She was born with congenital deafness, diagnosed with schizophrenia, committed to a sanatorium, she rescued Jews from the Nazis (despite her daughters being married to high-ranking members of the Nazi Party) and founded her own religious order of nuns. The life of Princess Alice of Battenberg is an embodiment of the old saying that truth is sometimes stranger than fiction. The mother of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, who died on April 9 aged 99, makes her first appearance halfway through the award-winning Netflix drama The Crown and could easily be the subject for an entire series of her own.
The fourth episode of season three focuses on the inner traumas and insecurities the husband of Queen Elizabeth II harbored in his complicated relationship with his mother, who is portrayed in The Crown by English actress Jane Lapotaire. With a certain amount of creative license, the story picks up on the life of this largely unknown royal figure when she is attempting to sell a sapphire brooch in Athens to raise funds for her congregation. After the 1967 military coup in Greece, Alice of Battenberg moved into Buckingham Palace, in the fictional version occupying a small attic room where she shared cigarettes and secrets with her granddaughter, Princess Anne. “She ran her own religious order and was always seeking funding. She sold the majority of her possessions and, in times of war, she gave her food rations to orphans or anybody else who needed them,” says historian Hugh Vickers in his book, The Crown Dissected, a historical analysis of the first three seasons of the series.
“She did move into Buckingham Palace in 1967, but she wasn’t installed in a sad little room as The Crown suggests, instead she occupied a spacious apartment with views on the first floor. It is true that she was close to Princess Anne, with whom she developed a very personal relationship.” However, it is not true that she was the focus of a feature in the British daily The Guardian. “That’s ridiculous. She was a very private person. She didn’t give interviews. She was so reserved that she destroyed all her letters and, when she died, she only left three dresses,” Vickers told the British newspaper The Times.
Princess Alice of Battenberg was born at Windsor Castle in 1885 in the presence of her great-grandmother, Queen Victoria. She was married at the age of 18 to Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark, with whom she had five children: four daughters and a son, Philip, who would later become consort to Elizabeth II. In 1922, when Philip was still an infant, the family were exiled from Greece and they swiftly became separated. Philip was educated at boarding schools in England and Scotland, while his father lived by his own means in Monte Carlo and Alice was interned at a Swiss sanatorium after being diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Further complicating family reunions, Alice and Andrew’s four daughters married into the German nobility, some of their husbands being fervent supporters of National Socialism, while Philip was joined the British Royal Navy.
In 1930, Princess Alice was put through the wringer by the experiments of Sigmund Freud. A 2012 documentary, The Queen’s Mother in Law, explained how the father of psychoanalysis diagnosed all of Alice’s problems as being down to her hormone levels and “sexual frustration.” Freud prescribed a course of X-rays to be applied to her ovaries to accelerate the menopausal process. The treatment was a failure and only served to condemn her to lifelong health problems. She fled the sanatorium and returned to Greece, where she founded an orthodox convent. Like something from a Greek tragedy, she was only reunited with her family in 1937 when they all attended the funeral of her daughter Princess Cecilie, who died with her husband and two sons in an airplane accident in Belgium on her way to attend her brother-in-law Prince Ludwig’s wedding in London.
Rebecca Cope says in an article for Tatler that during World War II, Princess Alice worked for the Red Cross. She certainly had experience in the area. During the Balkan Wars of 1912-13, she had served as a nurse, setting up field hospitals and assisting surgeries on wounded soldiers. During the occupation of Athens by Italian and German forces, she helped to hide a Jewish family, the Cohens, who in 1913 had helped members of King George I’s family escape into exile. From that moment on, Alice became fully committed to charitable and humanitarian work through her convent, the Christian Sisterhood of Martha and Mary, which she founded in 1949. A profoundly spiritual and religious person, she took an interest in various doctrines throughout her life. She attended the royal wedding of Philip and Elizabeth and her daughter-in-law’s coronation in 1953, arriving at the latter dressed in the nun’s habit of her order. She also had the engagement ring that Philip used to propose to the future Queen Elizabeth II made from the few jewels she had not sold during the 1940s.
