Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Queen Alexandra Memorial

Opposite Saint James’s Palace, and built into the garden wall of Marlborough House, is The Queen Alexandra Memorial, one of my favorite monuments in London.

Alexandra Of Denmark (1844-1925) was Princess Of Wales for thirty-eight years (1863-1901), holding the title longer than anyone before or since.

Alexandra was Queen-Empress Consort to Edward VII from 1901 until 1910. Upon the accession of George V to the British throne, Alexandra became Queen Mother from 1910 until her death fifteen years later.

The Queen Alexandra Memorial was designed by sculptor Alfred Gilbert in 1926, one year after Alexandra’s death. The Memorial was completed in 1932.

Edward Elgar composed his Queen Alexandra Memorial Ode (“So Many True Princesses Who Have Gone”) for the occasion of the public dedication of the Memorial. One of Elgar’s last works, The Queen Alexandra Memorial Ode has not survived. The work was never published, and no full score was preserved. Choral parts have been unearthed but instrumental parts—Elgar wrote one version for orchestra and one version for military band—have never been located.

Alexandra lived at Marlborough House for more than fifty years. She occupied Marlborough House while she was Princess Of Wales and she had a second residency at Marlborough House while she was Queen Mother.

Alexandra’s younger sister, Dagmar, was Empress Of Russia from 1881 until 1894. When Nicholas II became Tsar in 1894, Dagmar became Dowager Empress.

It was at Alexandra’s insistence that Dagmar finally left Russia in 1919, one year after Nicholas and his family had been murdered.

Alexandra sent The Royal Navy to retrieve her sister from The Crimea, where Dagmar had lived in seclusion (and relative safety) since the outbreak of The Russian Revolution.

The ship that carried Dagmar to the safety of Britain: The H.M.S. Marlborough.

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