Last Night's Viewing: The Queen's Mother-in-Law, Channel 4
Them from That Thing, Channel 4

 

If your mother had been born deaf, applied bandages to bloody leg stumps in a war, been driven from her home under threat of murder, claimed she'd had sex with Jesus, been kidnapped when you were 11 and locked in an asylum where Sigmund Freud zapped her ovaries with X-rays, you'd probably be a bit eccentric (your mother certainly would be).

It didn't stop there for Princess Alice of Battenberg, otherwise known as The Queen's Mother-in-Law. The Freud-ovary revelation wasn't the only "hang on..." moment in a documentary of the life of Prince Philip's mother. Princess Alice went on to shelter a Jewish family in Nazi-occupied Athens and later became a nun who founded her own religious order called the Sisterhood of Martha and Mary.

I like to think I wasn't the only viewer who knew nothing of her crazy life. As the narrator told us at the top of the programme, which previously had been entitled The Other Queen Mother, the relatively boring life of Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon has been far more widely explored. Alice, meanwhile, was "one of the Royal Family's best-kept secrets".

Perhaps the film's most striking image was of the Queen's coronation in 1953. A sad, solitary figure is shown passing through Westminster Abbey in a grand procession, her incongruous grey floor-length nun's habit lending her an almost eery ghostliness. By then Princess Alice had, shall we say, lived a bit. She was born in Windsor Castle in the presence of her great grandmother, Queen Victoria, and defied her deafness to speak clearly and lip-read in three languages. She fell in love with Prince Andrew, the youngest son of George I of Greece, as a teenager and moved with him to Athens, where she had four daughters.

After surviving war with Turkey, when Alice ran battlefield hospitals, the family was later forced to flee from revolutionaries to Paris. They carried their one-year-old son, Philip, in an orange crate.

Alice's deafness left her isolated, while exile placed strain on her marriage. She began to experience "religious delusions", believing she had been intimate with Christ and Buddha. A psychiatry unit in Berlin diagnosed paranoid schizophrenia.

Doctors called in Freud, who prescribed X-rays of Alice's ovaries in a misguided attempt to tweak her hormones. Worse followed: after discharging herself, Alice was later bundled into a car and taken to a Swiss asylum, where she would remain for almost three years, abandoned by her family and lost to Philip, who was just 11. He would become, one biographer said, "a dog looking for a basket", but no one among the talking heads could express what effect his mother's trials had had on him, or his adult personality.

Alice later "disappeared", before starting her new life as a nun and only rejoined the firm for the Coronation. Later, she stalked the corridors of Buckingham Palace while smoking Woodbines for two years before her death in 1969. How did she get on with her daughter-in-law? One suspects that, at least, will remain secret.

By "them" they mean those people, and by "that thing" they mean several different things, or programmes, that have been funny on Channel 4. They (the people) include Kayvan Novak (Fonejacker), Sally Phillips (Smack the Pony) and Blake Harrison (The Inbetweeners). But they were upstaged in Them from That Thing, a two-part sketch show with a hit-rate of, I'd say, about 40 per cent, by "proper" actors such as Simon Callow, Bill Patterson and Denis Lawson. The highlight: a libidinous Callow in a satin dressing gown receiving his order of one banana from a supermarket as a ruse to flirt with the delivery boy, saying: "I've been running short of these yellow bitches."

twitter.com/susborne

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Summer nights: ‘Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp’
TVBut what do we Brits really know about them?
Arts and Entertainment
Dr Michael Mosley is a game presenter

TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
    Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

    Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
    Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

    Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

    Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
    Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

    Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

    The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
    Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

    Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

    His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

    Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

    Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future