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Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone

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Title: Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone  
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Subject: Lady May Abel Smith, List of godchildren of members of the British Royal Family, Charles Edward, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, British princess, Rupert Cambridge, Viscount Trematon
Collection: 1883 Births, 1981 Deaths, British Princesses, Burials at the Royal Burial Ground, Frogmore, Canadian Viceregal Consorts, Dames Grand Cross of the Order of St John, Dames Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire, Dames Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order, Grand Crosses of the Order of Christ (Portugal), House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (United Kingdom), Ladies of the Royal Order of Victoria and Albert, People from Windsor, Berkshire, Recipients of the Canadian Forces Decoration
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Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone

Princess Alice
Countess of Athlone
Born (1883-02-25)25 February 1883
Windsor Castle, Berkshire
Died 3 January 1981(1981-01-03) (aged 97)
Kensington Palace, London
Burial Frogmore, Windsor, Berkshire
Spouse Alexander Cambridge, 1st Earl of Athlone
Issue Lady May Abel Smith
Rupert Cambridge, Viscount Trematon
Prince Maurice of Teck (died in infancy)
Full name
Alice Mary Victoria Augusta Pauline
House House of Windsor (by birth)
House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
(by birth)
House of Württemberg (by marriage)
Father Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany
Mother Princess Helena of Waldeck and Pyrmont
British Royalty
House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
Victoria and Albert
Alfred, Hereditary Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
Marie, Queen of Romania
Victoria Melita, Grand Duchess of Russia
Alexandra, Princess of Hohenlohe-Langenburg
Princess Beatrice, Duchess of Galliera
Margaret, Crown Princess of Sweden
Prince Arthur of Connaught
Princess Patricia, Lady Ramsay
Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone
Charles Edward, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha

Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, who is the granddaughter of her first cousin on her mother's side, Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands.


  • Early life 1
  • Marriage and issue 2
  • Change of titles 3
  • South Africa 4
  • World War II and Canada 5
  • Post-World War II 6
  • Royal duties 7
  • Death 8
  • Titles, styles, honours and arms 9
    • Titles and styles 9.1
    • Honours 9.2
    • Arms 9.3
  • Ancestry 10
  • Trivia 11
  • External links 12
  • References 13

Early life

Princess Alice was born 25 February 1883 at Windsor Castle. Her father was Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany, the youngest son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Her mother was Princess Helena of Waldeck and Pyrmont. She had one brother, Prince Charles Edward, Duke of Albany (1884–1954) and later reigning Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (1900–1918). As the granddaughter of the Sovereign through the male line, she was a Princess of the United Kingdom and a Royal Highness. As the daughter of the Duke of Albany, she was, therefore, styled Her Royal Highness Princess Alice of Albany. She was baptised in the Private Chapel of Windsor Castle on 26 March 1883, and named Alice for her late paternal aunt. Her godparents were: Queen Victoria (her paternal grandmother); the German Empress (for whom Alice's paternal aunt Princess Beatrice stood proxy); William III, King of the Netherlands (her maternal uncle by marriage, for whom the Dutch Ambassador Count de Bylandt stood proxy); Louis IV, Grand Duke of Hesse (her namesake's widower and her paternal uncle by marriage, whose brother-in-law the Duke of Edinburgh represented him); the Princess of Waldeck-Pyrmont (her maternal grandmother); the Prince of Wales (her paternal uncle); the German Crown Princess (her paternal aunt, whose sister-in-law the Princess of Wales represented her); Prince Wilhelm of Württemberg (her maternal uncle by marriage, for whom his cousin the Duke of Teck stood proxy); the Hereditary Princess of Bentheim and Steinfurt (her maternal aunt, for whom her paternal aunt Princess Christian stood proxy); and the Duchess of Cambridge (an aunt of the Queen, whose daughter the Duchess of Teck represented her).[1]

Marriage and issue

Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone with her children May and Rupert, circa 1909.

On 10 February 1904, at

  1. ^ Yvonne's Royalty Home Page — Royal Christenings
  2. ^ Stegner, Wallace (January–February 1969). "Discovery! The Story of Aramco Then". Saudi Aramco World 7. 
  3. ^ a b c Office of the Governor General of Canada. "Governor General > Former Governors General > Major General The Earl of Athlone". Queen's Printer for Canada. Archived from the original on 11 February 2009. Retrieved 24 March 2009. 
  4. ^ "The Earl of Athlone," Former Governors General, The Governor General of Canada, accessed 22 April 2011.
  5. ^ the Princess Alice Barracks Cabin at Britannia Bay Ottawa Citizen Jul 10, 1944
  6. ^ Hubbard, R.H. (1977). Rideau Hall. Montreal and London: McGill-Queen's University Press. p. 201.  


  • listing of honours and military titles
  • A YouTube video of HRH Princess Alice speaking informally about Queen Victoria, her paternal grandmother; circa 1976

External links

When visiting Eastbourne in 1953, Princess Alice was conveyed around in a Rolls Royce owned by Dr. John Bodkin Adams, who was later suspected of being a serial killer.[17]



In 1934 Princess Alice was assigned her own personal coat of arms. As a granddaughter of Queen Victoria in the male line, Princess Alice was entitled to use the Royal Arms, with a 5-point label as a difference, the central point bearing a cross gules, the others hearts gules.



