How I became a fan of Prince Philip and why I am mourning his death more than might be expected: I discovered he was caring, kind and thoughtful with his mother, Princess Alice of Battenberg, throughout her rather unusual life. Exactly how every boy should be! This is totally unlike the relationship depicted in The Crown, so if the Netflix hit is that wrong about the Prince than I’m inclined to look upon it all as pure fiction and stop watching. In all fairness to Netflix, they ask us to remember it is fiction…but I watched for what I thought was a semblance of truth…always remember, big grains of salt with every serving of everything. To be personally honest, I have always been fascinated by the British Royal Family. No idea why but I say it’s because I’m something of a history buff. Maybe it’s really more about the drama…or the love stories…or the murder mysteries…or the castles and foggy hills and warm beer and crumpets filling in the lines.
I was introduced to Princess Alice of Greece, Philip’s mother, by Netflix’ ‘Crown’ and became a fan because of one of my favorite quotes of all times about aging. “One of the few joys of being as old as we both are is that it’s not our problem,” Princess Alice says. “There came a moment, around the time I turned 70, when it dawned on me I was no longer a participant, rather a spectator … then it’s just a matter of waiting and not getting in the way.”
That describes the aging process better than anything I’ve ever read. We can substitute different numbers for ‘70’ (in fact I would up it quite a bit), but it is what happens.
Back to Princess Alice, her boy Philip and my current Alice obsession. While in California, appreciating my son, I finished Alice: Princess Andrew of Greece by Hugo Vickers, a historian and expert on the British Royal Family. I still enjoy European history (and I include the UK in that category), and Kings and Queens were a rather big piece of that for quite some time. The thing about the Brits or European royalty in general is that they’re practically all related to each other through Queen Victoria, the 19th century queen who bore nine children.
Princess Alice was Queen Victoria’s great-grandchild, part of the Greek royal family (who were mostly Danes and Germans) and participant in a most dramatic life. She lived through two world wars, frequently working as a nurse on the front lines, and suffered some form of mental illness, usually diagnosed as schizophrenia. Phillip was her youngest child and for much of his life she was missing in action as a war nurse, in an institution, or occupied in her later years with the Christian Sisterhood of Martha and Mary which she founded in 1949. She was not an attentive mother to say the least.
Throughout her life however her son Phillip saw to her well-being, bailing her out of multiple dramas, financial crises, and keeping a watchful and, judging from his letters, loving eye on her. Makes me appreciate my sons who keep just such a kindly eye on me. Mothers and sons.