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Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone 1883-1981

Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone (Alice Mary Victoria Augusta Pauline) 25 February 1883 – 3 January 1981 was a member of the British Royal Family. She is the longest-lived Princess of the Blood Royal of the British Royal Family, and was the last surviving grandchild of Queen Victoria. She also held the titles of Princess of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and Duchess in Saxony from birth, as well as a Princess of Teck by marriage, until 1917 when the British Royal Family ceased usage of German titles. She was godmother to Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, who is the granddaughter of her first cousin on her mother’s side, Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands.

Princess Alice
Her Royal Highness Alice Countess of Athlone
Her Royal Highness Princess Alice of Albany
Her Royal Highness Princess Alexander of Teck
Her Royal Highness Princess Alice Lady Cambridge
Viceregal consort of Canada
February 1883 – January 1981

25 February 1883
Windsor Castle

3 January 1981 (aged 97)
Kensington Palace

8 January 1981
Royal Burial Ground, Frogmore

Alexander Cambridge
1st Earl of Athlone

.1 Lady (Mary) May Helen Emma Abel Smith
23 January 1906 – 29 May 1994
.Married Henry Abel Smith in 1931
.2 children
Anne Liddell-Grainger
Richard Abel Smith

.2 Rupert Cambridge, Viscount Trematon
24 August 1907 – 15 April 1928

.3 Prince Maurice of Teck
29 March 1910 – 14 September 1910

Full name
Alice Mary Victoria Augusta Pauline

.Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (until 1917)
.Windsor (from 1917)

Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany

Princess Helena of Waldeck and Pyrmont

Princess Alice was born 25 February 1883 at
Windsor Castle. Her father was Prince Leopold,
Duke of Albany, the youngest son of Queen
Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg
and Gotha. Her mother was Princess Helena
of Waldeck and Pyrmont.

She had one brother, Prince Charles
Edward, Duke of Albany and later
reigning Duke of Saxe-Coburg
and Gotha.

She was baptised in the Private Chapel
of Windsor Castle on 26 March 1883.

She was named Alice for her late paternal
aunt Princess Alice of the United Kingdom.
(Princess Louis of Hesse)

Her godparents were Queen Victoria (grandmother), Augusta of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, William III of the Netherlands (maternal uncle by marriage), Louis IV, Grand Duke of Hesse (namesake’s widower
and her paternal uncle by marriage) Princess of
Waldeck-Pyrmont (maternal grandmother) the Prince of Wales (paternal uncle) the German Crown Princess, Prince Wilhelm of Württemberg (maternal uncle by marriage) the Hereditary Princess of Bentheim and Steinfurt (maternal aunt) and the Duchess of Cambridge.

As the granddaughter of the Sovereign through the male line, she was a Princess of the United Kingdom and a Royal Highness. As the daughter of the Duke of Albany, she was, therefore, styled Her Royal Highness Princess Alice of Albany.

Her father Prince Leopold was the only one of Queen Victoria’s four sons to have hemophilia and the first of the nine hemophiliacs among Queen Victoria’s descendants. On March 27 1884 Leopold slipped and fell on the staircase at Villa Nevada the private home where he was staying in Cannes. He injured his knee and hit his head, and died early in the morning of March 28, 1884. Alice was only 13 months old

Alice and her brother were brought up by
their mother at Claremont House.

Alice’s childhood was full of visits to her many relations throughout Europe. In addition to her over forty first cousins from her father’s side of the family, Alice was also a first cousin of Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, the two became close. Wilhelmina succeeded her father on the Dutch throne at the age of ten in 1890.

In November of 1903, Alice became engaged to Prince Alexander of Teck, called Alge by his family and friends. At the time of his marriage, Alge’s sister Mary was the Princess of Wales having married the future King George V in 1893.

Alice and Alge were married at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle on February 10, 1904. Many royal relations attended including Alice’s cousin Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands. Alice’s brother escorted her down the aisle where her uncle King Edward VII, waited to give her away. Lady Violet Greville commented, “Unlike most royal brides, this bride looked the picture of happiness.”

Alice and her mother Princess
Helena of Waldeck and Pyrmont
were very close and wrote to
each other every day.

Princess May of Teck, (later
Lady May Cambridge) was born
the 23 January 1906. Prince
Alexander of Teck was born
14 April 1874.

Princess Alice was one of the carriers of the gene for haemophilia which originated with Queen Victoria. Princess Alice inherited the gene from her father who himself was a sufferer.

