* British royalty -- Princess Alice Hesse and by Rhine

Princess Alice (1843-1878)

Figure 1.-- This is 4-year old Princess Alice dressed in an 18th-century costume in 1845. The Artist was the Roiyal Family's favirite poainter--Franz Xavier Winterhalter.

British Princess Alice was born in 1843 and knicknammed Fatima. Queen Victoria was pleased when going through the baby linen and found almost nothing new needed to be purchased. Allice became Grand Duchess of Hesse and the Rhine. She had strong views favoring the emancipation of women and pursued a livelong interest in education and nursing. Although she died at a tragically young age , her descendents had stiried if often tragic lives. The young Prince Wilhelm visited with the family as a university student. The future Kaiser Wilhelm was very attached to Princess Alice's family and wanted to marry a daughter. Her daughter Victoria mairred Prince Louis of Battenburg and gave birth to the future Lord Mountbatten. A grandson, Prince Phillip married Queen Elizabeth. Another daughter mairred Tasar Nicholas II. Two children died in infancy and two of her daugters were killed by Bolsevicks. Alice died tragically at the young age of only 35 years.


Alice was Victoria and Albert's fourth child and second girl.


Albert was the born into the royal family of a small German principality. He was stictly raised and very well educated. His mairrage to Victoria brought him to the throne of the most powerful country of the day. He was only the Prince Consort and not a co-ruler with his wife. His advise to his poorly educated wife, however, was of great value to England, especially his advise that England not support the South in the American Civil War. He took the education of their chiodren very seriously--especially heir, the future Edward VII very seriously. Despite the attention given to the care and education of the children. Albert's untimely death devestated Victoria.


Queen Victoria was Britain's longest serving monarch. Her mairrage with Albert was the love story of the 19th century. She set the moral tone of the nation and helped shape Britain's emergence as a truly democratic nation. Victoria witnessed an extrodinary development of British power and influence. She and Albert changed how Britain's looked on their monarch. She became in many ways the gramdmother of Europe, forging dynastic ties throughout the Continent. She also played a major role in influencing boys clothing around the world by the garments she selected for the young princes.


Princess Alice was born in 1843. Alice was named in honor of Victoria’s first Prime Minister and mentor, Lord Melbourne. He had taken a very young and inexpoeriuebced girl under his care and was very dear to her. Melbourner was vital to her before Alber arrived on the scene. He had once told her that the name 'Alice' was his favorite for a girl


Princess Alice was knicknammed Fatima. She was a rather plscid child which pleased her mother. But she like the oter children developed a will of her own and helped to teach her two younger sisters, Helena and Louise to also asert themselves. [Bennett, p.217.]

Relations with Siblings

HBRC has only limited information about Alice's relationship with her brothers and sisters. We do know that she had a close relationship with Vicky. I have no information on her relationhip with her other brothers and sisters.


Vicky's relationship with her sister Alice could not have been more different than that with Bertie. The two became very close, sharing everything. Alice was terribly hurt when plans for Vicky's marriage with Prince Friedrich of Prussia were kept from her. First for being left out. Second because her dearest and closest friend was being taken away from her. At the suggestion of her older sister, she became engaged to a handsome German Prince--Louis of Hesse, (April 1861).


No information available.

Childhood Clothing

The Queen was pleased when going through the baby linen and found almost nothing new needed to be purchased. All te available images show Princess Alice and her sisters clad in heavy, elaborate dresses with full skirts, often looking like hoop skirts. We di not know what kind of play clothes the children wore.


I have little information at this time. I do know that Prince Albert began tutoring Alice after Vicky was mairred. Unlike the situation with Vicky, the Queen did not compklain.

Tragedy (1861)

Alice was know for a tender heart. When her grandmother (the Queen's mother) fell ill from a severe infection, Alice nursed and comforted her in her last hours. The Queen was alientated from her mother. A rift that Alkber thad helped repair to a degree. Only 6 months before the wedding, tragedy struck the Royal Family. rince Albert, fell ill. She nursed her father as she had done for her grandmother. Alice’s compassion for the suffering of others has been noted by her family. Her father died (December 14). Alice stayed on in England to comfort her distraught mother. She became her unofficial secretary for the next 6 months. Her mother was devestated and deeply greving. The whole Royal Family was in deep mourning. Princess Alice decided, however, to go ahead with the wedding as planned.

Marriage (1862)

Princess Alice married Louis IV, Grand Duke of Hesse-Darmstadt (1837-92) in 1861. Between the engagement and the wedding, Alice's father Prince Albert fellsick and dued (December 14, 1861. Despite the Queen's grief, she ordered that the wedding should continue as planned. Alice and Louis were married privately in the dining room of Osborne House, which was converted into a temporary chapel (July 1, 1862). The marriage was important news in Britain and articles were featured in the London Illustrated News, along with reporting on the American Civil War. [LIN, July 12 and 19, 1861] Alice wore a white dress for the ceremony, but before and after she wore black mourning clothes. Some historians have wondered why a girl so intelligent and charming as Alice wuld have mairred such a 'red-faced bucolic' as Louis. One advantage was that it placed her closer to her beloved sister in Berlin. Unlike her sister Victoria, who became Queen of Prussia through her marriage to German Kaiser Frederick III, Alice’s new home in the little city of Darmstadt was frather modest.


