Social Victorians/People/Alexandra, Princess of Wales

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Also Known As[edit | edit source]

  • Family name: Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg
  • Alix

Overview[edit | edit source]

Daisy Pless describes Alix as Queen Alexandra after her 65th birthday on 1 December 1909:

Daisy Pless was amazed to discover the Alix was sixty-five. She looked no older than fifty. Daisy observed that, contrary to gossip, the Queen's lips were not painted, "as they are always moist." nor was her face enameled, as was often rumored: "I have seen her at Cowes in the pouring rain."[§60] She noticed that Alix always sat side by side with Soveral; "he speaks distinctly and she always hears him."[61] Like Alix, Soveral was fanatically anti-German.[1] (627 [of 918])

Acquaintances, Friends and Enemies[edit | edit source]

Acquaintances[edit | edit source]

  • Joseph Merrick, "Elephant Man," at the London Hospital

Friends[edit | edit source]

  • Oliver Montagu
  • Marquis, Luiz de Soveral: "He was Alix's favorite, filling the place in her affections left by Oliver Montagu; he always danced the first waltz at every ball with her, and he knew how to pitch his voice in a way that made it possible for her to hear.[b82]"[1]

Organizations[edit | edit source]

Timeline[edit | edit source]

1861 September 24, Princess Victoria introduced Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, and Alexandra.

1863 March 10, Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, and Alexandra married at St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle.

1877, Spring, Alix spent in Greece visiting her brother King George of Greece.

1881, Alix and Albert Edward were in St. Petersburg after the assassination of Alexander II of Russia.

1897 July 2, Friday, Bertie and Alex as well as a number of their children attended the Duchess of Devonshire's fancy-dress ball at Devonshire House.

1904, Twelfth Night, 6 January, "Bertie and Alix attended Louise Devonshire's Chatworth Twelfth Night house party for the first time as King and Queen (they had stayed often as Prince and Princess of Wales) in 1904. Balfour was also present. While the King rode off to the shoot on his cob, the prime minister played golf. ... Alix was the party's life and soul. On the last evening she danced a waltz with Soveral, and then everyone took off their shoes to see what difference it made to their height. Daisy Pless, who excelled in the private theatricals, noted in her diary that 'The Queen took, or rather kicked hers off, and then got into everyone else's, even into Willie Grenfell's old pumps. I never saw her so free and cheerful — but always graceful in everything she does.'"[1] (551 [of 918])

Costume at the Duchess of Devonshire's 2 July 1897 Fancy-dress Ball[edit | edit source]

Black-and-white photograph of a standing woman and young girl dressed as a boy holding her train in historical costumes
Alexandra, Princess of Wales in costume as Queen Marguerite de Valois and Hon. Louvima Knollys as her page. © National Portrait Gallery, London.

At the Duchess of Devonshire's 2 July 1897 fancy-dress ball, Alexandra, Princess of Wales (at 2 in the list of attendees) was dressed as Margaret of Valois and sat at Table 2 at the first seating for supper.[2]:p. 7, Col. 4c Interestingly, the big article in the Times about the ball does not mention the Princess of Wales. No newspaper covered everybody who was there, of course. The Hon. Louvima Knollys, who was too young to have been invited to the ball in her own right, carried the train of Alexandra, Princess of Wales's. Also, according to the Man of Ross, the Princess of Wales

was attended by the Duchess of York in pale blue satin, embroidered in silver, pearls, and diamonds; the Duchess of Fife, in ivory satin, embroidered in gold; Princess Victoria of Wales, in yellow and gold; Princess Charles of Denmark, in pink and silver; and Princess Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein, in pale blue brocade ornamented with pearls and silver. All the Princesses wore a profusion of diamonds.[3]

Mr. W. Clarkson "supplied the wigs and headdresses for the Royal Family."[2]:p. 8, Col. 2a

The Princess of Wales's portrait in costume is photogravure #7 in the album presented to the Duchess of Devonshire and now in the National Portrait Gallery.[4] The printing on the portrait says, "H.R.H. The Princess of Wales as Queen Marguerite de Valois" with a Long S in Princess.[5] The NPG identifies this portrait in this way: "Queen Alexandra when Princess of Wales as Queen Marguerite de Valois and Hon. (Alexandra) Louvima Elizabeth Checkley (née Knollys) as her page)."

