Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Victoria's Children, part 3: Princess Alice

Poor Queen Victoria. Once she married her beloved Albert in February 1840, she didn’t have him to herself for very long. Their first child Vicky arrived that very same year in November, Bertie arrived the following November…and on April 25,1843, baby number three arrived in the form of Princess Alice Maud Mary.

Alice (that's her in the family portrait above, leaning over the new baby along with big sister Vicky) showed early on a deeply compassionate nature; she enjoyed visiting the laborers who lived on the Royal estates at Osborne and Balmoral and was genuinely interested in their lives and living conditions. She was close to her older brother and sister, and became Bertie’s closest friend among the family. She was perhaps not as academically brilliant as Vicky (who was definitely the brain of the family), but shared her father’s broad practical streak. None of Victoria’s children were beauties, but she was pleasant-looking, as can be seen in the portrait and photograph below.

Alice came into her own in 1861, when her practical and sympathetic sides made her the natural choice in the role of family nurse. She spent a great deal of time with her dying grandmother (remember the Duchess of Kent?), and only months later, did her best to nurse her father through his fatal illness. After that she was the chief attendant of the distraught Queen Victoria, sitting with her mother through sleepless nights and tearful days. Perhaps it was to escape this difficult job that she accepted the proposal of Prince Louis of Hesse and by Rhine a few months later. He was a kindly, well-meaning man, but not the intellectual equal of Alice; their marriage, while outwardly successful in a quiet way, proved to be a source of disappointment to Alice.

Alice spent her married years producing seven children and becoming a pioneer in the creation of the nursing profession, establishing nursing schools and women’s hospitals and becoming a fast friend and correspondent of Florence Nightingale. Some of the institutions she established still exist today…but Alice is probably best remembered today as the mother of Empress Alexandra of Russia and Grand Duchess Ella of Russia, both murdered in the Bolshevik Revolution in July 1918. She is also the source of the hemophilia that plagued the Empress’s son, having inherited it from Victoria and passing it on to several of her children. However, Alice didn’t live to see these tragedies or even to see her children reach adulthood; she died in December 1878 at age 35, on the anniversary of her own father’s death, after nursing her children through a diphtheria epidemic.

8 comments:

QNPoohBear said...

What an admirable woman. How sad that she died so young. Thanks for sharing Alice with us.

Marissa Doyle said...

What's interesting is that her mother had a definite love/hate relationship with her--she loved Alice for all she did for her family, and yet thought the work she did to help the nursing profession (which was what she'd done for her family, just on a larger scale) was inappropriate for one of royal blood. None of Victoria's daughters ended up having very easy lives.

robinbridges said...

I think Alice's girls were my favorites of all of Queen Victoria's grandchildren- though Alfred's daughters are a close second!

Marissa Doyle said...

I'm definitely planning on some posts on the grandchildren as well, Robinbridges, once we get through her children. There were some interesting characters among them!

Dara said...

Interesting to see that even the royal family doesn't have it easy, despite the romantic ideals we have of royalty.

Aimee K. Maher said...

Found your blog! Very cool. I'll be back to soak it up. What I know about history fits in a thimble. So sad.

Joanna said...

Poor Princess Alice, my friend and I have a theory that if Alice had lived through out Alexandra's life things my have been different for the Roman Empress.

Joanna said...

oops I meant Russian Empress, not Roman.