Princess Alexandra Carolina Marie Charlotte Louise Julia of Denmark
- Born: 1 Dec 1844, Yellow Palace, Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Sjælland, Denmark
- Marriage: King Edward VII Saxe-Coburg and Gotha of the United Kingdom on 10 Mar 1863 in St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, Windsor, Berkshire, England
- Died: 20 Nov 1925, Sandringham House, Norfolk, England at age 80
- Buried: 28 Nov 1925, St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, Windsor, Berkshire, England
Alexandra of Denmark (Alexandra Carolina Marie Charlotte Louise Julia) was Queen Consort to Edward VII of the United Kingdom and thus Empress of India during her husband's reign. Prior to that, she was Princess of Wales from 1863 to 1901 (the longest anyone has ever held that title). From 1910, until her death, she was the Queen Mother, being a queen and the mother of the reigning monarch, George V of the United Kingdom, though she was more generally styled "Her Majesty Queen Alexandra".
Princess Alexandra Caroline Marie Charlotte Louise Julia, or "Alix", as she was known within the family, was born at the Yellow Palace, an 18th-century town house at 18 Amaliegade, right next to the Amalienborg Palace complex in Copenhagen. Her father was Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg and her mother was Princess Louise of Hesse-Kassel. Although two of her great great grandfathers, George II and Fredrick V were kings, and she was of princely blood, her family lived a comparatively normal life, and they did not possess great wealth. Her father's income was about £800 per year and their house was a rent-free grace and favour property. Occasionally, Hans Christian Andersen would call and tell the children stories before bedtime.
In 1848, the King Christian VIII of Denmark died and his only son, Frederick ascended the throne. Frederick was childless, had been through two unsuccessful marriages and was assumed to be infertile. A succession crisis arose as Frederick ruled in both Denmark and Schleswig-Holstein, and the succession rules of each were different. In Holstein, the Salic law prevented inheritance through the female line, whereas no such restrictions applied in Denmark. Holstein, being predominantly German, proclaimed independence and called in the aid of Prussia. In 1852, the Great Powers called a conference in London to discuss the Danish succession. An uneasy peace was agreed, which included the provision that Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg would be Frederick's heir in all his dominions and the prior claims of others (who included Christian's own mother-in-law, brother-in-law and wife) were surrendered.
Prince Christian was given the title Prince of Denmark, and his family moved into a new official residence, Bernstorff Palace. Although the family's status had risen, there was no or little increase in their income, and they did not participate in court life at Copenhagen as they refused to meet Frederick's third wife, Louise Rasmussen, his former mistress, who had an illegitimate child by a previous lover. Alexandra shared a draughty attic bedroom with her sister, Dagmar, made her own clothes, and waited at table along with her sisters. At Bernstorff, Alexandra grew into a young woman; she was taught English by the English chaplain at Copenhagen and was confirmed in Christianborg Palace.
Marriage and family
Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom and her husband, Prince Albert, were already concerned with finding a bride for their son and heir, Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, and enlisted the aid of their daughter, Crown Princess Victoria of Prussia, in seeking a suitable candidate. Although Alexandra of Denmark 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, eventually they settled on her as "the only one to be chosen".
On 24 September 1861, Bertie's sister, the Crown Princess of Prussia, introduced Bertie and Alix at Speyer, but it was not until 9 September 1862 (after his affair with Nellie Clifden and the death of his father), that Bertie proposed to Alix at the Royal Castle of Laeken, the home of his uncle, Leopold I of Belgium.
A few months later, Alix travelled from Denmark to the United Kingdom aboard the HMY Victoria and Albert II for her marriage and arrived in Gravesend, Kent on 7 March 1863. Sir Arthur Sullivan composed music for her arrival and Alfred Tennyson, the Poet Laureate, wrote an ode in Alexandra's honour:
" Sea King's daughter from over the sea,
Saxon and Norman and Dane are we,
But all of us Danes in our welcome of thee,
\emdash Welcome to Alexandra, Alfred Tennyson
The couple were married on 10 March 1863 at St George's Chapel, Windsor, and the occasion was recorded in a commissioned painting by William Powell Frith. The choice of venue was criticised in the press (as it was outside London large public crowds would not be able to view the spectacle), by prospective guests (it was awkward to get to and, as the venue was small, some people who had expected invitations were not invited) and the Danes (as only Alexandra's closest relations were invited). The court was still in mourning for Prince Albert, so ladies were restricted to wearing grey, lilac or mauve. They were seen off on their honeymoon at Osborne on the Isle of Wight by the schoolboys of neighbouring Eton College, including Lord Randolph Churchill.
