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‘Affie’ - H.R.H. Prince Alfred, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, 1873
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‘Affie’ - H.R.H. Prince Alfred, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, 1873

Measurements: Height: 20.5cm (8in)

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Electroform. Bust of Prince Alfred (1844-1900), second son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Portrayed in naval uniform after a model by the minor royal and naval officer turned sculptor Viktor, Count Gleichen. Cast and signed and dated verso by the Birmingham art founders Elkington & Co, 1873.

The present bust derives from a full length figure in the Royal Collection. The sculptor Count Gleichen was the son of Queen Victoria's half-sister Princess Feodora of Leiningen (1807–1872). Before becoming an artist in 1866, Count Gleichen enjoyed a career of rapid advancement in the Royal Navy. In 1863 he was appointed to the command of the 20-gun steam corvette H.M.S. Racoon, with Prince Alfred as one of his lieutenants. The commission however got off to rocky start when the press reported Prince Alfred was sent home from Malta within weeks of joining, and Racoon was despatched to the West Indies. The Army & Navy Gazette reported disapprovingly ’The offence must have been of a serious character to induce ‘my Lords’ to visit not only the captain, but the officers and crew, with so severe a mark of their displeasure, as for months past it has been quite understood that the Racoon had been, at the national cost, fitted up in a manner adapted to the reception of a Prince of the Blood, and we were, moreover, assured that the intended shipmates of His Royal Highness had all been selected with great care, both in reference to their social and professional qualities; and now, without a reason assigned, the ship is hurried off, certainly not at the most favourable season of the year, to an unhealthy station.’

After Prince Alfred rejoined the Racoon, he attended the funeral of a seaman gunner who fell to his death from the foretop before embarking on a round of royal duties with his ship in close attendance in both home and European waters. On giving up the navy in 1866 Gleichen (aka Admiral Prince Victor Ferdinand Franz Eugen Gustaf Adolf Constantin Friedrich of Hohenlohe-Langenburg (1833-1891)) studied under royal sculptor William Theed, and demonstrated considerable talent, his most important work being the colossal statue of Alfred the Great for the main square at Wantage, Oxfordshire. Prince Affie became the Duke of Edinburgh in 1866 and year after the present bust was made, he married the Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia. By prior agreement of the Prince Wales, Alfred succeeded on death of his uncle in 1893 to the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.

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