Edward VII (Albert Edward; 9 November 1841 – 6 May 1910) was King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions and Emperor of India from 22 January 1901 until his death.
The eldest son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Edward was related to royalty throughout Europe. Before his accession to the throne, he served as heir apparent and held the title of Prince of Wales for longer than any of his predecessors. During the long reign of his mother, he was largely excluded from political power, and came to personify the fashionable, leisured elite. He travelled throughout Britain performing ceremonial public duties, and represented Britain on visits abroad. His tours of North America in 1860 and the Indian subcontinent in 1875 were popular successes, but despite public approval his reputation as a playboy prince soured his relationship with his mother.
As king, Edward played a role in the modernisation of the British Home Fleet and the reorganisation of the British Army after the Second Boer War. He re-instituted traditional ceremonies as public displays and broadened the range of people with whom royalty socialised. He fostered good relations between Britain and other European countries, especially France, for which he was popularly called "Peacemaker", but his relationship with his nephew, Kaiser Wilhelm II, was poor. The Edwardian era, which covered Edward´s reign and was named after him, coincided with the start of a new century and heralded significant changes in technology and society, including steam turbine propulsion and the rise of socialism. He died in 1910 in the midst of a constitutional crisis that was resolved the following year by the Parliament Act 1911, which restricted the power of the unelected House of Lords.
Edward was born at 10:48 in the morning on 9 November 1841 in Buckingham Palace. He was the eldest son and second child of Queen Victoria and her husband (and first cousin) Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. He was christened Albert Edward at St George´s Chapel, Windsor Castle, on 25 January 1842.[a] He was named Albert after his father and Edward after his maternal grandfather Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn. He was known as Bertie to the royal family throughout his life.
As the eldest son of the British sovereign, he was automatically Duke of Cornwall and Duke of Rothesay at birth. As a son of Prince Albert, he also held the titles of Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and Duke of Saxony. He was created Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester on 8 December 1841, Earl of Dublin on 17 January 1850, 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 and Gotha in favour of his younger brother, Prince Alfred.
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were determined that their eldest son should have an education that would prepare him to be a model constitutional monarch. At age seven, Edward embarked on a rigorous educational programme devised by Prince Albert, and supervised by several tutors. Unlike his elder sister Victoria, Edward did not excel in his studies. He tried to meet the expectations of his parents, but to no avail. Although Edward was not a diligent student—his true talents were those of charm, sociability and tact—Benjamin Disraeli described him as informed, intelligent and of sweet manner. After the completion of his secondary-level studies, his tutor was replaced by a personal governor, Robert Bruce.
After an educational trip to Rome, undertaken in the first few months of 1859, he spent the summer of that year studying at the University of Edinburgh under, amongst others, the chemist Lyon Playfair. In October, he matriculated as an undergraduate at Christ Church, Oxford. Now released from the educational strictures imposed by his parents, he enjoyed studying for the first time and performed satisfactorily in examinations. In 1861, he transferred to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was tutored in history by Charles Kingsley, Regius Professor of Modern History. Kingsley´s efforts brought forth the best academic performances of Edward´s life, and Edward actually looked forward to his lectures.
Once widowed, Queen Victoria effectively withdrew from public life. Shortly after Prince Albert´s death, she arranged for Edward to embark on an extensive tour of the Middle East, visiting Egypt, Jerusalem, Damascus, Beirut and Constantinople. The British Government wanted Edward to secure the friendship of Egypt´s ruler, Said Pasha, to prevent French control of the Suez Canal if the Ottoman Empire collapsed. It was the first royal tour on which an official photographer, Francis Bedford, was in attendance. As soon as Edward returned to Britain, preparations were made for his engagement, which was sealed at Laeken in Belgium on 9 September 1862. Edward married Alexandra at St George´s Chapel, Windsor Castle, on 10 March 1863. He was 21; she was 18.
