Prince Philip: Who was Princess Alice and did an interview with the media really change public perceptions of her?

Joanna Whitehead
In later life, Princess Alice established an order of Greek Orthodox nuns: Rex/ANL/Shutterstock

The Crown has been nominated and won a number of awards, including Emmy Awards, Golden Globe Awards and Baftas.

Following the release of the third series of the Netflix show in 2019, attention turned to a lesser-known member of the monarchy: Princess Alice.

The show has been known to tread a fine between fact and fantasy and "Bubbikins" – the fourth episode of season three – raises many questions about the real life of this enigmatic woman.

Princess Alice's turbulent life saw her serving as military nurse during World War I, becoming a nun, living in exile twice and struggling with her mental health.

Who was Princess Alice?

Princess Alice, shortly after her marriage to Prince Andrew (Bundesarchiv)

Prince Philip’s semi-estranged mother was born congenitally deaf in Windsor Castle in 1885 and raised as an English princess.

After marrying Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark in 1903, she became Princess Andrew of Greece and Denmark and resided in Greece.

The great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria fled Greece in 1922 after her husband was court martialled by the new military government.

Settling in Paris with her family, Princess Alice engaged in charity work with Greek refugees, before converting to the Greek Orthodox Church in 1928.

Around this time, Alice became deeply religious and began to act strangely, including making claims that she had received divine messages.

After suffering a nervous breakdown in 1930, she was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and committed to a mental institution against her will.

Sigmund Freud was consulted on the Princesses’ mental health, concluding that her delusions were the result of “sexual frustration”. He recommended x-raying her ovaries to kill off her libido.

In "Bubbikins" the Princess references the pioneering psychologist, saying: “He was not a kind man. I was there for just over two years, and I managed to escape.”

After escaping the asylum, the Princess led a nomadic, monastic existence, ceasing all contact with her family for years.

During World War II, she worked for the Red Cross and organised food and shelter for orphaned and lost children.

Following the Nazi invasion of Greece, the Princess risked her life by hiding a Jewish family in her home.

She eventually returned to the UK in 1947 for the wedding of her son Prince Philip to Princess Elizabeth. Following this, she went back to Greece where she established an order of Greek Orthodox nuns.

Political turmoil in Greece led her to flee her home and move in to Buckingham Palace to live with the Queen and her son until her death in 1969.

Was she really interviewed by a Guardian journalist, as The Crown suggests?

Princess Alice (left) at a fashion parade in London in 1924 (Rex/ANL/Shutterstock)

The Crown has it that a Guardian reporter named John Armstrong was offered an interview with Princess Anne, following his less than complimentary documentary review.

In the show, Princess Anne manages to trick Armstrong into speaking with Princess Alice instead.

After learning of her altruistic work and unorthodox journey, Armstrong is duly captivated by the lesser-known royal, writing a flattering profile that changes the perception of her.

In reality, such an interview never happened, however, and Princess Alice was not revered to the extent The Crown implies. On the contrary, she was largely forgotten.

Hugo Vicker’s biography, Alice: Princess Andrew of Greece, said: “By the end of her life the general public scarcely remembered that she was alive and were largely unaware that she was at Buckingham Palace, according to Esquire.

Her obituary was reported to feature in the newspapers, but not on the scale of the piece shown in The Crown.

In 1994 she was named as Righteous Among the Nations for her actions during the Holocaust and in 2010, she was labelled a Hero of the Holocaust by the British government.

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