Alexandra of Denmark wife of Edward VII 1844–1925

Alexandra of Denmark wife of Edward VII 1844–1925

Alexandra of Denmark (Alexandra Caroline Marie Charlotte Louise Julia; 1 December 1844 – 20 November 1925) was Queen of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions and Empress of India as the wife of King Edward VII.

Alexandra
Caroline Marie Charlotte Louise Julia
of Denmark
.Her Highness Princess of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg
.Her Royal Highness Princess Alexandra of Denmark
.Her Royal Highness The Princess of Wales
.Her Majesty The Queen of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions

Born
1 December 1844
Yellow Palace, Copenhagen, Denmark

Died
20 November 1925 (aged 80)
Sandringham House, Norfolk

Burial
28 November 1925
St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle

Spouse
Edward VII

children
1 Prince Albert Victor
.Duke of Clarence and Avondale
.8 January 1864-14 January 1892
.engaged 1891, to Princess Mary
of Teck but died few weeks later

2 George V
.3 June 1865-20 January 1936
.Married 1893, Princess Mary of Teck
.5 Children
Edward VIII Later Duke of Windsor
George VI
Mary, Princess Royal
Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester
Prince George, Duke of Kent
Prince John

3 Princess Louise, Princess Royal
.20 February 1867-4 January 1931
.Married 1889, Alexander Duff, Duke of Fife
.3 Children
Alastair, stillborn 16 June 1890
Princess Alexandra, 2nd Duchess of Fife
Princess Maud, Countess of Southesk

 4 Princess Victoria
.6 July 1868-3 December 1935
.Never married

5 Princess Maud of Wales
.26 November 1869-20 November 1938
.Married 1896, Carl, King of
Norway as Haakon VII
.1 Child
Olav V of Norway

6 Prince Alexander John of Wales
6 April 1871-7 April 1871
(No image available)

House of
Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg

Father
Christian IX of Denmark

Mother
Louise of Hesse-Kassel

Siblings
.1 Frederick VIII of Denmark
3 June 1843-14 May 1912
.2 George I of the Hellenes
24 December 1845-18 March 1913
.3 Maria Feodorovna (Dagmar of Denmark)
26 November 1847-13 October 1928
.4 Princess Thyra of Denmark
29 September 1853-26 February 1933
.5 Prince Valdemar of Denmark
27 October 1858-14 January 1939

Princess Alexandra,or “Alix”, as her immediate family knew her, was born at the Yellow Palace, an 18th-century town house at 18 Amaliegade, right next to the Amalienborg Palace complex in Copenhagen. Although she was of royal blood, her family lived a comparatively normal life. They did not possess great wealth; her father’s income from an army commission was about £800 per year and their house was a rent-free grace and favour property. was invited to call and tell the children stories before bedtime, including “The Tinderbox”, “The Princess and the Pea”, “Thumbelina”, “The Little Mermaid” and “The Emperor’s New Clothes” In 1848, King Christian VIII of Denmark died and his only son, Frederick ascended the throne. Frederick was childless. A succession crisis arose as Frederick ruled in both Denmark and Schleswig-Holstein, and the succession rules of each territory differed. An uneasy peace was agreed Alexandra shared a draughty attic bedroom with her sister, Dagmar (later Empress of Russia), made her own clothes and waited at table along with her sisters.

Alexandra and Dagmar were given swimming lessons by the Swedish pioneer of women’s swimming, Nancy Edberg. At Bernstorff, Alexandra grew into a young woman, she was taught English by the English chaplain at Copenhagen and was confirmed in Christiansborg Palace. She was devout throughout her life, and followed High Church practice. Queen Victoria and her husband, Prince Albert, were already concerned with finding a bride for their son and heir, Albert Edward, the Prince of Wales.

They enlisted the aid of their daughter, Crown Princess Victoria of Prussia, in seeking a suitable candidate. Vicky already had one matchmaking success under her belt, having arranged the engagement of her sister Alice and Prince Louis of Hesse. Edward had hoped to pursue a career in the British Army, but his mother vetoed an active military career. Alexandra was not their first choice, since the Danes were at loggerheads with the Prussians over the Schleswig- Holstein Question and most of the British royal family’s relations were German. There were a few potential German candidates, Elisabeth of Wied coming the closest to being seriously considered, Vicky found fault with all of them. In a letter to the Queen (20 April 1861) she complained that ‘I sit continually with the Gotha Almanack in my hands turning the leaves over in hopes to discover someone who has not come to light!’

