“I don’t mind praying to the eternal Father but I must be the only man in the country afflicted with an eternal mother.”—Edward VII as Prince of Wales
The eldest son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, Albert Edward, AKA “Bertie,” AKA King Edward VII, was born in 1841 in London. He was friendly, affable and well-liked, but he also had a reputation as a playboy who was more interested in women, horse racing, shooting, and drinking than fulfilling his royal duties. After the death of his mother in 1901, he was crowned King Edward VII, ruler of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and Emperor of India. Below are 41 jovial facts about the playboy king.
Facts About Edward VII
41. Long Wait, Short Reign
King Edward VII had a nearly 60-year wait before finally becoming king. After waiting so long, poor Edward barely got a chance to rule. He was king for only nine years, three months and 12 days before dying from pneumonia in 1910. Not quite the same as his mother’s 63-year reign!
40. Double the Fun
The king had a pretty hefty enjoyment of sex. Case in point: the Love Chair, or Siege d’Amour, as it was called in French. Created by the French furniture manufacturer Soubrier, the chair was designed to allow the king to have sex with two women at the same time.
39. I’d Rather You Didn’t
Like most royal sons, Edward attended Oxford and Cambridge Universities and expressed a desire to pursue a military career. At this point, Victoria went into overprotective mother mode and told him no, wanting to ensure the safety of her heir apparent.
38. Having a Grand Old Time
Edward’s first visit to France came when he was 13 years old, on a family vacation to Paris in 1855. He quite enjoyed himself there, receiving a personal greeting from Napoleon III, getting treated to adoring crowds shouting “Vive La Reine” (Long Live the Queen), and attending a ball that lasted into the wee hours of the morning with fireworks and dancing. Everything about the trip appealed to his self-indulgent nature, and he couldn’t wait for another chance to go back.
37. Antithesis of Healthy Living
In addition to a large sexual appetite, Edward also had an appetite for food, drink, and smoking. He would eat five meals of ten or more courses a day and smoked 12 cigars and 20 cigarettes a day. By the time he reached middle-age, his waist was 48 inches, or basically a double XL. Definitely not a recipe for long life!
36. 19-Year-Old Virgin
Edward was 19 years old when he went off to serve a ten-week tour with the Grenadier Guards at Curragh Camp near Dublin. His fellow officers figured it was more than time for him to pop his cherry, and they arranged for a young Irish actress by the name of Nellie Clifden, who was quite happy to oblige and give him his first taste of the joys of sex.
35. Complete Isolation
Victoria and Prince Albert were so overbearing in their efforts to make Edward the perfect future-king that it’s not surprising he went on a sexual rampage as he grew older. When he was young, they kept him sequestered from his siblings and his peers, and he was taught that while he would never be as great as his father, he was duty-bound to try and measure up. They also made sure that he knew nothing about the proverbial birds and the bees—but let’s just say he figured it out when he went off to college.
34. Bathing in Champagne
One of Edward’s favorite indulgences was to frequent the Parisian Brothel La Chabanais. He had his own room fitted with a copper bathtub decorated with half-swan-half-women, among other things. He quite enjoyed filling it with champagne and bathing in it with prostitutes. As one does.
33. Everyone is Equal
One of Edward’s great strengths was his habit of treating people equally regardless of color or class. During his eight-month tour of India, Malta, Brindisi, and Greece, he wrote letters home complaining of the poor treatment of the Indian people by British officials, remarking, “Because a man has a black face and a different religion from our own, there is no reason why he should be treated as a brute.” Thanks to her son’s successful tour, Victoria was given the title “Empress of India” by Parliament in 1876.
32. Corridor Creeping
Edward and his friends frequently participated in a sport (if you can call it that) called corridor creeping. When the last dance had ended and the party was over, the women would go to their rooms and be prepare for bed. As soon as the house was completely dark, the men would wander into the rooms of some of those ladies. On some occasions, a helpful maid would put a plaque with the lady’s name outside of their doors to make it easier for men like Edward to find their target.
31. True Love
The marriage of Edward and Princess Alexandra of Denmark was arranged by Victoria shortly after her husband’s death. Before dying, Prince Albert thought the only way to save his son from a life of moral depravity was for him to marry immediately. Likely as a face-saving measure, Victoria claimed that their marriage was true love. This of course wasn’t true, as the pair had only met twice before, but luckily they did develop a genuine affection for one another—though not enough to ensure Edward’s fidelity.
