Edward VII (1841–1910), king of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and the British dominions beyond the seas, and emperor of India, was born at Buckingham Palace, London, on 9 November 1841, the first son and second child of the nine children of Queen Victoria (1819–1901) and Prince Albert (1819–1861). He was named Albert Edward (against the advice of the prime minister, Lord Melbourne, who preferred Edward Albert), and he was commonly known by both names, except in the family, where he was called Bertie. Insistence on the primacy of the name Albert reflected the burden of the queen's expectations which the prince was to carry until 1901, when, on ascending the throne, he declared himself Edward. He was the first heir born to a reigning sovereign since 1762, and the last to be born with privy councillors present to attest his identity (subsequently only the home secretary attended). He was made prince of Wales aged one month and, against the advice of Palmerston, was also styled duke of Saxony in addition to the other usual royal titles (he habitually later travelled abroad semi-incognito as earl of Renfrew or earl of Chester, or, when king, duke of Lancaster). A strong German presence at his christening on 25 January 1842 confirmed the view of the whigs, who saw the court coming under German sway, and attested to the remarkable range of European royal relatives which was to be so important an aspect of the prince's life. Albert Edward was brought up to be trilingual—in English, German, and French, with a governess for each language—but his best languages in the nursery were German and English; he found German initially the easier of the two. The Baron von Bunsen noted that the royal children ‘all spoke German like their native tongue, even to one another’ (Lee, 2.17). The prince's early days were supervised by Mrs Southey, his nurse, who was soon dismissed, and then by Sarah, Lady Lyttelton, who acted as governess and substitute mother (the queen being frequently pregnant and both Victoria and Albert preferring the Princess Victoria, the prince's elder sister). The prince was slow to learn, fell behind his younger siblings, and soon developed a stammer and a temper. Lady Lyttelton was a relative of William and Catherine Gladstone, whose similarly aged son, William Henry Gladstone, became the prince's playmate. The prince was taught elocution by the actor George Barley, but always had a slight German accent.
In January 1847 the prince's parents set out a detailed plan of education for their children, by which Lady Lyttelton retained a prominent role in Albert Edward's development. Victoria and Albert's intention was to ensure that the future king was as unlike his profligate Hanoverian uncles as possible, and that he was educated to the highest levels of contemporary knowledge: he was to be like Albert, able to talk to politicians and people of letters and science on their own terms. However, his educational development remained halting. On Prince Albert's instruction he was whipped (as were from time to time his sisters). When Albert Edward was six, Henry Birch, formerly a master at Eton, became his tutor and found his pupil difficult to teach. Albert arranged for an examination by George Combe, the phrenologist, who reported that the prince's cranium suggested that ‘strong self-will, at times obstinacy’ would be characteristic (Hibbert, 10). In 1852 Birch, whom the prince liked but who decided on a career in the church, was replaced by Frederick Waymouth Gibbs, a barrister who had been brought up with Leslie Stephen. Gibbs got no better results than Birch. It became apparent that the demanding programme of learning expected by the prince consort was counter-productive: the prince was not unintelligent, but he was not bookish or of intellectual interests. He was, in fact, quite like his mother in several respects, loath though she was to admit it. Indeed Baron Stockmar thought him ‘an exaggerated copy of his mother’ (ibid., 26). His fear of his overbearing father became marked. One consequence of his bad spelling and barely coherent sentence structure was that, even allowing for the destruction of papers by him and after his death, he left less by way of personal writing—letters, memoranda, diaries—than the volumes which characterized both his parents and several of his siblings. (His sketchy youthful diary was kept by parental demand, and though he maintained it until his death the entries are rarely revealing.) Within the family, the prince's position was a further source of insecurity. Victoria was undoubtedly the parents' favourite child, and, among the boys, Alfred, and later Arthur, were preferred; but when erstwhile favourites erred, Albert Edward could be brought forward. Despite Victoria's and Albert's practice of setting their children's faults and virtues off against each other (a trait which became more marked as the queen aged), Albert Edward formed close relationships with his sisters Victoria and Alice; he was profoundly saddened by the latter's early death in 1878.
