Edward’s travels captured on film

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TRAVEL photographs documenting Edward VII’s expedition to far-flung parts of the globe are to go on display.

Photography may have been in its infancy in the 1860s but when the future monarch journeyed to the Middle East as a young man he was joined by British photographer Francis Bedford.

Edward, then the Prince of Wales, travelled to Egypt, Palestine and the Holy Land, Syria, Lebanon, Turkey and Greece in 1862.

The photographs show sights that are well known today but at the time are likely to have been seen as rare images of places only read about in history books.

Bedford’s images, which go on display in March, captured many locations including the Pyramids at Giza, the gateway to the Luxor temple and the Muslim site of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.

The Prince’s four-month tour had been planned by his parents, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, to educate the Royal before he married Princess Alexandra of Denmark.

But despite her Consort’s death in December 1861, Victoria was determined that her son’s visit should go ahead and he left with his entourage from London on February 6.

They travelled by train to Venice, where they boarded the Royal Yacht Osborne and sailed to Alexandria to begin the ambitious itinerary planned by scholars and politicians. Many of the places they visited were known for their spectacular archaeological sites and the exhibition will include artefacts brought back to Britain by Edward from excavations he visited.

After travelling through Egypt, the Prince continued to Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Nablous and Hebron.

Photography had been introduced to the public in 1839 and just three years later Albert became the first member of the Royal Family to be photographed. Through his business making lithographic reproductions of works of art, Bedford had taken up photography in the 1850s and had already secured two Royal commissions before being asked by Victoria to accompany her son. After the tour, Bedford published a set of 172 photographs and some of the images were exhibited in London in August 1862 and made available for sale.

The tour was well-documented in the press at the time, with the British Journal of Photography describing the exhibition as “perhaps the most important photographic exhibition that has hitherto been placed before the public, whether we regard it as an aid to history or as a collection in which unity of design has been a ruling principle in the artist’s mind”.

The exhibition – Cairo to Constantinople: Early Photographs of the Middle East – runs at the Queen’s Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh, from March 8 until July 21.