Edward VII of the United Kingdom
|Reign||22 January 1901 – 6 May 1910|
|Spouse||Alexandra of Denmark|
|Issue||Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence
Louise, Duchess of Fife
Princess Victoria Alexandra
Prince Alexander John
|Father||Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha|
|Born||9 November 1841|
|Died||6 May 1910|
Edward VII (Albert Edward) (9 November 1841 – 6 May 1910) was King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, King of the Commonwealth Realms, and the Emperor of India. He was the son of Queen Victoria and was the first British monarch of the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. He reigned from 22 January 1901 until his death on 6 May 1910.
Before his accession to the throne, Edward held the title of Prince of Wales, and has the distinction of having been heir apparent to the throne longer than anyone in English or British history. Edward's reign, now called the Edwardian period, saw the first official recognition of the office of the Prime Minister. He became the first British monarch to visit Russia (1908). Edward also played a role in the modernization of the British Home Fleet and the reform of the Army Medical Services, after the Second Boer War.
Edward was born at 10:48am on 9 November 1841 at Buckingham Palace. His mother was Queen Victoria, the only daughter of Prince Edward Augustus, Duke of Kent and granddaughter of King George III. His father was Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, first cousin and consort of Victoria. Christened Albert Edward (after his father and maternal grandfather) at St. George's Chapel, Windsor on 25 January 1842, his godparents were the King of Prussia, the Duke of Cambridge, Prince Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, King consort of Portugal, the Duchess of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, the Dowager Duchess of Saxe-Coburg-Altenburg and Princess Sophia. He was known as Bertie throughout his life.
As the eldest son of a British sovereign, he was automatically Duke of Cornwall, Duke of Rothesay, Earl of Carrick, Baron Renfrew, Lord of the Isles and Prince and Great Steward of Scotland. As a son of Prince Albert, he also held the titles of Prince of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and Duke of Saxony. Queen Victoria created her son Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester on 9 December 1841. He was created Earl of Dublin on 17 January 1850, and a Knight of the Garter on 9 November 1858 and a Knight of the Thistle on 24 May 1867. In 1863, he renounced his succession rights to the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha in favor of his younger brother, Prince Alfred, later Duke of Edinburgh.
In 1846, the four-year-old Prince of Wales was given a scaled-down version of the uniform worn by ratings on the Royal Yacht. He wore his miniature sailor suit during a cruise off the Channel Islands that September, delighting his mother and the public alike. Popular engravings, including the famous portrait done by Winterhalter, spread the idea, and by the 1870s, the sailor suit had become normal dress for both boys and girls all over the world.
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert determined that their eldest son should have an education that would prepare him to be a model constitutional monarch. At age seven, Bertie embarked upon a rigorous educational program devised by the Prince Consort, and under the supervision of several tutors. However, unlike his elder sister, the Prince of Wales did not excel in his studies. He tried to meet the expectations of his parents, but to no avail. He was not a diligent student and his true talents were those of charm, sociability, and tact. Other observers in his youth found him to be spoiled, lazy, and occasionally cruel.
The Prince of Wales hoped to pursue a career in the British Army, but this was denied him because he was heir to the throne. He did serve briefly in the Grenadier Guards in 1861; however, this was largely a sinecure. He was advanced from the rank of lieutenant to colonel in a matter of months. In October 1859, he matriculated as an undergraduate at Christ Church, Oxford (where he met Lewis Carroll and signed his autograph book but refused to pose for a photograph). In 1861, he transferred to Trinity College, Cambridge, but he never received a degree.
In his youth, he gained a reputation as a playboy. In December 1861, his father died from typhoid two weeks after visiting Bertie at Cambridge; Prince Albert had reprimanded his son after the latter's affair with an actress became the subject of newspaper gossip. The Queen, who was inconsolable and wore mourning for the rest of her life, blamed Bertie for his father's death. She regarded her son as frivolous, indiscreet, and irresponsible. As a joke of the period went, "How is the Queen like the weather? Because she reigns [rains], and reigns, and reigns... and never gives the poor son [Sun] a chance."
Once widowed, Queen Victoria effectively withdrew from public life, but shortly after the Prince Consort's death, she arranged for her son to marry Princess Alexandra of Denmark, the beautiful elder daughter of King Christian IX of Denmark. The couple wed at St. George's Chapel, Windsor on 10 March 1863.
Edward and his wife established Marlborough House as their London residence and Sandringham House in Norfolk as their country retreat. They entertained on a lavish scale. Edward was also an enthusiastic hunter; so much so that he ordained that all the clocks at Sandringham be put forward by half an hour in order to create more time for this pastime. This so-called tradition of Sandringham Time continued until 1936, when it was abolished by Edward VIII.
