1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Alice Maud Mary

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ALICE MAUD MARY, GRAND-DUCHESS OF HESSE-DARMSTADT (1843-1878), second daughter and third child of Queen Victoria, was born at Buckingham Palace, on the 25th of April 1843. A pretty, delicate-featured child — “cheerful, merry, full of fun and mischief”, as her elder sister described her — fond of gymnastics, a good skater and an excellent horsewoman, she was a general favourite from her earliest days. Her first years were passed without particular incident in the home circle, where the training of their children was a matter of the greatest concern to the queen and the prince consort. Among other things, the royal children were encouraged to visit the poor, and the effect of this training was very noticeable in the later life of Princess Alice. After the marriage of the Princess Royal in 1858, the new responsibilities devolving upon Princess Alice, as the eldest daughter at home, called forth the higher traits of her character, and brought her into still closer relationship with her parents, and especially with her father. In the summer of 1860, at Windsor Castle, Princess Alice first met her future husband, Prince Louis of Hesse. An attachment quickly sprang up, and on the prince's second visit in November they were formally engaged. In the following year, on the announcement of the contemplated marriage, the House of Commons unanimously voted a dowry of L. 30,000 and an annuity of L. 6000 to the princess. In December 1861, while preparations were being made for the marriage, the prince consort was struck down with typhoid fever, and died on the 14th. Princess Alice nursed her father during his short illness with the utmost care, and after his death devoted herself to comforting her mother under this terrible blow. Her marriage took place at Osborne, on the 1st of July 1862. The princess unconsciously wrote her own biography from this period in her constant letters to Queen Victoria, a selection of which, edited by Dr. Carl Sell, were allowed to be printed in 1883. These letters give a complete picture of the daily life of the duke and duchess, and they also show the intense love of the latter for her husband, her mother and her native land. She managed to visit England every year, and it was at her special request that when she died her husband laid an English flag upon her coffin.

In the war between Austria and Prussia in 1866, Hesse-Darmstadt was upon the side of the Austrians; Prince Louis accompanied his troops to the front, and was duly appointed by the grand-duke to the command of the Hessian division. This was a time of intense trial to the princess, whose husband and brother-in-law, the crown prince of Prussia, were necessarily fighting upon opposite sides. The duke of Hesse also took part in the principal battles of the Franco-Prussian war, while the duchess was actively engaged in organizing hospitals for the relief of the sick and wounded. The death of the duke's father, Prince Charles of Hesse, on the 20th of March 1877, was followed by that of the grand-duke on the 13th of June, and Prince Louis succeeded to the throne as Grand Duke Louis IV. In the summer of 1878 the grand-duke and duchess, with their family, came again to England, and went to Eastbourne, where the duchess remained for some time. She returned to Darmstadt in the autumn, and on the 8th of November 1878 her daughter, Princess Victoria, was attacked by diphtheria. Three more of her children, as well as her husband, quickly caught the disease, and the youngest, “May”, succumbed on the 16th. On the 7th of December the princess was herself attacked, and, being weakened by nursing and anxiety, had not strength to resist the disease, which proved fatal on the 14th of December, the seventeenth anniversary of her father's death. She left one son and four daughters.

See Carl Sell, Alice: Mittheilungen aus ihrem Leben und Briefen, &c. (Darmstadt, 1883), with English translation by the Princess Christian, Alice: biographical sketch and letters (1884).

(G. F. B.)