Alexandra was born in Athens on 25 March 1921 and was the only daughter of Alexander I of Greece and Aspasia Manos.
Five months before her birth, Alexandra’s father died of sepsis following a monkey bite which occurred in the gardens of Tatoi and his death caused a succession crisis in Greece as the previous king, Constantine I had been forced to abdicate. Since Alexander and Aspasia had married without the permission of the Orthodox Church, their marriage was considered illegal, however the birth of a son could still pose political problems. There was much relief when the infant princess was born as she could not inherit under Salic Law and the succession issue was resolved when the throne was restored to her grandfather, Constantine I.
After her birth, Aspasia was keen for her daughter to be officially recognised as a member of the royal family, so Queen Sophia persuaded her husband to declare Alexander and Aspasia’s marriage as legal so Alexandra could become a Princess of Greece and Denmark. Once this was done, Aspasia was still not satisfied as her own status was unresolved and she was finally granted the title of Princess of Greece and Denmark in September 1922. Unfortunately, the change in status did not do Aspasia any good as Constantine was forced to abdicate again after another disastrous war with Turkey. While Aspasia and Alexandra were allowed to remain in Greece, they had no means of supporting themselves so Aspasia took refuge with Queen Sophia at the Villa Bobolina near Florence.
After Constantine’s death in 1923, Sophia’s daughters came to stay with her as well and Alexandra had a happy time playing with her cousins Prince Philip of Greece (the future Duke of Edinburgh) and Prince Michael of Romania who came to stay during the holidays. In 1927, Aspasia and Alexandra moved to Ascot, Berkshire, where they stayed with Sir James Horlick and his family. Alexandra was enrolled into boarding school but she did not take the separation from her mother well and ended up developing tuberculosis. Alarmed, Aspasia took her daughter to Switzerland where she made a full recovery and then she decided to buy a villa on the Island of Giudecca in Venice. The villa had belonged to Caroline Eden, great-aunt of the British Prime Minister Anthony Eden, and it was nicknamed the Garden of Eden.
When the Greek monarchy was restored in 1935, Aspasia decided to remain in Italy since she was still being ostracised by them, however Alexandra was invited to most of the big family events and Aspasia made sure her daughter got her share of her inheritance. Now that she was older, Alexandra had started to notice how differently she and her mother were being treated by the rest of the monarchy and it was a harsh lesson to learn.
Alexandra and her mother were forced to leave Venice in 1940 after the outbreak of the Greco-Italian War and returned briefly to Athens where they began working with the Red Cross until the Nazis invaded. Aspasia was granted permission from George VI and the British government to settle in the United Kingdom with her daughter. In London, Aspasia and Alexandra resumed their work with the Red Cross and were frequent guests of Marina, Duchess of Kent, who was a former Princess of Greece and Denmark.
While in London, Alexandra met Peter II of Yugoslavia at an officers’ gala at Grosvenor House and they eventually fell in love. The match was opposed by Peter’s mother, Maria of Romania, and the Yugoslav government-in-exile deemed it inappropriate to celebrate a wedding while the country was occupied. For two years, the couple conducted their romance at the residence of the Duchess of Kent until they were finally allowed to marry in a modest ceremony on 20 March 1944. Alexandra was now Queen of Yugoslavia but the country was still in turmoil and the monarchy was abolished in November 1945, just a few months after Alexandra had given birth to her son, Alexander.
Crown Prince Alexander was born on 17 July 1945 in Suite 212 of Claridges Hotel which was temporarily designed as Yugoslav territory too enable the child to be born on Yugoslav soil, the only time Alexandra was ever in Yugoslavia as queen. The newborn was named Alexander after both grandfathers and he was baptised by the Serbian Patriarch Gavrilo V in Westminster Abbey, with George VI and his eldest daughter, Elizabeth, acting as godparents.
With no kingdom and no source of income, Peter and Alexandra moved around Europe for a time before tying their chances in New York where Peter was involved in a financial transaction that he hoped would improve their lot. Alexandra was forced to sell some of her jewellery to keep their heads above water, but neither really knew how to control a budget and their debts accumulated. At this point, Peter began to drown his sorrows in alcohol and he began to have a series of affairs with younger women which affected Alexandra’s confidence. Plagued with anorexia and body dysmorphia, she convinced herself Peter didn’t like her breasts and had both removed. In 1950, Alexandra made her first suicide attempt while staying with her mother in Venice and things grew worse when she began to use her son against her husband.
Increasingly worried about her daughter’s behaviour, Aspasia arranged for little Alexander to stay with some Italian friends so he could grow up in a peaceful and safe environment. As Alexandra and Peter’s financial woes grew more severe, Alexandra suffered a miscarriage and the couple returned to France where Alexandra made another attempt on her life. Tired of his wife instability, Peter filed for divorce but he later withdrew his petition after some persuasion from the King and Queen of Greece.
After the couple reconciled, Alexandra was persuaded to write her autobiography by a British publisher and with the help of a ghost writer, she released For Love of a King in 1956 which sold well. After that, Alexandra decided to co-write a second book about her cousin, Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, which upset the British royal family to the extent they broke off all contact with her even though the book had not revealed anything compromising.
The couple moved to Cannes for a while, however their reconciliation began to sour and Peter soon left for the States. Alexandra moved to the Garden of Eden with her mother but she made a further suicide attempt in 1963, after which she spent a long period of convalescence under the constant care of her sister-in-law, Margarita of Baden. After yet another failed reconciliation with Peter in 1967, Alexandra moved back to her mother’s villa while he moved permanently to the States where he died on 3 November 1970.
On 1 July 1972, Alexandra’s son, Crown Prince Alexander of Yugoslavia, married Maria da Glória of Orléans-Braganza, daughter of the Brazilian Imperial pretender, Pedro Gastão of Orléans-Braganza, at Villamanrique de la Condesa, near Seville, Spain. Alexandra was too emotionally fragile to attend the wedding and it was left to Olga, wife of Paul of Yugoslavia, to escort the groom to the altar.
A month later, on 7 August 1972, Aspasia died and Alexandra had to sell the Garden of Eden before returning to Britain to live where she died of cancer on 30 January 1993. Alexandra was originally buried in London, however her remains were transferred to Serbia for reburial in the crypt of the Royal Mausoleum at Oplenac in 2013.
House (birth): House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg
House (marriage): House of Karadordevic
Father: Alexander I of Greece
Mother: Aspasia Manos
Born: 25 Mar 1921
Died: 30 Jan 1993
Spouse: Peter II of Yugoslavia
HRH Princess Alexandra of Greece and Denmark
25 Mar 1921 – 20 Mar 1944
HM The Queen of Yugoslavia
20 Mar 1944 – 29 Nov 1945
HM Queen Alexandra of Yugoslavia
29 Nov 1945 – 30 Jan 1993
HM The Queen of Yugoslavia (pretence)
29 Nov 1945 – 03 Nov 1970
HM The Queen Mother of Yugoslavia (pretence)
03 Nov 1970 – 30 Jan 1993
Born: 17 Jul 1945
Spouse 1: Maria da Gloria of Orléans-Braganza (divorced)
Spouse 2: Katherine Clairy Batis