Alice Duchess of Gloucester 1901 – 2004

Princess Alice Duchess of Gloucester 1901 –  2004 was the wife and then widow of Prince Henry Duke of Gloucester, the third son of George V and Queen Mary. Alice was thus the sister in law of George VI and Edward VIII.

Princess Alice was a staunch advocate of homeopathy, insisting that her children always carried their own homeopathic remedy kits, she was the Patron of the Blackie Foundation Trust, set up in honour of Marjorie Grace Blackie,

Prince Richard Duke of Gloucester, son of Princess Alice, was the Patron of The Homeopathic Trust until 2000,

Princess Alice was a great granddaughter of James Hamilton 1st Duke of Abercorn,

Lady Alice was born, in Montagu House, Whitehall, London, on Christmas Day 1901 as the third daughter of John Montagu Douglas Scott Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry, and his wife, the former Lady Margaret Bridgeman. She is therefore a descendant, in an unbroken male (though illegitimate) line, of Charles II.

She spent much of her childhood in her family’s country homes: Boughton House in Northamptonshire, Drumlanrig Castle in Dumfries and Galloway, and Bowhill in the Scottish Borders. She attended the independent St James’s School for Girls, in West Malvern, Worcestershire and later travelled to France and Kenya.

In August 1935, Lady Alice became engaged to Prince Henry Duke of Gloucester, the third son of George V. They were married in a private ceremony, in the Private Chapel, Buckingham Palace, on 6 November of that year. A much more elaborate wedding was originally planned for Westminster Abbey; but after Lady Alice’s father died of cancer on 19 October 1935, and in consideration of the King’s own failing health, it was decided that the wedding should be scaled down to a more private setting.

Initially, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester lived in Aldershot, where the Duke was taking the Army staff course. In 1935, the Duchess took a trip to open the new grounds of The Lady Eleanor Holles School. The Duke of Gloucester left the army to take on more public duties following the abdication of Edward VIII in December 1936.

The couple received a grace and favour residence at York House, St James’s Palace, London and, in 1938, they purchased Barnwell Manor in Northamptonshire. The Duke and Duchess had two sons:

The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester travelled extensively to perform their royal duties. During World War II, the Duchess worked with the Red Cross and the Order of St. John. She became head of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) in 1940, was given the honorary title of Air Chief Commandant WAAF in 1945 and promoted to Air Chief Marshal in the Royal Air Force in 1990.

She also served as deputy to Elizabeth Bowes Lyon, the consort of George VI as Commandant in Chief of the Nursing Corps. From 1945 to 1947, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester lived in Canberra, where the Duke was serving as Governor General of Australia.

The Duchess of Gloucester served as Colonel in Chief or deputy Colonel in Chief of a dozen regiments in the British Army, including the King’s Own Scottish Borderers, the Northamptonshire Regiment, the 2nd East Anglian Regiment (Duchess of Gloucester’s Own Royal Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire), the Royal Anglian Regiment, the Royal Hussars, and the Royal Irish Rangers (27th Inniskilling).

Also, the Royal Corps of Transport. She was also the Chancellor of the University of Derby and Patron of the Girls’ Day School Trust.

On 10 June 1974, Prince Henry died and was succeeded as Duke of Gloucester by their second son, Prince Richard (The couple’s elder son, Prince William, had been killed in an aeroplane crash in 1972).

The Duke’s widow requested permission from her niece, Queen Elizabeth, to use the title and style Princess Alice Duchess of Gloucester instead of The Dowager Duchess of Gloucester. The Queen allowed her aunt to adopt this title, in part to avoid confusion with her daughter in law, the new Birgitte Eva van Deurs Duchess of Gloucester.

Princess Alice also apparently did not wish to be known as a Dowager Duchess and so followed the example of her late sister in law, Princess Marina Duchess of Kent, following the marriage of her elder son in June 1961. However, Princess Marina was a Princess by birth. The de facto Dowager Duchess of Gloucester was allowed to be known as Princess Alice as a courtesy from Queen Elizabeth.

Although not born a Princess nor created a Princess by letters patent, the Princess was entitled to style herself as a British Princess due to her recognized marriage to a prince who was the son of a monarch.

In 1975, Princess Alice was the first woman to be appointed a Dame Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath. In 1981, she first published her memoirs under the title The Memoirs of Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester. In 1991, she released a revised edition as Memories of Ninety Years.

In 1994, after the Gloucesters had to give up Barnwell Manor for financial reasons, Princess Alice moved from Barnwell to Kensington Palace, where she lived with the current Duke and Duchess of Gloucester. In 1999, the Duke of Gloucester issued a press release announcing that due to physical frailty, his mother would no longer carry out public engagements outside the environs of Kensington Palace.

In December 2001, the Royal Family held a ceremony to acknowledge Princess Alice’s 100th birthday. This was Princess Alice’s last public appearance (and also the last public appearance of Princess Margaret, Queen Elizabeth’s sister).

On 21 August 2003, Princess Alice surpassed Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother‘s record as the oldest person in the history of the British Royal Family.

Princess Alice died on 29 October 2004 in her sleep at Kensington Palace, at the age of 102. Her funeral was held on 5 November 2004, at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor, and she was interred next to her husband, Prince Henry, and her elder son, Prince William, in the Royal Burial Ground at Frogmore. The Funeral was attended by Queen Elizabeth and other members of the Royal Family. A memorial service was held at St. Clement Danes on 2 February 2005.

Of interest:

Princess Alice Princess Louis Grand Duchess of Hesse and by Rhine 1843 – 1878 was a member of the British royal family, the third child and second daughter of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, the great granddaughter of James Hamilton 1st Duke of Abercorn,

Princess Alice knew Lewis Carroll as a child, and she was a friend of Octavia Hill,

Princess Alice was a Patron of Homeopathy:

On 11-12th June 1855, a fund raising Bazaar was held for the London Homeopathic Hospital at the Riding School of the Cavalry Barracks in Kensington, attended by the Marchioness of Aylesbury, the Duchess of Beaufort, Augusta and Honora Cadogan, Augusta Duchess of Cambridge, Princess Mary of Cambridge, the Countess of Craven, Mrs. Crisp, Mrs. Drysdale, Lady Ebury, Mrs. Fussell, Mrs. Hamilton, Mrs. Joseph Hoar, Baron Knesebech, Mrs. Leadam, Miss Meymott, Mrs. Moore, Viscountess Newport, Lady Rokeby, Mrs. Rosher, Alphonse de Rothschild, the Duchess of St. Arpino, Grand Duchess Mecklenburg Strelitz, Mrs. Wilkinson, Lady Willoughby de Broke, the Countess of Wilton, Mrs. Yeldhamon sale were items donated to the cause by Princess Alice 1843 – 1878, the Duchess of Kent, the Princess of Prussia, and many others,

Princess Alice died of diphtheria in 1878, when she was attended by Professor Oertel, Professor of laryngoscopy at the University of Munich, who was also an advocate of the Priessnitz Water Cure,


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