Facts and Events
Princess Alice of the United Kingdom (Alice Maud Mary; 25 April 1843 – 14 December 1878), Princess Louis and Grand Duchess of Hesse and by Rhine by marriage, was the third child and second daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.
Alice's education was devised by Albert's close friend and adviser, Baron Stockmar. Like her other siblings, Alice spent her early childhood in the company of her parents and siblings, travelling between the British royal residences. In 1861, when Prince Albert became ill with typhoid fever, Alice nursed him through his final illness; he died on 14 December. Following his death, Queen Victoria entered a period of intense mourning and Alice spent the next six months acting as her mother's unofficial secretary. On 1 July 1862, while the court was still at the height of mourning, Alice married the minor German Prince Louis of Hesse, heir to the Grand Duchy of Hesse. The ceremony—conducted privately and with unrelieved gloom at Osborne House—was described by the Queen as "more of a funeral than a wedding". The Princess's life in Darmstadt was unhappy as a result of impoverishment, family tragedy, and worsening relations with her husband and mother.
Alice was a prolific patron of women's causes, especially nursing, and was a follower of Florence Nightingale. When Hesse became involved in the Austro-Prussian War, Darmstadt filled with the injured; and the heavily pregnant Alice devoted much of her time to the management of field hospitals. One of her organisations, the Princess Alice Women's Guild, became a national one, taking over much of the day-to-day running of the military hospitals. As a result of this activity, Queen Victoria became concerned about Alice's directness about medical, and, in particular, gynaecological, matters. In 1871, for example, she wrote to Alice's younger sister, Princess Louise, who had recently married: "Don't let Alice pump you. Be very silent and cautious about your "interior"".
Alice befriended and promoted the theologian David Friedrich Strauss, who provided an intellectual basis for her faith instead of the traditional sentimentality of Victorian religion. In 1877, Alice became Grand Duchess upon the accession of her husband; and her increased duties put a further strain on her health. The following year, she travelled to England for the last time, holidaying in Eastbourne at the Queen's expense. In the latter months of 1878, diphtheria infected the Hessian court; and Alice nursed her family for over a month before falling ill herself.
She died on the 17th anniversary of her father's death, 14 December 1878, at the New Palace in Darmstadt. She was the first of Queen Victoria's nine children to die, and one of three to be outlived by their mother, who survived until 1901.
Princess Alice was mother of Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna of Russia (empress consort of Tsar Nicholas II), maternal grandmother of Louis Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of India, and the maternal great-grandmother of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, consort of Queen Elizabeth II. Another daughter, Elisabeth, who had married Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich of Russia, was, like the tsarina and her family, killed by the Bolsheviks in 1918.