 

Vicky sent a photograph of Alexandra to her mother Queen Victoria. The Queen was certain the photograph had been altered but was assured “this is her true beauty”.

Though enthusiastic in her praise of Alix, Vicky was not unaware of the dangerous political ground she was treading on, that ‘an alliance with Denmark would be misfortune for us here’ (Germany). Her sentiments were shared in Victoria’s response, ‘Princess Alexandra is indeed lovely! What a pity she is who she is!’ Albert’s response, was surprisingly uncharacteristic considering his Anglo German views. Upon seeing her photograph, he declared ‘I would marry her at once’. More information about the ‘Danish beauty’ was requested

The Queen personally disapproved of the Danish royal house, a view likely based on Frederick VII’s allegedly dubious morality. With these red flags raised against her, Alix was placed in a bridal limbo of sorts. She was, however, mentioned more frequently in family correspondence, especially as the pool of German princesses dried up and parental concern over Bertie increased. In the summer of 1861 Vicky, now Crown Princess of Prussia, set up a meeting with the “Danish Pearl” at Strelitz. Vicky’s opinion of the event is best captured in the letter she sent to her mother. ‘Oh if she only was not a Dane…I should say yes she is the one a thousand times over.’

Alix’s “bewitching” charms, however, proved stronger than any anti-Danish prejudice held by Vicky. The encounter at Speyer Cathedral on 24 September 1861 was a carefully arranged affair managed mainly by Vicky no detail left to chance. To avoid controversy, Bertie was aware of the meeting’s significance. It appears that the only one left in the dark was Princess Alix.

From this time, Edward gained a reputation as a playboy. He spent three nights with an actress, Nellie Clifden, who was hidden in the camp by his fellow officers. Prince Albert, though ill, was appalled and visited Edward at Cambridge to issue a reprimand. Albert died in December 1861 just two weeks after the visit. Queen Victoria was inconsolable, wore mourning clothes for the rest of her life and blamed Edward for his father’s death. She wrote to Vicky, “I never can, or shall, look at him without a shudder.” In Bertie’s absence, Victoria arranged a meeting with her uncle Leopold, King of the Belgians, at the palace of Laeken, in order to have Princess Alix presented to her. The young princess won over the mourning Queen who gave her sanction, read as command, for Bertie to act accordingly. On 9 September, in the gardens of Laeken, the Prince of Wales dutifully proposed. Before the newly engaged couple even had a chance to get to know one another more properly they were split apart. In November Alix was to spend a few months with Victoria and the younger children, in order to understand the life she was marrying into. Bertie, on the other hand, was sent off on a cruise in the Mediterranean with Vicky. The marriage contract between Britain and Denmark was signed on 15 January 1863 and the date set for 10 March 1863.

A few months later, Alexandra travelled from Denmark to Britain aboard the royal yacht Victoria and Albert II and arrived in Gravesend, Kent, on 7 March 1863. 35 On the morning of the wedding Bertie and Alix accompanied Queen Victoria to the recently completed mausoleum at Frogmore. As they stood before the mortal remains of the immortal consort, the Queen brought their hands together and offered the couple ‘His blessing’.

The choice of venue St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle. was criticised widely. As the ceremony took place outside London, the press complained that large public crowds would not be able to view the spectacle. Prospective guests thought it awkward to get to and, as the venue was small, some people who had expected invitations were disappointed. The British court was still in mourning for Prince Albert, so ladies were restricted to wearing grey, lilac or mauve.

The dress was made of white silk satin trimmed with orange blossoms, myrtle and puffs of tulle and Honiton lace. It had a similarly trimmed 21-foot (6.4 m) silver moiré train, which was carried by eight young ladies aged 15 to 20.