The face of the Princess of Wales in costume
Closeup of Alexandra, Princess of Wales in her costume as Marguerite of Valois

The photograph to the left looks like a detail or closeup of another portrait, probably taken at the same time as the portrait that was put into the album. She is in her costume in this closeup, but her face is turned in a different direction and her head tipped in a slightly different way. Lafayette, who photographed Alexandra in her costume, took more than one photograph of the people sitting for him, of course.

Both Alex and the Prince of Wales were together accompanied by Princess Victoria and the Prince and Princess Charles of Denmark and attended by Lady Suffield, Miss Knollys and Major-General Ellis.[6] In Alex's "court" were her three daughters: Princess Victoria of Wales, Princess Charles of Denmark, and Princess Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein. Most newspapers that mention Miss Knollys say the Princess of Wales had one train bearer, although the Morning Post says two pages bore her train:

  • Alexandra, Princess of Wales was dressed as "Marguerite de Valois, her stomacher was ablaze with precious stones, her neck encircled with row upon row of pearls, on her head was a magnificent crown. The dress was of white satin, her train of cloth of gold borne by two pages."[2]:p. 7, Col. 4c
  • "The Princess of Wales, as Margaret of Valois, was very beautiful in white and gold, and wore superb diamonds. She was attended by a charming little train-bearer, and by the ladies of her Court, represented by the Duchess of York, the Duchess of Fife, Princess Victoria of Wales, Princess Charles of Denmark, and Princess Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein."[7]:p. 5, Col. 6a
  • The Princess of Wales was Margaret de Valois, and looked superb in a dress of white satin, richly embroidered with silver. Her train, which fell from the back of a high lace collar, was of cloth of gold, lined with silver, and magnificently jewelled. A small crown of diamonds, with loose bands of diamonds falling over the forehead, surmounted the headdress, and she wore long diamond earrings, a collar of pearls, and a great number of other necklets. The little daughter of Sir Francis and Lady Knollys bore Her Royal Highness's train, and was attired in white and gold. The Duchess of York, Princess Charles of Denmark, Princess Victoria of Wales, the Duchess of Fife, and Princess Christian of Schleswig-Holstein were attired as ladies in the suite of Margaret de Valois, and followed in her train."[8]:p. 32, Col. 2a
  • "The Princess of Wales, who seems to be instinct with the spirit of youth, looked charming in the costume of Margaret de Valois, the most beautiful and accomplished Princess of her age. The dress was of white satin, embroidered with gold and precious stones, with a ruff of rich lace."[9]:p. 3, Col. 1c [10]:p. 11, Col. 4b
  • "The Princess of Wales, as Margaret of Valois, was a beautiful vision of white and gold and blazing diamonds, and looked quite as young as any of her three daughters, who accompanied her as ladies of her Court in the dress of the period."[11]:p. 5, Col. 9a (This description in the Belfast News-Letter is identical to one in the Carlisle Patriot[12]).
  • "There was the Princess of Wales, looking really herself, although masquerading as Marguerite de Valois, for she had not altered the fashion of her hair. Her white and gold dress, made in Paris, with an Elizabethan ruff and heavy train of white, gorgeously embroidered in gold and silver with many-coloured jewels, was most beautiful, and she wore the loveliest diamonds and pearls. In immediate attendance upon her were her three daughters and the Duchess of York, who looked very pretty in pale blue, embroidered in silver and diamonds, with a high collar."[13]:p. 2, Col. 7b
  • According to the description in the Pall Mall Gazette, "The Princess of Wales, looking lovelier and younger than ever, as Margaret of Valois, wore a beautiful dress of white satin embroidered with silver and finished with a collar of guipure, jewelled with diamonds and other precious stones. Her jewels included many strings of pearls, and her cloth-of-gold train was carried by a little page dressed in white and gold with a cap of crimson velvet."[14]
  • According to the Man of Ross, "The Princess of Wales, as Margaret of Valois, wore an exquisite gown of white, embroidered in gold and splendid diamonds. She was attended by the Duchess of York in pale blue satin, embroidered in silver, pearls, and diamonds; the Duchess of Fife, in ivory satin, embroidered in gold; Princess Victoria of Wales, in yellow and gold; Princess Charles of Denmark, in pink and silver; and Princess Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein, in pale blue brocade ornamented with pearls and silver. All the Princesses wore a profusion of diamonds."[15]
  • "The Royalties mustered in great force. The Prince of Wales looked a very genial and easy-going Grand Master of the Knight Hospitaller of Malta. The black dress, with touches of white, was distinguished, and made a good foil to the fairy-like dress of the Princess, who was a vision of loveliness as Queen Margot of Valois, dressed in gold embroidered white satin, and with a gold and jewelled train."[16]
  • The report on the ball in Truth is written as a letter from one girl to another, named Amy. This description includes the Princess of Wales's attendants:
  • And the beautiful fair-haired queen, before whom all bent and performed obeisance as she passed, fair Marguerite de Valois, in gleaming snowy satin and high lace collar, with silver-lined train of cloth of gold, was she not our own Princess, the Queen of Hearts? Her jewels were magnificent indeed, the diamond crown reflected in multitudinous bands and rivers of quivering light from the diamonds and pearls upon her neck. The Princesses in her suite were her own daughters and her daughter-in-law — Princess Victoria, in palest citron, the Duchess of Fife in white, Princess Charles of Denmark in pale pink, and the Duchess of York in blue. The Prince of Wales, as Grand Master of the Knights Hospitallers of Malta, in black velvet and white satin, led the Princess to the dais prepared for / her, and the glittering processions began to file past, according to their historic period and date.[17]:41, Col. 1c–2a

