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Sunday, 14 December 2014

Edward VII of the United Kingdom

Edward VII (1841 – 1910) was the eldest son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. He was born at 10:48 in the morning on November 9, 1841 in Buckingham Palace

He was known as Bertie to the family throughout his life


Queen Victoria dumped the newly born Bertie in the arms of a wet nurse and did not look at him again for six weeks.

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 the age of seven, Bertie embarked upon a rigorous educational program devised by the Prince Consort, and under the supervision of several tutors.

Portrait of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, by Winterhalter, 1846

The Prince of Wales did not excel in his studies.  He was not a diligent student and his true talents were those of charm, sociability, and tact.

In October 1859, Bertie matriculated as an undergraduate at Christ Church, Oxford. In 1861, he transferred to Trinity College, Cambridge, but he never received a degree.

Bertie's father Prince Albert died in 1861. When Lord Beaconsfield commented to Queen Victoria what a comfort her son must be to her , the un-amused Queen replied "Why, I caught him smoking a fortnight after his dear Father died."


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. Edward 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.

After his father's death, Prince Edward undertook many public duties, which Queen Victoria had abandoned. The queen went into virtual retirement after the death of the Prince Consort.

Prince Edward VII was first heir to the throne to be involved in a court case since 1411. In 1891, he appeared in court for illegally gambling in a card game. He was forced to testify again when one player was unsuccessfully sued for accusing another of cheating.


Husky voiced with a large Coburg nose and stomach, Edward was nicknamed "Tum, tum" by his friends.

Edward had a small receding chin, which he tried unsuccessfully to hide with his beard.

Coronation portrait by Sir Luke Fildes

Prince Albert on the teenage Bertie: "Unfortunately he takes no interest on anything but clothes and again clothes. Even when out shooting he is more occupied with his trousers than with his game."

A stickler in matters of dress, when cruising Edward changed five times a day.

In 1886 Edward appeared at a dinner party in New York in a short black coat rather than a tailcoat. One of the other guests took the fashion back to Tuxedo where the trendy men about town started chopping of their tailcoats, which became known as tuxedos.

In 1862 the future Edward VII  received his first tattoo, a Jerusalem cross inked on his chest, while he visited the holy city.

Edward introduced the homburg hat to Britain, an idea borrowed from his German relatives and popularized the bowler hat to wear in town.

A lover of practical jokes, Edward liked putting animals in peoples beds and emptying brandy on people's heads.


Edward married the beautiful Alexandra on March 10, 1863 at St Georges Chapel, Windsor.

An 1863 exhibition of their wedding presents at the Victoria and Albert Museum attracted an average of 13,500 visitors a day during its 17-day run.

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.

Queen 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.

The daughter of Christian IX of Denmark, the elegant, non intellectual Alexandra was the epitome of glamour and style adorned in a dazzling array of precious gems.

Alexandra launched the high dog collar of pearls held in place by diamond bars and also the curled fringe. Also the introduction of the first practical daycoat suited to the English weather. Alexandra wore a full length pelisse double breasted and buttoned to the hem with alternating large plain sleeves.

Princess Alexandra of Denmark and the Prince of Wales, 1863

Alexandra bore Edward six children, three sons Albert Duke of Clarence,  a weak minded fool who died in 1892 before he could become King of England, George who succeeded his father on the throne and the third son died in infancy.  His three daughters were the Duchess of Fife, Princess Victoria and Princess Maud, later the Queen of Norway.

Slim and rheumatic, Alexandra became increasingly deaf as the years went by.

Edward treated his marriage with indifference, keeping mistresses throughout his married life, including the beautiful, witty actress Lilly Langtry. and Jennie Jerome, the mother of Winston Churchill.

His last "official" mistress was society matron Alice Keppel, who he first met in 1898. She was even present at Edward's deathbed in 1910 at his express written instruction.

Alice Keppel was the Great Grandmother of Camilla Parker Bowles, the mistress and wife of a future Prince of Wales and one of Edward's great-great grandsons.

Alexandra tolerated Edward's mistresses even sending a note to Alice expressing her regrets about Alice's husband's illness. At his coronation a pew was reserved for the ladies he had been associated with.


Breakfast was typically eggs then large thick slices of bacon, then fish (turbot, lobster or salmon)  then steak or chops with a little game or poultry. He then had a ten-course lunch at 1.00 sharp. Dinner could be up to 12 courses.

"Tum Tum" especially enjoyed grilled oysters and peasant stuffed with snipe all washed down with champagne.

When a footman accidentally spilt a jug of cream over him, Edward retorted, "my good man,  I'm not a strawberry."

Edward used to faithfully record the height and weight of his guests after weekends at Sandringham to ensure they had eaten well.

Edward loved small whitebait. One man had the job of picking out the tiniest fish of uniform size for the prince.

The Coronation of King Edward VII in 1902 coincided with the introduction of the King Edward potato. Its name is believed to originate as a 'commemoration' of this occasion.

He was well known for his splendid cigars. Edward  smoked 12 large cigars and 20 cigarettes a day.


The first news-film shot in Britain was shot June 27, 1896 and showed the arrival of Edward and his wife at the Cardiff exhibition. Permission was granted to shoot the Royal party on the proviso that he himself was not seen.

Edward had the gift of being able to make a good speech off the cuff in any of three languages.

