Monday, January 14, 2013
Monarch Profile: King Edward VII of Great Britain
Unfortunately, one year after this diplomatic victory, Prince Albert died following parental outrage over Edward having a fling with an actress (arranged by his army buddies) while on maneuvers in Ireland and the Queen, in her grief, blamed her son for hastening the demise of her father. Sadly, mother-son relations were never quite what they should have been. The Queen greatly disapproved of his lifestyle overall. The Prince of Wales was fond of over eating, smoked like a chimney and was quite fond of his mistresses and gambling. None of that was to change throughout his life, even after a marriage was arranged for him with the very pretty and prim and proper Princess Alexandra of Denmark who, the Queen hoped, would help “reform” her son. The marriage worked when it came to the basics. Children were produced to carry on the royal line and Edward liked and respected his wife but never relented in his womanizing ways which Alexandra endured with quiet stoicism. Queen Victoria was also not always pleased with Alexandra either though, particularly when war came between Denmark and Germany. The Prince and Princess of Wales (along with the Prime Minister and most of Britain) favored the Danes while the Queen favored the Germans.
At times, his many friendships involved the Prince of Wales in scandals, though it was much easier to keep quiet in those days. Usually the behavior of the Prince was not in question but it was the actions of those around him that got him into trouble. Still, he was always a loyal friend and for all the minor scandals, his friendly nature helped bring about closer relationships between traditional enemies like Britain and France as well as Britain and Russia which had, in the not too distant past, been enemies in the Crimean War. The press sometimes made a fuss over his behavior but all in all he remained widely popular as he was a man most found it hard to dislike. He was 59-years-old 1901 when the revered and long-reigning Queen Victoria was called to her eternal reward and he was crowned King Edward VII of the United Kingdom, etc and Emperor of India. Though his reign would not be very long, it was a time of changes, in science as well as attitudes, and his great gift for simply being a “presence” ensured that it would be known as the Edwardian Age; a time when Britain took her first steps toward the welfare state, when new alliances were formed but also still one of dapper gentlemen and fine ladies in traditional fashion.
The new state of affairs and the leading part King Edward VII was seen to play in bringing it all about, proved immensely popular. The public saw Britain strengthened by powerful alliances and her primary rival more isolated. The new system of alliances also made war seem extremely improbably and thus King Edward VII was hailed as the great peacemaker of his time and not just by people in Britain but around the world, outside of Germany of course. Even after the outbreak of the First World War, the reputation of the King would survive while the Kaiser singled him out as the author of all German misfortunes. When that calamity came, most people placed the blame on the bombastic Kaiser, rightly or wrongly, and not on the jovial King Edward VII. Prior to that, it was a common boast that there would be no war in Europe so long as Edward VII was alive. Of course, he did not live to see that disaster which befell the world. He did, however, see, at the very end of his life, the beginning of the struggle to remove the veto power from the House of Lords. Of this last great political confrontation, the King was greatly disturbed by it all and tended to blame both sides for bringing things to such an impasse. When asked to create new peers in order that the liberals could have their way, the King put it off until after the next election and tried all the time to arrange a compromise between the opposing party leaders. A solution had still not been found when King Edward VII passed away on May 6, 1910. It would be left to his son, King George V, to see the crisis through as well as to preside over the great test of the system of alliances King Edward VII had helped arrange in the (vain) hope of preventing war in Europe.