When the British Royal Family abandoned all Germanic titles in 1917, Prince Alexander of Teck adopted the surname Cambridge, became (briefly) Sir Alexander Cambridge, then the Earl of Athlone, relinquishing the title “Prince of Teck” in the Kingdom of Württemberg and the style Serene Highness

As such, the two surviving children lost their Württemberg princely titles. Princess Alice relinquished her titles of Princess of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and Duchess of Saxony, whilst her brother Charles Edward, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, who held a commission in the German Army was stripped of his British titles.

Alice remained, however, a Princess of
Great Britain and Ireland and a Royal
Highness in her own right, as
granddaughter of Queen
Victoria in the
male line.

Her mother Helena died on 1 September 1922 of a heart attack in Hinterriss in Tyrol, Austria. This was a hard blow for Alice.

Following the Earl’s retirement from military service after World War I the Athlones used for their London residence the grace and favour apartments of the late Duchess of Albanys Princess Alice’s mother, in the Clock House at Kensington Palace in 1923, they also acquired a country house, Brantridge Park in West Sussex

After World War I, Alice became one of the most widely traveled members of the royal family, visiting Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Malaya, Singapore, Siam (now Thailand), South Africa, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Uganda, Egypt, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, the West Indies, Canada, and the United States.

The Earl was appointed Governor-General of the Union of South Africa and served from 1924 to 1931, Princess Alice accompanied him and was the Vicereine during that period. The Cape Town suburb of Athlone was named in honour of the Governor-General.

On April 1, 1928 while they were serving in South Africa, Alge and Alice received the news that Rupert, their hemophiliac son had been in a car accident in France. Rupert had been driving with two of his friends when the car skidded and crashed into a tree.

After being in the hospital for several days, he began to hemorrhage from the ear due to a slight fracture of the skull. The bleeding was arrested and Rupert seemed to be improving, but it did not last. On April 15, 1928, 20-year-old Rupert died from an injury he probably would have recovered from had he not been a hemophiliac

The princess and her husband visited Bahrain and Saudi Arabia in the winter of 1938. She was the first member of the British royal family to visit the country and the only one to meet King Abdulaziz.

On the sudden death of the popular John Buchan in 1940 Canada found itself without a Governor General in time of war. Despite the longstanding intention of Canadian governments to indigenise the office and appoint Canadian nationals as governors general.

Lord Athlone seemed a satisfactory candidate notwithstanding considerations of talent, and the Prime Minister (W.L. Mackenzie King) advised the King to appoint him.

Princess Alice accompanied her
husband to Canada where he
served as Governor General
from 1940 to 1946.

Upon taking up his post, The Earl immediately made himself active in the support of the war effort, travelling across the country and focusing much of his attention on the troops, either those training at military facilities or those injured and in hospital.

Viewing his position as governor
general as a link between Canadians
and their monarch, Athlone also
communicated in speeches that
the King stood with them in
their fight against Adolf
Hitler and the
Nazi regime.

As vicereine of Canada, Princess Alice also supported the war effort by serving as Honorary Commandant of the Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service Honorary Air Commandant of the Royal Canadian Air Force Women’s Division and president of the nursing division of the St. John Ambulance Brigade.

In 1944, the Princess Alice Barracks Cabin at Britannia Bay provided a summer retreat for Royal Canadian Air Force Women’s Division personnel based in Ottawa. The cabin was located near the Britannia Boating Club’s facilities for tennis, dancing and boating.

Rented from the King’s Daughter’s Guild of Ottawa, the cabin featured 60 beds, a separate cookhouse and dining pavilion. The cabin, which had served previously as a Fresh Air Cottage for mothers and undernourished children, was rented from the King’s Daughter’s Guild of Ottawa.

The war was brought close to home for the Athlones also because many of those belonging to displaced European royal families sought refuge in Canada and resided at or near the royal and viceroyal residence, Rideau Hall. Among the royal guests were Crown Prince Olav and Crown Princess Märtha of Norway Grand Duchess Charlotte and Prince Felix of Luxembourg; King Peter of Yugoslavia; King George of Greece Empress Zita of Bourbon-Parma (Austria) and her daughters; as well as Queen Wilhelmina and her daughter, Princess Juliana

Further, in December 1941, British prime minister Winston Churchill arrived at Rideau Hall where he presided over British Cabinet meetings via telephone from his bed.

