The reporter scribbles in his notebook.
There’s something else, she says. She was once sent to an insane asylum.
“I was treated by Sigmund Freud,” she adds. “He was not a kind man.”
Fact: This interview never took place.
Fact: The details told to the fictional reporter are true.
Fact: The woman dressed in the nun’s habit is Princess Alice — great granddaughter of Queen Victoria and mother of Prince Philip.
Princess Alice’s life was bizarre and beguiling, painful and poignant. Perhaps her story hasn’t been turned into a ripped-from-the-headlines Netflix drama because nobody would believe how much she went through, including the forced X-raying of her ovaries by a medical staff that included Freud.
Princess Alice was born in 1885 as Victoria Alice Elizabeth Julia Marie. Her ancestors were of the Battenberg branch of royals. Deaf? Yep, she was. Whip-smart, too. By age 8, she had learned to read lips in three languages.
When she was 17, she attended Edward VII’s coronation in London. There, she met Prince Andrew of Greece. They got hitched the next year, then set off for Greece, where they lived at the royal palace. They had four daughters — three wound up marrying Nazis — and a son, Prince Philip. Life was drama-free for a bit. Then the Balkan wars broke out in 1912.
Princess Alice took off for the front lines, working in battlefield hospitals. She wrapped bandages with her own hands, according to “The Queen’s Mother in Law,” an extraordinary 2012 documentary in which several family members discussed her life and provided copies of her letters.
“God what things we saw,” she wrote in a letter to her mother. “Shattered arms, legs and heads — such awful sights. Cast off bandages knee-high, the corridor full of blood.”
With political tumult in Europe, Princess Alice and her family were eventually forced into exile. She became deeply religious, converting to Greek Orthodoxy.
But in the late 1920s, Princess Alice underwent some kind of nervous breakdown. She spoke of conversations with Jesus Christ. They often flirted, she told family members, and suggested even more than that was going on between them.
Her family was perplexed at first, then disgusted. Her mother said she was suffering from “anemia of the brain,” according to the documentary.
She was sent to sanitariums in Berlin and Switzerland. At the latter, her case was reviewed by Freud, who concluded that the princess had been beset with madness because of a love affair she hadn’t pursued earlier in life.
To bring on menopause and, in Freud’s words, “cool her down,” Princess Alice’s ovaries were repeatedly X-rayed.
It didn’t work, of course.
Eventually, though, Princess Alice regained her sanity. By this time, she had been separated from her family for several years. Philip was growing up without her. He bounced around the homes of various cousins. At one, he signed the guest book, “Philip … No fixed abode!”
Anyway, we’re really not even halfway through the momentous events of Princess Alice’s life.
She reunites with her family in 1937 at the funeral for her daughter Cecilie, who died in a plane accident. Philip, then 16 years old, is photographed marching in a funeral procession with men wearing Nazi uniforms.
Philip joins the navy. She moves back to Greece to work with the poor and hungry. In 1943, as Hitler tightens his grip on Greece, the princess hides a Jewish family at her apartment in Athens.
“There were times when the Germans became suspicious, and Princess Alice was even interviewed by the Gestapo,” according to Yad Vashem, a Holocaust museum in Israel. “Using her deafness, she pretended not to understand their questions until they left her alone.”
The family stayed until Europe was liberated.
Philip and Elizabeth marry on Nov. 20, 1947. (Happy 72nd anniversary, you two lovers!)
Princess Alice attends the wedding as one of the old gang of royals. Pretty dress, hat, etc. A jolly good time was had by all.
When Elizabeth had her coronation in 1953, Princess Alice turns up dressed in a nun’s habit. She walks down the aisle alone at Westminster Abbey. Then, it’s back to Greece, where there is more strife.
“By 1967 her health was failing, and the political situation worsening for the Greek royal family,” according to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
The Queen and her Prince Philip invite her to live at Buckingham Palace, where she dies two years later, having spent the final chapter of her extraordinary life wandering the halls in her nun’s habit, occasionally puffing on a cigarette.
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