Prince Edward definitely wasn’t his father's favorite, but he still managed to get his hands on the throne. Not for himself, though. Let's pull back the royal curtain on Queen Victoria's father.
1. He Was A Middle Child
On November 2, 1767, Prince Edward came into the world as King George III’s son. But don't go thinking it was a charmed life. Edward was firmly in the middle of a big royal brood that already had several male heirs. As a result, most of his family downright ignored him as he grew up. Still, that wasn't even the worst part.
2. His Father Went Mad
Starting possibly two years before Edward was born, his family began keeping an enormous secret. As early at 1765, Edward's father King George started suffering from mental illness, likely bi-polar disorder. As Edward grew up, this illness would only become more pronounced and more disturbing, with George going through fits of mania and frothing at the mouth.
It was not a fairy tale upbringing...but even then Edward knew how to keep up appearances.
3. His Looks Were Iconic
Before Edward rocked a bald look, he had silk-like hair. In his childhood, a couple of famous painters—Thomas Gainsborough and Benjamin West—immortalized his “prince charming” looks. The 15-year-old Edward had pink cheeks and charming hair in his portraits. But people soon found out his looks hid a darker side.
4. He Loved Fighting
Edward was fourth in line for the throne when he was born, and nobody expected him to ever rule. Instead, his path was much bloodier. When he turned 18, he began military training, becoming a colonel in the British Army and eventually heading to Geneva. And it was here that his lifestyle went from violent to depraved.
5. He Was A Rake
While Edward was living in Geneva, he took multiple mistresses to sow his wild oats. In particular, he seduced the beautiful French actress Adelaide Dubus, who he met while attending the theater. Edward's tutor at the time, Baron Wagenheim, was apoplectic at the thought of some French actress sullying his young Prince's name—and he took drastic action.
6. His Tutor Tried To Deport His Mistress
Baron Wagenheim became determined to end Edward's relationship with Adelaide any way he knew how. He landed on a scandalous "solution." The tutor called up the Swiss authorities in Geneva and tried to get them to forcibly deport Adelaide back to her native France. It didn't work...and the situation grew more dire.
7. He Had A Love Child
Shortly into their dalliance, Adelaide made a life-changing discovery: She was pregnant with Edward's child. Baron Wagenheim probably cried into his pillow that night, but there was seemingly no stopping the relationship now. As the months went by, Adelaide's belly grew bigger and bigger. And then fate dealt Edward his first cruel plot twist.
8. He Lost His Lover
Adelaide carried the baby to term, giving birth to a girl on December 15, 1789, when Edward was just 22 years old. But then it took a turn for the tragic. Although the baby girl, Adelaide Victoire, survived, Edward's mistress perished during the labor and recovery. Edward must have been heartbroken, because his next act was one of intense devotion.
9. He Was A Strict Father
In the wake of Adelaide's passing, Edward didn't forget about his lover. Although he gave the babe to her family, he provided them with a pension for the rest of their lives. He also left them with instructions about how to raise the girl, insisting that they raise her as a Protestant and that they hand her back over to him should he ever ask. Oh, and there was one more stipulation: She could never become an actress.
Still don't go thinking Edward was too broken up about it. When it came to women, he could always bounce back.
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10. He Loved Trouble
In 1790, another lady charmed her way into Edward’s life: Julie, Madame de Saint-Laurent. Now, Julie was extremely attractive and alluring to Edward, but there was one enormous problem. She was already married to a French colonel, Baron de Fortisson. Not that Edward cared.
He entered into an affair with Julie almost instantly. But the prince was getting too big for his britches.
11. He Was Naughty
After enjoying the extravagant lifestyle of Geneva and having his fair share of women, Edward thought it was high time to go back to England. Accordingly, the headstrong royal went back to his home country without getting permission from his father, King George III. Now remember, the two had never been close, and George was battling mental illness. So no, this did not go well.
12. His Father Lashed Out
When King George III saw his middle son was back in his presence, the royal's response was furious. George was so offended that his own child couldn't respect his status as king, he decided to punish Edward in a fitting way. Since Edward clearly had no respect, George sent him off to the undesirable location of Gibraltar to learn some manners.
Unfortunately, Edward had more rebellion where that came from.
