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Catching up on previous seasons of The Crown before diving into season five? If you're curious about the real life Prince Philip's mother, Princess Alice, read on for our story from 2019:
In the fourth episode of The Crown's third season, "Bubbikins," the show introduces a curious new member of the royal clan: Princess Alice, Prince Philip's semi-estranged mother. Not only is Alice's personal history fascinating on its own—living in exile twice, becoming a nun, enduring cruelty in the care of psychologists—but on screen, it proves to be the Windsors' saving grace, after their ill-received BBC documentary airs.
The Crown has it that a Guardian reporter John Armstrong was offered an interview with Princess Anne, following the fallout from his less-than-kind documentary review. Anne then managed to trick Armstrong into speaking with Alice instead—and after learning of her noble struggles, the journalist promptly wrote a glowing profile of the little-known royal.
The show often treads the line between fact and fiction—but with this Princess Alice article, The Crown lands firmly on the side of fantasy.
There was a BBC documentary made about the royal family, but as the Times notes, it didn't get a damning review in the Guardian; the TV critic simply noted that Queen Elizabeth had been "a delightful surprise." And Princess Alice wasn't widely praised by the media during her final years at Buckingham Palace—in fact, she'd been largely forgotten.
According to Hugo Vickers's biography, Alice: Princess Andrew of Greece, the papers noted her arrival not long after Alice arrived in 1967, but she soon faded from the public consciousness. "By the end of her life the general public scarcely remembered that she was alive," Vickers wrote, "and were largely unaware that she was at Buckingham Palace." Following her death on December 5, 1969, the papers did feature some obituaries and notices, but nothing on the scale of the article in The Crown.
Alice did eventually get her due, though. It later surfaced that (in addition her many already-known good deeds) the princess had sheltered a Jewish family during the Nazi occupation of Greece. She never asked to be celebrated for her actions, but when the media learned about it, they couldn't help but praise her.
"I suspect that it never occurred to her that her action was in any way special," Prince Philip said when visiting Alice's grave in 1994. "She was a person with deep religious faith and she would have considered it to be a totally human action to fellow human beings in distress."
Then, in 2012, Princess Alice got her own documentary. The Queen's Mother-in-Law introduced Alice to a whole new generation–royal fans and detractors alike. (As The Crown showed us, if there's one royal who can win over an anti-monarchist, it's Princess Alice.)
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