30. Totally Unfit
Victoria never really had any faith at all in Edward’s ability to rule, and basically thought he was an incompetent twit. She refused to allow him to take an active role in running the country, and only allowed him to show up at public events as her representative. When he asked to see cabinet papers, she refused, telling the Foreign Secretary he was too lazy and indiscreet to bother showing them to him. She wouldn’t even let him make speeches. With no responsibilities, a ton of free time and nearly endless resources, no wonder he found undesirable ways to occupy his time!
29. Otherwise Known As…
Edward VII had a few different nicknames that suited his personality. To his family, he was known as “Bertie,” a play on his first name Albert. Thanks to his numerous sexual dalliances, he also became known as “Dirty Bertie” and “Edward the Caresser.” To his friends, Edward was known as “Tum Tum,” so bestowed because of his plus-sized waistline.
28. Lesser Line
Princess Alexandra of Denmark’s family was from a less important branch of the Royal family, so she didn’t grow up in the lap of luxury. She and her sister Dagmar (who would eventually become Empress of Russia) had to share an attic bedroom, and the sisters made their own clothes. Before being named King of Denmark, her father Christian made just 800 pounds a year, which wasn’t a lot to support a family of eight.
27. She’ll Have to Do
Alexandra was not the first choice of wife for Edward. Most of Victoria’s family was German, and Denmark and Germany were at odds. Victoria also would have preferred that Edward marry a German, but there were no appropriate choices. In fact, Alexandra was #5 on a list of suitable candidates, but Edward’s older sister, Princess Vicky of Prussia, thought Alexandra would be perfect for him, and Prince Albert concurred that she was “the only one to be chosen.”
26. Covering His Tracks
Amazingly enough, despite the rumors that he had fathered several illegitimate children through his affairs, there was only ever evidence of one, and even that one couldn’t be traced. If Edward was good at anything, it was making sure that his secrets stayed secret. His diaries contained very little personal information, and he had most of the letters from his women burned, so no juicy details about possible children came from there either.
25. The Bertie Ring
Upon their engagement, Edward presented Alexandra with a ring made with six precious stones that were specifically chosen to spell out his nickname, Bertie. The gems were beryl, emerald, ruby, turquoise, jacinth, and emerald with a gold band. Acrostic jewelry (jewelry that spells out a message or term of endearment) was extremely popular during the Victorian era, and it was a pretty romantic gesture on Edward’s part.
24. A Grand Affair
By all accounts, the funeral of King Edward VII was almost as grand as his wedding. It was the largest assembly of European Royals in history, many of whom were direct relations, or relations by marriage, to the King. All in all, over 70 state representatives attended the funeral, and huge crowds of people gathered along the procession route to watch the proceedings.
23. Go North Young Prince
Queen Victoria never managed to make it to Canada herself, but she did send her son Edward on the first official royal visit to the then British Colony in 1860. He spent two months touring the Maritimes, Newfoundland and the Province of Canada (now Ontario and Quebec), where he inaugurated the Victoria Bridge in Montreal and put down the cornerstone of the Parliament Building in Ottawa. It would be 41 years before the next official Royal visit.
22. It’s All About the Manners
The period of Edward’s rule was known as the Edwardian era. It began with Victoria’s death and Edward’s ascension to King, and where the Victorian era was all about morals, the Edwardian era was all about the manners. There were strict rules for social relationships, including women never taking their gloves off in public, men never removing their hats in front of a member of an inferior class, and carefully planned dinner parties with controlled topics of conversation during the meal.
21. An Accurate Prediction
One of Edward’s biggest concerns during his reign was the growing threat from Germany. He had a pretty strong suspicion that his nephew, Kaiser Wilhelm II, was going to create a divide between Germany and Europe, pulling the continent into war. His fears turned out to be well-founded, though he didn’t live to see them affirmed.
20. Popular Princess
The British people loved their new princess Alexandra, and she could be considered the first people’s princess. She put her energy into charity work and public functions and was fulfilling many of the duties of a Queen even before she officially became the Queen consort.
19. Finding a Way
Marriage (either his own or someone else’s) was never an obstacle to Edward getting a woman, and one of his conquests was Lady Harriet Mordaunt, the wife of Conservative MP and Baronet Sir Charles Mordaunt. Being rather the possessive sort, Mordaunt was unwilling to knowingly share his wife and refused to invite Edward to his estate (despite being part of his crowd)—but that still didn’t stop Edward. The Baronet frequently left the estate to go fishing, and wife Harriet was said to bring her lovers (including Edward) there when he was away. Unfortunately for Edward, Mordaunt came home early one of those times and caught the pair together, creating a scandal.