The viceregal couple also played host at Quebec City to prime minister Mackenzie King, as well as Churchill and United States president Franklin D. Roosevelt who all gathered to take part in what would become known as the Quebec Conferences, with the first taking place between 17 and 24 August 1943 at the viceregal residence in La Citadelle, and the second occurring from 12 to 16 September 1944 at the Château Frontenac.

It was at these meetings that the four men discussed the Allied strategies that would eventually lead to victory over Nazi Germany and Japan. When Germany fell on 8 May 1945 and Japan on 15 August of the same year, Athlone led the national celebrations held on Parliament Hill and elsewhere.

During their time in Canada, the Athlones also supported various charitable and social events, and mounted a number of tobogganing parties and skating lessons on the grounds of Rideau Hall, as well as skiing in Gatineau Park.

Before the couple departed from Canada at the end of Athlone’s time as the King’s representative, he left as a legacy the Athlone Vanier Engineering Fellowship, awarded by the Engineering Institute of Canada.

At the end of World War II, the American Military Government in Bavaria, under the command of General George S. Patton, arrested and imprisoned Alice’s brother, Charles Edward, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, (who served as a member of the Reichstag from 1937 to 1945), because of his Nazi sympathies.

Alice, learning of her brother’s incarceration, came to Germany with her husband to plead with his American captors for his release. They would not yield, and in 1946 he was sentenced by a de nazification court, heavily fined and almost bankrupted.

In her lifetime, Princess Alice
carried out many engagements and
was involved in many of the
activities the royal family
were involved in.

Apart from her normal duties as vicereine of South Africa and then Canada she attended the coronations of five monarchs Edward VII, George V, George VI, Elizabeth II and Queen Juliana.

She was also the Colonel-in-Chief of two British Army units and one Rhodesian Army unit. During the Second World War, she was Honorary Air Commandant of the Royal Canadian Air Force Women’s Division.

In 1950, she became the first Chancellor of the University of the West Indies (then the University College of the West Indies). As Chancellor, she visited the university every year, staying as a guest of Sir Kenneth Blackburne, Governor-General of Jamaica, and his wife.

In 1966, Princess Alice published
her memoirs, For My Grandchildren.

The Earl of Athlone died at Kensington on 16 January 1957, and he was interred in the Royal Burial Ground at Frogmore.

At the time of Princess Anne’s first marriage in 1973 when Alice refused to ride in the carriage procession to Westminster Abbey saying it was not fitting for a princess of her rank. She traveled by car instead.

Alice was a familiar sight in the neighborhood around Kensington Palace. Each Sunday she would walk to the local church, St. Mary Abbots Church, and could frequently be seen at the local shops. Alice also could be seen riding on London buses.

In 1978, Princess Alice had a fall, hurt her shoulder, and had to be hospitalized for several days. Although she did recover this marked the beginning of the deterioration of her health. Members of the royal family visited her regularly including the Queen, the Queen Mother, Princess Margaret, Princess Alice the Duchess of Gloucester, Queen Juliana of the Netherlands, and various Dutch, Swedish, and German princesses.

The Queen Mother once remarked that she had been kept waiting while Princess Alice “put a little powder on her face and had her hair attended to.” Alice’s physical condition continued to weaken. She said that if she could not walk, she would die. By the end of 1980, she could no longer walk.

Princess Alice of Albany died
peacefully in her sleep on
January 3, 1981 at
Kensington Palace.

At her death, she was the longest
lived British Princess of the Blood
Royal and the last surviving
grandchild of Queen Victoria.

Princess Alice’s funeral was held at
St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle
on January 8, 1981. Queen Elizabeth
II and other members of the British
Royal Family attended.

She is buried alongside her husband
and son in the Royal Burial Ground,
Frogmore, directly behind the
mausoleum of Queen Victoria
and Prince Albert in Windsor
Great Park. Her daughter and
son-in-law are also
buried close by.

She was popular with Queen Elizabeth who telephoned her frequently and invited her to most royal events. Her great-greatnephew, Prince Charles, once took her out with his friend as his date

Her daughter Lady May married Henry Abel Smith in 1931 and had two survivnig children Anne Liddell Grainger and Richard Abel Smith. She died 29 May 1994

Princess Alice
Countess of Athlone
February 1883 – January 1981

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This Post Has One Comment

  1. Amyp

    I love the change of fashion from Victorian to Edwardian to 70s.

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