13. He Was A Smuggler
Instead of trying to mentally prepare for Gibraltar, all Edward could think about was what he was going to do without his mistress Julie, Madame de Saint-Laurent. Edward knew that they couldn’t do long distance when he was on duty in Gibraltar, so he had to make some arrangements—some shady ones.
He brought Julie to him...by smuggling her into Gibraltar. He had no idea the chain of events he'd just set into motion.
14. His Father Banished Him
Once more, Edward had underestimated his father. In no time, the king’s little birds sent him the news about his son’s infamous affair and little smuggling incident. He was already mad at Edward, but now the king went nuclear. Obviously, Gibraltar wasn't far enough. Now he sent Edward to the other side of the ocean, placing him in Quebec, Canada.
This was of course humiliating to Edward. Still, he knew just how to spin it.
15. He Told A Lie
Trying to save face, the version of the story Edward apparently told everyone was that it was his choice to flee to Quebec. Or at least, some accounts say that Edward went to Quebec simply because he didn’t like the “extreme Mediterranean heat” in Gibraltar. Ok sure, Edward. Whatever the truth was, Edward had big, scandalous plans for Canada.
16. He Secretly Got Married
Edward had already smuggled Julie into Gibraltar, and he wasn't going to leave her now. He brought his mistress along with him to Canada, and then he went one step further. According to some reports, the pair of them married, in secret, in a Roman Catholic church in Quebec. But that was far from all he did in Canada.
17. He Was In The Middle Of A Conflict
Before long, Edward was hobnobbing with the finest society in Canada, even mentoring some of the military families on how best to fight battles. But his tenure, first in Quebec and then in Halifax, also gave him a front-row seat to the biggest issue of the day: The aftershocks of the Revolutionary War in America, which King George III had lost control of when Edward was still a boy.
Edward's response to this was surprising.
18. He Took A Side
At the time, there was little love lost between America and Edward's father. Then again, there was little love lost between Edward and his father. When President John Adams, who Edward met while over in North America, asked Edward how his father “lik’d to lose" the colony, Edward quipped back, “Not half as well as I should like to live in it”.
19. He Suffered A Grave Injury
Edward may have made the most of his time in Canada, but it was still very much an exile and he was painfully aware of that fact. Then, in 1798, that exile suddenly lifted—but it took a horrific event for Edward to come home. That year, Edward suffered from a significant injury after falling from his horse. It was bad enough that his father finally relented and called him back.
When he finally made it to British soil, he got a hero's welcome.
20. They Welcomed Him
Edward arrived in England in 1799, and it seemed like his father had finally forgiven him. Upon his arrival, the palace not only gave him the title of the "Duke of Kent and Strathearn," but he also got a healthy, plump allowance more fitting of a prince of Great Britain than he was likely used to. But still, Edward wasn’t satisfied.
21. He Wanted More
Over the next years, it became clear that Edward thought he was much better than his family was treating him, even after he got all these titles and accolades. At one point, he fully expected his father's government to name him the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and looked forward to the authority the post would confer on him. That's not what happened. Instead, he got an insult.
22. He Took A Snub
Rather than making him a Lord Lieutenant, the government gave him...a post as the "Governor of Gibraltar". It wasn't exactly a place that gave Edward the warm and fuzzies, as the royal family must have darn well known. More than that, the troops there were notoriously badly behaved.
In short, there was no way Edward was looking forward to this. That doesn't excuse his next actions, though.
23. He Was Harsh
Edward may not have loved being in Gibraltar, but at least he had a lot of authority to whip his men into shape. Only, he quickly misused his power. Edward, partly going off his own training as a young military man and partly going off some really bad instincts, became an extremely harsh disciplinarian of the troops. And he was WAY too brutal.
24. He Was A Bad Leader
You have to know when to use the carrot and when to use the stick, and Edward was extraordinarily bad at remembering this. Within months, even the grizzled military men beneath him couldn't take any more of his "disciplines". In fact, they were so fed up, they mutinied on Christmas Eve. It was not a good look, and Edward's response didn't make it any better.
