BAZAR: FEBRUARY 16, 1884
PRINCESS ALICE MAUD MARY.
"ALICE MAUD MARY, Princess of Great Britain and
Ireland, was the third child and second daughter of Queen Victoria of England. She was
born in Buckingham Palace on the 25th of April, 1843. From the time of her birth the
little Princess displayed the sweet and loving disposition which characterized her entire
Even on the occasion of her baptism the royal maid of scarcely six weeks appears to
have been equal to the situation, for the fond Queen-mother, describing the ceremony to
the King of Belgium, writes: "Little Alice behaved remarkably well."
In the sweet domestic life of the English royal family, where wise and loving parents
personally watched over the education and development of their children, the youthful
Princess grew like a fair flower. She was the pet and favorite, the sweetest and most
tender-hearted of all the little crowd that made England's palaces merry with childish
At first the little maid showed no inclination for study. Books were thrown aside for a
romp with her brothers on the lawn at Osborne or Balmoral, and a pony or a pet lamb was
her greatest delight. Her tender care for the happiness of others was evident in earliest
childhood. All her pocket-money was saved to be invested in birthday and Christmas
presents for her teachers and attendants; and during the yearly visits to Balmoral many a
poor Highland cottager was made comfortable by her kind charity.
After the marriage of the Princess Victoria to Prince Frederick William of Prussia, the
Princess Alice, a graceful girl of fifteen years, became more and more a comfort and
companion to her parents. Her intellectual development was very rapid, and her talent for
music and drawing was a special delight to Prince Albert, her father, who found in her a
sympathetic admirer of the rare works of art which he had collected at Windsor Castle. At
this time the Queen-mother wrote of her: "Alice is very good, gentle, and
intelligent, and a real comfort to me. I will not think of her marriage so long as I can
reasonable delay it."
But love has its own way, even in royal palaces. In June, 1860, at the time of the
great Ascot races, the court at Windsor entertained numerous royal guests, among whom were
the two young Princes, Louis and Henry of Hesse, sons of Prince Karl, and nephews of the
reigning Grand-Duke. Princess Alice and Prince Louis fell in love in good old-fashioned
style, and after considerable correspondence between the royal families of England,
Prussia, and Hesse, the Prince came to Windsor in the following November to sue for the
hand of the fair Princess. The simple circumstances of the betrothal are thus related in
the Queen's journal, under the date of November 30, 1860: "As I sat chatting with the
gentlemen after dinner, I noticed that Alice and Louis, who were standing together by the
stove, were talking more earnestly than usual, and as I passed them on my way to the next
room they came toward me, and Alice, greatly agitated, told me he had asked her in
marriage, and begged for my blessing. I could only press his hand, and say 'Certainly,'
and that we would speak with him later in our apartments. We passed the evening as well as
we could, working as usual. Alice came to our room, agitated but very quiet, Albert sent
for Louis to go to his apartments. Later he called Alice and myself....Louis has a warm,
noble heart. We embraced our dear Alice, and praised her. Louis pressed my hand and kissed
it, and I embraced him. After we had spoken together for a while we separated. It was a
very touching, and to me a very sacred, moment."
A year later, as preparations were being made for the marriage of the Princess, her
beloved father died after a short illness. The death of Prince Albert was universally
mourned, and to his family it was a blow which even time has had no power to soften.
Between the Princess Alice and her father there existed a peculiar sympathy and affection.
During his illness she was constantly at his bedside, and to the last sad moment his most
tender and devoted nurse. In the time of bitter sorrow she developed a strength of
character wonderful in one so young and gentle. Upon her fell the burden of supporting and
comforting her broken-hearted mother. "The character shown by the Princess Alice in
this severe trial is worthy of the highest admiration," wrote the Grand-Duchess of
Baden; "although overcome with grief at the death of a dearly beloved father - and
what a father, what a friend and counsellor! - in those first dreadful moments of the
shattering of a happy and loving family she stood full of calm resolution, uniting all the
broken threads in her young hands. All official communications to the afflicted Queen were
received by her. She attended to the necessary correspondence, and did all in her power to
save her stricken mother from undue exertion. The gentle girl became in a moment the wise
and thoughtful Princess, beloved and honored by the ministers of state as well as the
lowest servants of the household."
The presence of the Princess Alice became a necessity to the suffering Queen, and her
marriage was delayed until the following summer, when it took place at Osborne on the 1st
of July, 1862. The ceremony was strictly private and without display, only royal relatives
of the bride and bridegroom being present.