Once as a joke Edward went on stage to play the role of a corpse in a scene from Sardou's Fedora where Sarah Bernhardt was weeping over the body of her murdered lover.

Edward hardly read anything apart from newspapers. It is said he never finished a book in his life.


Edward's popularity was increased both as Prince of Wales and as king by his interest in sports, notably yachting and racing; his horses won the Derby in 1896, 1900, and 1909, and the Grand National at Liverpool in 1900.

King Edward VII’s 1909 victorious horse Minoru was the only Derby winner owned by a reigning monarch.

Edward was a keen yachtsman. He was on board Sir Thomas Lipton's yacht Shamrock when a sudden squall wrecked the boat during a practice run for the America's Cup in May 1901.

Edward kept all the clocks at his royal residence at Sandringham half an hour fast so that his guests would rise early for the best shooting.

Alexandra had a pet goat. It had originally been destined to be slaughtered for dinner on a cruise but it slipped it’s tether and put it’s head on her lap so she adopted it.

Edward's favorite dog was Caesar, a wire Norfolk fox terrier. He wasn't the favorite of visiting ambassadors mainly because he used to mistake their legs for lampposts.

When Edward died in 1910, a depressed Caesar roamed Buckingham Palace looking for his master.
The faithful Caesar led his late master's funeral coterage and there is a figure of him at his master's tomb at Windsor Castle.


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 ceremonial. His presence ensured publicity, and reports of Masonic meetings at all levels appeared regularly in the national and local press.

Edward VII was superstitious of the number 13 and did everything he could to avoid that number.


Edward VII was proclaimed King after the death of his mother, Queen Victoria on January 22, 1901. As his mother lay dying a member of the Royal Household wondered if she would be happy in Heaven. "I don't know" said the prince, "she will have to walk behind the angels and she won't like that."

The coronation had originally been scheduled for June 26, 1902, but he was troubled by stomach ache in the run up. Two days before the coronation, Edward was diagnosed with appendicitis, by which time all the foreign kings and princes had arrived. He was operated on at home by Sir Frederick Treves, the surgeon who looked after Elephant Man Joseph Merrick, and the coronation had to wait until August 9, 1902.

The Anointing of Queen Alexandra

At his coronation things didn't go to plan. The Archbishop of Canterbury was aged and infirm. Onlookers feared that the primate might drop the crown for it shook in his hands as he held it over the King's head but he got it on-somehow but back to front. However no one noticed this blunder and the coronation carried on with the king wearing his crown lopsided.

The Transvaal government gave Edward a 3,106 carat diamond for his 66th birthday. It was cut up and part of it adorns the imperial state crown.

A gambler, at Bellevue Casino, Biarritz, Edward appointed Asquith as prime minister between games of baccarat.

Edward was effective diplomatically. He strove to avoid armed conflict, he played an influential part in bringing Great Britain, France and Russia together in 1907 into the Triple Entente. His attempts to establish peace in Europe earned him the nickname "The Peacemaker."

Edward depicted in naval uniform by Vanity Fair magazine, 1902

Actively concerned about the likelihood of war, Edward considered abdicating in 1910 before he fell ill and died.


Whilst a student at Cambridge University, Edward lodged at the Elizabethan Madingley Hall.

Edward and Alexandra established Marlborough House in Pall Mall as their London residence and Sandringham House in Norfolk as their country retreat. They entertained on a lavish scale.

His weekend home at Sandringham was brought for Edward in 1862. The prince greatly improved and enlarged it.

Edward added the balcony at the front of Buckingham Palace.

His plumber by appointment was Thomas Crapper, the inventor of the modern WC.

The making of Hubert Booth’s vacuum cleaner was the 1902 coronation of Edward VII at which his invention has cleaned the blue carpets of Westminster Abbey. The king and queen  were sufficiently impressed to order two cleaners - one for Windsor Castle, the other for Buckingham Palace.


In 1860 Edward visited Canada, inaugurating the custom of goodwill visits by members of the British royal family, particularly the Prince of Wales, to British dominions and foreign countries.

In the two months between March and May Edward would cruise on the Victoria and Albert in the sun with his wife, stopping off at Paris or somewhere for a week before returning for the London season.

In August 1899 Lord Montagu was invited to lunch at Highcliffe Castle where the Prince of Wales was a guest. That afternoon he took the Prince for a drive on local roads in his Daimler, maybe the first motor car journey undertaken by royalty.

In early 1900, Daimler sold the Prince of Wales his first motorized vehicle. The first Royal car was a 6 horsepower Daimler car manufactured 1899-1900 fitted with a "mail phaeton" style body. The first Royal chauffeur was a Mr S Letzer, "The Prince of Wales's Mechanician."

The first royal car. By ell brown -Wikipedia Commons

His visit to Paris in 1903 helped bring about the 1904 Anglo-French Entente.

Edward was the first monarch to tour America and to visit Russia.


Edward died at Buckingham Palace on May 6, 1910 after suffering several heart attacks. He had gone down with severe bronchitis over the weekend.

Edward VII was buried at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, on  May 20, 1910.

On the night before Edward's funeral near panic gripped Londoners as the Earth passed through the tail of Halley's Comet.

Sources Book of ListsA History of FashionTable Talk by Derek Nimmo,, Food For Thought by Ed Pearce, Encarta® 99 Encyclopedia

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