25. He Was Stubborn
You'd think a gaffe of this magnitude would embarrass and humble anyone. Well, not Edward. When his older brother—and military superior—Frederick heard about the mutiny, he quite reasonably ordered Edward to return to England to try to quash the flames of rebellion. Edward, quite unreasonably, refused to do so until his replacement arrived. And that wasn't all.
26. He Wanted A Do-Over
In the wake of the mutiny, even months after it happened, Edward appeared to shirk all responsibility for the big mess-up. Indeed, once finally did land back in England, he demanded that he go back to Gibraltar to participate in an inquiry, presumably to try to clear his name. Once more, he didn't get what he wanted. He got something else entirely.
27. He Couldn't Set Foot In One Place
Despite what Edward may have thought, actions do have consequences. He was about to get a comeuppance. His father King George and the government didn't just refuse Edward permission to return to Gibraltar for the inquiry, they refused him permission to return...ever. Though he got to keep the "Governor of Gibraltar" title, they banned him from the territory until his death.
Yes, it was that bad. And more karma was on the way.
28. He Had To Retire
In 1805, Edward faced a crushing reality: He was now 35, and his active career in the military was officially over. Although he gained the title of "Field Marshal" upon his retirement, it was undeniably more of a desk job. His glory days (such as they were) were well and truly behind him. Then again, Edward now had bigger problems.
29. He Still Wasn’t A Father
For all his tomfoolery on the battlefield, Edward's home life was surprisingly stable. He and Julie de Saint Laurent had maintained their relationship throughout their various moves and upheavals. Indeed, they would continue to maintain their love for a total of 28 years. Interestingly, however, they never had any children—and that topic was about to turn into a crisis of the highest degree.
30. His Family Were Idiots
Edward was something of a good-time cad, it's true. But it's also true that he wasn't alone in this in his family. All of his many brothers lived similar lives, taking mistresses aplenty and having scores of illegitimate children. Yet because of this, none of them produced much in the way of a legitimate heir to the throne. Slowly but surely, this began to be a problem.
31. He Had One Hope
Most crucially, Edward's eldest brother George was trapped in an unhappy marriage that had only produced one daughter, Princess Charlotte of Wales. George was by now very unlikely to have more children, but Charlotte was their great hope. After all, she was the single legitimate heir the royals had. But all that was about to go down the drain.
32. There Was A Succession Crisis
In November 1817, disaster struck Edward and his family. Princess Charlotte perished—and in childbirth no less. The royal family was royally screwed. They now had no heirs whatsoever. More than that, King George III was deep into his mental illness, and the government had long since set up a regency.
In other words, Britain needed a stable succession, and it needed it right now. So the royals came up with a bizarre plan.
33. He Created A Marriage Market
With the passing of Princess Charlotte, the royal family went marriage mad. All the single brothers knew they had one goal, and one goal only: Get married and produce heirs. In particular, Edward and his brother William began casting about for a European princess, any European princess, to marry. But this also forced Edward into a cruel betrayal.
34. He Dumped His Partner
Now, obviously Edward may have already had a wife in the form of Julie de Saint Laurent. Except their marriage, if it ever existed, wasn't valid in the eyes of the law, and was not going to help the succession crisis one bit. Accordingly, Edward unceremoniously jettisoned poor Julie, pushing her out to go back to Paris to live with her family.
Then he got right to work making history.
35. He Found A Suitable Bride
By this time, Edward was a not-so-spry 50 years old, but that didn't give him much trouble when it came to finding a bride. After all, whoever he married might give birth to Britain's future monarch. He landed on Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld...and his choice was about as unromantic as they come.
See, Victoria's family had already married into the royal line before, so they knew what to expect. Besides that, she was a widow with children, so people knew she could bear heirs. I hate to tell you, but it gets more unromantic.
36. He Had A Double Wedding
Edward and Victoria married in 1818, and the day was about as far from "special" as you can imagine. In fact, they had a double wedding with Edward's brother William and his new bride Adelaide, probably because it was cheaper and more expedient for the couples. Then, when it came time to choose where to live, Edward and Victoria picked Germany, again because it was cheaper.
Aw, right? Soon enough, though, they had a big reason to head back home.
