Royal Connections with Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell

    In the Alice books, there are several references to royalty: "A cat may look at a king", "Let's pretend we're Kings and Queens", and "To be a queen! How grand it sounds" - these are three examples that come to mind. The first comes from a proverb and implies that someone of a lesser station may have contact (if not altogether converse) with a monarch. The last two refer to the children's games of dressing up and playing at royalty.

The first contact the Liddell,s had with royalty was when the Prince of Wales came to study at Christ Church in 1859 and became a frequent visitor to the Deanery. On one shocking occasion, His Highness arrived unannounced and the butler admitted him into the drawing room where Alice was being fitted for a new frock by the dressmaker. Alice was attired in only her petticoat when the Prince entered and Alice, alarmed, had to rush into a side room, sending pins flying. On taking his leave, the Prince coyly added, "Tell Alice I saw her".

Queen Victoria paid a surprise visit to Oxford on 12th December 1860 and the Liddell children presented a tableaux vivant as part of the evening's entertainment at the Deanery.

Alice's name was linked to the next royal visitor, for Queen Victoria's youngest son Leopold came to Oxford in 1872 and the Dean took him under his wing. Tongues started to wag. The fact that Alice was unattached was noticed, and word had it that Mrs Liddell found every opportunity to get the pair together: a romance blossomed. If Alice could not quite make Queen (as she had done in Through the Looking Glass), then a princess would be quite acceptable. Queen Victoria had other ideas, however, and Prince Leopold married Princess Helen Frédérica Augusta of Germany. On Alice's marriage to Reginald Hargreaves in 1880 she wore a pearl horseshoe broach given to her by Leopold, he sent this message: "warmest & heartfelt wishes for your future happiness" adding "I shall think much of you & your parents tomorrow". Interestingly Alice named her second son Leopold born in January 1883 and she asked the Prince to be one of his godfathers. Leopold repaid the compliment by naming his daughter Alice.

The most persistent connection between Queen Victoria and Lewis Carroll is that the sovereign was so delighted by Alice's Adventures that he should send her his next book and he duly presented her with a copy of Condensation of Determinants, but which Dodgson dismissed as a 'silly story' and 'an absolute fiction'. At Windsor in 1865 Dodgson saw the Queen driving by in an open carriage and he got a bow all to himself. Lady August Stanley, a member of the Queen,s Court, showed her some of Dodgson's photographs, she replied "Her Majesty admirers them very much. They are such as the Prince would have appreciated very highly and taken much pleasure in". The Queen declined to allow Dodgson to photograph her youngest daughter 7 year old Beatrice, known affectionately as 'Little Butterfly'.

The Reverend Robinson Duckworth (he accompanied Dodgson & the Liddell girls on the 4th July 1862 boating expedition when the famous story was told) became tutor to Prince Leopold in 1866, according to Elizabeth Longford his sister Princess Louise developed 'her first girlhood love' for Duckworth. In 1960 Duckworth's nephew wrote that the Princess had great affection and wished to marry his uncle, she gave him a ruby, diamond, and signet ring with a lock of her hair. Duckworth was dismissed from the post, and a rumour spread that she had given birth to an illegitimate child. The Royal archive have never allowed anyone access to documents concerning this matter.

Alice has Royal connections with the Lyon family and the Earls of Strathmore, the link being with the 8th Earl Thomas Lyon, his son Thomas married Mary Wren, and their daughter Charlotte married Henry George Liddell in 1809. She was of course Alice's grandmother. Our present Queen is third cousins three times removed from Alice.

Princess Diana Spencer wished to be known as the 'Queen of Hearts' in the public's affections.

Kate Middleton's undergraduate art history dissertation at St Andrew,s was titled "Angel,s from Heaven: Lewis Carroll's Photographic Interpretation of Childhood". Kate became the patron of the National Portrait Gallery and contributed her own views for the exhibition Victorian Giants which included photographs by Lewis Carroll.

She said: "These photographs allow us to reflect on the importance of presenting and appreciating childhood while it lasts. Children held a special place in the Victorian imagination and were celebrated for their seemingly boundless potential.

This notion still rings true for us today and it underpins much of my official work and charities... " The Duchess of Cambridge is a keen photographer herself and took a set of intimate and natural photographs of her daughter Charlotte on her fifth birthday on 2nd May 2020. She has launched the ' Hold Still' community photographic project while we are all in 'lockdown' & wonder how we can contribute and make a difference in our areas.

Stephen Martin.