In 1855 the Princess Victoria was engaged in marriage to the heir to the throne of Prussia, and in 1858 Prince Alfred was sent to sea. The prince of Wales was keen to escape from his educational routine, but his parents were unwilling to admit that their educational plan had failed. The young prince found refuge in alternatives to studying: travel, sport, and the theatre. In August 1855 he visited Paris, part of a state visit to Napoleon III, and fell under the city's spell. A continental tour in 1857 was less fun, for Albert insisted it be for ‘purposes of study’ (Hibbert, 23). At Köningswinter the prince kissed a pretty girl; Willy Gladstone, who was of the party, rather unfairly reported this to his father, then chancellor of the exchequer, who complained (to his wife) of ‘this squalid little debauch’, adding that the:
Prince of Wales has not been educated up to his position. This sort of unworthy little indulgence is the compensation. Kept in childhood beyond his time, he is allowed to make that childhood what it should never be in a Prince, or anyone else, namely wanton. (Magnus, 21) A further attempt by Gibbs and the Revd Charles Feral Tarver, his Latin tutor and chaplain, to encourage him in the educational routine devised by his parents took the form in 1858 of seclusion with three hand-picked companions at the White Lodge, Richmond Park. Further failure led to Gibbs's dismissal, with Robert Bruce, brother of Lord Elgin, replacing him, but as governor rather than as tutor. With the prince aged seventeen, Victoria and Albert in effect abandoned the attempt to force him into his father's cast of mind. Oxford, Canada, Cambridge, and the army The prince was keen to join the army and was disappointed when he was gazetted a lieutenant-colonel (he had hoped to enter by passing the examination). He was created KG in November 1858, in which year he visited Berlin, staying with his sister Victoria, now married to the Crown Prince Frederick of Prussia, the noted liberal, with whom the prince formed a good relationship. The prince's education was to be completed by study at Oxford and Cambridge; attendance at these English universities was preceded by cramming at Edinburgh in August 1859 with Lyon Playfair. At Oxford he was prevented—to his irritation—by Prince Albert from living in a college, though he was entered on the books of Christ Church as a nobleman on 17 October 1859, matriculating the same day. Prince Henry (later Henry V) was the only previous prince of Wales to matriculate at Oxford (supposedly in 1398). Albert Edward lived in Frewin Court, listened to lectures, and was tutored by Herbert Fisher of Christ Church. For the first time he enjoyed his studies, doing adequately in his examinations and forming long-term friendships with the Liddell family of Christ Church and others. With Henry Chaplin (already a prominent huntsman and later a tory cabinet minister) and Frederick Johnstone (already a well-known philanderer) he began to break loose from the intellectual and moral parameters which his parents had tried to impose on him. He became a lifelong and famous smoker and developed his enthusiasm for blood sports. The prince's assiduity at Oxford gained him some respect from his parents, though the queen at this time found her son physically repellent: ‘Bertie … is not at all in good looks; his nose and mouth are too enormous and he pastes his hair down to his head, and wears his clothes frightfully—he really is anything but good looking’ (Fulford, 1.245). Despite this lack of encouragement, growing confidence and maturity were seen during the prince's visit to Canada and the USA in July–November 1860, the first heir to the throne to visit either country. The idea for the visit was Prince Albert's. In Washington and New York, Albert Edward was especially successful in a context where royalty was not necessarily welcome. The tour defined the public role and character of the prince of Wales. He was genial and undidactic. He enjoyed himself and transmitted his good humour. His very absence of intellectual enquiry meant that awkward corners could be easily turned. The prince, moreover, had shown he could play a role different from that of his parents, that of the roving royal ambassador.
On his return, however, Albert Edward somewhat incongruously returned to his studies in Oxford, and then, on 19 January 1861, matriculated from Trinity College, Cambridge, where J. B. Lightfoot, the biblical scholar, was his chief tutor and he enjoyed lectures from Charles Kingsley. At his father's request—and he was the chancellor of the university—the prince lived at Madingley Hall, outside the town, though rooms in Trinity were surreptitiously put at his disposal. Where Oxford had liberated, Cambridge now rather shackled, despite fun at the amateur dramatic club and hunting. Determined to enter the army, the prince spent the summer of 1861 at army camp at the Curragh, near Dublin. Always keen on uniforms and parades, the prince found the discipline required from a participant excessive, his relative the duke of Cambridge, the commander-in-chief, reporting that he would never make a good professional soldier. At the Curragh he met Nellie Clifden, an actress, smuggled into his tent by his friends. She was indiscreet and the story was soon round London. Marriage, Sandringham, and official exclusion The Clifden episode occurred just as the prince was being prepared for marriage to Princess Alexandra of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg (1844–1925), daughter of the heir to the Danish throne; the union was largely engineered by his sister Victoria, the crown princess of Prussia, and was one about which Victoria and Albert were extremely cautious, given their pro-Prussian and consequently anti-Danish opinions about German unification. The queen was won over by the absence of suitable alternative spouses and by her view that her son must be settled as soon as possible (the prince consort's health already being in clear decline). The couple met in September 1861 at Speyer and Alexandra's beauty quickly captivated Albert Edward, who had insisted on meeting the princess before agreeing to marry her. However, an engagement had not been decided upon when, with the Clifden affair still simmering, the prince consort died on 14 December 1861, shortly after a visit to Cambridge to discuss both Nellie and Alexandra. The prince of Wales was chief mourner at his father's funeral, which, by custom, his mother did not attend. The queen blamed her son for Albert's final illness, telling her daughter: ‘much as I pity I never can or shall look at him without a shudder’ (letter of 27 Dec 1861; Fulford, 2.30). She wanted him out of the country, and in January 1862 sent him to Palestine and the Near East, from which, having visited Jerusalem, Cairo, and Constantinople, he returned in June 1862. On the death of General Bruce in that month, Sir William Knollys (1797–1883) became the prince's comptroller and treasurer, a post he held until 1877. He was assisted by his son, Sir Francis Knollys (1837–1924), who in due course succeeded his father as the prince's secretary. In September 1862 the prince again met Alexandra, and their engagement was announced on 16 September. They were married in St George's Chapel, Windsor, on 10 March 1863, the scene being recorded in W. P. Frith's painting The Marriage of the Prince of Wales, 1863 (Royal Collection). The short honeymoon was at Osborne House on the Isle of Wight.