The four lace flounces were designed by Miss Tucker and executed by Messrs. John Tucker and Co. of Branscombe, near Sidmouth; a matching lace veil, train trimming and handkerchief were also made. The pattern of the lace depicted cornucopias filled with English roses, Irish shamrocks and Scottish thistles. Princess Alexandra wore a wreath of orange blossom and myrtle, and carried a bouquet of orange blossoms, white rosebuds, lily of the valley, orchids and myrtle. Her jewelry consisted of a pearl necklace, earrings and brooch given by the Prince of Wales, an opal and diamond bracelet from Queen Victoria, a diamond bracelet given by the ladies of Leeds, and an opal and diamond bracelet from the ladies of Manchester. The bridesmaids wore white glacé silk dresses trimmed with tulle netting and roses, and wreaths of roses. As the couple left Windsor for their honeymoon at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, they were cheered by the schoolboys of neighbouring Eton College. By the end of the following year, Alexandra’s father had ascended the throne of Denmark, her brother George had become King of the Hellenes and her sister Dagmar was engaged to the Tsesarevich of Russia.

Alexandra’s first child, Albert Victor, was born two months premature on 8 January 1864 at Frogmore House.

He was christened Albert Victor Christian Edward in the private chapel of Buckingham Palace on 10 March 1864. but was known informally as “Eddy”.

His godparents were
.Queen Victoria
(his paternal grandmother)
.King Christian IX of Denmark
(his maternal grandfather)
.King Leopold I of Belgium
(his great great-uncle)
.Dowager Duchess of Schleswig-Holstein
(his maternal great-grandmother)
.Duchess of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
(his great-aunt by marriage)
.Landgrave of Hesse
(his maternal great-grandfather)
.Crown Princess of Prussia
(his paternal aunt)
.Prince Alfred (his paternal uncle)

George was born on 3 June 1865,
in Marlborough House, London

Lady Susan Vane-Tempest and The Prince of Wales had an affair from 1865 to 1871, she bore the Prince an illegitimate child in 1871. She wrote to Edward advising him that the “crisis was due within two or three months”, a reference to the pregnancy. She gave birth to the child in Ramsgate at the end of 1871. Nothing however, is known of the baby’s sex or fate because when Susan died on 6 September 1875 at the age of 36, she took the secret with her to the grave.

Princess Louise was born at
Marlborough House on 20
February 1867 the added
complication of a bout of
rheumatic fever threatened
Alexandra’s life and left
her with a permanent limp.

Princess Victoria was born
on 6 July 1868 at
Marlborough House

Maud was born on 26
November 1869 at
Marlborough House

Alexandra showed devotion to her children…

All of Alexandra’s children were apparently
born prematurely. Alexandra deliberately
misled Queen Victoria as to her probable
delivery dates, as she did not want the
queen to be present at their births

In public, Alexandra was dignified and charming, in private, affectionate and jolly. She enjoyed many social activities, including dancing and ice-skating, and was an expert horsewoman and tandem driver. She also enjoyed hunting to the dismay of Queen Victoria who asked her to stop but without success. After her illness the, she had only just begun to walk again without the aid of two walking sticks. They made Sandringham House their preferred residence, with Marlborough House their London base. The Prince of Wales and Hortense Schneider a French soprano, one of the greatest operetta stars of the 19th century, had an affair from 1870 to 1872.

Their marriage was in many ways a happy one, however Albert Edward did not give his wife as much attention as she would have liked and that they gradually became estranged, until his attack of typhoid fever (the disease which was believed to have killed his father) in late 1871 brought about a reconciliation. Nevertheless, the prince was severely criticised from many quarters of society for his apparent lack of interest in her very serious illness with rheumatic fever. Throughout their marriage Albert Edward continued to keep company with other women. Prostitutes and good-time girls, actresses and aristocrats, socialites and social-climbers, all took a turn in Bertie’s bed An increasing degree of deafness, caused by hereditary otosclerosis, led to Alexandra’s social isolation she spent more time at home with her children and pets

Her sixth and final pregnancy ended tragically when her infant son died only a day after his birth. Despite Alexandra’s pleas for privacy, Queen Victoria insisted on announcing court mourning, which led unsympathetic press to describe the birth as “a wretched abortion” and the funeral arrangements as “sickening mummery”, even though the infant was not buried in state with other members of the royal family at Windsor, but in strict privacy in the churchyard at Sandringham, where he lived his brief life. For eight months over 1875–76, the Prince of Wales was absent from Britain on a tour of India, but to her dismay Alexandra was left behind. The prince had planned an all-male group and intended to spend much of the time hunting and shooting.

