A year ago we took a look at the assassination of Tsar Nicholas II, Tsarina Alexandra and their five children in 1917, from the months leading up to it to its impact in Britain after George V and Queen Mary failed to offer refuge. Today we’re going to jump back a couple decades and take a look at their marriage, their rule and how Alexandra – born Alix of Hesse – fared (or rather, didn’t) as Tsarina.
Irony of ironies, but the very date that Queen Victoria branded a bad omen and which holds a very fraught history within the Royal Family is in fact my birthday: December 14. I’ve never known quite what to make of that, especially since Queen Victoria was the first British monarch I took a particular interest in. But there’s a reason she hated the day – and a few reasons why she became quite superstitious about it – her husband died on December 14, plunging her into a 40-year widowhood at the age of 42.
Not only that but 10 years later, her eldest son nearly died of the same disease (Typhoid) on the very same day – when the 14th rolled around, however, he miraculously began to recover. Seven years after that, Princess Alice became the first of Victoria’s children to die on, you guessed it, December 14, 1978. Even as late as 1895 the date had resonance – Mary of Teck, then Duchess of York, gave birth to her second son on December 14th of that year and her husband was afraid to tell the Queen lest she be somehow offended. She wasn’t, but she did note his birth date was “unfortunate.”
So, on this most unfortunate of days, but one on which I get to eat cake and open presents, let’s go back to the OG and take a look at Prince Albert’s death.
There was consternation when Princess Elizabeth announced her engagement to Prince Philip in 1947 due to his German relations. All of his sisters were married to German men, three of whom had Nazi connections, while his father was a member of the Greek royal family which had been ousted between the world wars. In short, he was foreign, but he also had strong ties to the British Royal Family. His mother was Princess Alice of Battenberg, who had been born at Windsor Castle, named for her grandmother, Princess Alice, Grand Duchess of Hesse, third child of Queen Victoria.
When the first Princess Alice died in 1878 – the first of the Queen’s children to do so – Victoria took up the mantle of offering her grandchildren motherly guidance. They spent considerable time in England and Scotland in their youths, and while two of the siblings would marry Russians, three of them married cousins from the extended BRF. The eldest, Victoria, who would become Philip’s grandmother, was one such sibling.
And so we pick up with yet another of Queen Victoria’s children: Princess Alice, her third child and second daughter. Alice is less famous than her two elder siblings, Vicky and Bertie (aka Empress Frederick of Germany and Edward VII), but that fact doesn’t necessarily align with her dynastic importance.
Have you ever heard it said the Queen and Prince Philip are cousins? Well, they are, albeit distantly. Queen Elizabeth is descended from Queen Victoria through her son, Edward VII, while Philip is descended from her via Alice. Alice’s eldest daughter, Victoria of Hesse, married Prince Louis of Battenberg and her eldest daughter, Princess Alice of Battenberg, is Philip’s mother. So, there you go.