The prince consort's death, the queen's consequent seclusion, and the prince of Wales's marriage marked an important stage in the latter's emergence as the public face of British royalty. On 5 February 1863 he took his seat in the House of Lords, where he occasionally attended and from time to time spoke. He received a civil-list annuity of £10,000, which with the revenues of the duchy of Cornwall gave him an annual income of about £100,000. He set up at Marlborough House in Pall Mall, his London home until he ascended the throne, and he bought Sandringham House in Norfolk from Charles Cowper, Palmerston's stepson. The Waleses first stayed there in March 1864. It soon became a country house as lively as the queen's residences were gloomy. An ample supply of wildfowl, especially pheasants, permitted good sporting house parties, and the prince in the 1860s established himself as a focal point of society. The queen, however, was strongly hostile to the prince's taking on public duties in Britain. She tried to maintain the code of behaviour which Albert had prescribed, which was one in which Albert was the chief male prince. The queen, as Sidney Lee put it, kept her son ‘in permanent in statu pupillari. She claimed to regulate his actions in almost all relations of life’ (DNB). Maintaining a sort of fiction that Albert was alive and active, she forbade the prince's presence on royal commissions and public bodies, and, despite her own almost total seclusion, he was not allowed to represent her at public occasions. The prince's Danish connections and his clear hostility to Prussia's conduct in 1864—‘the conduct of the Prussians and the Austrians is really quite scandalous’, he told Lord Spencer (Hibbert, 76)—placed him in political disagreement with his mother, whom he had further alarmed by travelling specially to London to meet the republican Garibaldi in April 1864. In marked contrast to the privileges accorded to Prince Leopold, who acted as his mother's confidential secretary and was given the keys to the dispatch boxes, the queen did not permit the prince of Wales to see cabinet papers or the foreign and colonial correspondence which came to the monarch and which she scrutinized with a very critical eye. He was given a précis of some of the documents. The queen told him such papers could be seen only by ‘those immediately connected’ with her (Magnus, 81). This exclusion was a private mark of his mother's lasting distrust of her son, one against which he unsuccessfully complained, with occasional help from politicians, particularly Gladstone, for a quarter of a century. Disraeli, especially, regarded Wales as indiscreet, a view that weighed strongly with the queen in the 1870s. Gladstone secretly sent him various documents. In 1886 the prince's friend Lord Rosebery, then foreign secretary, began sending him Foreign Office papers, and from 1892 he was allowed to see reports of cabinet meetings (but not the prime minister's letter to the queen which reported cabinet meetings).
The prince of Wales was thus given no positive royal role by his mother in the 1860s. He developed, not surprisingly, a routine which related little to her interests and was little connected to her physical movements. The queen lived at Windsor and Osborne, with a spell at Balmoral in the autumn. The prince lived in London or at Sandringham, coinciding with his mother during Cowes week in August and Deeside in October. In the spring he visited the Riviera. His routine was thus as close to the seasons of society as his mother's was distant. His absence of royal duties left him as a social icon, a role which, especially in the bohemian world of art, opera, and the theatre, he carried off with some panache, playing an important role in the planning of the Royal Albert Hall and of the Royal College of Music, and supporting the Royal Literary Fund. He moreover took on a number of public duties, including presidency of the Society of Arts (1863) and of the 1851 commissioners (1870), and chairman of the governors of Wellington College (1864).
In the course of seven years Princess Alexandra, despite bouts of rheumatic fever, bore six children. The Waleses' first child, Albert Victor Christian Edward, duke of Clarence and Avondale (1864–1892), was born on 8 January 1864. He was followed on 3 June 1865 by George Frederick Ernest Albert (later George V), in 1867 by Louise Victoria Alexandra Dagmar (later princess royal and duchess of Fife), in 1868 by Victoria Alexandra Olga Mary, who did not marry, and in 1869 by Maud Charlotte Mary Victoria (later queen of Norway as wife of Haakon VII); the last, a boy, Alexander John, was born prematurely on 6 April 1871 and died after two days. The queen insisted on Albert Victor's being thus called, and declared that all the prince's descendants should bear the name of either Albert or Victoria. Princess Alexandra's chief delight was the rearing of her children. She was not anti-social, and always cut a splendid figure in public, but deafness and disinclination discouraged frequent attendance at public events. Alexandra enjoyed domesticity and doted on her children. The prince combined an amiable home life—despite their very different lifestyles he and Alexandra accommodated each other—with an increasingly vigorous social round. Impatient and easily bored, he moved restlessly from gambling to music-halls and elsewhere by night, from race meetings to yachting and blood sports by day. Money was soon short. Gladstone, as chancellor of the exchequer, declined to help (partly because a proposal for extra expenditure of public money would entitle the Commons to debate the prince's behaviour, partly because he thought the queen should pay the private debts of her family). The prince grew stout and was known in his circle (though not to his face) as Tum Tum. Royal unpopularity and its resolution Concern grew among politicians at the conduct of the prince and absence of a role for him. Disraeli encouraged a successful Irish visit in 1868. When Gladstone succeeded Disraeli as prime minister in December 1868, a plan for the prince, in Ireland and elsewhere, was one of his first concerns. However, in April 1869 Gladstone learned that Sir Charles Mordaunt, bt (1836–1897), threatened to cite the prince as a co-respondent in the case for the divorce of his wife, Harriet Sarah. When the petition was filed in January 1870 Mordaunt did not cite the prince as co-respondent, but he was subpoenaed to appear as a witness, which he did on 13 February 1870. In a seven-minute hearing, he denied he had committed adultery and was not cross-examined. The hearing coincided with general criticism of the very different deportments of both the queen and the prince. The latter was several times booed in public, once on 13 June as he drove from the racecourse at the Ascot summer meeting. For the first time since the Chartists, republicanism was seriously and quite generally discussed. In December 1870 Gladstone brought forward a striking plan: the prince should become viceroy of Ireland, with a royal residence, and act almost as a constitutional monarch there in a reconstituted government structure. A long argument, over two years, ensued between prime minister and queen, with no positive result. The immediate problem of the prince's unpopularity was cured by an accident: in October 1871 he caught typhoid (the disease from which it was popularly thought his father had died) from the drains at Londesborough Lodge. A fellow guest, Lord Chesterfield, died on 1 December and the prince's condition was critical. The family assembled at Sandringham. Alfred Austin, the future poet laureate, wrote: Flash'd from his bed, the electric tidings came, He is not better; he is much the same.The queen was informed that his death was imminent. However, the prince rallied on 11 December, and recovered. Gladstone capitalized on the situation, arranging a thanksgiving service in St Paul's Cathedral on 27 February 1872, which he persuaded the queen to attend. The royal party was cheered through the streets of London, and the bubble of republican feeling burst.
