Sue Young Histories

Alexandra of Denmark 1844 – 1925

January 14, 2010

Alexandra of Denmark (Alexandra Caroline Marie Charlotte Louise Julia) 1844 – 1925 was Queen of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions and Empress of India from 1901 to 1910 as the consort of Edward VII.

Alexandra was a supporter of homeopathy and a friend of Frederick Hervey Foster Quin, Edward VII and Alexandra visited Frederick Hervey Foster Quin on his deathbed (Anon, Annals and Transactions of the British Homeopathic Society, (1882). Page 112. See also Edward Hamilton, A Memoir of Frederick Hervey Foster Quin. (British Homeopathic Society, 1879)).

Alexandra was also a friend and patient of Mary Jane Seacole, and she knew Hans Christian Andersen,

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 Glucksburg and her mother was Princess Louise of Hesse Cassel.

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. Occasionally, Hans Christian Andersen was invited to call and tell the children stories before bedtime.

In 1848, Christian VIII of Denmark died and his only son, Frederick VII ascended the throne. Frederick VII was childless, had been through two unsuccessful marriages, and was assumed to be infertile. A succession crisis arose as Frederick VII 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 Glucksburg would be Frederick VII’s heir in all his dominions and the prior claims of others (who included Prince Christian of Schleswig Holstein Sonderburg Glucksburg’s own mother in law, brother in law and wife) were surrendered.

Prince Christian of Schleswig Holstein Sonderburg Glucksburg 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 VII’s third wife and former mistress, Louise Rasmussen, who had an illegitimate child by a previous lover.

Alexandra shared a draughty attic bedroom with her sister, Dagmar (later Empress Maria of Russia), 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 Christiansborg Palace.

Alexandra was devout throughout her life, and followed High Church beliefs. Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert were already concerned with finding a bride for their son and heir, Edward VII. They enlisted the aid of their daughter, Crown Princess Victoria of Prussia, in seeking a suitable candidate. 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. Eventually, after rejecting other possibilities, they settled on her as “the only one to be chosen”.

On 24 September 1861, Crown Princess Victoria of Prussia introduced her brother Edward VII to Alexandra at Speyer, but it was not until almost a year later on 9 September 1862 (after his affair with Nellie Clifden and the death of his father) that Edward VII proposed to Alexandra at the Royal Castle of Laeken, the home of his great uncle, Leopold I Belgium.

A few months later, Alexandra 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. Arthur Sullivan composed music for her arrival and Alfred Lord Tennyson, the Poet Laureate, wrote an ode in Alexandra’s honour…

The couple were married on 10 March 1863 at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle by Thomas Longley, the Archbishop of Canterbury. The choice of venue was criticised in the press…

By the end of the following year, Alexandra’s father had ascended the throne of Denmark, her brother had become George I of Greece, her sister Dagmar was engaged to the Tsarevitch of Russia, and Alexandra had given birth to her first child.

Her father’s accession gave rise to further conflict over the fate of Schleswig Holstein. The German Confederation successfully invaded Denmark, reducing the area of Denmark by two fifths. To the great irritation of Queen Victoria and Crown Princess Victoria of Prussia, Alexandra and Edward VII supported the Danish side in the war. The Prussian conquest of former Danish lands heightened Alexandra’s profound dislike of the Germans, a feeling which stayed with her for the rest of her life…

Edward VII and Alexandra had six children in total: Albert Victor, George, Louise, Victoria, Maud, and John… During the birth of her third child in 1867, the added complication of a bout of rheumatic fever threatened Alexandra’s life, leaving her with a permanent limp…

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