Nuneaton Celebrates the 'Wedding of the Century'

The poster advertising Nuneaton Royal Wedding celebrations in 1863
Warwickshire County Record Office reference DR280/103

Warwickshire has always loved a good wedding and the marriage in 1863 of Albert Edward (the future Edward VII), son of Queen Victoria, and Princess Alexandra, the daughter of Prince Christian (later King Christian IX) of Denmark was no exception.

Nuneaton’s party

Nuneaton’s celebrations1 were suitably lavish, with a procession commencing at 9.30am including members of the local Yeomanry, Volunteer Corps, pupils of the Grammar School, Church and Dissenting Sunday Schools, the Town Crier, the Fire Brigade and Engine, local friendly societies (including the Bull Inn Sick Club) in addition to local clergy and gentry. The parade was followed by a flurry of balls and dinners, the most socially exclusive taking place at the Newdegate Arms Hotel under the patronage of C. N. Newdegate Esq. M.P. and Mrs Newdegate. For those with sufficient stamina, there were yet more events, with balloon ascents in the grounds adjoining the cotton mill, and a beacon fire on Tuttle Hill in the evening.

The royal couple

The Prince of Wales had already gained a reputation as a womaniser before marrying. Queen Victoria’s hopes that matrimony would have a transformative effect on her son were initially realised with, the Prince behaving as a model husband in the first years of his marriage. However, although the couple had six children, from the late 1860s they grew steadily apart as increasing deafness divorced Alexandra from the social scene in which the Prince of Wales revelled. Alexandra immersed herself in family life while her husband returned to his philandering ways, a number of his affairs, such as that with the actress Lillie Langtry, proving to be embarrassingly open.

King and queen consort

At the age of 59 Albert Edward finally succeeded Queen Victoria as Edward VII in January 1901, with Alexandra as queen consort. The couple proved to be a conspicuously successful King and queen. Notably, Edward’s highly successful stay in France as the guest of President Émile Loubet in 1903 paved the way for the Anglo-French Entente Cordiale of 1904. This agreement delineated British and French Colonies in North Africa and ruled out the possibility of future wars between the two countries, bringing to an end centuries of rivalry. For her part, Alexandra was a dedicated patron of charities, presiding over the first meeting of the British Red Cross Society in 1905. Edward died in 1910, in the middle of the constitutional crisis brought about by the Liberal government’s confrontation with the House of Lords. Alexandra survived, much revered, until 1925.

1 Warwickshire County Record Office reference DR 280/103

This article was Document of the Month for the Warwickshire County Record Office in April 2011. Further articles can be found on their website.

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