From 1875 to 1878 The Prince of Wales had an affair with the American socialite Lady Randolph Churchill wife of Lord Randolph Churchill and the mother of British Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill. She told a friend ‘It is not a love affair but a matter of sexual convenience’

Alexandra spent the spring of 1877 in Greece recuperating from a period of ill health and visiting her brother King George of Greece. During the Russo-Turkish War, Alexandra was clearly partial against Turkey and towards Russia, where her sister was married to the Tsarevitch, and she lobbied for a revision of the border between Greece and Turkey in favour of the Greeks. Lillie Langtry and The Prince of Wales had an affair from 1877 to Jun 1880. He became infatuated with Langtry, and she soon became his de facto mistress. She was presented to the Prince’s mother, Queen Victoria. Alexandra was generous in never displaying any jealousy about her husband’s infidelities and acknowledged Lillie.

In 1881, Alexandra and Albert Edward
travelled to Saint Petersburg after the
assassination of Alexander II of Russia,
both to represent Britain and so that
Alexandra could provide comfort to her
sister, who was now the Tsarina.

Alexandra undertook many public duties. but during a visit to Ireland in 1885, she suffered a rare moment of public hostility when visiting the City of Cork, a hotbed of Irish nationalism. She and her husband were booed by a crowd of two to three thousand people brandishing sticks and black flags. She smiled her way through the ordeal. As part of the same visit, she received a Doctorate in Music from Trinity College, Dublin. From 1886 to 1888 her husband had a not so discrete affair with Sarah Bernhardt, the bisexual French stage actress with an opium habit.

On Saturday 27 July 1889, Princess
Louise married Alexander Duff, 1st
Duke of Fife, at the Private
Chapel in Buckingham Palace.
Alexandra found it hard to
let her daughter go.

In July 1889, the Metropolitan Police uncovered a male brothel in London’s Cleveland Street. Under police interrogation, the male prostitutes and pimps revealed the names of their clients, who included Prince Albert Victor, At the time, all homosexual acts between men were illegal. The Prince of Wales intervened in the investigation, no clients were ever prosecuted and nothing against Albert Victor was proven. Several women were lined up as possible brides for Albert Victor. He was in love with Princess Hélène of Orléans he offered to renounce his succession rights to marry her, but her father refused to countenance the marriage. Princess Mary of Teck, was under consideration. To Mary’s “great surprise”, proposed to her. The wedding was set for 27 February 1892. The death of her eldest son, Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale, in 1892 was a serious blow to Alexandra. His room and possessions were kept exactly as he had left them, much as those of Prince Albert were left after his death in 1861. She said, “I have buried my angel and with him my happiness.”

Surviving letters between Alexandra
and her children indicate that they
were mutually devoted.

Mary of Teck’s engagement to Prince Albert Victor ended after the duke’s death. George proposed to Mary (May) one year later. They married on 6 July 1893 at the Chapel Royal in St James’s Palace, London. Throughout their lives, they remained devoted to each other

In 1894, her brother-in-law Alexander III of Russia died and her nephew Nicholas II of Russia became Tsar. Alexandra’s widowed sister, the Dowager Empress, leant heavily on her for support, Alexandra slept, prayed, and stayed beside her sister for the next two week until Alexander’s burial. Her daughter Maud married relatively late waiting until her late twenties to find a husband. On 22 July 1896, she married her first cousin, Prince Carl of Denmark, in the private chapel at Buckingham Palace. Prince Carl was the second son of Queen Alexandra’s elder brother, Crown Prince Frederick of Denmark, and Princess Louise of Sweden.

Her mother Louise of Hesse-Kassel died on 29 September 1898. During her last years, she became deaf, and her needs were taken care of by two deaconesses from the Deaconess institution she founded. Louise was queen for 35 years, longer than any other Danish queen before her.

