This is a guest post by Robert Sparkes.1
Victoria commissioned the artist Laurits Regner Tuxen to make an oil painting of the Garden Party at Buckingham Palace on 28 June 1897. According to the artist’s notes, it was to be a faithful representation of the interesting occasion. The painting shows Queen Victoria and Alexandra, the Princess of Wales, leaving the party in a carriage pulled by two horses. It looks like a photo, but to be honest, it is a kind of “Erised painting”, somewhat like the Erised Mirror from the movie Harry Potter: The Sorcerer’s Stone, which according to Albus Dumbledore, shows the “deepest and most desperate desire of one’s heart.” In this case, the painting shows the deepest and most desperate desires of Queen Victoria about three years before her death.
The parade leaving the Queen’s Garden Party, on 28 June 1897, of the Royal Family was led by three men walking in a row, followed by a carriage pulled by two horses.
Lord Esher, known as the fixer, is at the top of the row. Lord Knollys, the Prince of Wales’s private secretary, is in the middle. Finally, Queen Victoria’s grandson, the future George V, is at the bottom. These men represented the future political side of the Royal Family, given their status in the picture.
In the carriage is Queen Victoria, with dark clothing shaded by a dark parasol. She is not looking forward but down to the side, perhaps suggesting that she is of the past. Beside her is the beautiful Princess of Wales in a bright white dress. She is looking out of the picture toward the viewer. Walking beside the carriage on Alexandra’s left appears to be Sir Henry Ponsonby, the Queen’s private secretary who died in 1895. Sitting beside the coachman appears to be John Brown, who died in 1883. He was one of Victoria’s favourites.
At the back of the carriage with the highlighted parasol is May, the future Queen Mary. To her right is Victoria (Toria), Alexandra’s daughter, and on the left side of May is Sir Dighton Probyn. He was Secretary to the Prince of Wales and Comptroller of the Household.
In the forefront are two children highlighted by the sun. The small one in the centre is David, the future King Edward VIII. An almost identical picture of him is shown on page 77 of Dimond’s book, Developing the Picture: Queen Alexandra and the Art of Photography. Alexandra, May and David are all looking out of the picture.
Where is Bertie, the future King Edward VII? Both Victoria and Albert felt that he was unfit to be King. So she had placed him with Mrs Keppel, well away from the parade inside a circle at a constant distance from the crowd. On the left of this circle, they were being closely watched (or spied upon) by the Munshi, the Queen’s Indian attendant and his nephew. For Victoria, the Prince of Wales was not in the Royal Family. Alexandra was the heart of the family.
Alexandra, Queen, Queen Alexandra’s Christmas Gift Book: Photographs from My Camera, 1908.
Aronson, Theo, The King in Love, Edward VII’s Mistresses. London. Thistle Publishing 1988.
Battiscombe, Georgina, Queen Alexandra. London, Constable & Company LTD, 1969.
Duff, David, Alexandra, Princess and Queen. London, Wm Collins & Sons and Co., 1980.
Dimond, Frances, Developing the Picture: Queen Alexandra and the Art of Photography. London, Royal Collection Enterprises Ltd. 2004.
Dimond, Frances, Queen Alexandra Loyalty and Love. History & Heritage Publishing, 2022.
Hough, Richard. Edward and Alexandra: Their Private and Public Lives. New York, St Martins Press, 1992.
Magnus, Phillip, King Edward the Seventh. London, William Cloves & Sons Ltd, 1964.
Magnus, Phillip, King Edward the Seventh, ATV/ITV TV Series, 1975.
Noonan, James-Charles, Royal Sisters Preparing for Greatness: Alix and Minnie. Books 1-3. Las Vegas, NV, 2021.
Wikipedia, The History of Syphilis, Last edited on 23 February 2022, at 21:30 (UTC).
Williamson, David, Queen Alexandra, London and Edinburgh, 1919.
- Dr. Robert Sparkes is a retired Electrical engineer who studied, with Fr. Richard Rutherford at the University of Portland in Oregon, in the area of the Christian funeral rites from the view of Bereavement and Lament. He lives in Portland, Oregon, with his wife, Mary. They both love ballroom dancing. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org