Commentary on Marguerite de Valois and the Princess of Wales[edit | edit source]

Marguerite of Valois was married to Henry IV, personated at the ball by Grand Duke Michael of Russia. He was the father of the children of Gabrielle d'Estray, who was personated by Grand Duke Michael's wife, Countess Sophie de Torby.

In her article about the ball in The Graphic, Lady Violet Greville discusses Marguerite de Valois:

Catherine de Medici's "beautiful daughter, so pleasantly named “la Reine Margot,” [was] represented by H.R.H. the Princess of Wales. Dress at that period had reached the zenith of magnificence, while Marguerite herself — who, as she proudly says, was the daughter of a King, the sister of a King, and the wife of a King — was noted for her beauty and for her art in dress and her rare invention, inasmuch as she was the wonder of all who beheld her. Bantome speaks of her as “robed in cloth of silver with long sleeves, her hair richly dressed and her whole appearance of such grace and majesty that she resembled more a goddess from heaven than a Queen upon earth.” Another time she is described as wearing a red velvet gown much embroidered with gold and silver, and a cap of the same laden with so many plumes and jewels that Ronsard compared her to Aurora in a poem he composed for the occasion. Nevertheless, she committed some faults in taste, for she covered her beautiful black hair with fair wigs, and bedaubed her face with so many cosmetics that she finally ruined her complexion.[18]:p. 15, Col. 2a

Besides being a historical figure, Marguerite de Valois was also a character in Giacomo Meyerbeer's 1836 opera Les Huguenots.[19] The opera was in regular performance at Covent Garden in the 1890s; the production with Nellie Melba and Emma Albani in 1895 was well attended and attracted particular notice. Marguerite de Valois, Queen of Navarre is a soprano role. Other people were dressed as characters from this opera as well. William Hay, Marquis of Tweeddale and his daughter Lady Clementine Hay came to the ball as Saint Bris and Valentina. The Album identifies two men as Raoul de Nangis: Archibald, Lord Acheson and Douglas Dawson (whose name is wrong in the Album).

