Tag Archives: Princess Beatrice

Royal Wedding Superstitions: 1886-1922

heather and a good luck horse shoe for a bride 1935

Heather and a lucky horse-shoe for a bride, 1935 http://www.nationaltrustcollections.org.uk/object/1364613.11

Europe Has Its Royal Wedding Superstitions

Written for Universal Service By a Retired Member of the Royal Household.

London, Jan. 21. In the English royal family there are current a number of superstitions concerning weddings.

For example, the writer is quite sure that the Princess Mary could not be persuaded to sign her name on her wedding day until after the wedding had taken place. It is one of the oldest superstitions in the English royal family that for a princess of it to sign her name on her wedding day until after the wedding would be a most unlucky thing for her to do.

On the morning of the wedding of the present queen of Norway, which took place at Buckingham Palace, it became urgently necessary for the then Princess Maud to put her signature to a legal document in connection with her private affairs. It was essential that the document should be signed by her in her maiden name. She meant to have signed it the day before her wedding, but forgot to do so. She absolutely refused to sign it on the day of her wedding until after her marriage, and thereby put herself to a great deal of trouble and legal expense over the signing of the document.

Another wedding superstition prevailing in the royal family is that it is lucky for the royal bride to be able to see the sky on waking on the morning of her wedding day. It is extremely unlikely that the Princess Mary will sleep on the eve of her wedding day with the curtains in her bedroom drawn. Her royal highness will be sure to draw them back so that on waking she may behold the sky. This superstition also prevails in the Spanish royal family and it is customary for members of it the night before their wedding to sleep in the open if the weather permits.

It would be regarded as an unlucky thing by the Princess Mary for her to see her father before she sees her mother on her wedding day. What will happen on the morning of the princess’ wedding will be that her mother will come to her room ere she rises, will kiss her on both cheeks and wish her all prosperity and happiness in her future married life.

It has always been regarded as unlucky in the English royal family to make use of a wedding present before the wedding. All the princess’ presents will be kept in a room at St. James’ palace together with the presents sent to Lord Lascelles, until after the wedding.

There is an old saying current in the royal family concerning a royal bride. It runs:

“With the loss of the shoes, gloves or veil of her wedding day,

The luck of the bride will soon pass away.”

The shoes, gloves and veil worn by Queen Victoria at her wedding are still preserved at Windsor. The shoes, gloves and veils worn by Queen Alexandra and Queen Mary on their wedding days are still carefully preserved by each of their majesties and the Princess Mary will be equally careful not to lose these reminders of her wedding day.

The Austin [TX] American 22 January 1922: p. 12

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil must gently correct the Austin American: Queen Victoria was buried in her wedding veil, so the veil “still preserved at Windsor,” was probably the lace from her gown, which, although quite fragile, still exists.

Orange blossom, white heather, and myrtle were essentials to bring luck to a Royal bride.

Princess Beatrice and Mr William Black between them have done much to render white heather popular. At most of the fashionable weddings which have taken place in London since May the brides have worn white heather It is, in fact, so indispensable just now that the artificial flower-makers produce it in specially large quantities for the marriage market, whilst at weddings at which expense is no object sprigs of the real plant are purposely fetched from the Highlands, At a wedding the other day the bride had real white heather in her bouquet, and there were sprigs of it, mixed with myrtle, on her train as well. Otago [NZ] Witness 12 November 1886: p. 32

All royal brides who are related to the Queen have a sprig of myrtle on their wedding day that is cut from a particular tree. This tree was grown from a slip sent from Germany for the bridal bouquet of the Princess Royal, and the tree it was cut from dates back to the time of the Crusaders. Otago [NZ] Witness, 30 December 1897: p. 43

As per the rhyme about veils and luck, Royal wedding veils received particular attention: the Royal Collection is full of photographs of the veils of the Princesses. Even the continental Royals were punctilious about their preservation:

The wreath and veil form the most important part of a German bride’s wedding dress, and in great families the wedding wreath and veil are carefully preserved among the family heirlooms.

In this connection I was told a rather strange story about the wreath and veil of the German Empress, which the Empress lost some few years after her marriage.

The Empress discovered the loss when she went to show them to a friend, and ascertained that they were not in the box where they were usually kept. The Kaiserin’s wardrobe-room was thoroughly searched, but without bringing to light the precious wreath and veil.

The suspicion of having taken the wreath and veil might have fastened on the Empress’s dresser, only for the fact that she had been for years with the Empress, and was so well known to her that the idea of her having taken them was out of the question. Indeed, the dresser was almost as much distressed at the loss of the articles as her Royal mistress.