  • 25 February 1883 – 10 February 1904: Her Royal Highness Princess Alice of Albany
  • 10 February 1904 – 14 July 1917: Her Royal Highness Princess Alexander of Teck
  • 14 July 1917 – 17 July 1917: Her Royal Highness Princess Alice, Lady Cambridge
  • 17 July 1917 – 3 January 1981: Her Royal Highness Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone

Titles and styles

Princess Alice's coat of arms

Titles, styles, honours and arms

She lived through six reigns: those of Elizabeth II (first cousin twice removed and grand-niece).

The Earl of Athlone died in 1957 at Kensington Palace in London.[15] Princess Alice lived on there until 1981, when she died at age 97 years and 313 days. At her death, she was the longest-lived British Princess of the Blood Royal and the last surviving grandchild of Queen Victoria. The funeral of Princess Alice took place in Royal Burial Ground, Frogmore, directly behind the mausoleum of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, in Windsor Great Park. Her daughter and son-in-law are also buried close by.


Princess Alice published her memoirs, For My Grandchildren, narrating her life and royal duties and visits.[12]

The Princess and her husband visited Bahrain and Saudi Arabia in the winter of 1938.[12] She was the first British royal to visit the country and the only British royal to meet King Abdulaziz.[13][14] Their nephew Lord Frederick Cambridge accompanied them in the visits.[15] In Saudi Arabia Princess Alice visited Riyadh, Hofuf and Dammam, and met Noura bint Abdul Rahman, sister of the King and other members of the Saudi royal family.[16]

In her lifetime, Princess Alice carried out many Royal duties. Apart from her normal duties as Vicereine of South Africa and then Canada, she attended the Coronations of five monarchs: Elizabeth II and Queen Juliana. She was also the Colonel-in-Chief of two British Army units and one Rhodesian Army unit. During the Second World War, she was Honorary Air Commandant of the Royal Canadian Air Force Women's Division. In 1950, she became the first Chancellor of the University of the West Indies (then the University College of the West Indies). From the 1930s-60s she was Chair of the Council (governing body) of Royal Holloway College, University of London.[10] With her husband, daughter and son-in-law, Princess Alice represented the King at the 1937 wedding of Juliana of the Netherlands to Prince Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld.[11]

Royal duties

At the end of Charles Edward, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, (who served as a member of the Reichstag from 1937 to 1945), because of his Nazi sympathies. Alice, learning of her brother's incarceration, came to Germany with her husband to plead with his American captors for his release. They would not yield, and in 1946, he was sentenced by a de-nazification court, heavily fined and almost bankrupted.[8][9]

Post-World War II

During their time in Canada, the Athlones also supported various charitable and social events, and mounted a number of tobogganing parties and skating lessons on the grounds of Rideau Hall, as well as skiing in Gatineau Park. Before the couple departed from Canada at the end of Athlone's time as the King's representative, he left as a legacy the Athlone-Vanier Engineering Fellowship, awarded by the Engineering Institute of Canada.[3]

It was at these meetings that the four men discussed the Allied strategies that would eventually lead to victory over Nazi Germany and Japan. When Germany fell on 8 May 1945 and Japan on 15 August of the same year, Athlone led the national celebrations held on Parliament Hill and elsewhere. He thereafter spoke in speeches about Canada's future being marked not by war but by a strong role in reconstruction and reconciliation.[3]

The Earl of Athlone and Princess Alice, followed by Mackenzie King at the opening of parliament, 6 September 1945.

The viceregal couple also played host at Quebec City to prime minister Mackenzie King, as well as Churchill and United States president Franklin D. Roosevelt, who all gathered to take part in what would become known as the Quebec Conferences, with the first taking place between 17 and 24 August 1943 at the viceregal residence in La Citadelle, and the second occurring from 12 to 16 September 1944 at the Château Frontenac. Photos of the Earl with Roosevelt, Churchill and Mackenzie King on the ramparts of the Citadel during the Quebec Conference were widely published at the time.

The war was brought close to home for the Athlones also because many of those belonging to displaced European royal families sought refuge in Canada and resided at or near the royal and viceroyal residence, Greece; Empress Zita of Bourbon-Parma (Austria) and her daughters; as well as Queen Wilhelmina and her daughter, Princess Juliana.[6] Further, in December 1941, British prime minister Winston Churchill arrived at Rideau Hall, where he presided over British Cabinet meetings via telephone from his bed.[7]

In 1944, the Princess Alice Barracks Cabin at Britannia Bay provided a summer retreat for Royal Canadian Air Force Women's Division personnel based in Ottawa. The cabin was located near the Britannia Boating Club's facilities for tennis, dancing and boating. Rented from the King's Daughter's Guild of Ottawa, the cabin featured 60 beds, a separate cookhouse and dining pavilion. The cabin, which had served previously as a Fresh Air Cottage for mothers and undernourished children, was rented from the King's Daughter's Guild of Ottawa.[5]

