Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester, GCB, CI, GCVO, GBE (born Alice Christabel Montagu Douglas Scott; 25 December 1901 – 29 October 2004) was the wife of Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester, the third son of King George V and Queen Mary. She was the mother of Prince William of Gloucester and Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester.
The daughter of the 7th Duke of Buccleuch, Scotland's largest landowner, she became by marriage a princess of the United Kingdom, and a sister-in-law to Edward VIII and George VI. She was thus an aunt by marriage to Elizabeth II. Princess Alice was extremely well travelled, both before and after her marriage. At the time of her death at 102, she was the oldest living member of the British royal family.
Alice Christabel was born in Montagu House, Whitehall, London, on Christmas Day 1901 as the third daughter and fifth child of John Montagu Douglas Scott, Earl of Dalkeith (later Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry), and his wife, the former Lady Margaret Alice "Molly" Bridgeman, daughter of the 4th Earl of Bradford. As she was born on Christmas Day, she was given the middle name of Christabel.
She was a descendant, in an unbroken male line, of Charles II through his eldest but illegitimate son, James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth, himself a major political figure during the years leading up to the Glorious Revolution.
Alice spent much of her childhood traveling "between splendid houses": Boughton House in Northamptonshire, Drumlanrig Castle in Dumfries and Galloway, and Bowhill in the Scottish Borders. Eildon Hall, in Melrose, Scottish Borders, was more or less home base.
An experience of nearly drowning at the age of 14 awoke her to a keen sense of making the most of every day.
She attended the independent St James's School for Girls, in West Malvern, Worcestershire, and later traveled to France, Kenya and India.
After school in West Malvern, she spent a year in Paris "before returning home to be presented at Court in 1920". Alice enjoyed skiing, horse-riding and hunting and was also a passionate photographer and an accomplished watercolourist. A painting by her, done near Archers Post in Kenya, is today part of the Royal Collection.
In Kenya, where she stayed for over a year, from about 1929–1931, she stayed in the area typical of the so-called Happy Valley set and encountered many of the personalities of said clique, including Evelyn Waugh.
In August 1935, Lady Alice became engaged to Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester who proposed to Alice with a square sapphire ring.
In respect of the death of Duke of Buccleuch, Lady Alice’s father and the King George V’ own failing health, it was decided that the wedding should be scaled down to a more private setting.
Lady Alice and Prince Henry were married in a private ceremony, in the Private Chapel, Buckingham Palace, on 6 November of that year.
Lady Alice’s two nieces Princess Elizabeth(late Queen Elizabeth II) and her sister Princess Magaret were among her bridesmaids.
Alice wore a blush-hued wedding gown, the only British royal bride to do so. Her gown was designed by Norman Hartnell, who later designed the wedding dress of Princess Elizabeth, the future queen. Alice was credited with introducing Norman Hartnell to the royal family.
The dress of Alice was "of modest simplicity, with long, narrow sleeves and a high neckline draped into a nosegay of artificial orange-blossom". The veil was made from "a drifting cloud of crisp modern tulle".
On her way to the private chapel at Buckingham Palace, Alice wore "an ermine blanket stole" due to the cold weather. Thus she was often referred to as the "Winter Princess" from then on.
Initially the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester lived at the Royal Pavilion in Aldershot, where the Duke was taking the Army staff course. 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 favor residence at York House, St James's Palace, London and, in 1938, they purchased Barnwell Manor in Northamptonshire.
They have two sons:
Prince William of Gloucester (18 December 1941 - 28 August 1972)
Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester (born 26 August 1944)
The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester travelled extensively, undertaking various engagements.
From 1945 to 1947, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester lived in Canberra, where the Duke was serving as Governor-General of Australia.
The early 70s meant a period of great loss to Alice. She first lost her elder son Prince William in 1972 to airplane crash when he was competing in the Goodyear International Air Trophy; then her husband Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester died of heart attack in June 1974.
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, Alice moved from Barnwell to Kensington Palace, where she lived with her son and daughter-in-law the current Duke and Duchess of Gloucester.
In 1999, her son 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. Alice was 98 year old at the time.
In December 2001, the royal family held a ceremony to acknowledge Princess Alice's 100th birthday.
This was Princess Alice's last public appearance (as well as the last public appearance of Princess Margaret, the Queen's younger sister, who died on 9 February 2002).
On the death of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother at age 101 in March 2002, Princess Alice became the oldest living member of the British royal family. On 21 August 2003, Princess Alice surpassed the Queen Mother's record as the oldest person in the history of the British royal family by reaching the age of 101 years and 238 days.
On 20 September 2003, at the age of 101 years and 269 days, she was certified by Guinness World Records as the world's longest ever lived royal, surpassing Leonilla, Princess of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn.
Princess Alice died on 29 October 2004 in her sleep at Kensington Palace at age 102, 57 days before her 103rd birthday and several years after suffering a stroke.
Following her death, the Union Jack flew at half mast at Buckingham Palace. 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.