The Empress was in a terrible state over her loss, and inquiries were everywhere instituted as to where the wreath and veil could have disappeared to. Ultimately, a year or so later, the missing articles turned up in a box in a lumber-room at the residence of the Grand Duke of Baden, where the Empress had been staying some few years after her marriage, and where apparently she had left her wreath and veil, which she carried about with her for some years after her marriage wherever she went. Seven Years at the Prussian Court, Edith Keen, 1917

Viscount_Lascelles and Mary Princess Royal wedding

Viscount Lascelles and Mary, the Princess Royal, on their wedding day, 1922

While most journalists burbled blissfully along about Royal wedding gifts, articles of the Royal trousseau, and the incomparable charms of the bride-to-be, this article about the wedding veil of Mary, the Princess Royal, daughter of King George V and Queen Mary, was uncharacteristically negative in tone. Given the rumours that the marital life of the Princess proved to be less than happy, one might almost call it prophetic.

Wedding Veil to Be Worn by Princess Is of Tragical Origin.

London, Jan. 28. Dire tragedy is associated with the fine old Irish point lace which will adorn Princess Mary’s bridal robe when she marries Viscount Lascelles next month.
It originated from the failure of the Irish potato crop in 1846. The famine which followed was terrible. The peasants lived on the product of their soil and the fruitfulness of the soil, and when misfortune robbed them their desolation was all the more poignant on account of their helplessness.

To a holy abbess in the convent of Youghal in the County Cork, falls the distinction of conceiving this future industry for Ireland. There came into her possession a piece of Milan de Point. She carefully studied the piece of lace and untraveled the threads one by one and finally, after the exhausting research, mastered all the wonderful intricacies of the lacemakers of old Milan.

She then realized its great possibilities as an industry for the starving Irish children. The children cleverest at needlework were the first selected, and she taught them separately what she had learned. They were apt pupils, and the industry spread from Youghal. It spread over the whole of the southern and western counties of Ireland.

Queen Mary has ever been a devotee of needlework, and as Irish point is made entirely with the needle the queen has naturally taken more than a passing interest in this work; for a complete dress of it was made for her at her coronation.

But the vagaries of feminine fashion have interfered with its sale for some months, and it is devoutly trusted in the southern parts of Ireland that the queen’s choice for her daughter’s wedding dress will revive such a demand for Irish lace that will be unaffected by the petty dictates of the mandarins of the Rue de la Paix and Hanover square.

The Anaconda [MT] Standard 29 January 1922: p. 22


Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.



Royal Wedding Cakes: 1878


wedding cake queen victoria prince albert Her Majesty's Bridal Cake

Some Remarkable Wedding Cakes

By Framley Steelcroft

Only a very small percentage of the readers of this article will be able to recall Her Majesty’s wedding-day, Monday, February 10th, 1840, when the theatres were open free to the public. In the evening a banquet was given at St. James’s Palace, and covers were laid for 130 persons. There were three tables, and at the upper end of the Queen’s table stood the two chief wedding-cakes, one of which is depicted here. This cake was made by Messrs. Gunter, of Berkeley Square, and before being sent to the Palace, it was exhibited on the firm’s premises to more than 21,000 persons. It is said that besides the two principal wedding-cakes there were nearly a hundred smaller ones, which were subsequently cut up and distributed, practically, all over the world.

The second wedding – cake that figured on this historical occasion was designed by Mr. John C. Mauditt, yeoman confectioner to the Royal household. It weighed nearly 300lb., and was 14in. thick and 12ft. in circumference. On the top was seen a figure of Britannia blessing the bride and bridegroom, who were somewhat incongruously dressed in the costume of ancient Rome. These figures were nearly a foot high, and were, of course, moulded in sugar. At the feet of Prince Albert was the figure of a dog, denoting fidelity; while at Her Majesty’s feet were a pair of turtle doves, denoting the felicity of the marriage state. A large Cupid was also seen writing the date of the marriage in a book, and at the top of the cake were many bouquets of white flowers, tied with true lovers’ knots of white satin ribbon. Among the decorations of this wedding-cake may also be mentioned four white satin flags, on which were painted the Royal Arms.

wedding cake of the prince and princess of wales

The wedding cake of the Prince and Princess of Wales

The next free theatrical night marked the marriage of the Prince of Wales, on March 10th, 1863. For many days the presents were on view at Garrard’s, in the Haymarket, and they included a particularly massive wedding-ring and keeper, the latter set with six precious stones, selected and arranged so that their initial letters formed the word “Bertie.” The stones were respectively a beryl, emerald, ruby, turquoise, jacinth, and another emerald. Also among the presents figured eight lockets for the bridesmaids, which were set with coral and diamonds—red and white being the colours of Denmark. In the centre of each was a cipher in crystal, forming the letters “A. E. A.,” after a drawing by the late Princess Alice. The bridal garments were ordered from Mr. Levysohn, of Copenhagen, and were, of course, on view at his shop in the Kjöbmagergade. On this occasion a splendid wedding-cake was made by Her Majesty’s confectioner, M. Pagniez; but one of equal importance was made by the Royal confectioners, Messrs. Bolland, of Chester, and this great cake is shown here. This is what is known as a “three-tier” cake, and around the base were festoons composed of the rose, thistle, and shamrock, entwined with the Royal and Denmark Arms. On the tiers were placed alternately reflectors and figures of seraphs with harps ; also satin flags, on which were painted miniature likenesses of the Prince and Princess. The whole was surmounted by a temple embedded in orange blossoms and silver leaves, on the summit of which was placed the Prince’s coronet and a magnificent plume of ostrich feathers. The cake, which stood nearly 5ft. high, was of colossal proportions.