With the death of her mother-in-law
Queen Victoria, in 1901, Alexandra
became queen-empress consort
to the new king.

In 1901, she became the
first woman since 1488
to be made a Lady
of the Garter.

Just two months later, her son
George and daughter-in law Mary left on an extensive tour of the empire, leaving their young children in the care of Alexandra and Edward, who doted on their grandchildren.

Just a few days before the scheduled coronation in June 1902 the king became seriously ill with appendicitis. Alexandra deputised for him at a military parade, and attended the Royal Ascot races without him, in an attempt to prevent public alarm. Eventually, the coronation had to be postponed and Edward had an operation to drain the appendix.

The coronation of Alexandra and Edward
took place at Westminster Abbey, on 9
August 1902.

The service was conducted by the elderly Archbishop of Canterbury, Frederick Temple, He steadfastly refused to delegate any part of his duties and was supported throughout by two other bishops. He was unable to rise after kneeling and had to be helped up by the King and several bishops. He placed the crown back-to-front on the King’s head, and when a colleague enquired after his well being, he was told to “go away!” in a loud voice that was plainly heard by the congregation. The King also deviated from the order of service, when the Prince of Wales touched the Crown and kissed his father’s left cheek in the traditional gesture of homage, the King rose to his feet and threw his arms around his son’s neck in an unusual display of affection. Edward was crowned with the Imperial State Crown instead.

Alexandra was crowned immediately after. She was crowned with a new crown containing the Koh-i-Noor diamond. Out of a total of 30,000 men marching or lining the route, over 2,000 were representatives of colonial, Dominion or Indian forces. The remainder represented every corps and regiment of the British Army, the Royal Navy and the Royal Marines.

Queen Alexandra’s arms upon the ascension of her husband were the royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom impaled with the arms of her father, the King of Denmark. The shield is surmounted by the imperial crown, and supported by the crowned lion of England and a wild man or savage from the Danish royal arms.

Despite being queen, Alexandra’s duties changed little, and she kept many of the same retainers. Alexandra’s Woman of the Bedchamber, Charlotte Knollys served Alexandra loyally for many years. On 10 December 1903, Knollys woke to find her bedroom full of smoke. She roused Alexandra and shepherded her to safety.

Her father, King Christian IX of Denmark, died on 29 January 1906 peacefully of old age at 87 at the Amalienborg Palace in Copenhagen after a reign of 42 years and 75 days. Eager to retain their family links, to each other and to Denmark in 1907 Alexandra and her sister, the Dowager Empress of Russia, purchased a villa north of Copenhagen, Hvidøre, as a private getaway. Alexandra was denied access to the king’s briefing papers and excluded from some of his foreign tours to prevent her meddling in diplomatic matters.

She was deeply distrustful of Germans, and invariably opposed anything that favoured German expansion or interests. For example, in 1890 Alexandra wrote a memorandum, distributed to British ministers and military personnel, warning against the exchange of the British North Sea island of Heligoland for the German colony of Zanzibar. Despite this, the exchange went ahead anyway. She despised and distrusted her nephew, German Emperor Wilhelm II calling him in 1900 “inwardly our enemy”

In 1910, Alexandra became the first queen consort to visit the British House of Commons during a debate. In a remarkable departure from precedent, for two hours she sat in the Ladies’ Gallery overlooking the chamber while the Parliament Bill, a bill to remove the right of the House of Lords to veto legislation, was debated. Privately, Alexandra disagreed with the bill. Shortly afterward, she left to visit her brother, King George I of Greece, in Corfu. While there, she received news that King Edward was seriously ill. Alexandra returned at once and arrived just the day before her husband died. In his last hours, she personally administered oxygen from a gas cylinder to help him breathe.

King Edward VII and Alice Keppel had an affair from 1898 to 1910. Alexandra allowed her to say goodbye to the king. Edward’s death made Keppel so hysterical that at his deathbed she had to be dragged out of his room by guards. Embarrassed by her behaviour she later tried to minimise her dramatic outburst, but eventually admitted that she had been unable to control herself.

