Haven’t we been here before? As the arrival of baby Cambridge number three closes in, so do the odds on a new princess being called Alice. Ahead of the birth of Princess Charlotte, the A name was in the frame as top pick for a baby girl and we all know how that one ended. However, that hasn’t stopped Alice being among the bookies’ favourites should the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge welcome another daughter this time round. But while no one will be surprised if William and Kate do choose it, the name’s recent royal history came as a big shock.
The name was plucked from regal obscurity by Queen Victoria who, in 1843, blindsided just about everyone by naming her newborn third child Alice Maud Mary. Victoria is said to have picked the name because it was a favourite of her first Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne, and we all know how famously they got along. It had been in use in England since the 12th century but, until that point, never amongst royalty.
Once admitted to the regal fold, the name became a bit of a regular. Alice’s big sister, Victoria, named her third daughter Sophia Dorothea Ulrica Alice (born 1868 and later Queen of Greece). As you’d expect, like all good 19th century royals, the actual Princess Alice also took to naming her own children after herself with a calm assuredness. Her second daughter, born in 1864, was named Elizabeth Alexandra Louise Alice, and in 1872 it was given to her fourth little girl who was christened Alice Victoria Helena Louise Beatrice (both also spelled the name as Alix). Both women had tragic ends, marrying into the Russian Imperial Family and losing their lives during the Bolshevik Revolution.
Their mother, too, died very young, catching diphtheria in 1878 and when her younger brother, Prince Leopold, welcomed a daughter in 1883 she was named Alice Mary Victoria Augusta Pauline in honour of her late aunt. Princess Alice of Albany, Countess of Athlone went on to be the British Royal Family’s longest lived princess of the blood royal (passing away in 1981 at the age of 97) and she was the last of Queen Victoria’s grandchildren to die adding a much more positive note to a name that had been linked to a fair share of sadness before then.
The name was also among those given to the only daughter of the future King George V and Queen Mary who was christened Victoria Alexandra Alice Mary (born 1897). It got another new royal link in 1935 when George and Mary’s third son, Henry, Duke of Gloucester married Lady Alice Christabel Montagu-Douglas-Scott. She, too, enjoyed a very long life, passing away in 2004 at the age of 102. By then, her name had been given to her eldest granddaughter – Davina Alice Elizabeth Benedikte (born 1977), the second child of the present Duke and Duchess of Gloucester.
But perhaps the reason so many people are sure this is the pick of William and Kate for a daughter is because it was also the name of the Duke of Edinburgh’s mother. By the time her son married the future Queen Elizabeth II in 1947, she was usually known as Princess Andrew of Greece but the royal whose name is on everyone’s lips was born Victoria Alice Elizabeth Julia Marie in 1885. Her father was Prince Louis of Battenberg while her mother, Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine, was the first daughter of that first Princess Alice and she was named in honour of the grandmother she never knew.
Her marriage to Prince Andrew of Greece, in 1903, produced four daughters and that prince called Philip. He, like three of his sisters, passed the name on to a daughter. The Princess Royal was christened Anne Elizabeth Alice Louise soon after her birth in 1950. One of Philip’s granddaughters also has the name – the Earl and Countess of Wessex called their first child Louise Alice Elizabeth Mary (born 2003).
While it might not be the most popular royal name, Alice has certainly held its own in the regal christening stakes and if the bookies are right, it will soon get another royal chapter in its history. One final thing to think about. That first royal Alice was an April baby, arriving on the 25th of the month. Given that Kate’s due date is rumoured to be April 23rd, there’s a good chance her new baby might share the date of birth of Victoria’s little girl. Let the speculation swirl…..
Photo credit: Kensington Palace Twitter