Sarah Bernhardt in costume as the Queen of Spain in an play by Hugo
Mdlle Sarah Bernhardt in costume as the Queen of Spain in Victor Hugo's Ruy Blas by Victor Hugo, circa 1880

Supposed Similarity to Sarah Bernhardt's Costume in Ruy Blas[edit | edit source]

An article in Shield's Daily Express published after the ball though apparently written before it says that the costume worn by Alexandra, Princess of Wales was based on one worn by Sarah Bernhardt in Victor Hugo's Ruy Blas. This performance was 20 years before the ball (1877), and the costumes do not seem to me to be that similar.

  • "The Princess of Wales will be robed as a lady of Queen Elizabeth's Court; the attire will be very similar to that of Sarah Bernhardt as the Queen in 'Ruy Blas.' No one, I am sure, could look more charming than H.R.H. will in this most poetical garb."[20] A photograph of Sarah Bernhardt with a handwritten "Mdlle Bernhardt in 'Roy Blas'" is to the right.

Demographics[edit | edit source]

  • Nationality: born Danish; married the Prince of Wales of the U.K., who was English and German

Residences[edit | edit source]

  • Sandringham House
  • Marlborough House, London

Family[edit | edit source]

  • "Alix" Alexandra Caroline Marie Charlotte Louise Julia (1 December 1844 – 20 November 1925), Princess of Wales and later Queen Consort of the UK[21]
  • Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, later Kind Edward VII of England, "Bertie" until he became king, and then "Teddy"
  1. Prince Albert Victor: Albert Victor Christian Edward, Duke of Clarence and Avondale (8 January 1864 – 14 January 1892)
  2. Prince George: George Frederick Ernest Albert (3 June 1865 – 20 January 1936), later George V; married Princess Mary of Teck in 1893
  3. Louise, Princess Royal: Louise Victoria Alexandra Dagmar (20 February 1867 – 4 January 1931); married Alexander Duff, 1st Duke of Fife, in 1889
  4. Princess Victoria of Wales: Victoria Alexandra Olga Mary (6 July 1868 – 3 December 1935)
  5. Princess Maud of Wales: Maud Charlotte Mary Victoria of Wales (26 November 1869 – 20 November 1938); married Prince Carl, later King Haakon VII, of Denmark on 22 July 1896
  6. Prince Alexander John (6 April 1871 – 6 April 1871)

Queen Victoria and Albert's children were sometimes called the Royal Mob.

Relations[edit | edit source]

  • Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, later King Christian IX of Denmark, father
  • Princess Louise of Hesse-Kassel, mother
  1. Frederick VIII of Denmark
  2. Alexandra Caroline Marie Charlotte Louise Julia (1 December 1844 – 20 November 1925), Queen Consort of the United Kingdom
  3. George I of Greece
  4. Dagmar, Empress of Russia
  5. Thyra, Crown Princess of Hanover
  6. Prince Valdemar

Notes and Questions[edit | edit source]

