This brief silent film will be a special treat to all of you who've recently "discovered" the Edwardian era through Downton Abbey. Alexandra Rose Day was created in 1912 to mark the 50th anniversary of the arrival to England of Princess Alexandra of Denmark to marry the future King Edward VII. Much like last year's royal wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, this 1863 wedding was a national celebration that helped make Alexandra into a much-admired figure. Fifty years later, as a widow and dowager queen, she chose to commemorate the anniversary not with a grand, costly procession, but with a fundraising drive to benefit the poor and needy. Artificial roses, made by the disabled, were offered and sold by women volunteers in the London streets. The event was an enormous success, raising the modern equivalent of £2 million for the city's hospitals. The event continues today; click here for more information.
This film clip follows a group of those first volunteers into the streets of the Peckham district of London in 1912, and it's clear that the public is enchanted by these mostly-young ladies dressed in white with their baskets of roses. The quality of the clip is amazingly good, offering a glimpse not only of Edwardian dress (oh, those hats!), but also transportation, shops, and street-life. I was also struck by how good-natured everyone seems to be on this day, smiling and laughing at the camera and with the volunteers. Watching this, it's hard to believe that the devastating nightmare of the First World War is only two years away.
There’s a big difference in how we use history. But we’re equally nuts about it. To us, the everyday details of life in the past are things to talk about, ponder, make fun of -- much in the way normal people talk about their favorite reality show.
We talk about who’s wearing what and who’s sleeping with whom. We try to sort out rumor or myth from fact. We thought there must be at least three other people out there who think history’s fascinating and fun, too. This blog is for them.