Was Queen Alexandra a chilly beauty? (Part four)

alexandra denmark
(public domain)

Read part three here.

This is a guest post by Robert Sparkes.1

Another story confirming her abilities at deep empathy was recounted by Lord Ormathwaite while he was in waiting at Windsor.2 I call this “empathy-from-a distance”. He was tired and weary and found standing for a long period very exhausting. Relying on the noise of the band and the fact that Alexandra was deaf, he asked someone standing near about when everyone was going to sit down? Ormathwaite, in his recounting of the incident, recorded that Alexandra “heard” him – she didn’t. She rushed across the room, and like a young child playing house, she grabbed a chair and pushed it towards him. She commanded him to sit. As a way to divert possible embarrassment from him, she spoke with a wry smile to the astonished assembly that he, the “poor thing,” was so tired. She was deaf and didn’t hear him. She sensed his feelings of being faint from across the room and responded. Here she showed great emotional intelligence by playing the part of the entertaining but simple-minded party hostess, which she often did.3

Other examples of deep empathy are when she entered the receiving room at a London hospital and immediately sensed at a distance that a man had a broken arm.4 Described in a TV drama, Bertie laughingly told a private joke putting down Bernstorff Palace. Alexandra, who was well across the room, sensed but not heard the laughter, also laughed, not knowing that Bertie was poking fun at her Danish family’s summer residence.5 When Alexandra met a blind Scottish vet at Ripley’s Hospital, they both spontaneously broke into tears, crying for more than 10 minutes.6

There were other ways in which Alexandra worked to overcome her hearing loss and to connect to people. In one example, Alexandra would bring her small camera to family get-togethers and photograph.7 On a sea cruise with the family, for example, she often approached small groups who were chattering away. With some, she would get them to pose, but for others, they would see her coming with her Kodak, visually acknowledged her and then continued without becoming self-conscious. Accepted as a passive observer, Alexandra did not disrupt the conversations, but she shared the feelings of her family and extended family while she photographed. Unlike those who primarily see Alexandra using her camera as a consolation, as a way to deal with her frustrations that came from poor hearing, the Queen used it as a tool to communicate, to re-connect.

In her publication of the Queen Alexandra’s Christmas Gift Book, Alexandra personally connected to the public with photos from her life at Sandringham, visits to Balmoral, Athens, and Hvidore, and cruises on the Victoria and Albert, among others. In return, the British public connected with her by buying more than five hundred thousand copies.


The 18th and 19th centuries were not good times for young men to sow their oats. The disease of syphilis damaged and destroyed the lives of many people and their children. It was so prolific. Anyone from a peasant to a King or Queen could be infected, including Alexandra and Bertie. The words used to describe these infected people need to be rich in sympathy and empathy.

Queen Alexandra responded by becoming celibate, redirecting her expression of love to the care of her children and those in distress. With her friends, she developed an emotional intimacy. As a way to connect to the Boer War veterans, she expanded her own natural ability for empathy, bringing them comfort and the royal acknowledgement of their plight. It was quite something for this woman to reach out and receive such painful feelings from so many vets. It was indeed a very mature love.

Her goal was to become Queen and keep her husband healthy. From about the time of Eddy’s death, through her reign and death, she battled the disease gradually eating her brain. One needs to keep this in mind when evaluating and judging her thinking, her speaking and her behaviour during this period. The language of the dumb-blonde stereotype, used either directly or indirectly, describing Alexandra is wrong. It lacks understanding.

Bertie, on the other hand, continued his sexual relationships while being infected. The argument that he needed mistresses as a way to find and express his love has its problems since he very likely knew that he might be infecting them with syphilis. What kind of love is that?

While not pretending to fulfil all of the roles of the monarchy and government, Alexandra’s hospital visits and her interview with Le Gaulois did show the need for at least one head of state or government head to respond to a national crisis or calamity a country may experience, by witnessing, or by expressing grief, or by giving national voice to the devastation of war. The British monarchy, with its family of a King, a Queen, princes and princesses, will usually have someone to step up to this function. One needs to be careful about belittling them.

The next and final section discusses a painting that Queen Victoria commissioned in 1897. For me, it shows Victoria’s feelings about the royal family, especially Bertie and Alexandra. I found looking at it a lot of fun.

Read part five here.

  1. Dr. Robert Sparkes is a retired Electrical engineer who studied, with Dr. 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: drbobsparkes@gmail.com
  2. Du Magnus, Phillip, King Edward the Seventh, Episode 11, King at Last, ATV/ITV TV Series, 1975 Time 28:00-
    28:30ff pp 241-242
  3. Magnus, Phillip, King Edward the Seventh, Episode 07, Dearest Prince, ATV/ITV TV Series, 1975 Time 18:19-19:23
  4. Duff p.149
  5. Magnus, Phillip, King Edward the Seventh, Episode 11, King at Last, ATV/ITV TV Series, 1975 Time 28:00-28:30
  6. Hough p.240
  7. Dimond, Developing the Picture, p.125

About Moniek Bloks 2749 Articles
My name is Moniek and I am from the Netherlands. I began this website in 2013 because I wanted to share these women's amazing stories.

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