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Asylum past of Kate Middleton’s great-great aunt echoes Prince William’s great-grandmother’s fate

Asylum past of Kate Middleton’s great-great aunt who died in a mental hospital echoes Prince William’s great-grandmother’s fate: Similarities between the two women’s ‘parallel lives’ are revealed by a historian

  • The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s ancestors had remarkably similar lives
  • Gertrude Middleton and Princess Alice of Battenberg both became nuns
  • Both were also volunteer nurses and were treated and died in sanatoriums
  • Their relatives’ similarities have been revealed by an Australian historian

The Duchess of Cambridge’s great-great aunt died in a mental hospital, in an uncanny echo of Prince William’s great-grandmother’s fate. 

The similarities between the two ancestors have not been recognised until now – with the discovery by an Australian historian that the two women led ‘parallel lives’. 

Kate’s ancestor, Gertrude Middleton, and William’s great-grandmother, Princess Alice of Battenberg, both became nuns who were volunteer nurses in the First World War. 

Nnurse Olive Middleton, (back row far right) was Kate Middleton’s great-grandmother and second from right, at the back is Gertrude Middleton, Kate’s great-great-aunt. The sisters-in-law were pictured in 1915 at Gledhow Hall, the estate of her cousin Baroness Airedale

The two women also had darker sides to their stories. 

The duchess’s great-great aunt, the sister of her great-grandfather Noel Middleton, was treated at the Lawn Hospital for Mental and Nervous Diseases in Lincoln the 1930s. 

She died at the facility, which treated ‘superior patients’, in March 1942, aged 66. 

Prince William’s great-grandmother, the mother of the late Duke of Edinburgh, was also treated at a sanatorium. 

Michael Reed, a historian at Ilim College in Australia – who made the discovery about Kate’s ancestor – told The Daily Telegraph: ‘They basically lived parallel lives, a few years apart. 

‘Both were volunteer nurses in connection with the Red Cross – Gertrude during the First World War, and Princess Alice during the first and second. 

‘They both acted as dedicated social workers for the homeless and disadvantaged and proved to be generous financial benefactors. 

‘But most startling of all was the revelation that Gertrude, like Princess Alice, had been a patient in a mental hospital. Their stories are both fascinating and sad.’ 

The Duchess of Cambridge's great-great aunt was a bright student and went to a boarding school next to the University of St Andrews, where Kate and William met as undergraduates

The Duchess of Cambridge’s great-great aunt was a bright student and went to a boarding school next to the University of St Andrews, where Kate and William met as undergraduates

Gertrude Middleton was a bright student and went to a boarding school for girls, which was next to the University of St Andrews, where Kate and William met as undergraduates. 

Like the Duchess, Gertrude was sporty and played both lacrosse and tennis, a favourite pastime of Kate’s. She also played the piano, performed impressively by Kate herself during a Christmas carol concert last year.

She volunteered with the Red Cross with her sister-in-law Olive Middleton, the duchess’s great-grandmother. 

Both Gertrude and Princess Alice followed a very religious path as their lives went on, with Gertrude becoming a nun at the Anglican Convent of the Epiphany in Cornwall, and Princess Alice founding a Greek Orthodox order of nuns.

After receiving a diagnosis of schizophrenia, Princess Alice was sent to a sanatorium in Switzerland in 1930. 

She died at Buckingham Palace aged 84, in 1965.

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