I may mention, incidentally, that the largest cake ever made by Messrs. Gunter was that which figured among the Jubilee presents. This cake was 13ft. high, and weighed a quarter of a ton, its value being about £300. The smallest wedding-cake made was ordered by a lady for a child. It was a doll’s wedding-cake, 3in. high, and weighing about four ounces; it cost 10s., because it was perfect in every respect, and the confectioner had great difficulty in getting moulds small enough.

wedding cake Prince Leopold

Prince Leopold’s wedding cake

The next wedding-cake shown here is that of Prince Leopold (Duke of Albany) and Princess Helen of Waldeck-Pyrmont, who were married on April 27th, 1882.

This wedding-cake stood nearly 6ft. high, and was mounted on a richly-carved gilt stand, which was first employed at the wedding of the Prince of Wales. The total weight of this cake was about 2cwt., and the decoration of the lower tier consisted of four groups, representing the four continents of Europe, Asia, Africa, and America; these being adapted from the Albert Memorial in Hyde Park. Considering the great difficulty of working in material like sugar, and the fact that all the forms have to be built up by squeezing the liquid sugar out of a small hole in a piece of paper, it is perfectly amazing to notice the artistic success of these Royal Wedding Cakes.

There were also to be noticed on this particular cake a number of satin-surfaced pillars, painted with the lily and its foliage. These pillars were surmounted by vases containing the characteristic flowers of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, and at the base of the vases were reading Cupids, emblematic of the literary and studious tastes of the Royal bridegroom. At the salient points of the base were swans, associated with sea-shells, in which were dolphins at play.

The second tier was octagonal in shape, and in the spaces between the satin-surfaced pillars, painted with orange blossoms, were medallions richly worked in colour, and representing the arms and monogram of the bride and bridegroom. The pillars of this tier were surmounted by Cupids bearing flowers, from which sprang jets of mimic spray to water the flowers contained in the vases below.

The third tier of this cake was ornamented with wedding favours and festoons, and on the top of it was a pavilion containing a fountain playing, with doves drinking from the basin. Above this again was a terminal stage, supporting cornucopiae, from which issued the various fruits of the earth. In the midst of these emblems of plenty stood a Cupid, bearing upon his shoulders a vase overflowing with the most beautiful flowers.

It is interesting to note that each of the Royal bakers has a distinct recipe, which is guarded like a Cabinet secret. Roughly speaking, a bride-cake takes about half a day to bake, but after the tins have been removed from the oven and the cake turned out, the serious part of the work only commences—for a wedding-cake has to be at least six months old before it is fit to be eaten. During this time it is kept in an enormous warehouse, called the “cake-room,” and each firm keeps a separate staff of artists employed in making new designs and altering the fashions in wedding-cakes. Natural flowers are the great feature in modern wedding-cakes; white roses and orange blossoms being the most popular varieties in use. A good deal of ingenuity, however, has to be exercised in keeping these fresh, for a faded wedding-cake would indeed be a grievous sight.

The Royal Chester bakers (Messrs. Bolland) have got over the difficulty by having narrow, white porcelain cups sunk in among the decorations, thus enabling each natural bouquet to rest in water.

wedding cake princess louoise marquis of lorne

An adequate idea of the magnitude of this business may be realized when I mention that Messrs. Bolland’s standing stock of wedding-cake is about 2,000lb. The curiously statuesque cake, which we now reproduce, was made, appropriately enough, for the Princess Louise, on the occasion of her wedding with the Marquis of Lorne, which took place on March 21st, 1871. This cake was designed and made by Mr. Samuel Ponder, the present chief confectioner of Her Majesty’s household. Mr. Ponder tells me that this cake was about 5ft. 10in. in height, and weighed 21/2cwt. The four figures at the angles were modelled from the statues on Holborn Viaduct, and the cake was built in four tiers. This very artistic wedding-cake was surmounted by a replica of Canova’s “Hebe,” Mr. Ponder having procured a plaster model of the statue at a decorator’s in Leather Lane.

wedding cake princess beatrice prince henry battenberg

Princess Beatrice was married on July 23rd, 1885, and the cake made on that occasion by the Royal Confectioner, Mr. Ponder, was 6ft. high, and weighed 280lb.; it is shown in the accompanying illustration.

wedding cake princess helena prince christian

Princess Helena’s wedding cake

The next wedding – cake that figures here is that of the Princess Helena and Prince Christian, whose marriage ceremony was performed in the private chapel attached to the Royal apartments at Windsor Castle. The Queen gave the bride away, and a luncheon was subsequently served privately to the members of the Royal Family in the Oak Room, visitors being entertained at a buffet in the Waterloo Gallery.

