in-law — calling her Lilibet, as the Queen Mother and King George VI once did.
When Alice eventually moved to the London residence, it was at the persuasion of her son, who was “delighted she could finally be cared for in safety”.
Mr Vickers wrote for the Daily Mail in 2021: “They argued, of course. They were far too much alike to agree on everything. Princess Anne told me how funny she found it, to see her father march out of her grandmother’s room, throwing irritable remarks over his shoulder.”
He added: “It was possible to read his mother’s influence in many of the Duke’s attitudes to life.”
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