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Queen Alexandra

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Queen Alexandra

by Symonds & Co
carbon print, 1877
10 5/8 in. x 14 in. (270 mm x 355 mm)
Purchased, 1983
Photographs Collection
NPG x17460

Sitterback to top

  • Queen Alexandra (1844-1925), Queen of Edward VII. Sitter associated with 478 portraits, Artist associated with 10 portraits.

Artistback to top

  • Symonds & Co (active 1870s-1880s), Photographers. Artist of 3 portraits.

Linked publicationsback to top

  • 100 Fashion Icons, p. 121
  • 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.), p. 197 Read entry

    Alexandra of Denmark was fifth on a list of seven princesses selected as possible brides for the Prince of Wales, and future Edward VII. Although less eligible than her rivals, Alexandra's beauty eclipsed her competition, as it was hoped an attractive wife would curb the prince's wayward behaviour. His elder sister, Princess Victoria, declared Alexandra to be the ideal choice: 'her voice, her walk, carriage and manner are perfect, she is one of the most ladylike and aristocratic looking people I ever saw! 'Alexandra brought glamour to the sombre royal family and the new couple became the focus of high society. The advent of photography and illustrated magazines meant that images of the stylish princess were in high demand. Portraits of Alexandra fulfilling various roles - as royal consort, leader of fashion, devoted mother and patron of charities - created a blueprint for images of modern royal women, in particular Diana, Princess of Wales. In this photograph she is shown relaxing on board the Royal Yacht Osborne in the company of her favourite dogs. The image was issued as a postcard in 1877.

  • Rogers, Malcolm, Camera Portraits, 1989 (accompanying the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery from 20 October 1989 - 21 January 1990), p. 101 Read entry

    Queen Alexandra, 'Alix', was the eldest daughter of the future Christian IX of Denmark, and married the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, in March 1863. 'Just think,' she said, 'my trousseau will cost more than Papa's whole annual income'. To Charles Dickens, who saw her then, she seemed 'not simply a timid shrinking girl, but one with character distinctive of her own, prepared to act a part greatly'. She was very beautiful and had an assured sense of style, and it was inevitable, while Queen Victoria sank in the depths of widowhood, that she and the Prince should become the leaders of fashionable society. She bore her husband's habitual infidelity with stoicism, and, always excessively generous, devoted herself increasingly to charitable works, her family and her dogs. She was also a keen amateur photographer, and had trained at the London Stereoscopic School of Photography in Regent Street.

    The Princess is seen here on board the Royal Yacht Osborne, in a photograph published by Symonds & Co of Chancery Lane, which epitomizes the elegance and informality of her style. This went unappreciated by the Queen, who thought her 'a distinguished lady of Society but nothing more!'.

Placesback to top

Events of 1877back to top

Current affairs

Trial of social activists Annie Besant and Charles Bradlaugh following their publication of a book by the American birth-control campaigner Charles Knowlton, which suggested that working class families should be able to practice birth control. Although found guilty, the case was thrown out on a technical fault.

Art and science

The Grosevenor Gallery opens, founded by Sir Coutts Lindsay, as a rival to the Royal Academy. It exhibited work by artists such as Edward Burne-Jones and Walter Crane, outside of the British mainstream, and became famous as the home of the Aesthetic movement.
The first Lawn Tennis Championship is held at Wimbledon with around 20 male competitors, witnessed by a few hundred spectators. Spencer Gore the first singles champion, wins 12 guineas.


The American inventor Thomas Edison invents the tin foil phonograph, combining the technologies of the telegraph and telephone. Experimenting with a stylus on a tinfoil cylinder, he recorded and played back the short message 'Mary had a little lamb'.

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