The Tragic Story Of Prince Philip's Mother

Originally from Greece, Prince Philip renounced his Greek citizenship when he became British in his marriage to Queen Elizabeth II. But he was already a Brit thanks to his mother, who was Princess Alice of Battenberg. It is through his matrilineal ancestry that he is related to Queen Victoria and thereupon also distantly related to his wife.

Princess Alice of Battenberg was born as Princess Victoria Alice Elizabeth Julia Marie in Windsor Castle in the United Kingdom in 1885. She married Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark and they had five children — four girls followed by the birth of their one boy, who would later become the Duke of Edinburgh, says Biography. But she would have a pretty tragic and sad life story from the time she was born. The Princess was born deaf but she learned several languages by the time she was 8 years old, and because of her deafness, she had the ability to read lips (via Harper's Bazaar).

A downward spiral for Princess Alice

Alice married Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark in 1903 and after the couple had all of their five children, life would drastically change for the English princess. It all happened in the aftermath of World War I. During a coup in Greece in 1922, the family was banished and had to flee Greece and exile in Paris (via Reuters). It is said that having to uproot their family out of fear had a mentally devastating impact on Princess Alice, which likely led to the personal choices she made later in life.

She would find religion as a result and joined the Greek Orthodox Church. She even did charity for Greek refugees, says CNN. But in 1930 she suffered a breakdown and was committed to a mental institution in Switzerland because she was having some "delusions." One of the doctors who treated her was none other than Sigmund Freud, who diagnosed her with schizophrenia and sexual frustration, says Harper's Bazaar

Princess Alice becomes estranged from her family

Princess Alice was also subject to some disturbing tests, headed by Freud, prior to her diagnosis. The famed psychoanalyst conducted x-rays on her ovaries to examine the source of her "sexual" issues (via The Sun). During this time she was estranged from her family and didn't have much of a relationship with anyone. Her daughters went on to get married, and her only son, Philip, was in boarding schools abroad. Princess Alice would end up spending over two years in the mental institution and even make a few escape attempts. After her release in 1932, her relationship with her family didn't improve.

Despite still being married, Princess Alice and her husband Prince Andrew were not together. Her mental health and her time away in the asylum didn't have a positive effect on their marriage. And to make matters worse, Prince Andrew had seemingly moved on and abandoned his wife, as he was living with his mistress in France (via The Mirror). She wouldn't reunite with them until the death of her daughter Princess Cecilie in 1937. At the funeral, she saw her estranged husband and children for the first time in years. 

Afterward, in 1944 she officially became a widow when Prince Andrew died in Monaco (via Find a Grave).

The nomadic Princess Alice returns to Greece and exile

After she left the asylum, she spent a lot of time living in different parts of Europe, most notably, staying at bed and breakfasts in Germany, according to the Daily Mail. Her relationship with her children didn't see any changes, but Princess Alice did attend Prince Philip's wedding to the Queen in 1947, along with Queen's coronation ceremony just a few years later, per Hello Magazine. She returned to Greece and would spend most of her time helping the needy and doing charity work during World War II — famously hiding a Jewish widow and her children from persecution (via The Sun). By 1949, she took her faith a step further by founding a nunnery called the Christian Sisterhood of Martha and Mary. She dedicated living the rest of her life as a nun and donned the attire, which she became known for. 

But a military coup in Greece in 1967 forced the princess to have to endure another exile. Prince Philip sent a plane to Greece and made his mother return to England that year. This series of events is depicted on the Netflix show The Crown. She spent the rest of her days at Buckingham Palace, but the reunion between the mother and son was short. She died in 1969 at 84 years old.