I bet you think that the current Queen, Elizabeth the II is the longest living British royal princess. And you’d think wrong. She’s the longest reigning royal. But the longest living royal princess, a woman who was a first cousin twice removed and the great aunt to Elizabeth, holds the honor. Her name was Alice* and she lived to be almost 98 years old. And this is the story of her life and her favorite tiara: Princess Alice’s Diamond Palmette Tiara.
Alice was born February 25th, 1883 in Windsor Castle to Queen Victoria’s youngest son, Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany. Since she was a direct descendant of Queen Victoria, she was automatically princess. She also inherited something else from her grandmother. Something not as pleasant as her title – she was a carrier of the gene for hemophilia, a disease that took her father from her merely a year after she was born.
With the exception of losing her dad at such a young age, it seems that she had a relatively uneventful childhood (for a princess) and went on to marry her second cousin once removed, Prince Alexander of Teck, in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle on February 10, 1904. They had three children, one of which died at age 5 mos., another died in a car crash at the age of 20 and a surviving daughter, Lady May.
Alice and her husband lived in and visited much of the world. After her husband renounced his Teck name (as all of the British Royals did in 1917, they assumed the titles of Earl and Countess of Athlone and they lived in an apartment in Kensington Palace, with a country house in West Sessex. The Earl was appointed to several positions during his lifetime, including Governor-General of the Union of South Africa from 1924 – 1931, and Governor General of Canada during WWII. Princess Alice even served during the war, acting as Honorary Commandant of the Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service, Honorary Air Commandant of the Royal Canadian Air Force Women’s Division and president of the nursing division of the St. John Ambulance Brigade.
All the while, she was wearing this amazing tiara to state events, and it appeared that it was, if not her only important tiara, her favorite. It’s unclear who ordered or made the tiara, but it’s constructed of at least seven yellow diamonds, most of which dangle in bezel settings from the top of the tiara. The rest of the tiara is comprised of diamonds set in a “palmette” or palm frond pattern, with a row of bezel set diamonds at both the top and the bottom of the tiara.
What’s truly amazing to think about is that Alice and her tiara saw six different sovereigns reign (Victoria, Edward VII, George V, Edward VIII, George VI and Elizabeth II), and attended four different coronations (Edward VII, George V, George VI and Elizabeth II)! She wrote her memoir, entitled For My Grandchildren in 1966 and passed away in her sleep in 1981, just 52 days shy of her 98th birthday. And just as her wedding, her funeral took place in St. George’s Chapel with all members of the royal family in attendance. She’s buried next to her husband and son, directly behind her famous grandmother.
And the tiara? It was passed down to her daughter, Lady May, upon Alice’s death, but Lady May chose to auction it off in December of 1984 via Christie’s. It sold for $33,696 to an undisclosed buyer. What do you think of it? Would you wear it? Share your thoughts with me in the comments below!
*There seems to be some confusion since we published this piece about how Alice was the oldest princess and which Alice we’re speaking about. Hopefully we can clear it up here. Yes, there were British royal women who at some point held the title of Princess that lived to be older than our Alice (the Queen Mum was older, as was Alice, Duchess of Gloucester). But none of them were born into their role. That’s the difference. The Alice in today’s story was Queen Victoria’s granddaughter and thus born into her royal role, serving as an official princess longer than the other two, which was the point we were trying to make.