Edward and Alexandra on their wedding day, 1863
The couple established Marlborough House as their London residence and Sandringham House in Norfolk as their country retreat. They entertained on a lavish scale. Their marriage met with disapproval in certain circles because most of Queen Victoria´s relations were German, and Denmark was at loggerheads with Germany over the territories of Schleswig and Holstein. When Alexandra´s father inherited the throne of Denmark in November 1863, the German Confederation took the opportunity to invade and annex Schleswig-Holstein. Queen Victoria was of two minds whether it was a suitable match given the political climate. After the marriage, she expressed anxiety about their socialite lifestyle and attempted to dictate to them on various matters, including the names of their children.
Edward had mistresses throughout his married life. He socialised with actress Lillie Langtry; Lady Randolph Churchill (born Jennie Jerome, she was the mother of Winston Churchill);[b]Daisy Greville, Countess of Warwick; actress Sarah Bernhardt; noblewoman Lady Susan Vane-Tempest; singer Hortense Schneider; prostitute Giulia Beneni (known as "La Barucci"); wealthy humanitarian Agnes Keyser; and Alice Keppel. At least fifty-five liaisons are conjectured. How far these relationships went is not always clear. Edward always strove to be discreet, but this did not prevent society gossip or press speculation. One of Alice Keppel´s great-granddaughters, Camilla Parker Bowles, became the mistress and subsequently wife of Charles, Prince of Wales, one of Edward´s great-great-grandsons. It was rumoured that Camilla´s grandmother, Sonia Keppel (born in May 1900), was the illegitimate daughter of Edward, but she was "almost certainly" the daughter of George Keppel, whom she resembled. Edward never acknowledged any illegitimate children. Alexandra is believed to have been aware of many of his affairs and to have accepted them.
In 1869, Sir Charles Mordaunt, a British Member of Parliament, threatened to name Edward as co-respondent in his divorce suit. Ultimately, he did not do so but Edward was called as a witness in the case in early 1870. It was shown that Edward had visited the Mordaunts´ house while Sir Charles was away sitting in the House of Commons. Although nothing further was proven and Edward denied he had committed adultery, the suggestion of impropriety was damaging.
In the 1880s, Edward was a regular habitué of Parisian brothels, most notably Le Chabanais, which was regarded as the top establishment in Paris where brothels were legal. One room contained a custom made bath which was sometimes filled with champagne; and a specially designed and crafted siège d´amour (love seat) that allowed easy access for oral and other forms of sex for two or three people. It is now a museum piece.
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, and took annual holidays in Biarritz and Marienbad. One of his most important foreign trips was an official visit to France in May 1903 as the guest of President Émile Loubet. Following a visit to the Pope in Rome, this trip helped create the atmosphere for the Anglo-French Entente Cordiale, an agreement delineating British and French colonies in North Africa, and ruling out any future war between the two countries. The Entente was negotiated between the French foreign minister, Théophile Delcassé, and the British foreign secretary, Lord Lansdowne. Signed in London on 8 April 1904 by Lansdowne and the French ambassador Paul Cambon, it marked the end of centuries of Anglo-French rivalry and Britain´s splendid isolation from Continental affairs, and attempted to counterbalance the growing dominance of the German Empire and its ally, Austria-Hungary.
Edward was related to nearly every other European monarch and came to be known as the "uncle of Europe".Kaiser Wilhelm II was his nephew; Tsar Nicholas II was his nephew-by-marriage; Queen Victoria Eugenia of Spain, Crown Princess Margaret of Sweden, Crown Princess Marie of Romania, Crown Princess Sophia of Greece, and Empress Alexandra of Russia were his nieces; Haakon VII of Norway was both his nephew by marriage and his son-in-law; Frederick VIII of Denmark and George I of Greece were his brothers-in-law; Albert I of Belgium, Ferdinand of Bulgaria, and Charles I and Manuel II of Portugal were his second cousins. Edward doted on his grandchildren, and indulged them, to the consternation of their governesses. However, there was one relation whom Edward did not like: Wilhelm II. Edward´s difficult relationship with his nephew exacerbated the tensions between Germany and Britain.