The prince's life continued in what Philip Magnus called ‘its former rut’ (Magnus, 125). Increasingly, however, he played the occasional role of representative of the head of state, as when he received the shah of Persia at Buckingham Palace in 1873 and accompanied him on his British tour. In 1874 he received the tsarevich at a great state banquet on 15 May in Marlborough House, the occasion being designed by Sir Frederick Leighton, with the prince dressed as Charles I, an unfortunate analogy but one which emphasized the passing of republicanism. He carried off such occasions with great aplomb, as he did the four speeches he made when visiting Birmingham on 3 November 1874. He charmed the mayor, Joseph Chamberlain, who had in 1870 moved on the fringe of the republican movement, and who from 1877 frequently visited Marlborough House. After an early catastrophe when he found it difficult to read his speech, the prince always spoke fluently from brief notes, and became known for this ability.
Keen to develop this quasi-regnal role, the prince in 1874 planned an Indian visit, personally co-ordinating the complex process by which royal and cabinet permission was obtained. The visit was financed by the government of India and a supplementary vote from the Commons of £112,500. The prince and his all-male party of eighteen left on 11 October 1875 (the princess of Wales disappointed at being excluded). They landed at Bombay on 8 November, the day before the prince's thirty-fourth birthday, travelled south to Goa and Ceylon, and then to Calcutta, arriving on 23 December, where a large durbar was held on 1 January 1876. They then went to Benares, Lucknow, Cawnpore, and Delhi. Over a month was spent hunting in the shadow of the Himalayas. The prince set a blistering pace and his appetite for hunting exhausted many of his party. On his first day tiger hunting he shot six tigers. The tour, reported for The Times by W. H. Russell, was in general very successful. The prince's easy manner with persons of all levels of society made a strong impression and went some way to assuage the racial tension prevalent in India. The prince, always hostile to any racial or religious prejudice, was strongly critical of the ‘rude and rough’ manner (Lee, 1.399) by which British political officers dealt with Indians. New instructions were issued by Lord Salisbury, the secretary of state, and at least one resident was recalled. While the prince was in India, the queen persuaded Disraeli to introduce the Royal Titles Act making the British monarch emperor or empress of India. Her failure to inform her son—he read of the announcement in the newspapers—infuriated him, perhaps more than any of the many slights he felt he had endured from the queen. Also while in India news came of a further divorce case, which involved a bundle of the prince's letters and his friends lords Aylesford and Blandford. The royal party set out for Britain from Bombay on 13 March 1876. From Malta, the prince challenged Lord Randolph Churchill to a duel in France, the latter having strenuously defended his brother, Blandford, against a condemnation by the prince. Diplomacy by various members of the cabinet prevented the duel, but the quarrel with Churchill continued until 1883, when the prince formed a close friendship with Lady Randolph.
The visit to India was Albert Edward's chief political initiative until he ascended the throne. On his return he was welcomed by the award of honorary degrees and freedoms of various cities. The final year of the annual London satire The Coming k—, so critical in its first year (1870), ended its series with the prince ascending the throne to acclaim on his mother's abdication. Politically, the prince was of moderate Liberal inclination. Unlike his mother, he much preferred Gladstone to Disraeli, and sympathized with the former's difficulties with the queen (in 1898 he and his son, later George V, were to act as Gladstone's pallbearers in the face of strong condemnation from Queen Victoria). But the prince strongly supported Disraeli's Near Eastern policy in the late 1870s, and he urged the invasion of Egypt in 1882; he very much hoped to serve in the Egyptian expedition, but his offer was declined by the cabinet. On the other hand, in 1884 the prince had to be dissuaded from voting in the Lords in favour of the Liberal government's Representation of the People Bill (which the Lords rejected). But in 1886 he was strongly Liberal Unionist on the question of Irish home rule. On Gladstone's invitation the prince became, in April 1881, a trustee of the British Museum; as such he supported Sunday opening and showed a special interest in the natural history collections and their move to South Kensington. In 1884 the prince was a member of Sir Charles Dilke's royal commission on the housing of working classes, the first occasion on which an heir to the throne served on a royal commission (he had already sat on two committees of the House of Lords, on the cattle plague in 1866 and on scarcity of horses in 1873). Initially he attended meetings of the commission assiduously, visiting East End slums incognito, but the death of his brother Prince Leopold and other family matters distracted him; he attended nineteen out of fifty-one meetings. He subsequently invited Henry Broadhurst, the Lib–Lab MP and a fellow commissioner, to Sandringham. In 1891 the prince's offer to serve on the royal commission on labour relations was rejected by Lord Salisbury, but in 1892 he was appointed by Gladstone to the royal commission on the aged poor, of which Broadhurst and Joseph Arch, the trade unionist and MP, were also members. The prince attended quite regularly and asked well-informed questions of the witnesses. He was also publicly prominent as the chief active host of the guests at the 1887 jubilee of his mother's accession, as he was in 1897. His chief contribution to the jubilee of 1897 was his establishment, with the approval of the queen and the assistance of Sir Henry Charles Burdett, of the Prince of Wales's Hospital Fund for London, in which the prince took a close personal interest. With skilful fund-raising it soon became a vital fund in the prosperity of the London hospitals. In 1902 it was renamed King Edward's Hospital Fund for London (also known as the King's Fund), and in 1906 it was incorporated.
