Childhood & Early Life
King Edward VII was born Albert Edward on November 9, 1841, in ‘Buckingham Palace,’ London, to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. He was popularly known by his nickname ‘Bertie.’
As the eldest son of the monarch, he automatically became the Duke of Cornwall and Duke of Rothesay. He succeeded his father as Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and Duke of Saxony. Other titles held by him include Prince of Wales, Earl of Chester, Earl of Dublin, Knight of the Garter, and Knight of the Thistle.
Young Edward did not excel in his studies. He spent much of his early life trying to meet his parents’ expectations without much success. Following a rigorous educational routine, he matriculated at ‘Christ Church,’ Oxford, in 1859.
In 1861, he transferred to ‘Trinity College,’ Cambridge where he enjoyed academic studies. He excelled in history which was taught by Charles Kingsley. Unlike his sister Victoria, who was academically proficient, Edward was not a diligent student. However, he was a charmer with friendly disposition.
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Accession & Reign
Edward wanted to pursue a career in military but his mother vetoed the idea. Nevertheless, he joined the army and within a short period moved up the ladder to serve as the lieutenant colonel.
In 1861, Edward, despite being engaged to Princess Alexandra of Denmark, was involved in a scandalous love affair with actress Nellie Clifden. Distraught by his playboy ways, his father passed away. Queen Victoria, who was inconsolable, blamed Edward for the death of his father.
Following the death of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria went into a perpetual state of mourning. She retreated herself from public life. Though Edward was allowed to represent her on state occasions, he wasn’t allowed to participate in the affairs of state.
With no political duties to carry, Edward became increasingly involved in wasteful activities. He became a leader of London society and spent much of his time eating, drinking, gambling, shooting, racing, and sailing.
In 1871, a brush with death improved his relations with the public as well as his mother Queen Victoria. From the mid-1870s, Edward embarked on a tour to India. The tour was highly successful and upon his return, Queen Victoria received the title ‘Empress of India.’
Following Queen Victoria’s death in 1901, Edward took over as the king of United Kingdom, emperor of India, and king of the British Dominions. He preferred to be called King Edward VII instead of King Albert Edward.
He was crowned in August 1902. The same year, he founded the ‘Order of Merit’ to reward people who made distinguished contribution towards art and science.
With his effervescent attitude and friendly disposition, King Edward VII gave a new sense of energy and enthusiasm to the monarchy, which had been missing since his father’s death in 1861. Upon his accession, the once-gloomy dominion reveled with a new verve and spirit.
During his reign, King Edward’s main attention was on foreign affairs, navy, and military matters. His fluency in French and German helped him in his foreign trips where he secured much success.
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He shuttled across Europe, meeting major heads of state and assisting in foreign policy negotiations. It was because of him that the ‘Triple Entente Cordiale’ between Britain, France, and Russia was signed in 1904. The entente marked an end to the Anglo-French rivalry and played a major role in ‘World War I.’
During his kingship, King Edward VII travelled widely. He was the first British reigning monarch to visit Russia and the first British monarch to visit Sweden.
Following the ‘Boer War,’ King Edward involved himself in the reformation of the military. Not only did he redesign the army command, but also enforced the creation of ‘Territorial Force.’ He also pressed for an army medical service and the building of the modern dreadnought battleships. A reformation of the ‘Royal Navy’ was also suggested.
During the latter phase of his life, King Edward was involved in a constitutional crisis. The ‘People’s Budget,’ presented by Liberal Prime Minister H.H. Asquith, was rejected by Conservative Lords. Eventually, class warfare broke out in the Parliament which was solved after Edward’s death. A ‘Parliament Act’ was passed which removed Lords’ power to veto bills and also reduced the term of the Parliament from seven to five years.
Awards & Achievements
Before and after his accession to the throne, Edward carried several titles, including His Royal Highness The Duke of Cornwall and Rothesay, His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, The Earl of Dublin, His Majesty The King, and His Imperial Majesty The King-Emperor.
He was bestowed with several British honors, including Knight of the Order of Garter, Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath, Knight Grand Commander of the Order of the Star of India, Knight of the Order of the Thistle, Knight of the Order of St Patrick, Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George, Grand Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire, Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order, and Great Master of the Order of the Bath.
He was made Fellow of the ‘Royal Society’ and Member of the ‘Privy Council of Ireland.’
During his life, King Edward VII received a number of foreign honors as well. He was knighted by several countries, including Spain, Portugal, France, Sweden, Prussia, Russia, Norway, Denmark, and Ethiopia.
Personal Life & Legacy
Edward first met Princess Alexandra of Denmark in Germany in 1861. Edward married Alexandra on March 10, 1863, at ‘St George’s Chapel,’ Windsor Castle. They had six children.
Edward was a casanova. Despite being married to Princess Alexandra, he had a long list of mistresses which gained him the reputation of a playboy. Strangely, Princess Alexandra was aware of many of his affairs and accepted them. He is said to have been a regular visitor to Parisian brothels.
King Edward VII was a chain smoker. He smoked about 20 cigarettes and 12 cigars per day. This persistent habit led to rodent cancer which was eventually treated in 1907. However, due to his bad habit, he suffered from bronchitis.
In 1909, he momentarily lost consciousness during a state visit in Berlin. The following year, he collapsed in Biarritz. On April 27, 1910, he returned to ‘Buckingham Palace’ from Biarritz after a period of convalesce.
On May 6, 1910, King Edward VII suffered from multiple strokes which eventually took his life later that night. He worked till the very end of his life, refusing to give up his work to ill health. His mortal remains were buried at ‘St George’s Chapel,’ Windsor Castle.