In April 1908, during Edward´s annual stay at Biarritz, he accepted the resignation of British Prime Minister Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman. In a break with precedent, Edward asked Campbell-Bannerman´s successor, H. H. Asquith, to travel to Biarritz to kiss hands. Asquith complied, but the press criticised the action of the King in appointing a prime minister on foreign soil instead of returning to Britain. In June 1908, Edward became the first reigning British monarch to visit the Russian Empire, despite refusing to visit in 1906, when Anglo-Russian relations were strained in the aftermath of the Russo-Japanese War, the Dogger Bank incident, and the Tsar´s dissolution of the Duma. The previous month, Edward visited the Scandinavian countries, becoming the first British monarch to visit Sweden.
Edward habitually smoked twenty cigarettes and twelve cigars a day. In 1907, a rodent ulcer, a type of cancer affecting the skin next to his nose, was cured with radium. Towards the end of his life he increasingly suffered from bronchitis. He suffered a momentary loss of consciousness during a state visit to Berlin in February 1909. In March 1910, he was staying at Biarritz when he collapsed. He remained there to convalesce, while in London Asquith tried to get the Finance Bill passed. The King´s continued ill health was unreported and he attracted criticism for staying in France while political tensions were so high. On 27 April he returned to Buckingham Palace, still suffering from severe bronchitis. Alexandra returned from visiting her brother, King George I of Greece, in Corfu a week later on 5 May.
The following day, the King suffered several heart attacks, but refused to go to bed, saying, "No, I shall not give in; I shall go on; I shall work to the end." Between moments of faintness, his son the Prince of Wales (shortly to be King George V) told him that his horse, Witch of the Air, had won at Kempton Park that afternoon. The King replied, "Yes, I have heard of it. I am very glad": his final words. At 11:30 p.m. he lost consciousness for the last time and was put to bed. He died 15 minutes later.
Alexandra refused to allow the King´s body to be moved for eight days afterwards, though she allowed small groups of visitors to enter his room. On 11 May, the late King was dressed in his uniform and placed in a massive oak coffin, which was moved on 14 May to the throne room, where it was sealed and lay in state, with four guardsmen standing at each corner of the bier. Despite the time that had elapsed since his death, Alexandra noted the King´s body remained "wonderfully preserved". On the morning of 17 May, the coffin was placed on a gun carriage and drawn by black horses to Westminster Hall, with the new King and his family walking behind. Following a brief service, the royal family left, and the hall was opened to the public; over 400,000 people filed past the coffin over the next two days.
As Barbara Tuchman noted in The Guns of August, his funeral, held on 20 May 1910, marked "the greatest assemblage of royalty and rank ever gathered in one place and, of its kind, the last." A royal train conveyed the King´s coffin from London to Windsor Castle, where Edward VII was buried at St George´s Chapel.
Victoria (Alexandrina Victoria; 24 May 1819 – 22 January 1901) was Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 20 June 1837 until her death. From 1 May 1876, she used the additional title of Empress of India.
Victoria was the daughter of Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn, the fourth son of King George III. Both the Duke of Kent and King George III died in 1820, and Victoria was raised under close supervision by her German-born mother Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld. She inherited the throne at age 18, after her father´s three elder brothers had all died, leaving no surviving legitimate children. The United Kingdom was already an established constitutional monarchy, in which the sovereign held relatively little direct political power. Privately, Victoria attempted to influence government policy and ministerial appointments; publicly, she became a national icon who was identified with strict standards of personal morality.
Victoria married her first cousin, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, in 1840. Their nine children married into royal and noble families across the continent, tying them together and earning her the sobriquet "the grandmother of Europe". After Albert´s death in 1861, Victoria plunged into deep mourning and avoided public appearances. As a result of her seclusion, republicanism temporarily gained strength, but in the latter half of her reign, her popularity recovered. Her Golden and Diamond Jubilees were times of public celebration.
Her reign of 63 years and seven months, which is longer than that of any other British monarch and the longest of any female monarch in history, is known as the Victorian era. It was a period of industrial, cultural, political, scientific, and military change within the United Kingdom, and was marked by a great expansion of the British Empire. She was the last British monarch of the House of Hanover. Her son and successor, Edward VII, belonged to the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, the line of his father.