Alexandra refused to allow the King’s body to be moved for eight days afterwards though she allowed small groups of visitors to enter his room. On the morning of 17 May the coffin was placed on a gun carriage and drawn by black horses to Westminster Hall, with the new King and his family walking behind. Following a brief service, the royal family left, and the hall was opened to the public, over 400,000 people filed past the coffin over the next two days.

She said “I feel as if I had been
turned into stone, unable to cry,
unable to grasp the meaning of it
all.” Later that year, she moved
out of Buckingham Palace to
Marlborough House, but she retained
possession of Sandringham.

King Edward VII and Daisy Greville, Countess of Warwick had an affair from 1886 to 1898 After the death of Edward she attempted to raise money by the sale of his love letters to her, offering them, at a price, to George V. The royal advisers were not moved to help her, despite the fact that she had never had the financial benefits and protection given to some of Edward’s other mistresses. She was threatened with an injunction and forced to give the letters to the new King.

The new king, Alexandra’s son George soon faced a decision over the Parliament Bill. Despite her personal views, Alexandra supported her son’s reluctant agreement to the Prime Minister’s request to create sufficient Liberal peers after a general election if the Lords continued to block the legislation In December 1911, while sailing to Egypt Alexandra’s daughter Louise and her family were shipwrecked off the coast of Morocco. Although they escaped unharmed, the Duke of Fife fell ill with pleurisy, probably contracted as a result of the shipwreck. He died at Assuan, Egypt in January 1912, and Princess Alexandra succeeded to his dukedom, becoming Duchess of Fife in her own right.

From Edward’s death, Alexandra was queen mother, being a dowager queen and the mother of the reigning monarch. She did not attend her son’s coronation in 1911 since it was not customary for a crowned queen to attend the coronation of another king or queen, but otherwise continued the public side of her life, devoting time to her charitable causes.

On 17 September 1916, she was at
Sandringham during a Zeppelin air raid, but far worse was to befall other members of her family. In Russia, her nephew Tsar Nicholas II was overthrown and he, his wife and children were killed by revolutionaries.

Her sister the Dowager Empress was
rescued from Russia in 1919 by HMS
Marlborough and brought to England,
where she lived for some
time with Alexandra.

Alexandra retained a youthful appearance into her senior years, but during the war her age caught up with her. She took to wearing elaborate veils and heavy makeup, which was described by gossips as having her face “enamelled”.

She made no more trips abroad, and suffered increasing ill health. In 1920, a blood vessel in her eye burst, leaving her with temporary partial blindness. Towards the end of her life, her memory and speech became impaired. She died on 20 November 1925 at Sandringham after suffering a heart attack, and was buried in an elaborate tomb next to her husband in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle.

The Queen Alexandra Memorial by Alfred Gilbert
was unveiled on Alexandra Rose Day 8 June 1932 at
Marlborough Gate, London. An ode in her memory,
“So many true princesses who have gone”,
composed by the then Master of the King’s Musick
Sir Edward Elgar to words by the Poet Laureate
John Masefield, was sung at the unveiling and
conducted by the composer.

Alexandra was highly popular with the British public. After she married the Prince of Wales in 1863, a new park and “People’s Palace”, a public exhibition and arts centre under construction in north London, were renamed the Alexandra Palace and park to commemorate her. Though she was not always extravagant (she had her old stockings darned for re-use and her old dresses were recycled as furniture covers), she would dismiss protests about her heavy spending with a wave of a hand or by claiming that she had not heard. She hid a small scar on her neck, which was probably the result of a childhood operation, by wearing choker necklaces and high necklines, setting fashions which were adopted for fifty years. Alexandra’s effect on fashion was so profound that society ladies even copied her limping gait, after her serious illness in 1867 left her with a stiff leg. This came to be known as the “Alexandra limp”

Alexandra became a fashion icon influencing the British clothing industry with her elegant style of dress that was copied for the society women who were demanding to emulate her style of clothes and jewelry.

Queen Alexandra has been portrayed
on television by
.Helen Ryan in Edward the Seventh
.Ann Firbank in Lillie

.Maggie Smith in All the King’s Men
.Bibi Andersson in The Lost Prince
.Helen Ryan again in film The Elephant Man

Alexandra of Denmark
1 December 1844 – 20 November 1925

 

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