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Albert Edward, Prince of Wales (1841-1910) by Abdullah Frères
Constantinople [Istanbul, Turkey], 1862. Carte-de-visite, 87 x 54 mm
Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2020
On 1 March 1862, Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, later crowned King Edward VII (1841-1910), arrived in the port of Alexandria. This was the first stop of his royal ‘Tour in the East’, which he undertook at the request of his parents, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.


Queen Victoria had good reasons to plan this journey. After the death of the Prince Consort in December 1861, the young prince became the key representative of the Royal Family, as the widowed queen now withdrew from most of her public roles. It was time for him to learn about religion, geography and diplomatic relations, and prepare to take over some of the royal duties. She was conscious of the weakening state of the Ottoman Empire and the importance of establishing good relations in the area. Egypt was especially significant as it controlled the construction of the Suez Canal, which would become the only direct waterway between Britain and India, the jewel in the Crown.
Francis Bedford (1815-94), The Encampment at Beyrout
Beirut, Lebanon, 6 May 1862. Albumen print, 242 x 292 mm

The Prince of Wales’s tent is the largest, at centre left, with the union flag flying above it.

Royal Collection Trust / © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2020
As the future head of the British Empire, the prince was hosted by some of the most important public figures and dignitaries of the time – from the Viceroy of Egypt, and the Ottoman Sultan in Constantinople, to the famous humanitarian and religious leader, ‘Abd al-Qadir. He stayed in luxurious hotels, British embassies and residencies of local rulers, as well as venturing into more remote areas with an encampment and attendants.
During the trip, the prince, preparing for his future role as ‘Defender of Faith’ (the supreme governor of the Church of England) visited numerous sites of religious importance, many of them with profound biblical significance, for example, Bethlehem and Damascus. The tour also covered some of the ground travelled by Richard the Lionheart and the Crusaders in the twelfth century, giving the tour an even greater Christian resonance.

Below is a video provided by the Royal Collection Trust which explains the wet collodion photographic process used by Francis Bedford while touring with the prince. As a process it had only been invented in the 1850s, just over 10 years before it was used by Bedford during the Royal Tour with such skill