Today, May 6th, marks the 110th anniversary of King Edward VII's death. A truly fascinating man. I have discovered some amazing facts about this notorious playboy who definitely enjoyed life to the fullest.
Edward, or Bertie as he'd be called by The Royal Family, was born on the morning of 9th November 1841 at Buckingham Palace, the eldest son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Despite trying really hard to please his parents, the world of academia wasn't a natural fit for the young Prince of Wales in early life, instead showing a natural talent in charm and tact. Edward would later transfer from Christ Church, Oxford to Trinity College, Cambridge, greatly enjoying his lectures in history. He had already established a bit of a reputation for being a playboy by this point. Famously, he spent three nights with actress Nellie Clifden while gaining army experience in Ireland with the officers concealing her! An already-sick Prince Albert travelled to Cambridge to express his displeasure about this and unfortunately died two weeks later. It is said Queen Victoria blamed her husband's death entirely on Edward's actions. He married Alexandra of Denmark on 10th March 1863 at the age of 21 and they would entertain with lavish parties. It is conjectured that Edward had at least 55 extra-marital affairs and Alexandra just turned a blind eye to all of them.
Aside from this Edward did achieve some pretty cool, notable things: it was Edward who came up with the idea of Royal public appearances, he opened Tower Bridge in 1894. Apparently he was also a bit of a fashion icon, pioneering the idea of side-to-side trouser leg pressing and wearing black ties with dinner jackets rather than white tie and tails. He basically came up with the Sunday roast; introducing the idea of eating roast beef, potatoes, horseradish sauce and Yorkshire puddings on a Sunday. He also was a huge supporter of the arts and helped found the Royal College of Music. Victoria would have surely been a tough act to follow but Edward achieved all of this before he was even crowned King in 1902. I must say - the more I read about this man, the more endearing he becomes. To link back to why I'm writing this, my grandfather wrote a biography of King Edward VII: 'Edward the Rake' (available in hardback, paperback and Kindle). There are details in there that I haven't been able to find on the internet so if you're after some more sordid details, definitely give it a read! I highly recommend this to fans of the Royal Family and equally fans of Modern British History. Within the first few pages, the reader is treated to more details about Bertie's time at university as well as the "inaugurating of a long and strenuous career", aka his time with Miss Nellie Clifden. It is said that the chimneys of Buckingham Palace smoked for days following the death of Edward VII on this day 110 years ago, as compromising documents were destroyed. John was able to put the pieces together and write this book after studying many books upon the period.
Credits & Sources
Credit: Portrait of King Edward VII - King Edward VII
replica by Luke Fildes oil on canvas, 1902-1912, based on a work of 1902 108 1/2 in. x 71 in. (2756 mm x 1803 mm) Given by George V, 1912 Primary Collection NPG 1691
© National Portrait Gallery, London
'Edward the Rake'
First published © 1975 John Pearson by Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 11 St John's Hill, London SW11. ISBN: 0 297 76931 6