Friday, January 30, 2009


Princess Alice of Britain (1843-1878), Grand Duchess of Hesse, was the daughter of Queen Victoria. Alice had an untimely death at the age of 35 on 14th December, 1878, following an attack of diphtheria. Announcing her death in the British Parliament, W.E.Gladstone declared, “Princess Alice is dead…and love did it.”

She had seven children. One son, Fredrich, a hemophiliac, died early, following a fall. The others were Victoria, Elisabeth (Elizabeth), Irene, Ernest (Ernie), Alix and Marie(May). The children, except Elisabeth, and their father, Grand Duke Louis IV, contracted diphtheria in an epidemic in 1878. Devastating epidemics of this deadly disease with high rates of mortality were common before modern methods of routine immunization of children by toxoid vaccines and treatment of victims by antitoxin and antibiotics became available. Alice spent sleepless nights nursing her husband and children. They were treated in isolation as diphtheria is easily transmitted from patients by close contact.

Her youngest child, Marie (May) had a painful death in spite of her tender care. She concealed the sad news from the other children to prevent a severe mental shock. Later, she had to reveal it to Ernest (Ernie) who was intimately devoted to his little sister. Ernie was overcome with grief and broke down in tears. In an affectionate attempt to console and comfort her grieving son, she clasped him in her arms and kissed him, ignoring the doctor’s warning.

Alice was very weak with heavy work and severe strain and she easily caught the infection. Within a week after the kiss of love, Alice fell severely ill and she breathed her last in the morning of 14 December, 1878.

Benjamin Disraeli, the Prime Minister of Britain, described her kiss of love as the kiss of death. It was a life-long agonizing memory for Ernie, who survived the disease.

Actions are more eloquent and speak louder than words. Insincere words and pretentious shows of fake love are common today. St. John advises, “My children, our love should not be just words and talk; it must be true love, which shows itself in action” {1 John 3:18}.

Jesus taught us, “My commandment is this: love one another, just as I love you. The greatest love that a person can have for his friends is to give his life for them” {John 15: 12, 13}.

By: Dr. Babu Philip, Professor, Cochin University of Science & Technology, Fine Arts Avenue, Kochi-682016, Kerala, India.

This is story No.100 in this site. Please click ‘older posts’ at bottom of page to read previous stories.

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