Princess Alice of Battenberg was exiled from Greece again in 1967 in the aftermath of the Greek junta and lived at Buckingham Palace with her son and daughter-in-law until her death in 1969.
English version by Rob Train.
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College Park to remain in full use for Trinity sports clubs
The board of Trinity College has agreed to pursue an alternative site for the building of a temporary exhibition pavilion during the renovation period of its Old Library, saving College Park from what several affected sports clubs said would have proven “hugely detrimental” to their training and competition needs.
Concerns had been raised over the timing and level of consultation with regard to College Park being named the preferred site last November, three of Trinity’s largest and oldest sporting clubs – athletics, football and cricket – already raising considerable objections over the proposal.
A Trinity communications press statement on Wednesday afternoon said that, subject to statutory constraints, “the Board of Trinity has today (Wednesday) approved a proposal to renovate the Printing House building, which would house the Book of Kells during the period of renovation, and also create a temporary exhibition in New Square, at the centre of campus”.
The alternative proposal of the Printing House, coupled with New Square, “follows consultation within the Trinity community”; Trinity students have four representatives on the 27-strong board, three from the Students’ Union (SU), and one from the Graduate Students’ Union (GSU), their president Gisèle Scanlon, and all four had already expressed their dissent at the College Park proposal.
“A process of careful consultation across College has led to today’s agreement on how to proceed with this plan,” said Trinity provost Linda Doyle. “I want to thank those involved for their engagement. We believe this choice of location offers the best possible solution for our staff, students and future visitors to College.”
Trinity’s bursar Eleanor Denny added: “We are extremely grateful to everyone in Trinity who helped us arrive at this crucial decision. This innovative plan allows us to preserve public access to the Book of Kells, one of Ireland’s foremost cultural attractions as well as restoring one of the oldest landmark buildings on campus, the Printing House.”
A Trinity email first sent to affected clubs in October said: “Based on early discussions Trinity has had with Dublin City Council, the location with the best opportunity to secure planning permission is College Park.”
A feasibility study outlining the scale of the project allowed for the continuation of some sport at College Park; however, according to the three clubs, this would have effectively rendered College Park useless as a competition and match facility, while also depriving the wider college community the sort of green space it increasingly craves.
The Old Library renovation is expected to take between three to five years, costing around €120 million, which meant it could have been 2028 before the space was restored. The temporary exhibition project is still subject to planning permission.
“We were very worried about this, for a very long time, and spent a lot of time lobbying against this,” said Scanlon, the GSU president also starting a petition to Save College Park. “All other options weren’t properly considered, and I think there should be lessons learnt on this. And whatever happens with the planning from this point, College Park should not be on the agenda, and should never have been on the agenda.”
Ray O’Malley, president of Dublin University Association Football Club (DUAFC), founded in 1883, also welcomed the outcome of Wednesday’s board meeting: “I think they [the board] misjudged the feelings towards College Park, from the general student base, and the clubs that use it,” he said. “Thankfully they appear to have belatedly realised that, and somewhere down the line the correct decision has been made, perhaps not following in the correct procedure.
“It’s our unique selling point, and the reason why we were fighting so hard for this. Even if it was only on a temporary basis, it’s too important for us. We all recognise the importance and value of the Book of Kells, but sport is a very importance part of college life too, and we’re extremely grateful for the role that people like Gisèle played in this, some of the club members, and that the powers that be accepted somewhere down the line that College Park simply wasn’t the right place for this proposal.”
Pandemic need for flexibility not reflected in draft laws
Draft laws on remote working mark an attempt by Tánaiste Leo Varadkar to formalise radical work practice changes that were suddenly introduced when Covid-19 struck two years ago.
Back then, the force of the pandemic was such that procedural and legal niceties were swept aside in the rush to protect public health and keep the economy turning. Many tricky questions were avoided at that time but they can be avoided no longer now that most restrictions have been lifted.
“We’ve worked through for two years basically turning a blind eye to the whole thing but that will stop,” said Richard Grogan, an employment law solicitor in Dublin.
