The Landing of HRH The Princess Alexandra at Gravesend, 7th March 1863

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The Landing of HRH The Princess Alexandra at Gravesend, 7th March 1863

by Henry Nelson O'Neil
oil on canvas, 1864
52 in. x 84 in. (1321 mm x 2134 mm)
Purchased, 1982
Primary Collection
NPG 5487

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This group of over fifty figures commemorates the arrival in England of Princess Alexandra of Denmark for her marriage to the then Prince of Wales, later Edward VII. It shows the Prince leading his fiancee along the Terrace Pier at Gravesend, after her disembarkation from the royal yacht Victoria and Albert. The Prince and Princess are accompanied by her parents, the future King and Queen of Denmark (who stand immediately behind them) and other members of the Danish royal family, officials and dignitaries, and, as the Illustrated London News reported, a 'bevy of pretty maids, who, ranged on each side of the pier, awaited, with dainty little baskets filled with spring flowers, the arrival of the Princess, to scatter these, Nature's jewels, at the feet of the Royal lady'.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • Victorian Portraits Resource Pack, p. 26
  • Smartify image discovery app
  • Cannadine, Sir David (Introduction); Cooper, Tarnya; Stewart, Louise; MacGibbon, Rab; Cox, Paul; Peltz, Lucy; Moorhouse, Paul; Broadley, Rosie; Jascot-Gill, Sabina, Tudors to Windsors: British Royal Portraits, 2018 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas, USA, 7 October 2018 -3 February 2019. Bendigo Art Gallery, Australia, 16 March - 14 July 2019.), pp. 194-195 Read entry

    This portrait, which includes over fifty figures, commemorates Princess Alexandra's arrival in England from Denmark for her wedding to Queen Victoria's eldest son, Prince Albert, known as Berrie, and the future King Edward VII. The prince leads his fiancée along the Terrace Pier at Gravesend, accompanied by Alexandra's parents, Christian and Louise, the future king and queen of Denmark (who stand immediately behind them), and other members of the Danish royal family, officials and dignitaries, and, as the Illustrated London News reported, a 'bevy of pretty maids who, ranged on each side of the pier, awaited, with dainty little baskets filled with spring flowers, the arrival of the Princess'. Their wedding was a muted affair, coming in the midst of the mourning for Prince Albert. Victoria's good wishes for her son and his bride were tinged with her own feelings of loss: 'Here I sit, lonely and desolate, and Bertie has taken his lovely, pure, sweet Bride to Osborne, such a jewel whom he is indeed lucky to have obtained.' Henry Nelson O'Neil was a genre painter and member of The Clique, an artistic group who positioned themselves in opposition to the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood.

  • Funnell, Peter, Victorian Portraits in the National Portrait Gallery Collection, 1996, p. 26
  • Piper, David, The English Face, 1992, p. 237
  • Saywell, David; Simon, Jacob, Complete Illustrated Catalogue, 2004, p. 725

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Current affairs

First of the Contagious Diseases Act. These acts allowed for the arrest, medical inspection and confinement of any woman suspected of being a prostitute in the port towns. Following huge public outcry over their discrimination against women, notably led by Josephine Butler, leader of the Ladies' National Association, the acts were eventually repealed.
Octavia Hill starts work on slums, and the International Working Men's Association is founded in London.

Art and science

The Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell presents his discoveries in the field of electromagnetics to the Royal Society. His paper A Dynamical Theory of the Electromagnetic Field expresses the basic laws of electricity and magnetism in unified fashion. Maxwell's equations, as his rules came to be known, helped create modern physics, laying the foundation for future work in special relativity and quantum mechanics.


Austria and Prussia combine forces to seize Schleswig-Holstein from Denmark.
Britain cedes Corfu, acquired from France in the Second Treaty of Paris (1815) to Greece. Although Britain had vigorously suppressed an uprising in 1849 in Cephalonia aiming to restore Iolian islands, the government changed policy throughout the 1850s and 60s.

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