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"In 1953, at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Alice was dressed from head to foot in a long gray dress and a gray cloak, and a nun's veil. Amidst all the jewels, and velvet and coronets, and the fine uniforms, she exuded an unworldly simplicity. Seated with the royal family, she was a part of them, yet somehow distanced from them. Inasmuch as she is remembered at all today, it is as this shadowy figure in gray nun's clothes..."
Princess Alice, mother of Prince Phillip, was something of a mystery figure even within her own family. She was born deaf, at Windsor Castle, in the presence of her grandmother, Queen Victoria, and brought up in England, Darmstadt, and Malta.
In 1903 she married Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark, and from then on her life was overshadowed by wars, revolutions, and enforced periods of exile. By the time she was thirty-five, virtually every point of stability was overthrown. Though the British royal family remained in the ascendant, her German family ceased to be ruling princes, her two aunts who had married Russian royalty had come to savage ends, and soon afterwards Alice's own husband was nearly executed as a political scapegoat.
The middle years of her life, which should have followed a conventional and fulfilling path, did the opposite. She suffered from a serious religious crisis and at the age of forty-five was removed from her family and placed in a sanitarium in Switzerland, where she was pronounced a paranoid schizophrenic. As her stay in the clinic became prolonged, there was a time where it seemed she might never walk free again. How she achieved her recovery is just one of the remarkable aspects of her story.
A chain-smoking, nearly deaf princess who ministered to the sick in Greek hospitals and soup kitchens, was diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic at age 45, fancied herself a nun and sheltered a Jewish family during the Holocaust (for which she was posthumously given the title Righteous among the Nations, an honor Oskar Schindler also received), Alice is a biographer's dream. Born under the watchful eye of her great-grandmother Queen Victoria in Windsor Castle in 1885, Alice married a Greek prince who was actually Danish, German and Russian. And while she was devoted to Greece, she and her royal in-laws were never fully accepted by their adopted subjects. At age 84, she died in Buckingham Palace, where she lived at the end of her life at the behest of her youngest child and only son, Prince Philip, and his wife, Queen Elizabeth. This is the first biography of Alice, and it's hard to imagine anyone doing a better or more comprehensive job than Vickers, an authority on Europe's royals whose previous subjects include the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. By crafting the perfect blend of juicy gossip and historical details, Vickers makes it abundantly clear why Alice deserves to be known as more than just the queen's mother-in-law. Among the more memorable images he captures: the ill-fated Czar Nicholas of Russia, who was married to Alice's Aunt Alix, pelting his niece with a bag of rice and a shoe at her 1903 wedding. Never one to shrink from a challenge, Alice caught the shoe and used it to hit her uncle on the head. 16 pages b&w photos not seen by PW.