37. He Had A Daughter
Just months after the marriage, Edward and his wife realized they were pregnant. Wasting no time, they traveled back to England to make sure the baby would be born on British soil. On May 24, 1819, Edward finally fulfilled his destiny. His wife gave birth to a baby girl they named Victoria. From the very beginning, Edward knew exactly what this meant.
38. He Bragged About His Daughter
Edward, of course, had already had an (illegitimate) daughter decades before, but he was completely enthralled with this new arrival. Then again, that probably had a lot to do with the power the baby held in her little fists. When he held Victoria in his arms, Edward reportedly boasted, “Look at her well”, adding “for she will be Queen of England”.
Still, none of that meant Edward was the best father. Or even a good one.
39. He Loved Extravagant Things
Part of the reason Edward's marriage and honeymoon period had been so bare bones was because he was an inveterate spender. Reportedly, he enjoyed feasts and drinking, plus any form of luxury he could find. Of course, this all came with a cost, one that he never seemed to be able to pay. And there was a further complication.
40. He Developed A Bad Habit
To be fair to Edward, as the younger son of the king, no one had ever paid him much attention—nor had they paid him a high salary. His allowances were always relatively meager and couldn't possibly match his appetite for extravagance. In fact, Edward had been racking up debts since he was a young man. Well, it was about to hit a climax.
41. He Was In Debt
Edward now had a wife and a daughter to feed, but this didn't seem to move parliament one bit. When he asked for a larger allowance from the government, all he got was disappointment. They sniffed that they would not be adding to his change purse just because his household grew. So Edward came up with a desperate solution.
42. His Lodgings Embarrassed Him
With very few places to go that could support any kind of royal lifestyle, Edward and his wife had to go live in Amorbach Castle. Not only was it a modest household, it was also his wife's "dower house," and had thus belonged to her late, first husband. For a man as proud as Edward, that had to sting. So did the next news.
43. He Got Sick
Edward came from a pretty long-lived family—his father George, despite his enormous mental health struggles, was still alive and well at 81 years old. Still that only makes Edward's fate that much more tragic. Because in 1820, less than a year after the birth of his little daughter Victoria, Edward's health took a turn for the worse.
44. He Died Young
In January of 1820, Edward caught pneumonia. At first, it's possible no one was worried; after all, Edward was only 52 years old and had suffered very few health issues up until that point. But then the worst happened. The illness took him fast, and on the 23rd, he passed much sooner than anyone expected. Then another shockwave hit.
45. He Went Just Before His Father
Prince Edward had spent his life at loggerheads with his father King George III, and his death was no different. As it happened, the king followed his son to the grave almost immediately, passing just six days after Edward. Trust George to find a way to overshadow Edward again. However, Edward did say one final goodbye...and it infuriated his widow.
46. His Wife Paid For His Mistakes
Even though Edward was gone, his wife was still responsible for his debts. Having no options, she unwillingly sold their household at Castle Hill Lodge to Edward’s former aide-de-camp, letting go of one more part of their brief life together. On the other hand, his daughter was about to find a better way to clean up their family name.
47. His Daughter Made It To The Top
Upon the passing of King George III, it was Edward's brother William who took the throne, becoming William IV. But destiny wasn't quite done playing with the royal family, and the new monarch never did have any legitimate children. So, in 1837, almost two decades after his passing, Edward's prophecy finally came true: His daughter became Queen Victoria.
As it turned out, her first thoughts went to her father.
48. His Daughter Took Care Of His Debts
Right after Queen Victoria took the throne, she got her hands on his father’s remaining debts. Although she had to pay them back out of her income over a period of time, she eventually got them down to nothing. Despite this, Victoria had no ill will to the memory of the man she had barely met. Indeed, her diary entries are touching.
49. His Daughter Remembered Him
Victoria’s private journals make it clear that she spoke highly of her father—even with all the headaches he caused her mother. After hearing about him from a member of parliament, Vitoria wrote in her journal, “From all what I heard, he was the best of all". An idealized version of Edward? Probably, but we'll let her have it.
50. He Coined An Important Word
Funnily enough, Edward was the first person to use the term "Canadian" to describe both French and English settlers in Canada. In return, people honored Edward's time in Canada by immortalizing his name. In 1798, just as Edward left to go back to England, they changed "St John’Island" to "Prince Edward Island" as a way to thank him. The name stuck.