By the end of the following year, her father ascended the throne of Denmark, her brother became King of the Hellenes, her sister was engaged to the Tsarevitch of Russia, and Alexandra gave birth to her first child. Her father's accession gave rise to further conflict over the fate of Schleswig-Holstein; the German Confederation invaded and Denmark was defeated, reducing the area of Denmark by two-fifths. Alexandra's first child, Albert Victor, was born two months prematurely in early 1864. Alexandra was devoted to her children: "She was in her glory when she could run up to the nursery, put on a flannel apron, wash the children herself and see them asleep in their little beds."
Albert Edward and Alexandra had six children in total:
Name Birth Death Marriage
*Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence 8 January 1864 14 January 1892 No issue.
*King George V 3 June 1865 20 January 1936 Mary of Teck (26 May 1867 \endash 24 March 1953) Had issue.
*Princess Louise, Princess Royal and Duchess of Fife 20 February 1867 4 January 1931 Alexander Duff, 1st Duke of Fife (10 November 1849 \endash 12 January 1912) Had issue.
*Princess Victoria Alexandra 6 July 1868 3 December 1935 No issue.
*Princess Maud 26 November 1869 20 November 1938 Prince Carl of Denmark, later King Haakon VII of Norway (3 August 1872 \endash 21 September 1957) Had issue.
*Prince Alexander John 6 April 1871 7 April 1871
Alexandra enjoyed many social activities, including dancing and ice-skating, and was an expert horsewoman and tandem driver. Even after the birth of her first child, she continued to behave much as before, and this led to some friction between the Queen and the young couple, which was exacerbated by Alexandra's loathing of Germans and the Queen's partiality towards them. All of Alexandra's children were born prematurely; during the birth of her third child in 1867 complications threatened her life and she was left with a permanent limp. In public Alexandra was dignified and charming, and in private affectionate and jolly. An increasing degree of deafness, caused by hereditary otosclerosis, led to social isolation, and Alexandra spent more time at home with her children and pets. Her final pregnancy ended in tragedy when her infant son died after only a day of life. Despite Alexandra's pleas for privacy, Queen Victoria insisted on announcing a period of court mourning, which led to unsympathetic elements of the press to describe the birth as "a wretched abortion" and the funeral arrangements as "sickening mummery".
Princess of Wales
Albert Edward and Alexandra undertook a six-month tour taking in Austria, Egypt and Greece over 1868\endash 9, which included visits to her brother, George I of Greece and, for her only, to the harem of the Khedive Ismail. In Turkey she became the first woman to sit down to dinner with the Sultan Abdul-Aziz, and later the royal party visited the Crimean battlefields.
Albert Edward and Alexandra made Sandringham House their preferred residence, and their marriage was in many ways a happy one. However, Albert Edward did not give his wife or children as much attention as she would have liked, and they gradually became estranged, until his serious illness in the early 1870s brought about a reconciliation. Their relationship had its ups and downs over the years. Albert Edward, even after winning back his wife's affections, continued to keep company with other women, among them the actress Lillie Langtry; Daisy Greville, Countess of Warwick; humanitarian Agnes Keyser, and society matron Alice Keppel. Most of these were with the full knowledge of Alexandra, who invited Alice Keppel to be with the King as he lay dying. Alexandra herself remained faithful throughout her marriage.
In 1881, Alexandra and Albert Edward travelled to Saint Petersburg after the assassination of Alexander II of Russia, so that Alexandra could provide comfort to her sister, who was now the Tsarina, and to represent Britain. Alexandra undertook many public duties; in the words of Queen Victoria, "to spare me the strain and fatigue of functions. She opens bazaars, attends concerts, visits hospitals in my place…she not only never complains, but endeavours to prove that she has enjoyed what to another would be a tiresome duty." She took a particular interest in the London Hospital, visiting it regularly. Joseph Merrick, the so-called "Elephant Man", was one of the patients whom she visited.
The death of her eldest son, Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence, in 1892 was a serious blow to the tender-hearted Alexandra, and 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." In 1894, her brother-in-law, Alexander III of Russia, died and her nephew, Nicholas II of Russia became Tsar. The widowed Dagmar leant heavily on Alexandra for support, who slept, prayed and stayed beside her sister for the next two weeks until Alexander's burial.