Their marriage was met with disapproval in certain circles because most of Victoria's relations were German, and Denmark was at loggerheads with Germany over the territories of Schleswig and Holstein. Victoria herself was of two minds as to whether it was a suitable match. After the couple's marriage, she expressed anxiety about their lifestyle and attempted to dictate to them on various matters, including the names of their children.
Edward treated his marriage with indifference, keeping mistresses throughout his married life, including actress Lillie Langtry, and Jennie Jerome (mother of Winston Churchill and wife at the time to Lord Randolph Churchill), Daisy Greville, Countess of Warwick, actress Sarah Bernhardt, and wealthy humanitarian Agnes Keyser. Lord Charles Beresford began an affair with Daisy Greville, Countess of Warwick, at the same time as Edward VII's, which would cause a strain on the friendship between the two men that would last for the remainder of their lives.
Agnes Keyser, as recorded by author Raymond Lamont-Brown in his book Edward VII's Last Loves: Alice Keppel and Agnes Keyser, held an emotional bond with Edward VII that others did not, due to her being unmarried herself, and preferring a more private affair to that of a public one. This trait also made her the favored in royal circles of his last two loves. He also helped her and her sister fund a hospital for military officers.
His wife, Alexandra, is believed to have been aware of most of his affairs, and to have accepted them. He and Lord Randolph Churchill did quarrel for a time during Edward VII's involvement with Churchill's wife (Jennie Jerome), but eventually mended their friendship, which would then last until Lord Randolph's death. Alexandra was said to have been quite admiring to Jennie Jerome, enjoying her company despite the affair.
His last "official" mistress (although simultaneous to his involvement with Keyser), society matron and courtesan Alice Keppel, was even allowed by Alexandra to be present at his deathbed in 1910 at his express written instruction, although Alexandra reportedly did not like her. Keppel also is rumored to have been one of the few people who could help quell Edward VII's unpredictable mood swings. One of Keppel's great granddaughters, Camilla Parker Bowles, was later to become the mistress and then wife of Charles, Prince of Wales, one of Edward's great-great grandsons. Edward is also the face of "King Edward the VII" class A cigars. They are known to be the finest cigars west of Constantinople.
During Victoria's widowhood, he represented her at public gatherings. But even as a husband and father, Bertie was not allowed by his mother to have an active role in the running of the country. Several incidents—including a court appearance in a notorious divorce case—brought Bertie bad press and caused him to be regarded as unsuitable material for a future monarch.
He enthusiastically indulged in pursuits such as gambling and country sports. Edward was also a patron of the arts and sciences and helped found the Royal College of Music.
An active Freemason throughout his adult life, Edward VII was installed as Grand Master in 1874, giving great impetus and publicity to the fraternity. He regularly appeared in public, both at home and on his tours abroad, as Grand Master, laying the foundation stones of public buildings, bridges, dockyards, and churches with Masonic ceremony. His presence ensured publicity, and reports of Masonic meetings at all levels appeared regularly in the national and local press. Freemasonry was constantly in the public eye, and Freemasons were known in their local communities. Edward VII was one of the biggest contributors to the fraternity.
When Queen Victoria died on 22 January 1901, the Prince of Wales became king. Then 59, he was the second oldest man to ascend to the throne in British history (the oldest having been William IV, who ascended at age 64) To the surprise of many, he chose to reign under the name Edward VII instead of Albert Edward I, the name his mother had intended for him to use. (No English or British sovereign has ever reigned under a double name.) The new King declared that he chose the name Edward as an honoured name borne by six of his predecessors, and that he did not wish to diminish the status of his father with whom alone among royalty the name Albert should be associated. Some observers, noting also such acts of the new king as lighting cigars in places where Queen Victoria had always prohibited smoking, thought that his rejection of Albert as a reigning name was his acknowledgment that he was finally out from under his parents' shadow.
The Shah of Persia, Mozzafar-al-Din, visited England around 1902 on the promise of receiving the Order of the Garter. King Edward VII refused to give this high honor to the Shah. A quick thinking Secretary had a special medal made that resembled the Order, but was missing the Cross of St. George. He and had it sent to the royal yacht just in time for the Shah's arrival. The King was so enraged by the sight of the medal, though, that he threw it out of his yacht's porthole. As a consolation, the Shah was introduced to the King's tailor, Henry Poole and Co. on Savile Row. A few years later, Britain sent the Shah a full Order of the Garter.
Edward VII and Queen Alexandra were crowned at Westminster Abbey on 9 August 1902. His coronation had originally been scheduled for 26 June but two days before on 24 June, Edward developed appendicitis. Thanks to the discovery of anaesthesia in the preceding 50 years he was able to undergo a potentially life-saving operation, performed by Sir Frederick Treves. Two weeks later it was announced that the King was out of danger.