wedding cake princess May duke of York

The first wedding cake for the Duke of York and Princess May of Teck


One of the most important questions I put to the Royal confectioner on the occasion of my visit to him at Buckingham Palace, had reference to the most important wedding-day, from his point of view. Mr. Ponder unhesitatingly replied that the Duke of York’s wedding with Princess May entailed by far the greatest strain upon him. The principal cake on this occasion was made at Windsor; it was 6ft. 10in. high, and weighed between 2cwt. and 3cwt. This cake, which is shown in the accompanying reproduction, took the Royal confectioner five weeks to make, there being as many as thirty-nine separate pieces of plaster in some of the figure moulds. Altogether, there were at this wedding six immense cakes, on what is known as the “general table,” and in addition to these, Mr. Ponder made sixteen or eighteen smaller cakes for cutting up, each cake averaging about 22lb. Moreover, Messrs. Gunter say that they cut up no fewer than 500 slices of wedding-cake on this occasion, the smallest slice weighing about half a pound, and the largest, a little over 12lb. One of this same firm’s confectioners subsequently attended at the Royal kitchen, and, armed with a saw and a special knife, cut up about 16cwt. Of wedding-cake in three days.

wedding cake duke and duchess of york

The second York wedding cake.


The second of the “York” wedding-cakes, reproduced here, was made by Messrs. Bolland, to the order of the Prince and Princess of Wales; it was about 4ft. 6in. high, and weighed 224lb.

The ornaments of the cake were representative of the sailor-life of Prince George. The divisions between the pillars were occupied by four large panels representing H.M.S. Thrush and Melampus, modelled in bass-relief from photographs specially taken. This cake has a somewhat interesting history. On being completed it was sent from Chester to Buckingham Palace, where it was built up the afternoon before the wedding. At three o’clock on the eventful day itself, however, the Royal Chester bakers received a telegram, ordering them to remove the cake from the Palace to Marlborough House—no easy matter, even in the most favourable circumstances. The ornate structure was taken down, and its sections placed in two disreputable-looking “growlers” –positively the only conveyances to be obtained in the crowded and almost impassable streets. The confectioners tell a woeful tale of the subsequent funereal procession to Marlborough House, with a surging crowd pressing against, and almost overturning, the wretched cabs. This trying ordeal was over at last, however, and I am told that the Prince of Wales himself supervised the reconstruction of the big cake on a sideboard in the Banqueting Room.

Not to be outdone at this wedding, Scotland came forward in the persons of Messrs. McVitie and Price, of Edinburgh, who produced another magnificent wedding-cake, also of a naval character. This stood 6ft. 4in. in height; the circumference of the lowest tier was nearly 8ft.; the total weight of the cake, 4661b., and its intrinsic value about 140 guineas. To give some idea of the amount of work involved in the execution of such an order, it may be mentioned that the anchors, davits, and blocks for tackle, etc., had to be specially made by one set of workmen; the flowers with which the cake was profusely decorated, by another set; while the making and draping of the stand was intrusted to a famous firm of Regent Street silk merchants: altogether, no fewer than thirty skilled workmen were employed in the manufacture of this cake, which was made within seven days of the receipt of the order. When completed, it was exhibited for two days in Edinburgh, and so great was the public interest taken in the wedding, that in this brief period upwards of 14,900 people had inspected the big Scottish cake; and a special staff of policemen and commissionaires had to be employed to keep the orderly crowd moving.

wedding cake Princess Louise Duke of Fife

The most important cake made outside the Palace for the “Fife” wedding was provided by Messrs. Gunter, of Berkeley Square. It was 7ft. high, and weighed 1501b. On the cake stood a Greek temple in sugar, and round it were medallions of satin with raised sugar monograms. This cake was exhibited for some time before the day of the marriage, and while it was on show it was decorated with artificial flowers. On the wedding-day, however, about twenty pounds’ worth of fresh natural flowers covered the entire structure.

The Strand, Volume 10, 1895: pp. 104-11

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil has never had the pleasure of a taste of Royal wedding cake and wonders if these architectural marvels in marzipan— more like spun-sugar dolls’ houses than anything—are as prettily flavoured as they are ornamented.

Bolland’s was the preferred confectioner of the Royal Family, holding the royal warrant from Queen Victoria and Edward, the Prince of Wales.



Their distinction dates from a far off day in 1835, when the young Princess Victoria, having come to the quaint old walled city to open a new bridge, was presented with a box of cakes by Richard Bolland, the founder of the firm.

So constant has been Queen Victoria’s patronage of the Bollands that they have come to be known everywhere — to use the late George Augustus Sala’s phrase—as “historic brides’ cake makers to the roval family.” They sell no wedding cake which has not matured and mellowed in their seasoning room for six months. To fill the orders from America, India, Africa, Canada, and Australia, as well as the home demand, it is necessary to keep constantly on hand a stock of two thousand pounds of cake.