As Queen from 1901 to 1910, and Queen Mother thereafter, Alexandra was greatly loved by the British people. During the Boer War, she founded Queen Alexandra's Nursing Corps, which became known as the "Q.A.s". She had a distinct dislike of the Germans, a hatred that stemmed from the Prussian conquest of the formerly Danish lands Schleswig and Holstein during the Second War of Schleswig in 1864. For this reason, biographers have asserted that she was denied access to the King's briefing papers and excluded from some of the King's foreign tours in order to prevent her meddling in diplomatic matters. The Frankfurter Zeitung was outspoken in its condemnation of Alexandra and her sister, Dagmar, Dowager Empress of Russia, saying that the pair were "the centre of the international anti-German conspiracy". She despised and distrusted her nephew, William II of Germany, calling him in 1900 "inwardly our enemy".
In 1907, Alexandra and Dagmar purchased a villa north of Copenhagen, Hvidore, as a private getaway. In 1910, Alexandra was visiting her brother, George I of Greece, in Corfu when she received news that the King was seriously ill. Alexandra returned at once, and arrived just the day before her husband died. In his last hours, she personally administered him oxygen from a gas cylinder to help him breathe. She told Frederick Ponsonby, "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; she did not attend her son's coronation in 1911 but otherwise continued the public side of her life, devoting time to her charitable causes, one of the most notable being Alexandra Rose Day, where artificial roses made by the disabled were sold in aid of hospitals by women volunteers.
During the First World War, it is said that her son, George V, ordered all the Order of the Garter arms of those who fought for Germany removed from St. George's Chapel, Windsor at her insistence. A further reason for expelling the Germans from the Order of the Garter was that a Knight of the Garter swears an oath never to take up arms against the British Sovereign. During the First and Second World Wars, this became an embarrassing mockery, and the German members of the Order were expelled therefrom in 1915 in a solemn ceremony at St. George's Chapel. During the Second World War, Hirohito, the Emperor of Japan, was also expelled from the Order. Today, the Order of the Garter, the bestowing of which is the exclusive gift and prerogative of the Sovereign, is awarded much more sparingly. In Russia, Tsar Nicholas II was overthrown and he, his wife and children were killed by revolutionaries. The Dowager Empress, Dagmar, Alexandra's sister, was rescued from Russia in 1919 by a British warship, HMS Marlborough, and brought to England where she lived for some time with her sister.
Like many royals of her generation, Queen Alexandra had no understanding of money despite the endeavours of her loyal Comptroller, Sir Dighton Probyn VC, who had a similar role when her husband was Prince of Wales and later as King Edward VII.
Alexandra remained youthful looking into her senior years, though she did wear elaborate veils and heavy makeup, which was described by gossipy women as having her face "enamelled". She died on 20 November 1925 after suffering a heart attack, at Sandringham, and was buried in an elaborate tomb next to her husband in St.George's Chapel at Windsor.
Alexandra was highly popular with the public, and, unlike her husband and mother-in-law, was not castigated by the press. Funds that she helped to collect were used to fit out a hospital ship to bring back wounded from the Boer War was named The Princess of Wales in her honour. Alexandra Palace in North London, the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto and Queen Alexandra Bridge in Sunderland are named after her. Crewe Alexandra F.C. is thought to be named in her honour.
Self-conscious about a scar on her neck that she had since childhood, she hid it by wearing high choker necklaces and dresses. A strikingly attractive woman, Alexandra's high necklines started a fashion craze.
Queen Alexandra was portrayed by Maggie Smith in the BBC television film All the King's Men.
The Alexandra Rose Day fund still exists; its patron is Princess Alexandra, The Honourable Lady Ogilvy, Alexandra's great granddaughter.
Alexandra married King Edward VII Saxe-Coburg and Gotha of the United Kingdom, son of Prince Albert Francis Albert Charles Augustus Emanuel of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and Queen Victoria Hanover of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, on 10 Mar 1863 in St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, Windsor, Berkshire, England. (King Edward VII Saxe-Coburg and Gotha of the United Kingdom was born on 9 Nov 1841 in Buckingham Palace, London, England, died on 6 May 1910 in Buckingham Palace, London, England and was buried on 20 May 1910 in St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, Windsor, Berkshire, England.)