Unlike his father, the prince was an enthusiastic freemason, especially from 1870 onwards. He presided at public occasions. In 1871 he became patron of Free and Accepted Masons in Ireland during his visit there in August 1871. On 28 April 1875 he was installed as grand master of English freemasons, being elected to the office on the resignation of Lord Ripon (who had converted to Roman Catholicism). The prince quite often presided at fund-raising dinners for the masons, on one occasion raising £51,000 in an evening. On ascending the throne he retired as grand master and became protector of English freemasons, following the precedent of George IV. The prince's active sponsorship of freemasonry set a trend for the royal family of the future. Public scandals The prince never masked his enthusiasm for beautiful women, though none outshone the beauty of his wife. He carefully confined his serious attention to married women with compliant husbands. He had no embarrassment about his liaison with Lillie Langtry (1853–1929), whom he met in May 1877 and whose stage career he superintended. She was, in the view of one of his biographers, ‘almost maîtresse en titre’, accompanying the prince to Paris and to the Ascot races. From 1883 Frances Evelyn (Daisy) Maynard Greville, Lady Brooke (1861–1938), a striking society beauty, was the chief focus of the prince's extra-marital attention. It became known in 1890—it was said that the news came out through the indiscretion of Daisy Brooke, the ‘babbling Brooke’ as she was dubbed—that the prince was present at Tranby Croft, near Hull, at a game of baccarat (illegal in Britain), at which Sir William Gordon-Cumming appeared to be cheating. The baccarat and the cheating outraged different sections of society. Together, they ensured a scandal. Gordon-Cumming brought an action against the five persons who claimed to have witnessed the cheating, and subpoenaed the prince as a witness. The case was heard by Lord Coleridge as lord chief justice from 1 to 9 June 1891. Sir Edward Clarke, the solicitor-general, represented Gordon-Cumming, whom he believed innocent, and was unhelpful to the prince in court. Gordon-Cumming lost the case, was dismissed from the army, and expelled from his clubs. The scandal was worse than the Mordaunt affair, for public tolerance in the 1890s was much narrower than in the 1870s, and the prince was shown up at the trial as, at the least, negligent. Furthermore, Lady River, a pamphlet by Mrs Gerald Paget, which was circulated privately but widely, gave details of the prince's liaison with Lady Brooke and of a quarrel with Lord and Lady Charles Beresford in which Lady Brooke and the prince were involved; it was discussed in Truth and other such journals. About 1894, soon after Lady Brooke became countess of Warwick and after she had begun to make her developing socialism a frequent topic of conversation with the prince, their affair cooled. In 1898 Princess Alexandra—always hitherto distant from Daisy Warwick, perhaps sensing a liaison that was more than the usual dalliance—was reconciled to her. The prince rode out the scandals of the 1890s. The newspapers never seriously harried him, except when people of his own circle brought him to court, and the British in the 1890s had no general wish to see their future monarch fail. Nearing the throne: the succession and international affairs By the 1890s the prince's accession to the throne could not be far off: the jubilee of 1897 was seen as the old queen's apotheosis. The prince had not played a very prominent part in the education of his own children. In 1898 the Commons voted a capital sum of £60,000 and an increase in his annual income of £36,000 per annum to enable him to provide better for them. The eldest son, Prince Eddy, created duke of Clarence and Avondale in May 1890, was much the most problematic. He had his father's vices without his canniness. The prince sent his sons to be naval cadets on HMS Britannia in 1877. George blossomed in the navy; Eddy floundered. If some had from time to time questioned the appropriateness of the prince of Wales's character for that of a monarch, Eddy promised a far more daunting future. In what had become a life of considerable dissipation, Eddy suddenly, in 1890, fell in love with Princess Hélène of Orléans, a Roman Catholic and the daughter of the comte de Paris, pretender to the throne of France. The prince of Wales favoured the match; the princess was willing to join the Church of England; but Lord Salisbury, as prime minister, and the comte de Paris, for religious reasons, vetoed it. In 1891, while the prince was preoccupied with the Tranby Croft affair, Princess Alexandra brought forward Princess Mary of Teck, whose engagement to the duke of Clarence was ended by his death on 14 January 1892, his brother George thus becoming the prince of Wales's heir. The prince of Wales was more grief-stricken by this event than perhaps any other, but he must have soon been relieved at Prince George's much more obvious suitability for the throne. George was quickly engaged and married to Mary of Teck, and in June 1894 and December 1895 the succession was assured by the births of the future Edward VIII and George VI. A decade which started unhappily and uncertainly for the monarchy in fact saw its succession satisfactorily settled for the next fifty years.In personal terms also, the decade finished well for the prince. In February 1898 he formed two liaisons which lasted the rest of his life. Sister Agnes Keyser, matron of a nursing home for army officers at 17 Grosvenor Crescent, London, was attractive and discreet. She often entertained Albert Edward, both as prince and king, to a plain dinner. Alice Frederica Keppel (1868–1947) first entertained the prince in February 1898; she was soon his mistress, ‘which was intelligible in view of the lady's good looks, vivacity and cleverness’, as Lord Hardinge noted in 1910 (Magnus, 260). As international relations deteriorated in the 1890s, the prince—one of the most cosmopolitan figures in Britain and related to most European monarchs, but now older than most of them—played an increasingly avuncular role in the European royal social scene, which remained of direct political importance, especially in Russia and Germany. The prince was on poor terms with his nephew Kaiser Wilhelm II. His stock comment on him was ‘William the Great needs to learn that he is living at the end of the nineteenth century and not in the Middle Ages’ (Magnus, 209). During the Kaiser's visit to Vienna in 1888 the prince of Wales believed he had been snubbed. Wilhelm complained that the prince treated him as a nephew rather than as an emperor. During the Kaiser's rather successful state visit to Britain in 1889 the prince played an active and diplomatic role, despite the absence of a sufficient apology from the Kaiser for the Vienna episode, and from that point relations were superficially improved. In 1894, on the accession as tsar of Nicholas II, the prince and princess led a successful British mission to St Petersburg, being congratulated by Lord Rosebery, the prime minister, for their patriotic work. Privately the prince thought the new tsar ‘weak as water’ (ibid., 249).