It will be seen, therefore, that every day is baking day at Bollands, and that a careful record of dates must be kept. Any bride having a cake from the Chester makers may rest assured that it is of “correct vintage “—for all their cakes are compounded from a receipt a hundred years old, which is guarded like a state secret. Queens may command the product, but not the process.

wedding cake Princess Maud

The wedding cake of Princess Maud of Wales

On all royal wedding cakes the national flowers of the United Kingdom play a very prominent part, together with the monograms and quarterings of the young couple. The wedding cake of the Princess Maud of Wales was particularly charming. It was a labor of love for the Bollands to contrive a new combination of the arms of Denmark and England. Many years before, they had faced the problem in designing similar decorations for the bride’s parents. Apart from this, Princess Maud’s wedding cake had two most charming features: the separate tiers were encircled with white satin ribbon bordered with pearls, trimmed with bridal buds and tied in true lovers’ knots: a triumphant god of love surmounting the whole structure bore aloft a delicate nautilus shell, from which fell festoons of silver bullion and fragile seaweed. The Puritan October 1900: p. 1-4


Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

The Dances of the Day: A Chat with a Royal Dancing Teacher: 1893



The two eldest children of Princess Beatrice have reached the age when the discipline of the nursery is gradually exchanged for that of the school room. One of the newly imposed duties of the Royal babies at Windsor Castle consists of a weekly dancing lesson. The lady who has been asked to undertake the task of teaching “their paces” to the Queen’s small grandchildren is Mrs. Wordsworth, whose name as an authority on, and a first-rate teacher of, dancing, is well known in London and elsewhere. Once a week Mrs. Wordsworth escapes from her never-ending engagements to go to Windsor, where Her Majesty honours all the dancing lessons to her grandchildren with her presence. This is not surprising, for it would be hard to find a more charming and amusing sight than a class of juvenile dancers whom Mrs. Wordsworth teaches. For this lady does not teach like other teachers; the principles on which she bases her instruction are strictly scientific, a fact which, we hasten to add, makes her classes not less but much more interesting and entertaining than is generally the case. A representative whose attention had been drawn to some of the dancing classes at Queensberry Hall, Harrington-road, gives the following account of a visit to that ideal ballroom:

It is absolutely no use trying to get more than a moment’s attention from Mrs. Wordsworth while her lesson is proceeding. She has eight assistants dispersed among the sixty or seventy pupils forming one of the juvenile classes, but for all that it is Mrs. Wordsworth herself on whom falls all the real work. It is not with her voice and with her movements only that she teaches, but she throws into it her whole soul and spirit, and such teaching is infectious. The pupils cannot be dull or indifferent; they are awakened, quickened, drawn away (in some cases, it is easy to see, in spite of themselves), till even the most awkward lassie and the most clumsy lad shake off their gaucherie and join the fun in utter self-forgetfulness.

To watch a class of Mrs. Wordsworth’s pupils, be they small beginners or graceful maidens practising society skirt-dance, is an artistic treat. Imagine an immense hall, well aired, lighted from the top, and with a faultlessly smooth floor. In one corner a piano, along the walls, on either side, the delighted kith and kin of the dancers, and the whole hall filled with children, mostly girls, from the toddling infant of four or five, whose kittenish capers are in themselves as good as the proverbial play, to the graceful young beauty standing on the brink where “maidenhood and childhood meet.” All the girls dressed in dainty loose gowns of soft stuffs and pretty tints. There are also a few boys, but boys at dancing lessons are not things of beauty, and they keep, wisely and well, in the background.


At one moment the whole class is engaged in playing ball, in the manner of Greek maidens; next they dance with skipping-ropes, toy with fans, accompany their Spanish dances by the musical click of castanettes, or show that even clumsy-looking clubs can be gracefully handled. And among them, eager, anxious, delighted, or momentarily chiding, moves the teacher, forgetful of everything except that these children must learn to dance and to move gracefully about. After two hours of incessant strain, Mrs. Wordsworth retired for a few moments into her tiny private room, and there, fanning her hot face, she expressed her views of the dancing of the day as follows:

“How are new dances made, Mrs. Wordsworth, or are there no new dances?” “Yes, there are new dances every season. As far as I am concerned, I invent my own dances as I go along. Perhaps a new tune is in vogue. If it lends itself at all to dancing, I listen to it, and while doing so determine in my own mind what steps would suit it best. After much experience this becomes quite easy to me now.”

“I believe it was you, Mrs. Wordsworth, as it not, to whom is due the revival of taste for step-dancing?” “Yes, I was the first to teach it in England; but what began with a few dances created by Taglioni has now grown to an infinite variety of pretty arrangements. I often get an idea for a new dance form the picture. For instance, Sir Frederick Leighton’s painting of the Greek maidens playing at ball suggested the idea of the exercise with balls which you have been watching. I study the picture very carefully, till I know exactly what muscles come into play if the position on the picture is assumed. Then, since I want all the muscles to be exercised, I add other steps and poses till I have what I want. Mr. Alma-Tadema’s pictures also furnish me with many suggestions.”

“Then, is your idea of what a dance should be based upon the idea of the Greeks, whom you seem to take as your models?”

