An Earlier Royal Christening at Windsor

The Royal Collection RCIN 2106422, Public Domain,

Of Queen Victoria’s nine children, one alone was born at Windsor Castle. This royal child was also christened there. This was the second son of the Queen and Prince Albert, baptised in the Private Chapel at Windsor Castle on 6 September 1844. This child would be Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh and later Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha after his uncle, Duke Ernest II. The baby prince’s christening was celebrated exactly a month after his birth at Windsor.

Queen Victoria’s journal entry for 6 September 1844 (Princess Beatrice’s copies) contains a charming pen and ink sketch in her own hand of the Princess Royal, Princess Alice and the Prince of Wales. The delightful little doodle the Queen tells us, was her way of hurriedly recording what the three children looked like, dressed for the christening of their new born brother. The Queen wore a dress of white satin sprayed with flowers taken from her wedding lace, worn four years earlier. She had on her Turkish diamonds and sapphire and diamond brooch, so presumably the same diamonds and brooch which she wore on her wedding day, 10 February 1840. Prince Albert wore the uniform of the Governor of the Round Tower.

The christening guests included the Dowager Queen Adelaide – William IV’s widow, the Queen’s mother, the Duchess of Kent and the Queen’s aunt, Princess Mary, Duchess of Gloucester, the last surviving daughter of George III and Queen Charlotte. The sponsors were Duchess Alexandrine of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, wife of the newly acceded Duke Ernest II – represented by the Duchess of Kent, Queen Victoria’s uncle, Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge, representing Prince George, later Duke of Cambridge and the aged Duke of Wellington, who stood for Queen Victoria’s elder half-brother, Prince Carl of Leiningen.

The baby Prince Alfred was christened by William Howley, Archbishop of Canterbury, wearing the same christening robe worn by his elder siblings. The ceremony began with Palestrina’s O be joyful and concluded with Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus, in true Hanoverian flourish.

A watercolour by the artist James Doyle records the royal christening at Windsor, Prince Albert standing, whilst the Queen is seated, surrounded by their children. The Archbishop is holding the child over the royal font, recorded in paint in the moment that he makes the sign of the cross on the baby prince’s forehead.

Today’s visitor is not able to study the sacred space of the Private Chapel at Windsor, at least in its original form. The room formerly used as a Private Chapel for Queen Victoria’s family was totally destroyed in the devastating fire of 1992 and the area is now roughly occupied by what is known as the Lantern Lobby, linking the State Apartments with the Semi-State rooms on the processional route.

©Elizabeth Jane Timms, 2019.

About author

Elizabeth Jane Timms is a royal historian and writer, an historical consultant and independent scholar. An expert on past British and European royalty, she speaks on matters royal historical for both TV and radio. She was also selected to speak on historic royal weddings at Windsor for BBC Radio Berkshire as part of the feature coverage for the first Royal Wedding in 2018. She regularly writes for journals, specialist magazines, newsletters and the web. She is a contributor to the academic genealogical journal Royalty Digest Quarterly, currently also writing for Tudor Life magazine and the English-speaking Czech newspaper Prague Post's culture column. She specializes in Queen Victoria's family and Russian royalty and is an authority on Russia's last Tsarina, Alexandra Feodorovna (1872-1918), with a particular interest in her private correspondence. As an historical consultant, she responds to a wide range of enquiries from media to private individuals, as well as for numerous books, talks and research projects. She has made a significant contribution to the field of royal studies and writes largely based on original research, making a number of important discoveries including 'lost' letters and searching for Queen Victoria's perfume. She also conducts and publishes original research on W. A. Mozart. She was elected a member of the Royal Historical Society in 2017. A passionate supporter of historical and culture heritage, she has been an active member of numerous societies including The Georgian Group and Freunde der Preußischen Schlösser und Gärten e.V. Also a poet, her work has been published in various literary and poetry magazines, including The Oxonian Review, North of Oxford, Coldnoon, Nine Muses Poetry and Allegro Poetry, with ten poems forthcoming in Trafika Europe Journal. Her first pamphlet of poetry will be published in 2020, by Marble Poetry.