The prince formed the view—rather earlier than many of his compatriots—that Britain was dangerously isolated. He encouraged contacts with Portugal, and during the Venezuela incident between Britain and the USA in December 1895 sent a conciliatory telegram to America regardless of instructions from the prime minister, Lord Salisbury, to remain silent. The prince took especial care with the arrangements for the tsar's visit to Balmoral in 1896, but he was excluded from the talks held between the tsar, the queen, and the British prime minister. He also worked hard to make a success of the Kaiser's visit in November 1899, just after the start of the South African War. During the war the prince increased the number of his official visits. Cautious about foreign opinion, he cancelled his annual trip to the Riviera in 1900, leaving instead to stay with his wife's relatives in Denmark. On his journey thither, on 4 April 1900 in Brussels a Belgian anarchist student named Sipido fired at him through the carriage window. The stationmaster disarmed Sipido and the prince was unhurt. On the latter's return to London huge crowds greeted him, reflecting a popularity which had steadily grown during his mother's last years and was confirmed by popular reaction to the prince's remarkable racing results in 1900. Racing and other sports From 1863, aged twenty-one, the prince attended the Derby and most of the classics. From his middle years, racing in Britain and France became his chief sporting passion. From 1880 the Jockey Club at Newmarket, to which he was elected in 1864, provided him with an apartment, and from 1885 he entertained all its members on Derby evening at Marlborough House and, after 1900, at Buckingham Palace. His colours—purple, gold braid, scarlet sleeves, black velvet cap with gold fringe—were first seen at Newmarket in 1877. His first success was Leonidas at Aldershot on 14 April 1880. He soon raced both on the flat and over fences, though always more successfully on the flat. Lord Marcus Beresford was his chief adviser. In 1883 John Porter of Kingclere became his trainer, and in 1885 the prince opened a stud at Sandringham, his mare Perdita II being an important and fecund purchase. From 1893 Richard Marsh at Egerton House, Newmarket, was the prince's and later the king's trainer. From that year the prince was successful, and sometimes very successful, and by a long way the most successful of royal owners in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In 1896 Persimmon won the Derby and the St Leger, and in 1897 he won the Eclipse Stakes and the Ascot Gold cup. In 1900, the prince's best year, he won the Grand National with Ambush II and, with Diamond Jubilee, the five chief races of those days (the Two Thousand Guineas, the Newmarket Stakes, the Eclipse, the Derby, and the St Leger), a remarkable achievement by any standard, making the prince the leading owner with £29,586 in winning stakes. He bred Persimmon and Diamond Jubilee at the Sandringham stud, both by St Simon out of Perdita II. Diamond Jubilee he sold to an Argentinian breeder; the skeleton of Persimmon (d. 1908 from an accident) was presented to the Natural History Museum. In an era when the Derby was the nation's chief sporting event, and easily the best attended, the prince's successes—so enthusiastically received both by himself and the huge number who backed his horses—easily outweighed the memory of the scandals in which he had been involved.
The prince was an equally enthusiastic sailor, often being on board during his yachts' races. He succeeded his father as commodore of the Royal Yacht Squadron at Cowes in 1863 and from 1874 was commodore of the Royal Thames Yacht Club. His first yacht was Dagmar; he subsequently raced Hildegarde, Formosa, and Aline. In 1892 he built a 300 ton racing cutter, Britannia, which won many races and served as a base when touring in the Mediterranean. The Kaiser treated the Cowes regatta in an increasingly competitive manner, almost as a test of national virility. His new yacht, Meteor II, outclassed Britannia, and the prince of Wales ceased to race in 1897.The ‘Marlborough House set’ Associated with the prince's racing was the ‘Marlborough House set’, the circle around him who accompanied him on racing and other trips. From the 1870s the set constituted an important focus for London society. It was partly composed of raffish aristocrats, some of whom became publicly well known through the various scandals in which the prince was involved, partly of financiers and merchants, including Nathaniel Rothschild (whose peerage in 1885 was attributed to the prince of Wales), Reuben and Arthur Sassoon, Baron Maurice de Hirsch, Sir Ernest Cassel, Sir Thomas Lipton, Sir Blundell Maple, and Horace Farquhar. That some of these were Jewish attracted unfavourable comment, some of it strongly antisemitic. From an early stage, the prince ‘discovered a special affinity with Jews’ (Magnus, 106). Sir Anthony de Rothschild was the prince's financial adviser until his death in 1876. Other Rothschilds then advised until 1890, when Hirsch, who had met the prince in 1886, became both financial adviser and confidant until he died in 1890. His place was then filled by Cassel, Hirsch's executor, who, especially from 1897, formed a close friendship with the prince which lasted throughout the latter's reign as king. The prince enjoyed the company of rich men—some speculators like Hirsch and Cassel, others cautious financiers like the Rothschilds; some, but by no means all, of these rich men were Jews. He rather enjoyed rows with more traditional members of the British and continental nobility, who affronted the prince by cold-shouldering his friends.
Queen Victoria died on 22 January 1901. Her son had not wished for the throne. He had expressed no frustration at his mother's long old age, only at her exclusion of him from the duties and confidences which as a prince of Wales in his fifties he thought it reasonable to expect. He at once announced that he would reign as Edward VII, explaining in an elegant impromptu speech to the privy council that the name Albert could be associated with no one but his father. His long-serving secretary, Sir Francis Knollys, continued in post throughout his reign. The new king was almost sixty, stout and ageing, but very active. His enthusiasm for action, if not channelled, quickly became irritable boredom, and his bonhomie sometimes had a sharp edge. He was the first emperor of India. To the title king of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, parliament added ‘and of the British Dominions beyond the Seas’ (1 Edw. VII c. 15). The abandoned suggestion of ‘and of all the Britains [sic] beyond the Seas’ was, however, echoed on the new sovereign's coinage, which included ‘Britt : Omn : Rex’. The prince's accession to the throne was a striking moment in the history of the British monarchy. Like Pip at the end of the film of Great Expectations (1946), Edward VII tore down the drapes of the Victorian court and let the light flood in. He at once reorganized the royal finances and palaces (including the removal of various busts and plaques to John Brown). His reorganization and refurbishment was aided by an act of 1901 which increased the monarch's annual income to £470,000, which, together with Sir Ernest Cassel's astute investments, made him much wealthier than his mother (taking currency fluctuations into account, Edward VII was the highest paid British monarch). Sir Francis Knollys was able to inform the commission on royal finances in 1901 that, contrary to public rumour, the new king had no debts, and was indeed, Knollys claimed, the first English monarch to ascend the throne in credit (Lee, 2.26).