“It is. But though dancing is recreation, it should never be bodily recreation only. I want my pupils not to follow blindly and unthinkingly my teaching as to steps and poses. No one will ever dance or move gracefully who goes to a dancing-class in that spirit. I want the movements of the body to be prompted by the brain; I want my pupils to think. Thus they do not all move and dance in exactly the same way, but each puts something of her own individuality into the dance. I do not want to mould them all in the same form; they must remain individuals.”

The Westminster Budget [London, England] 26 May 1893: p. 18

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Daughter of a Brighton dancing master, Mrs Wordsworth was one of the most famous society dance teachers in England. She held strong views about the practical value of dance as exercise, discipline and promoter of moral fibre:

A moral gain is also attainable for many by this study. Experienced teachers have seen instances of improvement effected in nerve and temper, undiscoverable until the stern discipline of the dancing lesson came to the rescue, working subtly in the guise of play—for one must remember that vigorous movement is natural to the young. The disobedient become accustomed to obey; the sulky perforce throw off their habitual mood; ill-temper is forgotten. Thus the physical benefit of the exercise is supplemented by other elevating influences. 1895

The use of the word “stern” is no accident. Despite those gowns “of soft stuffs and pretty tints,” Mrs Wordsworth felt that the terpsichorean arts were best inculcated by an almost military discipline. This was not entirely to Queen Victoria’s taste:

The queen, hearing of Mrs. Wordsworth’s fame as an instructor of stiff ankles, sent for this energetic little lady, who was introduced to teach the children of Princess Beatrice. Possessing a stentorian voice and extreme vigor in her manner of imparting, Mrs. Wordsworth treated her little items of royalty to the same shouts and signals which she finds so effective with her great army of pupils, the queen being present and much interested in the lesson. Next time this celebrated dancing mistress visited Windsor, however, it was politely intimated through a lady in waiting that her majesty’s nerves had been a little tried by the “forcible” method of her excellent instruction, so the royal Battenberg babies had perforce a much easier half hour. Hamilton [OH] Evening Journal 10 February 1894: p. 8

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.


Royal Children and Their Toys: 1900

Mrs Daffodil is certain that the entire Empire joins her in wishing joy to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their new daughter. The infant princess will undoubtedly be showered with toys from well-wishers around the world, which, according to tradition, her elder brother will try to take away.  Mrs Daffodil thought it would be amusing to see what toys the royal children of the past enjoyed.

royal children and their toys

By F. Nevill L. Jackson

The child being father to the man, it is interesting to know the likes and dislikes, and the influences which are creating the minds and wills of the future men and women who will occupy the thrones of Europe, or stand close beside them. It may be said that toys are such unimportant matters that they are unworthy of the attention of the student of life and times; but to the little people chiefly concerned they are very important. Who would underrate the influence of the military surroundings and military toys provided from earliest childhood by the Kaiser for the Crown Prince of Prussia, in assisting the military training which has now begun in earnest? In the nursery he drilled his five brothers and baby sister with the severity of a martinet; though it is said that in disposition he resembles his gentle mother rather than his imperious father.

On his tenth birthday he became a real soldier, being made a lieutenant in his father’s Grenadier Regiment. The toy guns and miniature swords had well prepared him for the important moment when the regiment was drawn up in a hollow square in the Lustgarten. ‘Kronprinz Frederich Wilhelm,’ as he is called by his teachers and school-fellows, walked on to the parade-ground with the Kaiser, surrounded by all the Princes of the Imperial family. The Kaiser made a speech in which he dwelt on the importance of the discipline of the army; the young Prince then advanced with drawn sword, presented himself to the captain of the company, Von Plushow. In the march past that followed, some laughed to see the eager little boy running along to keep up with the huge strides of the big Grenadiers; others thought the sight somewhat pathetic. When the march past was over the young Prince was presented to the other officers as a young comrade; and he went back to his royal home in proud possession of a real sword. Such were the playfellows and the toys of Prince Wilhelm when he was ten years old.

German princes at tennis

There is a photo in this article showing the young Hohenzollerns after a game of tennis. To play tennis is not exactly to play with toys, but we give the photograph as it illustrates a distinct feature in the education of the Kaiser’s family. His first idea is to make good soldiers and sailors out of his children, his second, to make them as English as possible, so far as regards sport, games, and all manner of athletic exercises. Notice the tennis costume—English, and yet somehow one can see that the wearers are not of our nationality. Prince Eitel Fritz has been provided with toy ships, anchors, compasses, and when tired of such costly toys, passed many a happy half-hour with a piece of string in which such intricate knots were tied as would have puzzled Captain Kettle himself, who, we feel sure, was a past master in the art of rope knotting and splicing. Such were the toys meant to encourage the love for the naval career for which the lad is destined.

czar of russia in 1879

Very curious is our photo of that other lord of great armies, the Czar of all the Russians, when a little boy. His costume is that of a sailor, but observe the drum in the background. No less than the Kaiser’s children, those of the Russian Imperial family undergo a military education, and are from earliest years familiarised, through the medium of toys and picture-books, with the working of guns, the uniforms of various regiments, and the military history of their country. The little Czar does not look very happy; one is almost tempted to think that even at the early age when the photograph was taken, he felt a secret disgust of things military— vague foreshadowings, perhaps, of his famous disarmament project.

