1 NOVEMBER 2004

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Queen Elizabeth says she is "greatly saddened" by the loss of her beloved aunt Princess Alice. Britain's oldest royal died on Friday, two months short of her 103rd birthday.

The monarch was among those paying tribute to the Princess, praising her support since joining the royal family upon her marriage to the Duke of Gloucester nearly 70 years ago.

"The Queen remembers with gratitude Princess Alice's service to the monarch and to the country," said a Buckingham Palace statement. "After the Princess' marriage to Henry, Duke of Gloucester, in 1935, Princess Alice supported the work of King George VI, and then the Queen, over many years through war and peace."

Born Lady Alice Christabel Montagu Douglas Scott on Christmas Day 1901, the Princess was well-known in royal circles for her adventurous and independent spirit. After meeting the man would become her future husband – Prince Henry, the third son of family friend King George V and Queen Mary – the aristocrat put thoughts of marriage aside in order to travel.

She lived a life of action and adventure quite unusual for women of the time, hunting, shooting, fishing and travelling extensively. She once described herself as “a kind of pre-Beatnick”, having lived in Kenya, spent time in India and famously making an illegal visit to Afghanistan, disguising herself in traditional garb. News of her father's ill health brought her back to Britain in 1935, however, and the debutante married Prince Henry that same year.

“I was 34 so I felt I had had a very good innings," she reflected many years later. "Apart from my great happiness in getting married I felt, too, that it was time I did something useful with my life.”

Princess Alice spent much of her life at the 2,500-acre Barnwell Manor estate near Oundle, Northamptonshire, which she and Prince Henry bought in 1938. She was to outlive both her elder son, Prince William, who died in a 1972 plane accident aged 30, and her husband, who passed away two years later. In 1995 the elderly widow moved into Kensington Palace to be with her younger son, the Duke of Gloucester. Six years later, the reserved princess, who was often referred to as the "forgotten royal", enjoyed a rare moment in the spotlight as she celebrated her 100th birthday. Friends and family, including the Queen, Princess Margaret, the Prince of Wales and the Princess Royal, gathered at Kensington Palace for a “Highland” birthday party, preceded by a 20-minute military parade.


Princess Alice, Britain's oldest royal, died peacefully in her sleep on Friday aged 102, with her close family at her side
Photo: © PA
Click on photos to enlarge

The Queen remembered her aunt, who wed King George V's son in 1935, for her support "over many years, through war and peace"
Photo: © PA

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