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The Reverend Robinson Duckworth DD, CVO, VD, (4 December 1834 – 20 September 1911) was present in the original boating expedition of 4 July 1862 during which Alice's Adventures were first told by Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson). He is represented by the Duck in the book, a play on his last name.
He officiated at the funeral of Charles Darwin in 1882.
Duckworth was the second son of Robinson Duckworth Sr of Liverpool and his wife Elizabeth. He was educated at the Royal Institution School in Liverpool, and later at University College, Oxford, where he took his BA in 1857. He was a member of the Oxford Choral Society and a renowned singer. He took his MA in 1859, and his BD and DD in 1879. He was an Assistant Master at Marlborough College from 1857 to 1860. He was a Fellow of Trinity College, Oxford from 1860 to 1876, where, from 1866 to 1870, he was Instructor and the Governor to Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany, Queen Victoria’s youngest son. In 1864 he was appointed Examining Chaplain to the Bishop of Peterborough.
While he was at Oxford Duckworth helped to row Alice Liddell and her sister (daughters of Dr Liddell, Dean of Christ Church) on the river, returning from a picnic. In the boat was his friend Lewis Carroll who related for the first time his story which became "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland". Robinson was immortalized as the Duck in the Jury Box and the Duck in the Pool of Tears in the book.
Duckworth was appointed Canon of Westminster in 1875 and later was also appointed Sub-Dean. He was Chaplain-in-Ordinary to Queen Victoria from 1870 to 1901, for which service he was appointed CVO in 1902. He was Rural Dean for the parish of St. Marylebone from 1891 to 1905, and was Honorary Chaplain for the Prince of Wales from 1875 to 1901, whom he accompanied on his 1875-6 tour of India. He was Chaplain-in Ordinary to Edward VII in 1910.
Robinson Duckworth was Almoner and Chaplain to the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, and Chaplain to the Civil Service Volunteers, being appointed VD in 1901. He was a member of the Athenaeum and Grosvenor Clubs.
On his death in 1911 he was buried in the choir of Westminster Abbey. Here a round window opposite to the Abbey's entrance is dedicated to his memory. It was designed by Francis Skeat and was unveiled in 1988. The character of Duckworth on the TV show Duck Tales was named after him.
A book entitled "The Holy Land" was written by The Rev Canon Duckworth, D.D., C.V.O., Sub Dean of Westminster: Chaplain in Ordinary to the King and was published by Raphael Tuck & Sons Limited, London-Paris-New York, publishers by Appointment to Their Majesties The King & Queen Alexandra.
The book was illustrated by W.J. Webb, from original drawings painted in Palestine.
- "Duckworth, Rev. Robinson". Who's Who, 59: p. 514. 1907.
- Westminster Abbey at www.westminster-abbey.org Dead link
- Photograph of memorial window
- "How Alice Got to Wonderland" by Ted Gioia (Conceptual Fiction)
- Portraits of Celebrities... Strand Magazine Vol 9