Our own Royal children are given toy guns and soldiers, flags, drums, and uniforms for the sake of keeping them amused, and for no other reason. We in England are happily not yet such slaves of the sword as to be under the necessity of training our children, whether royal or otherwise, from birth upwards to regard the military profession as the one profession worthy of a man. However, our young princes take quite as much de light in sham armies and battles as their Continental cousins. Little Prince Edward, especially, is great on flags and sabres. He delights in marching gravely about, the flag over his shoulder, the sabre dangling at his side, and every now and again stopping to shout “Hurrah!” as he heard the people shout after the relief of Mafeking…

The old custom of clearing out from nursery cupboards and drawers many of the toys of the past year before Father Christmas unloads his sack of new treasures still obtains in the Royal nurseries of the present generation; and many a hospital ward is brightened, and little sufferers forget for a moment their aches and pains as they play with the toys the chubby fingers of Royal babies have last caressed. This kindly plan might well be emulated by other little people who are lucky enough to have new toys long before the old ones are worn out.

Princess Alice of Albany and her doll

Princess Alice of Albany and her doll

It is an interesting fact that during the Christmas and New Year’s holidays at Osborne, the old toys which once belonged to the Queen’s children are brought down from those top shelves to which they were relegated long ago, and for as long as the holidays last the children of the younger generation are allowed to play with them. This is an anxious time for the nurses, for they are held responsible for the safety of the relics, and extreme care is taken in order to preserve the old toys; for the Queen is very fond of them, remembers each one, and asks for any which may not happen to appear. There is a fortress, which was an especial favourite with the Prince of Wales; it has been played with during the Christmas holidays many a time by the late Duke of Clarence and the Duke of York when they were boys, and is now looked at with intense interest by the baby blue eyes of the Duke of York’s children. The little brass guns of this fortress were mounted in their present position by the Duke of Saxe-Coburg, now a grandfather himself, whose clever, eager fingers were always apt at delicate work, from the driving of a screw to the wielding of a violin bow. Some of the mechanical animals, which were much rarer toys in the fifties than they are now, can still be made to work, and the little fat hands are clapped with joy in the Osborne nursery to-day when a woolly dog ambles along the floor with ungainly leaps, and the skin elephant moves his trunk up and down, while the mouth opens and shuts. These give as keen a sense of delight to the third or fourth generation as they did to the little ones in the Windsor nursery long ago. There is a certain bagatelle board which the Queen’s sons played with; it is often brought out for the children in the Christmas holidays.

Princess Margaret of Connaught and her doll.

Princess Margaret of Connaught and her doll.

To go further back still into the past, mention must certainly be made of the hundred and thirty-two dolls belonging to the Queen. These dolls are still preserved, together with a record of them found in a copybook yellow with age. On the inside of the cover is written in the clear text hand of childhood, “List of my dolls,” showing that little Princess Victoria was methodical in the care of her toys, for entries follow in which the name of the doll is given, by whom it was dressed, and the character it represents. The Queen herself dressed no fewer than thirty-two dolls, which, being all of the rag description, [incorrect—they are mostly penny-woodens] would be looked upon with contempt by the little misses of the present day, whose dolls are frequently made and dressed in Paris. Blots of red paint, unmistakeably from the Royal nursery paint-boxes, adorn the cheeks of some of the Court beauties, and it is noteworthy that the people of the great outside world were used as models by the little girl for her dolls. If any Court lady dressed in the extreme of the fashion of the period she was at once noted by Her Majesty’s quick eye, and a place was found for her in the collection; her dress being copied to a nicety, for the Queen was an expert needlewoman. Her Majesty was not one of those who soon outgrow dolls, she was devoted to them and played with them until she was fourteen years old—always loving the small ones best. The small wooden Dutch dolls which can be bought for a penny were largely used in her historical collection. The doll’s house which now stands in the Osborne nurseries for the use of the children of Princess Beatrice is a much grander affair than that which was the toy of the lonely little girl in Kensington Palace; but that is of no consequence, for the charm of a toy is, that its relative beauty and grandeur has nothing to do with the charm it exercises in the mind of its possessor; there is not the slightest doubt about this; as much happiness (perhaps more) was obtained by the past generation of children out of their simple toys as is got out of the elaborately dressed dolls and intricate mechanical toys which fill the nurseries of the present day.