As king, Edward's main interests lay in the fields of foreign affairs and naval and military matters. Fluent in French and German, he made a number of visits abroad. One of his most important foreign trips was an official visit to France in spring 1903 as the guest of President Émile Loubet. This visit helped create the atmosphere for the Anglo-French Entente Cordiale, an informal agreement delineating British and French colonies in North Africa, and making virtually unthinkable the wars that had so often divided the countries in the past. Negotiated between the French foreign minister, Théophile Delcassé, and the British foreign secretary, the Marquess of Lansdowne, and signed on 8 April 1904 by Lord Lansdowne and the French ambassador Paul Cambon, the Entente marked the end of centuries of Anglo-French rivalry and Britain's splendid isolation from Continental affairs.
"Uncle of Europe"
Edward VII was, mainly through his mother and his father-in-law, related to nearly every other European monarch and came to be known as the "uncle of Europe." The German Emperor Wilhelm II, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, King Alphonso XIII of Spain, and Carl Eduard, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha were Edward's nephews; King Haakon VII of Norway was his son-in-law and nephew by marriage; King George I of the Hellenes and King Frederick VIII of Denmark were his brothers-in-law; and King Albert I of Belgium, Manuel II of Portugal, King Ferdinand of Bulgaria, Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, and Prince Ernst August, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg, were his cousins. Edward's volatile relationship with his nephew, Wilhelm II, exacerbated the tensions between Germany and Britain in the decade before World War I.
In the last year of his life, Edward became embroiled in a constitutional crisis when the Conservative majority in the House of Lords refused to pass the "People's Budget" proposed by the Liberal government of Prime Minister Herbert Henry Asquith. The King died before the Liberal victory in the 1910 general election resolved the situation, but he discreetly let Asquith know his willingness to appoint additional peers, if necessary, to enable the budget's passage in the House of Lords.
On May 6, 1910, Edward was bedridden with bronchitis. He enjoyed his last midday cigar, then suffered heart attacks and died at 11:45pm at Buckingham Palace. On his deathbed, he heard that his horse 'Witch of the Air' had won at Kempton Park.
As king, Edward VII proved a greater success than anyone had expected, but he was already an old man and had little time left to learn the role. He ensured that his second son and heir, who would become King George V, was better prepared to take the throne. Edward VII is buried at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle.
|HRH Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence and Avondale||8 January 1864||14 January 1892|
|HM King George V||3 June 1865||20 January 1936||married 1893, Princess Mary of Teck; had issue|
|HRH The Princess Louise, Princess Royal||20 February 1867||4 January 1931||married 1889, Alexander Duff, 1st Duke of Fife; had issue|
|HRH The Princess Victoria||6 July 1868||3 December 1935|
|HRH Princess Maud||26 November 1869||20 November 1938||married 1896, Haakon VII, King of Norway; had issue|
|HRH Prince Alexander John||6 April 1871||7 April 1871|
The lead ship of a new class of battleships, launched in 1903, was named in his honour.
King Edward VII seems to be a popular name for schools in England. One of the largest is King Edward VII Upper School, Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire as well as King Edward VII School, Sheffield England, founded 1905 formally Wesley College, Sheffield.
A statue of King Edward VII and supporters constructed from local granite stands at the junction of Union Gardens and Union Street, in the city centre of Aberdeen.
Edward's life was dramatised in the 1975 British television series Edward the Seventh, also known as Edward the King or The Royal Victorians, and starring Charles Sturridge as the adolescent Edward, Timothy West as the adult Edward and Annette Crosbie as Queen Victoria.
Titles from birth to death
Here are Edward's styles in chronological order:
- 1841: His Royal Highness The Duke of Cornwall and The Duke of Rothesay
- 1841–1901: His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales
- 1901–1910: His Majesty The King
- Bryant, M. (2001). Private Lives
- Walker, Richard (11998). Savile Row: An Illustrated History
|King of the United Kingdom
|Emperor of India
The Marquess of Ripon
|Grand Master of the
United Grand Lodge
The Duke of Connaught
|Great Master of the
Order of the Bath
|Monarchs of the United Kingdom|
|Kingdom of Great Britain*||Anne | George I† | George II† | George III†|
|United Kingdom||George III†/‡ | George IV‡ | William IV‡ | Victoria | Edward VII | George V** | Edward VIII** | George VI** | Elizabeth II**|
|* Also Monarchs of Ireland | ** Also Monarch of the Commonwealth Realms|† Also Elector of Hanover |‡ Also King of Hanover|