Albumen print by Francis Bedford which shows The Sphinx, the Great Pyramid and two lesser pyramids, Ghizeh, Egypt. March 1862. 

Recently the VV attended the Queen's Gallery, Buckingham Palace in London. There she viewed a collection of  photographs taken by Francis Bedford - which provide a fascinating record of the very first tour of the Middle East to be made by member of the British royal family.

The tour - which occurred just a few months after the death of Prince Albert - had been very carefully planned to keep his son, the Prince of Wales out of any scandal's way when he'd left university, but still had some free time on his hands before the planned date of his marriage to Alexandra of Denmark. 

But it was also considered as being politically important for Bertie - who would one day become King Edward - to understand an area that was in such close proximity to the Empire's Indian territories. 

The Prince of Wales with Prince Louis of Hesse (engaged to the Prince's sister, Princess Alice) taken in Europe in February 1862 when the Prince was travelling to Venice to join the Royal Yacht.

Those lands were fast becoming areas of fascination for historians, explorers, pilgrims and tourists - much helped by the fact that travelling times had by then been vastly reduced by steamships to Alexandria.

The Prince of Wales' own four month tour covered Egypt, Palestine and the Holy Land, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey and Greece. During that time he met rulers, politicians and other notable figures - even Abd al-Qadir, the exiled Algerian freedom fighter who was said to have protected a group of Christians in his home. 

Hasbeiya - Scene of the Massacre.
Albumen print, April 1862

During this adventure the Prince travelled with 'eight gentleman only...in as private a manner as possible'. The party set off from London on February 6, 1862, travelling by train to Venice and from there on the Royal Yacht, Osborne. From Alexandria they then spent most of the journey on horseback, camping out at night in tents - unusual experiences which the Prince then wrote about in his own account. But as he would have been aware that these diaries would eventually be read by his mother in England, the VV is sure that some of the prince's more intimate experiences may very well have been left out. Even so, some risqué incidents were alluded to in a post previously published on this site.

The Street called Straight - Damascus, April 1862

If you are interested in this exhibition it runs until February 22, 2015. It really is well worth a visit to see the stunning images - though as Bedford's brief was to focus on the sacred and historic landscapes, only three of the surviving 191 photographs actually show the young Prince and his travelling companions. 

However the exhibition does show many archeological objects that the Prince collected on his tour - including an Egyptian funerary papyrus which relates 'what is in the netherworld', and several ancient scarabs, some of the which the Prince then had set into Egyptian-style jewellery, which he presented as a gift to the woman who was to become his wife.

For the VV's own visit to the Queen's Gallery she was accompanied by her friend, the author Wendy Wallace, whose own historical novel which is called The Sacred River is set around the journey made by three Victorian women who travel from England to Egypt. During Wendy's research she and her son also travelled there, creating this atmospheric film -


  1. Interesting blog. I also maintain a blog on the Victorian Era. It's neat to check out what other Victorian bloggers are doing.