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Queen Alexandra’s fans

Three-quarter length portrait photograph of Queen Alexandra when Alexandra, Princess of Wales, wearing an off the shoulder white gown, flowers in her hair, earrings and holding a fan in her hands

Portrait photograph of Alexandra, Princess of Wales (1844-1925), June 1864 ©

The life of Queen Victoria’s elegant daughter-in-law Alexandra (1844-1925) spanned the period when fans were at their most glamorous. Born Princess Alexandra of Denmark, she moved to England prior to her marriage to the Prince of Wales in 1863. Her wedding presents included the intricately carved ivory brisé fan; and the fan painted by Gimbel with a skating scene in the centre of the leaf.

A few years after her marriage, the Princess of Wales and her two sisters each received a very similar brisé leather fan – presumably from a close family member; each fan was personalised with the recipient’s name and coat of arms (see Brisé leather fan). Other family gifts included the fan decorated with views of the Princess’s country residence, Sandringham, in Norfolk; also, two fans – the beautiful double-sided Christmas fan, and the Fabergé fan, Christmas presents respectively from Queen Victoria in 1881, and from the Dowager Tsarina (Queen Alexandra’s sister) in 1904. Other fans arrived through more official channels: the ‘Reading fan’ was a gift from the Mayor and Corporation of Reading in 1870.

Queen Alexandra’s collection also included some fine eighteenth-century fans including the 'Baccus and Ariadne' fan. Following the accession of King Edward VII in 1901, Queen Alexandra would have inherited many other fans from Queen Victoria, and received further exceptional examples of the fan-maker’s art. By 1910 she is thought to have owned between 300 and 400 fans.