Thursday, January 14, 2010

Alice, Part II

Alice was born in 1843 at Buckingham palace. She was named Alice because the name was a favorite of Queen Victoria's first Prime Minister.

Alice's birth prompted the queen and Prince Albert to seek a new residence, Buckingham Palace not being large enough for the growing family. Really. That's what the queen said.

They purchased Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. It may have been wong - when Victoria died, Edward VII promptly sold the house.

Alice and her siblings were taught practical skills like housekeeping, cooking, gardening, and carpentry. This item comes from a Wikipedia article; perhaps you will believe it.

Victoria and Albert believed in old-fashioned family values, and their children wore middle class clothing and slept in sparsely-furnished bedrooms.

Alice was inclined to mingle with "the common people" when the opportunity arose. At Balmoral, for example, she visited tenets living and working on the estate. Alice also had an interest in nursing, and became a follower of Florence Nightingale. She became a bit too blunt with medical questions and observations for her mother's taste, but was a good nurse.

She nursed her father in his final illness. She nursed her grandmother through hers. She made bandages for wounded soldiers at Hesse. She nursed her own family during diphtheria epidemics.
Vicky and Alice, wearing their middle class clothing.

Alice possessed a sharp tongue and an easily triggered temper.

Queen Victoria began Alice's matrimonial plans in 1860. She instructed her daughter Vicky to interview and make up a list of possibilities in Prussia and thereabouts, which Vicky did. As it turned out, Alice liked one that made Vicky's list. The queen liked him and another guy, but saw that Vicky liked Ludwig.

They were married at Osborne House on a dreary day, in a makeshift chapel. Even the mourning queen attended, but her sons stood and shielded her from being seen. Odd. The queen remarked to Alfred, Lord Tennyson, that it was the saddest day she could remember. I'm sure he opened his mouth to say, "But what about the day Albert died, ma'am?" but quickly closed it again. The only reason I can think of why she would say such a thing was that she meant it was sad that Albert wasn't there to see his daughter married.

The Queen prevailed on the PM, Lord Palmerston, to vote Alice a £30,000 per year allowance, and he did manage the vote, but (as Edward remarked) even that large sum (large in that day and age) would not be enough to buy Alice the kind of lifestyle she was used to.

When Alice and Louis left for Hesse-Darmstadt, the people of Darmstadt were already leery of her since she was asking for a new house. After Alice's leaving, Victoria expressed her grief in her diary thusly: "Already nearly a fortnight since our dear Alice has left and strange to say - much as she has been to me - and dear and precious as a comfort and an assistance, I hardly miss her at all..."

They were all very big on dashes and run-on sentences back in Victorian times. I fancy them myself, as you have probably noticed.

The queen was disenchanted with Alice's decision to breast feed her children and even more distressed at Alice's interest in women's issues, especially her vivid gynecological talks. Victoria didn't want to talk of the human body and such, and largely ignored her daughter when she brought them up. But of course Victoria had no qualms about ratting Alice out to others. In a letter to Alice's sister Louise, the queen wrote:

"I would rather you had not met her [Alice] so soon, [after Louise's marriage] for I know her curiosity and what is worse and what I hardly like to say of my own daughter - and I know her indelicacy and coarseness... When she came over in '69 and saw Lenchen [Helena, another daughter of Victoria] again and asked her such things, that Christian was shocked..."

Christians don't speak of such things. Kidding. Christian was the name of Helena's husband; she had been sent to Denmark. In return for Alexandra, probably. I don't know. They seemed to trade queens back and forth.

The queen was also annoyed by Alice's letters begging for money, pleading poverty. The tiny queen also hated Alice's attempts to cheer her up when she visited. Alice disliked her mother's mourning seclusion that went on so long, but Victoria was content in her sorrow and wanted no cheering up.

In 1873, Alice's youngest and favorite son, Frederick (Frittie) died when he fell out of an upstairs window. He regained consciousness, but the child was a hemophiliac and died from internal bleeding.

The picture at left is Alice and Louis with their 2 eldest children. Click to enlarge.

Diphtheria struck the Hessian royal household in late 1878 and Alice nursed her sick children. Alice's oldest daughter Victoria fell ill first, and the other children soon followed. Only her youngest, Marie, died. Alice, however, made the mistake of kissing her sick son Ernest and contracted the disease herself. She didn't fall ill right away and had time to visit her sister Victoria one last time. Alice fell ill a couple weeks later and died on December 14, the anniversary of her father's death. Her last words were "dear Papa."

She was buried just outside Darmstadt, with the British Union covering her casket. She was 35 years old.


  1. Could you be my history teacher, please? I'm far more likely to remember this than the dull, dull, dull, lessons I had at school.

  2. Sure. :)

    But my tests are seldom on the material covered...

  3. I was confused on who was married to whom since there were many pronouns, at least three women in the mix and one name, that apparently did not belong to the groom.

  4. I do wonder. Two descendants of Alice had haemophilia and I know it affected others. Is it conclusive that Victoria was the mutant, as it were? Are there people descended from these royals still dealing with haemophilia today?



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