  1. Jane Ridley's footnote about the relationship between Alix and Soveral: "According to Jim Lees-Milne (almost as unreliable as Skittles), the historian Gordon Brook-Shepherd came across some passionate letters at Windsor from Soveral to Queen Alexandra, 'with whom he had an affair.' (James Less-Milne, Holy Dread [John Murray, 2001], p. 205 [1 December 1984].)"[1]:493 (of 918) An affair seems unlikely, even though the two were very close.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Ridley, Jane. The Heir Apparent: A Life of Edward VII, the Playboy Prince. Random House, 2013. Rpt of Bertie: A Life of Edward VII, 2012.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "Fancy Dress Ball at Devonshire House." Morning Post Saturday 3 July 1897: 7 [of 12], Col. 4a–8 Col. 2b. British Newspaper Archive
  3. “The Devonshire House Ball.” The Man of Ross 10 July 1897, Saturday: 2 [of 8], Col. 4B. British Newspaper Archive
  4. "Devonshire House Fancy Dress Ball (1897): photogravures by Walker & Boutall after various photographers." 1899. National Portrait Gallery (accessed May 2019).
  5. "Queen Alexandra when Princess of Wales as Queen Marguerite de Valois and Hon. (Alexandra) Louvima Elizabeth Checkley (née Knollys) as her page)." Devonshire House Fancy Dress Ball Album. National Portrait Gallery (accessed May 2019).
  6. "Court Circular: Prince and Princess of Wales." London Morning Post 03 July 1897, Saturday: 7 [of 12], Col. 2B. British Newspaper Archive
  7. "Duchess of Devonshire's Fancy Ball. A Brilliant Spectacle. Some of the Dresses." London Daily News Saturday 3 July 1897: 5 [of 10], Col. 6a–6, Col. 1b. British Newspaper Archive and
  8. “The Duchess of Devonshire’s Ball.” The Gentlewoman 10 July 1897 Saturday: 32–42 [of 76], Cols. 1a–3c [of 3]. British Newspaper Archive
  9. “The Ball at Devonshire House. Magnificent Spectacle. Description of the Dresses.” London Evening Standard 3 July 1897 Saturday: 3 [of 12], Cols. 1a–5b [of 7]. British Newspaper Archive
  10. "The Duchess of Devonshire’s Historic Ball. Some of the Fancy Costumes." Supplement. The Leicester Chronicle and Leicestershire Mercury 10 July 1897, Saturday: 11 [of 12], Cols. 4a–b. British Newspaper Archive
  11. "The Duchess of Devonshire's Fancy Dress Ball. Special Telegram." Belfast News-Letter Saturday 03 July 1897: 5 [of 8], Col. 9 [of 9]. British Newspaper Archive
  12. "Fancy Dress Ball: Unparalleled Splendour." Carlisle Patriot Friday 9 July 1897: 7 [of 8], Col. 4a–b. British Newspaper Archive
  13. "The Duchess of Devonshire's Great Ball. Remarkable Social Function. Crowds of Mimic Kings & Queens. Panorama of Historical Costume. An Array of Priceless Jewels." Western Gazette 9 July 1897: 2 [of 8], Col. 7A–C. British Newspaper Archive
  14. “The Devonshire House Ball. A Brilliant Gathering.” The Pall Mall Gazette 3 July 1897, Saturday: 7 [of 10], Col. 2a–3a. British Newspaper Archive
  15. “The Devonshire House Ball.” The Man of Ross 10 July 1897, Saturday: 2 [of 8], Col. 4B. British Newspaper Archive
  16. “The Duchess’s Costume Ball.” Westminster Gazette 03 July 1897 Saturday: 5 [of 8], Cols. 1a–3b [of 3]. British Newspaper Archive
  17. “Girls’ Gossip.” Truth 8 July 1897, Thursday: 41 [of 70], Col. 1b – 42, Col. 2c. British Newspaper Archive
  18. Greville, Violet, Lady. "Devonshire House Ball." The Graphic Saturday 10 July 1897: 15 [of 24]: Col. 1a–16, Col. 1c. British Newspaper Archive
  19. "Les Huguenots". Wikipedia. 2021-07-02.
  20. “The Ladies Column: The Coming Fancy Ball.” Shield’s Daily Gazette 5 July 1897, Monday: 3 [of r], Col. 7A. British Newspaper Archive
  21. "Alexandra of Denmark". Wikipedia. 2020-09-21.