Prince Albert of York and his toy carriage

Prince Albert of York and his toy carriage

The most popular toy with grown up people as with children, with Royal children as with ordinary children, is undeniably the bicycle. We pity people who lived in the days when bicycles were a rarity— indeed, it is almost impossible to imagine so primitive an age. Most of our children have these wonderful toys, and it may be safely affirmed that there is not a single Royal child, provided that the child is old enough to take care of itself, who is not the happy possessor of a bicycle or tricycle. I know for a certainty that the Emperor of Germany’s children may be seen almost every day cycling furiously about the grounds of Potsdam. They are great at cycling, as at all other sports. But it is extremely likely that these young people will have to content themselves with walking and riding in the near future. The Kaiser, it is said, has been converted by the anticyclists to the preposterous theory that bicycling is unhealthy, and all that relates in any way to the health is of extreme importance to His Majesty. A charming photograph accompanying this article shows the Ladies Duff mounted on their tricycles. They are very independent children, and are allowed to ride long distances without any escort.

duff cyclists royal children

The nurseries at Osborne are large rooms, comfortably and simply furnished; their outlook is across the Solent, and splendid views of the beautiful Osborne gardens are obtained. The papering is white, with large bouquets of rosebuds; the floor is carpeted all over; a paper scrap screen stands on one side of the fireplace. Flowered chintz is the covering of the chairs; skin horses, cows, bears, a pump—that joy of every child’s heart—and a few mechanical toys placed out of reach of little fingers, for these are always displayed by the nurses, as they are much used and well-beloved.

We must not omit to mention another Royal playroom, namely, the private sitting-room of Her Majesty the Queen; for here, early in the morning, before State papers have to be looked at, or at that cosy hour of dusk, which is essentially the children’s hour, the floor of the Queen’s sitting-room is often littered with toy dolls, picture-books, and treasured headless pets; for Her Majesty loves to hear the echo of pattering feet and the sound of children’s voices in laughter and play.

Alexander of Battenberg and his toy wheelbarrow

Alexander of Battenberg and his toy wheelbarrow

Perhaps of all the branches of the English Royal Family, the Battenberg is the most unassuming in tis manners, and the simplest in its way of living. The children of very many commoners’ families are brought up with infinitely more state than the Battenbergs, and in luxury that would open the eyes of these princes and princesses. Rare and valuable toys were never seen in the Battenberg nursery; the children have to content themselves with plain story-books, scrap-books, gardening utensils, cheap dolls, and such toys as all of us played with when we were young.

The favourite toys of the little Queen of Holland were always the dainty gardening implements with which she worked for an hour every day when at Het Loo, her simple home near the Hague. The love of things horticultural is almost a natural instinct with the Dutch, the nation of gardeners, and the tiny beds in the piece of ground set apart as the miniature real garden were raked, hoed, and planted by little Queen Wilhelmina herself, unassisted except in the  heavier work of digging

Military toys and military drill have always been the delight of the little King of Spain. When he was seven years old the Royal corps was recruited with the sons of the Duke of Sotomayor, the Countess of Sartago, and the son of General Aquitte de Tejada. A special uniform was made, similar to that of the Infantry Cadets, and the joy of the boys when first this real play soldiering was commenced can be imagined. The drilling was, of course, done in strict privacy, at the royal estate of the Casa de Campo, about ten minutes’ walk from the Palace, The drilling, which was directed by one of the military tutors of Alfonzo XIII., was correct in every detail, and the lessons acquired unconsciously in play will stand the lads in good stead later on.

Julie of Battenberg and her toy horse.

Julie of Battenberg and her toy horse.

The Duchess of Albany has always had the strictest ideas with regard to toys for her children, and has specially directed their minds towards the animal world in choosing their playthings and playfellows. Christmas was a busy time at Claremont, as doubtless it will be in their new home. The pleasure in the toys given away to the children on the estate was always much enhanced by the fact that they were presented by the Duchess of Albany or by the young Duke. Strange to say, the latter’s sister takes more pleasure in her pony than she ever did in her dolls.

A very amusing photograph is that of Prince Arthur of Connaught, in the toy uniform of a grenadier. It was thus he appeared at Princess Beatrice’s wedding. The solemn, almost stern, expression on his fat little face is delightful. He fully appreciates the dignity his uniform imparts.

Prince Arthur of Connaut in toy uniform

In the last photograph illustrating this article little Prince Edward of York is to be seen holding the donkey quiet while the photographer takes an impression of the little toy chaise and its occupants. The photograph gives one the idea that Prince Edward is in charge. It goes without saying, however, that there is invariably a groom in attendance, as in the photograph that heads this article: Donkeys occasionally lose their tempers, and then even so puissant an individual as our future Sovereign might find it beyond his power to keep them from doing mischief.

york and fife children

The Royal Magazine, Volume 4, 1900

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Mrs Daffodil has written several times on royal babies and their royal or imperial Mamas, as in this post on royal cradles, and this one on an amusing, if imaginary, nursery contretemps by Prince Albert. She has also told tales of some spoilt royal children, including the Kaiser’s eldest son, who had a complete collection of child-sized Prussian military uniforms bestowed by his doting parent, who so enjoyed the Rape of Belgium.

The dolls beloved of Queen Victoria still exist in the Royal Collection, but are not usually displayed since they are rather fragile. At least one is exhibited at the Museum of London. Here is an historic look at the dolls and here is an article with many excellent illustrations.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.