Sunday, January 31, 2010

Princess Alice of Hesse

Princess Alice, the second daughter of Queen Victoria, was open-minded and interested in intellectual pursuits like her sister Vicky. She was an interesting woman. Unfortunately, she had a very sad life.

The Princess was only a teenager when her beloved father died. She was very close to Prince Albert and nursed him a lot during his illness. She played the piano to him and read to him. When the grief overcame her she quietly left the room and came back when she had calmed down. "Her fortitude amazed their doctors and servants."

After the Prince died the poor Princess then had to take over many of Queen Victoria's duties and try and nurse her through her terrible grief. This proved impossible but the Princess was a great help to her.

Princess Alice's wedding to Prince Louis of Hesse, soon after her father's death, was more like a wedding than a funeral. Almost everyone dressed in black and spent the ceremony crying. Even the Archbishop who married the couple cried.

The Princess joined her husband in Darmstadt. Her marriage was not happy because Prince Louis liked military parades and shooting, instead of reading and cultural pursuits. He hardly ever read a book. Princess Alice was quite disappointed in him.

In spite of this, they had five children in quick succession. The children included Princess Alexandra, who became the tragic Tsarina, and beautiful Grand Duchess Ella, who was also killed by the Bolsheviks in a terrible way. Princess Alexandra's son, Alexai, inherited his haemophilia from his mother. Her brother, Fritti, was a haemophiliac. Princess Alice was distraught when the young boy fell out of the window and died shortly afterwards. She never really recovered from her grief.

The Princess devoted herself to charity work. Soon after her marriage there was a war between Austria and Prussia. Hesse was on the side of Austria which made Princess Alice and Vicki enemies. Princess Alice admired Florence Nightingale and nursed the sick and wounded with great devotion. After the war she continued her interest in charity work. She founded a mental asylum and worked for many charities, and established schools and hospitals.

She caused controversy when she became interested in a controversial theologian, David Strauss. He believed in the historical aspects of Jesus's life, but not the 'supernatural' aspects. Princess Vicky invited him to the palace and liked to discuss Christianity with him. Many Germans didn't like this, and the Empress Augusta even accused her of being an atheist.

Princess Alice was sickly. She suffered from severe headaches, neuralgia, and rheumatism. She wore herself out with her charity work. After her little daughter May died of diptheria, Alice soon caught it from her son, Ernest, who also had the illness. She died at only 35 on the anniversary of her father's death.

Queen Victoria wrote that 'the princess who behaved so admirably during her dear father's illness...should be called back on this very anniversary, seems almost incredible, and most mysterious.'

Princess Alice was greatly beloved in Germany and England because of her charity work. The Princess Alice hospital in Eastbourne was opened in her memory in 1883.


Lucy said...

I love this post-Thanks!

Viola said...

Thank you so much, Ms. Lucy! I'm glad that you enjoyed it. I love reading your blog.

Christina said...

Thank you, Viola, for writing so beautifully of Princess Alice! She was such a sincere and lovely person, wasn't she?

Kittie Howard said...

Beautiful post, Viola. Love your writing!! Princess Alice had such depth, such compassion. My neighbor is named after her.

Viola said...

Thank you very much, Kittie. I love your writing too - I find it very powerful and moving.

Your neighbor's mother must have been very cultured!

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