As vicereine of Canada, Princess Alice also supported the war effort by serving as Honorary Commandant of the Women's Royal Canadian Naval Service, Honorary Air Commandant of the Royal Canadian Air Force Women's Division and president of the nursing division of the St. John Ambulance Brigade.[4]

Princess Alice accompanied her husband to Canada where he served as Governor General from 1940 to 1946. Upon taking up his post, The Earl immediately made himself active in the support of the war effort, travelling across the country and focusing much of his attention on the troops, either those training at military facilities or those injured and in hospital. Viewing his position as governor general as a link between Canadians and their monarch, Athlone also communicated in speeches that the King stood with them in their fight against Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime.[3]

On the sudden death of the vastly popular John Buchan in 1940 Canada found itself without a Governor General in time of war. Despite the longstanding intention of Canadian governments to indigenise the office and appoint Canadian nationals as governors general — Australia had long since done so with the appointment of Sir Isaac Isaacs as its governor general — wartime seemed an unpropitious time for constitutional tinkering; the Royal Family had garnered vast public support during the Royal Tour of 1939; as Queen Mary's brother and a former governor general of another of His Majesty's Dominions (as they were then styled), Lord Athlone seemed a satisfactory candidate notwithstanding considerations of talent, and Mackenzie King advised the King to appoint him.

Princess Alice in Royal Canadian Air Force uniform, circa 1942

World War II and Canada

The Earl was appointed Governor-General of the Union of South Africa and served from 1924 to 1931: Princess Alice accompanied him and was the Vicereine during that period. Lord Athlone and Princess Alice had a coastal beach house constructed at Muizenberg, which still stands today and is one of South Africa's national monuments. The Cape Town suburb of Athlone was named in honour of the Governor-General and, apart from the beach house, is the only physical reminder of the Athlones' residence at the Cape. She became a lifelong friend of the South African politician Bernard Friedman and the South African writer Thelma Gutsche.

South Africa

When the British Royal Family abandoned all Germanic titles by Letters Patent issued by King George V in June 1917, Prince Alexander of Teck adopted the surname Cambridge, became (briefly) Sir Alexander Cambridge, then the Earl of Athlone, relinquishing the title "Prince of Teck" in the Kingdom of Württemberg and the style Serene Highness. As such, the two surviving children lost their Württemberg princely titles. Princess Alice relinquished her titles of Princess of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and Duchess of Saxony, whilst her brother Charles Edward, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, who held a commission in the German Army, was stripped of his British titles. Alice remained, however, a Princess of Great Britain and Ireland and a Royal Highness in her own right, as granddaughter of Queen Victoria in the male line.

Change of titles

Princess Alice was one of the carriers of the gene for haemophilia which originated with Queen Victoria. Princess Alice inherited the gene from her father who himself was a sufferer.

Name Birth Death Notes
Lady May Cambridge 23 January 1906 29 May 1994 Married 1931 to Henry Abel Smith; had issue
Rupert Cambridge, Viscount Trematon 24 August 1907 15 April 1928 Died in a car crash
Prince Maurice of Teck 29 March 1910 14 September 1910 Died in infancy

Prince and Princess Alexander of Teck had three children: HRH Princess Alexander of Teck. After their marriage, Princess Alice was styled [2]

  • ^ Hubbard 1977, p. 202
  • ^ Hitler's Favourite Royal (Channel 4 documentary) Dec 2007
  • ^ -The Nazi relative that the Royals disowned Daily Mail - Dec 2007
  • ^ 1937 Royal visit of Queen Mary to Royal Holloway College, Egham, 1937
  • ^ "Crown Princess Juliana of the Netherlands & Prince Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld -1937". Royal Forums. 
  • ^ a b "Sotheby's To Sell An Historic Album Photographs Recording the First British Royal Visit to Saudi Arabia and Bahrain". Art Daily. Retrieved 19 July 2013. 
  • ^ "Journey of a Lifetime Exhibition". Riyadh Events. Retrieved 19 July 2013. 
  • ^ "Exhibition recalls historic royal visit to Saudi". Cronwall. 3 July 2010. Retrieved 19 July 2013. 
  • ^ a b Morris, Loveday (30 July 2011). "Alice in Arabia: the first British royal to visit Saudi Arabia". The National. Retrieved 21 July 2013. 
  • ^ "The journey of a lifetime". Geographical. July 2011. Retrieved 21 July 2013. 
  • ^ Surtees, John "The Strange case of Dr John Bodkin Adams, 2000
  • Princess Alice, Countess of Athlone
    Cadet branch of the House of Wettin
    Born: 25 February 1883 Died: 3 January 1981
    Honorary titles
    Preceded by
    The Baroness Tweedsmuir
    Viceregal Consort of Canada
    Succeeded by
    The Countess Alexander of Tunis
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