The king transformed the court, which for forty years had been almost dormant as a force in metropolitan society, for unlike his mother he lived much of the year in London, and entertained or dined out almost every evening. His enthusiasm for his post was not limited to the presentation of the monarchy, skilful though he was at this aspect. Edward VII had an active sense of the royal prerogative. As we shall see, his autonomous actions in foreign policy were remarkable. In domestic politics he sought personally to supervise many aspects of royal affairs, and to this end he recovered into his own hands many offices which under his mother had been delegated, such as the supervision of the royal parks. Especially in the early years of his reign ministers, to their surprise, looked back to Queen Victoria as relatively supine in official affairs. On 14 February 1901 Edward VII revived the practice of the monarch's personally opening the new session of parliament (a practice dormant since 1886, and performed by Victoria only six times before that). The anti-Roman Catholic declaration, required from a new sovereign on first addressing parliament, offended some contemporaries. The king's attempts to have it changed were initially unsuccessful, and his son George V was required similarly to declaim; but a new form of declaration was adopted by parliament in August 1910.
The king's coronation was arranged for 26 June 1902. Overwork, overweight, and restlessness had already lowered his reserves when in mid-June appendicitis and peritonitis were diagnosed by Sir Francis Lake; the press was informed only that the king was suffering from lumbago. He was with difficulty persuaded to disappoint the assembling crowds and dignitaries by postponing the ceremony and undergoing an operation. The operation was successfully performed on 23 June and the king was well enough to be crowned on 9 August in a shortened ceremony. To try to counter the flow of political honours and to broaden the character of national reward, the king in the spring of 1902 proposed an order of merit, with twenty-four members (and unlimited honorary foreign members), which would mark distinction in the arts, sciences, literature, and the armed forces; the order was instituted by letters patent on 23 June 1902, John Morley and G. F. Watts being among the first members. The king kept appointment to the order in his own hands and appointed some members, for example the controversial figure of Admiral Sir John Fisher, without any consultation. Political relations, 1901–1905 Shortly after his operation the king accepted, on 11 July 1902, the resignation of Lord Salisbury as prime minister. A. J. Balfour, his successor, was not a natural companion of the king, who found Balfour's intellectual manner off-putting. They shared, however, an interest in the development of the committee of imperial defence and in motor cars (both being in the forefront of motoring), and a hostility to Irish home rule. Balfour's government was soon embroiled in a major dispute over tariff reform, in which the king took a keen interest, deploring the social injustice and danger of taxes on food and proposing on 18 August 1903 (from Marienbad) to the prime minister that the matter be referred to a royal commission. Though the delaying consequences of this would, at least in retrospect, have been welcome to Balfour, it was not, in the political circumstances, a practical suggestion. On 15 September 1903 the king learned that the prime minister's policy was to be that of retaliation, not full-scale tariff reform, but that his cabinet did not, as yet, know this. The king was at Balmoral in September 1903 when Balfour's cabinet disintegrated, and he played no direct part in the crisis. Balfour's announcement of resignations from the cabinet without prior notice to the sovereign considerably irritated the king.
Balfour's premiership was a period of continual political instability which Edward VII found wearing. He played an important part in one of the controversies: army and naval reform. The king took his role as head of the forces seriously. This was manifested in part in his obsession with uniforms and his fury when they were worn incorrectly. But the reform of the forces was a serious matter with important political implications. In 1903, prompted by Lord Esher, the king took up the cause of the introduction of an army board on the model of the Admiralty. Though he won over Lord Roberts, the commander-in-chief, and others, he found St John Brodrick, the war secretary, an opponent; when the cabinet was reshuffled in September 1903, Brodrick was unwillingly moved to the India Office. The king was annoyed when Esher declined to replace Brodrick at the War Office. The king was much impressed by the ability of John Fisher and was converted to his view of naval reform, and defence reform more generally. He supported the Fisher faction of naval reformers and strongly backed the report produced in January 1903 by Esher, Fisher, and Sir George Clarke which led to extensive reforms in the War Office and considerable extensions of the powers and role of the committee of imperial defence. In later years, the king used to monitor the dates of its meetings and complain to the Liberal cabinet when he thought them too infrequent. The king was incensed by an incident in July 1905 when H. O. Arnold-Forster, Brodrick's successor, having made an incautious remark to the Commons' public accounts committee, appeared to make a requirement rather than a request for the king speedily to sign an army order. Balfour offered to ask Arnold-Forster to resign if Esher would take over; the latter again declined. Political relations, 1905–1908 On 4 December 1905 Arthur Balfour and his cabinet resigned. The king thought this ‘unnecessary and a mistake. The formation of a new Govt. will give trouble in many ways, and I presume I shall have to send for Sir H. C.-B.’ (Magnus, 346). The king sent for Campbell-Bannerman, who kissed hands on 5 December, successfully formed a cabinet (against Balfour's hopes), and won a striking victory in the general election held in January 1906. Campbell-Bannerman was in fact the first official prime minister, for by a royal warrant of 20 March 1905 the office was formally recognized when Balfour's successor was appointed, its holder taking fourth place in precedence after the royal family. Some have seen this as a diminution of royal prerogative, but recognition of the fact that the United Kingdom had a prime minister did no more than record a position which had been apparent for half a century or more.