“We’ve been working through an emergency which is slightly different. The emergency is now finishing.”
The new regime is supposed to open more choice for workers if they wish to work from home, giving them a right to seek such arrangements after six months. But in-built flexibilities for employers open scope for them to refuse permission to work remotely on 13 grounds.
Conflict appears inevitable. With key details still to be worked out, legal experts, employers and unions foresee many potential pitfalls and practical challenges when it comes to implementing the new arrangements in real time.
Many say the pandemic changed the world of work forever. A recent Central Statistics Office survey suggests that 80 per cent of workers worked remotely at some point since coronavirus struck, compared with 23 per cent before it. Two years later, with all signs suggesting the most acute phase of the health crisis has passed, these practices have bedded down to an extent that few might have expected at the outset.
Traffic and transport
Of those in employment who can work remotely, CSO data suggests 88 per cent want to continue after restrictions were removed: 28 per cent of them all the time; and 60 per cent some of the time. The proportion expressing that preference was highest at 93 per cent among respondents in counties Kildare, Louth, Meath and Wicklow in the Dublin commuter belt, where workers often encounter long traffic delays and overcrowded public transport.
If all of that points to high demand to avail of new laws, considerable hurdles remain to be overcome. To name but a few, these centre on domestic health and safety legislation, insurance issues, European data-protection law and on the Workplace Relations Commission’s new role in determining appeals to decisions against remote working.
“A lot of the issues that are going to go to the WRC where there isn’t agreement will relate to things like health and safety of a premises or [General Data Protection Regulation] compliance or whether somebody can actually do their work remotely. The [WRC] adjudication officers aren’t trained in any of those areas,” said Grogan.
“They are not there to look at a work station and say: ‘Does it comply with health and safety? Is it possible to put a work station into this bedroom safely?’ So that’s a huge issue.”
Asked whether the WRC had enough resources, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment said it would “work closely” with the institution to ensure it did. “Adjudication officers will receive appropriate information on the content of the legislation and the WRC was consulted on the heads of the Bill,” the department said.
Grogan suggested the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act might have to be “dumbed down” for remote work. “The only change you could bring in is if you’re working from home and you have an accident it’s your problem.”
He added that changes might also be required to the Civil Liability Act, which governs personal injuries. “There’s going to be a bit of nervousness overall about this,” he said, referring to employers.
But while the Government always has the option of amending Irish law, it can’t do anything on its own with European GDPR rules that impose stringent restrictions on how business uses sensitive personal data.
Neil McDonnell, chief executive of the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises business representative group, pointed to potential difficulties with remote-working where staff deal with such data. These include companies in the area of external payroll support – dealing with gross and net pay and issues like payments under maintenance agreements – and human resources support.
“There’s a few business that have been able to function remotely but reluctantly and with a lot of concern around what they’re doing,” McDonnell said.
“They basically have the innards of the company sitting on laptops. You could have someone doing HR support on their laptop in the kitchen – a bullying complaint, a harassment complaint or something of a sexual nature – and you have people who are third parties with no involvement in the companies walking past looking at that stuff.”
Employers were also concerned about the potential for claims for personal injury while working at home, McDonnell added. “We’re waiting to see something coming to court, or the Personal Injuries Assessment Board or the Health and Safety Authority.”
The plan has also come in for criticism from Fórsa, the largest public sector union, which said the “business grounds” for refusing remote working were too broad.
The union said the inclusion of grounds such as “potential negative impact on quality”, “potential negative impact on performance” and “planned structural change” would create loopholes that could allow employers turn down requests for no objective or proven reason.
“Employers must not have the option of simply turning down requests on spurious or vague grounds. Instead, they must be required to demonstrate, in a concrete way, that remote or blended arrangements are unworkable before they can turn down a request,” said Kevin Callinan, Fórsa general secretary.
Further questions are certain to arise as the law works its way through the Dáil and Seanad. The pandemic was all about ad hoc moves. Permanent arrangements are another matter entirely.
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