I have been doing some research into minstrelsy for my book on the history of pierrots and wondered if there was any conclusive proof of the involvement of the royal family in banjos and minstrelsy in the late 19th century.

I found this on a thread on this page: "Queen Victoria was a great banjo fan and formed a minstrel troupe with her children, John Brown and The Munchie (Her Indian manservant and close personal friend) and they performed, incognito, on the sands at Cowes, Isle of Wight over several summers. She also played the tymps on a couple of Ossman's London cylinder recordings." Is there any evidence of this at all and on which dates?

Also, did Edward VII learn banjo from the Bohees and do we know what year(s)?

Finally, does anyone know from whom Clifford Essex learned his banjo playing techniques and did he start-out performing in blackface at all?

Many thanks,

Tony Lidington (AKA Uncle Tacko!)


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good questions, I have no answers but I would be inclined to be sceptical regarding the old Queen as an entertainer ! I had heard about the prince learning banjo from the Bohees too, I guess we all have. I look forward to any answers you receive since I do a weekly show on the Broadstairs Bandstand in Kent from April through October and, have started to play a few classic banjo pieces as part of my performance and, Broadstairs being a town chock full of folk musicians I am being asked questions I dont know the answers to !

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