Children’s Birthday Celebrations: Victorian Style


The painting above depicts the birthday of the artist’s young daughter, Alice. Like other well-to-do families in the last half of the Victorian era, Frith and his relatives celebrated the occasion with a meal, music, games, and presents. However, British royalty hosted more elaborate festivities for their children.


According to 19th century newspapers Princess Louise, the eldest daughter of the Prince of Wales and granddaughter of Queen Victoria, celebrated her fifteenth birthday at a party with one hundred guests. The entertainments included costumed singers, a magician, minstrel troupes, and tricks by a lady riding a tricycle. The children play old-fashioned games such as Hunt the Ring, Fox and Hounds, Post, and Hunt the Slipper. After a rambunctious game of musical chairs, each of the children dipped their hands in two large bran pies to retrieve a present.

circus elephant

At the seventeenth birthay party of Princess Louise’s sister, Victoria, an elephant entertained the guests. Little Jumbo performed his Oxford Music Hall act in which he walked on champagne bottles, rang for dinner, balanced on a globe, navigated a tightrope, played musical instruments, and tipped his hat in farewell.

What’s your favorite kind of birthday celebration?


  1. Gary Brandt says:

    I don’t think elephants can do all that stuff today. They’re too busy selling insurance.

    • Gary, the only elephant I’ve seen at a birthday party is a miniature replica of Dumbo. He didn’t do any tricks, which is why he’s still in one piece. Thanks for commenting!

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