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Tuesday 8 January 2008

Princess Alice, continued.

Devoted as Alice was to her husband, it did not take long to discover that their intellectual and spiritual interests were far apart. Oftentimes melancholic, profoundly spiritual Alice had a questioning faith, and longed for a soul mate who could empathise with her quest for truth. She became fascinated by the controversial theologian David Strauss and her patronage of his work led to her being branded by the superficial Queen Augusta of Prussia as an atheist. Nothing could have been further from the truth but when tragedy struck her family with the death of her little son, Frittie, it seems Alice felt the need to return to a more conventional view of religion.
Frittie, diagnosed the previous year with haemophilia, was playing in Alice's room, when he caught sight of his brother through an open window. Climbing up to wave to him, the little boy fell onto the concrete below. At first he seemed merely dazed but that night he suffered a cerebral haemorrhage and died. Alice never fully recovered from his death.
Five years later, her eldest daughter Victoria contracted diphtheria which quickly spread through the family. Only her second daughter, Ella, remained free of the disease and, for her own safety, was sent to stay with her paternal grandmother in nearby Bessungen.
Alice personally nursed all of her children in turn, adhering to the doctor's instructions that she must neither kiss nor hold them for fear of contracting the illness herself. In spite of all her care, her youngest daughter, May, died, and, since Louis had also been struck with the illness, Alice was obliged to attend her funeral alone.
When Alice's son, Ernie, himself suffering from the disease asked for news of his sister's progress, Alice felt obliged to conceal from him the fact that she had died for fear that the news would further weaken him. As Ernie began to recover, Alice told him the truth and he was so upset that she could no longer bear it. Contrary to the doctor's instructions she hugged and kissed him...It was to be what Disraeli reported to Parliament, 'the kiss of death'.
As the rest of the family recovered, Alice contracted the disease and too worn out to fight it, died, at the age of 35, on the anniversary of the death her father - 14th December 1878. Her final whispered words were, "Dear Papa..." It seems her beloved father had come to take her home.

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