We do not yet have a separate page for Louis IV, we do have a page on Hesse Darmstadt often described as by Rhine. The Landgraviate of Hesse-Darmstadt was established by George I, son of Philip the Magnanimous in 1567. It became a Grand Duchy in 1806. Although Hesse-Darmstadt also supported Austria in the Austro-Prussian War (1866), unlike Hesse-Kassel, it managed to maintain its independence when the Prussians proved victorious. The capital Darmstadt is south of Frankfurt, a few miles from the Rhinr River. Hesse-Darmstadt entered the German Empire in 1871. The family mairred into the British, Prussian, and Russian royal family and was given the Bulgarian Crown--although the prince receiving it was forced abdicate because he objected to democratic constitutions. Grand Duke Ernst-Ludwig (Ernst-Louis) of Hesse and by Rhine abdicated on November 9, 1918. The best known modern descendent is probably Lord Mountbatten.

Settling In

Princess Allice became Grand Duchess of Hesse and the Rhine. Queen Victoria had expected a new palace more in keeping with royalty would be built for the young royals. The people of Darmstadt, however, were unwilling to d=finance this project. Louis and Alice settled on a house in Darmstadt’s Old Quarter which overlooked the street. Rumbling carts and street noise could be heard through the thin walls--something that was very new to Alice. By all acountd, Alice liked her new surroundings. It was a kind of liberation from his mother. She started taking painting lessons from a local artist. Alice had strong views favoring the emancipation of women and pursued a livelong interest in education.

Visits from Prince Wilhelm

Prince Wilhelm, the future Wilhelm II, first met his Aunt Alice, his mother's cloest sibling, while an infant when his parents visited England. While Prince Wilhelm was at University in Bonn, he would often spend the weekend with his Aunt Alice and Hessian counsins at their modest palace in Darmstadt. His mother encouraged him to visit with her sister's family as the atmosphere was less formal than the Prussian court and she thought it would be good for him. He would go rising or rowing with his younger cousins or play croquet and tennis. He was apt to stop the games at a moment's notice and order them to listen to him read passages from the Bible. The cousins found him much like a likable, but unpredictable and often domineering older brother, but according to one historian "... too mercurial, volitilem and restless, full of energy one moment, morose and brooding the next. They nicknamed him 'Wilhelm the Sudden" and 'Gondola Billy'. [Van der Kriste, Wilhelm II, p. 21.] Victorians have speculated on his behavior. Some think it was a way of showing his rank or perhaps an effort to show that despite his arm, he was not in any way handicapped. It is interesting that even children noted it. As he was the heir apparent, however, they had to tolerte him.


Princess Alice believed in brining up her children simply. An English nanny presided over the nursery. The children were given plain meals with deserts of rice puddings and baked apples. The girls wore plain dresses. They were taught to do housework, including baking cakes, making their own beds, laying fires, and sweeping and dusting their rooms. Princess Alice also emphasised the importance of good works. She often took her daughters on visits to hospitals and charities. While few now remember Pricess Alice, her descendents are quite well known. Louis and Alice had two well known children. Their oldest child was Princess Victoria, primrily because her grandson was Lord Mountbatten and great grandson was Prince Phillip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II. A younger dauhter, Alix, married Tsar Nicholas II. Several of the children, including Alix had tragic ends. Two children died tragic deaths at an early age. Alice was born into the nost pretigious royal familky in the world. Her children woukld gave commedctiins with the other two major royal famiklies--those of Germany and Russia. Whilke Hesse was aprincipality of little importance. Her older sister's marriage into the German royal family meant that Alice had a unique pakce within the German aristiocratic world. One reason one daughter wiuld marry the Tsarevitch and aniother would marry Kaiser Wilhelm's younger brother.

Family Life

The children were very strictly raised. They began their lessons sharply at 7:00 am in the morning and studied until 9:00 am when they had breakfast with their parents. Then there were more lessons, outdoors exercise, a snack, and a substantial meal at 2:00 pm with their parentss. Afterwards there was more exercise and schooling. A light tea at 5:00 pm and then to bed by 6:30-7:00 pm. [Vickers, p. 6.]


Princess Alice founded the Alice Hospital in Hesse-Darmstadt. Princes Alice sought the advise of Florence Nightengale. The children were often brought along during bher visits to the hospital. Princess Alice also convinced state officials to assume resonsibility for an "idiot asylum" (mental hospital). With the help of her children Princes Alice sponsored bazars to help raise money for it. [Vickers, p. 8.]


Grand Duchess Alice did not have as strong a constitution as her mother or older sister. In 1878 Princess Victoria contracted diptheria. All the other children got it, except for Ella who was sent to stay with relatives. Their mother nursed them, but the youngest child May, did not survive dieing at age 4. Just as the other children were recovering, the Grand Duchess contracted the disease. Knowing she was in danger of dying, Princess Alice dictated her will, including instructions about how to bring up her daughters and how to run the household. She died of diphtheria (December 14, 1878). Apparently she had kissed Ernie to comfort him. [Vickers, p. 6.] Prince Wilhelm who was very attached to his Aunt was deeply moved. He wrote several sentiamental poems to Cousin Ella. Alice's mother Queen Victoria was heart broken. Her daughter-in-law Princess of Wales Alexandra was at Winsor when a telegram arrived with the sad news. They wept in each other's arms. [Battiscombe, p. 148.]

Queen Victoria

After Alice's death, Queen Victoria decided to act as a mother to her Hessian grandchildren. The children spent annual holidays in England and their grandmother sent instructions to their governess regarding their education and approving the pattern of their dresses.


Battiscombe, Georgina. Queen Alexandra (Houghton Mifflin, Boston, 1969).

Van der Kriste, John. Kaiser Wihelm II: Germany's Last Kaiser (Bodmin: Sutton Publishing, 1999), 244p.

Vickers, Hugo. Alice: Princess Andrew of Greece (St. Martin's Press: New York, 2000), 477p.

London Illustrated News, July 12 and 19, 1861.


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Created: February 26, 1999
Last updated: 1:20 AM 9/10/2020