The married life of this beautiful woman was spent, for the most part, at the quiet
little town of Darmstadt, on the Rhine, the residence of the ducal family of Hesse. A
touching record of her life as wife and mother is given in a volume of letters to the
Queen Victoria, which has been recently published.
The change from the splendor of English palaces to the quiet life of the little
residence- town of Darmstadt, a tiny dot of a city nestled at the foot of the picturesque
hills of the Odenwald, was accepted by the Princess with characteristic sweetness. Her
marriage was one of true love, and the simplicity of her new surroundings was in
accordance with her thoughtful and studious character.
Writing the Queen of her reception in Darmstadt, she say: "The whole city was
beautifully decorated. The citizens rode by the side of our carriage, among them many
young girls dressed in white, and all so friendly and loyal. I heard many touching
expressions of sympathy for your and our great sorrow. I think no one was ever welcomed so
heartily. We drove together through the city among cheers and showers of flowers....Our
apartments are very small, but pretty, and furnished with perfect taste. My own dear Louis
has arranged everything in English fashion."
Dinners and receptions followed, "at which," says the young bride, " I
had to appear in 'grand toilette,' and pay attention to each one. It is very difficult
always to think of something to say to all these people who stand waiting for me to
In the midst of all these festivities the sorrow for her father came to her with
renewed force. She writes tender words of consolation to her mother, and says: "I
earnestly devote myself to the duties of my new life, striving to act always as dear papa
The noble example of her father was a constant inspiration to the Princess Alice. In
all her charitable work, her encouragement of art and literature, and in her wise and
economical arrangement of her household, she always followed a course which seemed to her
in harmony with the teachings of her dearly beloved father.
Life at the little court of Darmstadt flowed like a placid stream, varied by yearly
trips to England and occasional visits from royal relatives. "We arise at six in the
morning, and go to bed about ten,' writes the Princess, and the day was passed in long
drives and tramps over the beautiful hills, and in studying and reading. The Prince read
Macaulay's History of England and other serious works aloud to his wife as she sat at
work, and together they read the newspapers, talking much of the political condition of
the country, and laying plans for the future. "I thank God daily," says the
Princess, "for our peaceful domestic life, in which we can do so much for others, and
are not compelled to mix ourselves in these hateful politics."
At this time (1864) the clouds of the so-called "German question" were
beginning to thicken the political horizon of Germany, and the Princess Alice, a woman
with broad comprehension of public affairs, beheld with horror this dispute of brothers
To the last she hoped and worked for a peaceable settlement. In May, 1866, she writes
to the Queen: "War is really at hand. It is fearful. May God be with poor Germany!
This peoples' war is very unpopular among all classes, and our industries are already
But even in the midst of this anxiety, and with her husband away on the field of
battle, her brave spirit rose to action, and her sole thought was to soften the sufferings
of others. It was she who made preparations to receive the wounded soldiers: and when
detachments of sick and suffering men were brought to Darmstadt, she spent much of her
time in the hospitals caring for the wounded with her own gentle hands. Writing to her
mother, she says: "The hot weather is fearful for the sick and wounded. Of lint and
bandages we can not have enough. I am collecting here all I can, but I beg you to send me
some. Twice a year old linen is collected in your castles for hospital use. Do give me a
little. It would do so much good. We are not so rich here as in England, and there is
always great need of such things in war times."
The conduct of this royal lady in times of trial is worthy of the highest admiration.
With her husband in constant danger, her two children sent away to England for safety, and
surrounded by suffering and mourning, she moved among the people like a ministering angel,
comforting and strengthening every one by her calm and gentle presence.
In the midst of these terrors of war, as the cannonading of the battle of Aschaffenburg
was booming across the hills to Darmstadt, a third daughter was born to the Princess
Alice. "If my dear husband should be wounded now, I could not go to him,' she writes.
"What I suffer words can not express. Oh, the sleepless, anxious nights, the long
days without news! I heard three days ago that Louis was well, although he had been
compelled to sleep six nights in the open air, and the last three in rained in
Let it not be said that war brings no suffering to those who dwell in palaces.
The terrible battle summer was over at last, and peace came to the exhausted land,
"We are almost ruined," writes the Princess, "and must devote all our
energies to the reconstruction of our suffering country. I trust all governments will do
the same, and think no more of war."
