Thursday, July 2, 2009

Royal Savoir Faire

Princess Alice of Battenberg, later Princess Andrew of Greece and Denmark, mother of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and mother in law of the Queen, although having a troubled life, possessed true savoir faire, and did basically what she pleased later in life. Not particularly fashionable, at one stage committed to a sanatorium for schizophrenia, turning to religion and becoming a nun, her life shaped her into a person who was completely herself.

For all the wealth and privilege she was born into, she developed a true sense of self and ended up devoting her life to helping others, on somewhat reduced circumstances. During the Second World War in Greece, she worked for the Red Cross organization, helped organize soup kitchens for the starving populace and flew to Sweden to bring back medical supplies on the pretext of visiting her sister, Louise who was married to the Crown Prince. She organised two shelters for orphaned and stray children, and a nursing circuit for poor neighborhoods, and founded a nursing order of Greek Orthodox nuns, the Christian Sisterhood of Martha and Mary. Because of her actions, she was a puzzling enigma to her family with her mother the Marchioness of Milford Haven once saying, "What can you say of a nun who smokes like a chimney and plays canasta?"

When she died she left no possessions, having given everything away. Before she died she had expressed her wish to be buried at the Convent of Saint Mary Magdalene in Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem (near to her aunt Grand Duchess Elizabeth Fyodorovna, a Russian Orthodox saint). When her daughter, Princess George of Hanover, complained that it would be too far away for them to visit her grave, Princess Andrew jested, "Nonsense, there's a perfectly good bus service!" Her wish was finally realized on 3 August 1988 when her remains were transferred to her final resting place in a crypt below the church.


  1. Incredibly interesting. The László portrait is exquisite. Excellent post.

  2. MR SWF, By all accounts a wonderfully interesting woman who has somewhat been forgotten by history. One never thinks of Prince Philip having a family with Mother, Father and siblings as all has been eclipsed by his wife's. Both Laszlo portraits are beautiful. I adore his work!

  3. What are the sources of the photos? The two László portraits are traceable, but who owns the two late-in-life photos of the Princess?


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