The king worked through Knollys to ensure that the Liberal Imperialists joined the cabinet. Campbell-Bannerman, who declined the king's suggestion that he take a peerage on account of his health, was five years older than the king and in some respects almost a comrade. They both spent much time at German spas and each had a boisterous sense of humour. But the prime minister was a sturdy radical and declined to require Liberals who expressed political views disliked by the court to apologize. On the personal side, however, the king got on well with John Burns, sometimes seen as a socialist. Despite a disagreement on the number of peers to be created following the change of government, the king formed a close bond on meeting Campbell-Bannerman in August 1906 at Marienbad, to the extent of personally arranging the funeral of Lady Campbell-Bannerman when she died there during their holiday. The prime minister never recovered from his wife's death, and the absence of information from him on the cabinet's decisions became a matter of complaint on the part of the king (the prime minister was still expected to write personally to the king about cabinet and parliamentary decisions and progress). In 1906 the Education Bill foreshadowed much that was to be characteristic about the 1906 parliament: the Lords were intent on frustrating the Liberal majority in the Commons; the king made a sustained effort in November and December 1906 to play the role of mediator, but was unable to prevent the Lords' destruction of the bill. The king agreed with much of the Unionist case, but thought the Lords' action foolhardy; he resented both sides for having, as he saw it, in their different ways brought the crown into politics. In 1907 several bills were similarly treated, including the Small Landholders (Scotland) Bill, the latter leading to a difference between the king and the cabinet as to whether the king's speech proroguing parliament should express regret that the measure had failed to pass into law; an impasse developed, solved by complete omission of the contentious paragraph.The king was suspicious of Liberal policy towards South Africa. He complained both at the absence of consultation with him on the ending of employment of Chinese indentured labour in South Africa and at the rapidity of the decision. He felt that he received inadequate advice from the cabinet when the Cullinan diamond was offered to him by the Transvaal—a gift that caused significant dissent there. (The diamond was eventually graciously accepted: the uncut stone weighed almost 3026 carats; when cut, it substantially added to the value of the crown jewels.) Edward VII strongly supported the principle of federation in South Africa, but he disliked the appointment of Herbert Gladstone as first governor-general (he had also disliked his home secretaryship) and unsuccessfully tried to get Asquith to find an alternative.
Edward VII saw that style was critical to public perception of a modern monarchy. He followed a punctual pattern of life, partly designed to prevent his becoming bored. After spending the first part of the year in London for the opening of parliament and the season, he would visit France—usually Biarritz and its Hôtel du Palais—in March, and then cruise in the Mediterranean. During his reign he often travelled abroad as duke of Lancaster. In the summer the king spent each weekend at Sandringham, at a friend's house, or at his private apartments in the Jockey Club at Newmarket. In June he moved to Windsor Castle for the races at Ascot, then to the duke of Richmond's for Goodwood races in July. He was at Cowes for the regatta in August, and then at Hotel Weimar in Marienbad (while the queen was in Denmark with her relatives); the rest of the summer was passed in a combination of visits to friends with houses near relevant racecourses and staying in Scottish houses, but with only a shortish spell at Balmoral. Autumn saw the king much at Sandringham. He travelled chiefly by train, but increasingly also in one of his fleet of claret-coloured cars. He had a passion for the new form of transport and did much to popularize it; he took especial pride in fast driving and would instruct his chauffeur to pursue and overtake. On the Brighton road he liked to exceed 60 m.p.h. (three times the speed limit). The king remained, despite his vast size, an active sportsman: he was an occasional golfer; he kept goal in ice-hockey matches at Sandringham; and he was always an enthusiastic shot. He always attended church on Sunday morning, but for the rest of the day he relaxed the previously strict Sabbatarianism of the court, deliberately trying to introduce a continental view of Sundays. In the evening, the king enjoyed the new game of bridge (Mrs Keppel, an excellent player, being his usual partner) as well as his customary pursuits. He did not patronize the arts, except the theatre, and he liked paintings to be strictly representational. His taste in art was uncharacteristically old-fashioned. His vast appetite was legendary, and he ate a full meal at breakfast, luncheon, tea, dinner (normally twelve courses), and supper. He drank moderately, but usually smoked twelve enormous cigars and twenty cigarettes a day.
The court was thus the epitome of conspicuous consumption, and in this it set the tone of the British propertied classes in the Edwardian period, as it quickly came to be known. The apotheosis of the king's sporting life occurred on 26 May 1909 when his Minoru, ridden by Herbert Jones, won the Derby at 4–1 by half a head. He remains the only monarch to have won the race, and his victory occasioned a vast demonstration of public enthusiasm. The king's close attention to dress and punctuality was legendary; he reprimanded incorrect dress or wrongly worn decorations without deference to rank or diplomacy, and complained bitterly and vocally when a servant, friend, politician—or the habitually unpunctual queen—was late. He was himself fairly conservative in his dress, attempting to delay the decline of the frock coat and to revive the fashion of knee breeches with evening dress. As prince of Wales he had popularized the modern dinner jacket with black tie, and as king his wearing of a tweed suit at Goodwood and a Norfolk jacket made them fashionable. From necessity he customarily wore the bottom button of his waistcoat undone and was followed in this in Britain and the empire but not on the continent or in the USA. His wearing of the Homburg felt hat on leisure occasions led to a marked change in the headgear of his male subjects, as, to a lesser degree, did his wearing of Tyrolean hats. However, his practice of creasing his trousers at the side rather than the front did not produce frequent emulation.