During the years that followed, the Princess devoted herself to the care of numerous
charitable organizations - of which in many cases she was chief directress - and to the
education of her children. In November, 1868, a prince and heir was born, and great were
the rejoicings in Darmstadt, and very sweet and tender the letters written by the proud
mother to the Queen. But one can not help regretting, as one reads, that these pretty
records of nursery life were not kept sacred from Public scrutiny. They are beautiful, and
reveal a vast depth of motherhood which will touch many hearts, but one longs for a deeper
insight into the intellectual life of the Princess, of which this volume of letters gives
but one solitary glimpse in a brief account of her friendship with the celebrated author
David Friedrich Strauss.
When this remarkable man came to reside in Darmstadt, the Princess at once sought his
acquaintance. Of shy and retiring habits, it was with great difficulty that he was
persuaded to become a frequent guest to the ducal family.
"Not accustomed to associate myself with court circles," he says, writing of
the Princess, "I nevertheless, when with this lady, found myself at ease. The
friendly grace of her manner and her rare intellectual qualities relieved me at once from
all embarrassment. Our intercourse was a spring of beneficial refreshment."
The author was often induced to read aloud to a small circle of attentive listeners,
and thence arose the study of Voltaire, the result of which was Strauss's celebrated
critique on the French author. This work he read aloud to the Princess before its
publication, and was "richly rewarded by her appreciative attention."
He intended to dedicate the book to her, but as the work proceeded, and he found
himself compelled by his own convictions not only to uphold Voltaire, but at times to
exceed him in liberalism, he hesitated to ask the Princess to commit herself to patronage
of a book the opinions of which might be called in question. This doubt was settled by the
Princess herself. At an interview when Strauss had warmly expressed his gratitude for her
encouragement of his work, she exclaimed, "Why do you not dedicate the book to
me?" He explained to her that since reading it aloud he had changed and added many
passages - alterations which he feared she would not approve; but offered to send the
printed proofs, that she might consult with her husband. They were returned to him
accompanied by the following letter:
"Honored Professor, - I return the Voltaire with thanks. My husband has read
the fifth chapter with care, and finds nothing to prevent the dedication. The pleasure to
me of accepting the dedication of the book, which recalls so many pleasant memories, will
more than counterbalance any possible annoyance which may arise from it........
Although disagreeing with many of the religious views of Strauss, especially with those
of his book The Old and the New Faith, the Princess always remained his firm friend, and
was brave enough to admire openly the intellectual power of a man whom the majority
In the summer of 1870 war was declared between Germany and France, and the Rhine Valley
was once more the scene of military confusion. The Princess was again called to endure the
absence and danger of her husband, and again were the hospitals crowded with wounded men.
But it was not a war of "brothers against brothers," and wild patriotism for
father-land did much toward softening the bitterness of the situation.
The nobleness and beauty of character of the Princess Alice increased with maturity.
The suffering as well as the joy of motherhood fell to her lot. Her youngest son, a
beautiful boy of three years, fell from the window of the royal residence and was killed
before her eyes; but through all her trials she preserved the same calm grandeur, the same
comforting presence for all around her.
In 1877 the Grand-Duke died, and the title with all its responsibilities fell upon the
husband of the Princess Alice. With wider opportunities opening before her, the Princess
made extensive plans for the benefit of her people. But the sad end was near at hand. In
November of the following year the Princess Victoria sickened with diphtheria. In a single
week five children and the Grand-Duke himself lay ill with the dreaded disease. The wife
and mother labored day and night over her dear ones. Her short letters and telegrams to
the Queen during this sad time are heart-rending. The youngest child, "dear little
May," died and was buried while her father still lay dangerously ill, and the
suffering mother knelt alone by the little casket.
With constant watching and care her husband and remaining children were restored to
health and strength. Then this self-sacrificing, large-hearted woman was herself overcome
by the terrible sickness. Calmly she gave all directions necessary in case of her death,
not forgetting the servants of the household, nor the sick and poor, who so long had been
her charge. "I will sleep quietly now,' she said, and closed her eyes, never to open
them on this world any more. She died on the 14th of December, 1878, a loving wife, a
tender mother, a noble woman, long to be remembered and mourned."
Cite This Article:
Alice Maud Mary", February 16, 1884
[electronic edition]. Harper's Bazaar, Nineteenth Century
Fashion Magazine, http://harpersbazaar.victorian-ebooks.com (2005).