18. Last Mistress
Alice Keppel, the last and longest-tenured mistress of Edward VII, met him at a party in 1898 when she was 29 years old and he 59. Alice was no angel, and was described as “having the sexual morals of an alley-cat.” Within weeks of meeting the future king, she became his official mistress and took the place of his previous mistress, Daisy Warwick. She was apparently able to satisfy the King’s lusty appetites, and unlike Daisy, knew how to be discreet about the affair.
17. Maintaining her Position
When Edward became King, Alice managed to maintain her position as his mistress, and she did an excellent job of managing the king and keeping him happy and amused. At court, she was known as Mrs. Keppel, and unlike most royal mistresses, she was accepted, respected, and highly visible. Considering how many women preceded her, this was a pretty incredible feat!
16. No Love Lost
Historians have often written that Alexandra liked Alice Keppel, but this was a story spun by Alice rather than truth. Alexandra allowed Alice to visit the King’s deathbed at his request, but she certainly didn’t invite her. As the king fell unconscious in his final moments, Alexandra’s tolerance was at its end, and she told the doctor to “get that woman away.”
15. Uncle of Europe
To the surprise of many, Edward turned out to live up to the role he was born for, and he became known as the Uncle of Europe. His fluency in French and German proved to be an asset, and he helped negotiate the Entente Cordiale in 1904. The agreement ended the animosity between France and England that was created through France’s support of the British Colonies rebelling against Britain. It allowed the countries to unite against Germany and protect each other in case of war. Victoria would have been shocked!
14. Society Set
As soon as he was married and somewhat outside of the watchful eye of his mother, Edward and his wife gathered a set of friends who were quite happy to join in their highly social partying lifestyle. The group was dubbed the Malborough House Set after Bertie’s London home. The requirements for joining his group were pretty simple. You just had to be rich, amusing, well-mannered, and sporting. If you could check off all those boxes, it didn’t matter where you were from or what you looked like—you were welcome.
13. Stretching Time
Edward greatly enjoyed hunting, and he demanded that the clocks at Sandringham be pushed ahead a half hour to give him more time for shooting. Sandringham Time, as it was known, continued until 1936, when his grandson Edward VIII ended it.
12. Triple Threat
In 1907, just three years after the signing of the Entente Cordiale, Russia joined England in France in signing the Triple Entente. The treaty didn’t require the countries to go to war for one another as the Triple Alliance between Italy, Germany, and Austria-Hungary did, but it did state that they were morally obligated to protect each other, which more or less amounted to the same thing.
11. Constitutional Crisis
In 1909, Edward found himself caught in a constitutional crisis when the Conservative house refused to pass the Liberal People’s Budget. The budget called for taxes on the wealthy and for extreme social welfare programs, and was supported by Prime Minister Harold Asquith and his chancellor David Lloyd George. Edward also supported the budget and tried to convince the lords to pass it. Lloyd George wanted Edward to create some additional Liberal positions in the House of Lords to help counterbalance the no votes, but the King refused and chose to let the people decide by an election. Edward died before anything was resolved, and the mess continued until after his son George V assumed the throne.
10. Car for a King
In 1901, horses and carriages were still the primary form of transportation for all but the extremely wealthy, but Edward took to the new automobile like a proverbial fish to water. He owned several cars, which were painted in his royal claret color, and was something of a speed demon on country roads, much to the chagrin of the old-fashioned wagons that still populated England’s country roads.
9. Backseat Driver
Although Edward was hugely into the whole car scene, he initially didn’t allow his wife to have a car. Alexandra was not the most pleasant passenger and was known to poke her driver in the back with her parasol and direct him whenever anything crossed their path. She would also borrow cars from her friends, which finally convinced Edward that she should have her own. Smart move!
8. Unavoidable Delay
The Coronation of Edward VII was originally scheduled for June 1902 but was unavoidably delayed due to a medical emergency. Just two days before the big event, Edward was having abdominal pain and was diagnosed with perityphlitis. It required surgery, but in Edward’s day, because of the high death rate, surgery was pretty rare. Understandably, doctors were quite nervous about the idea of putting the King under the knife. However, despite the reservations, the operation went forward and Edward came through with flying colors. He was back to smoking his cigars the very next day. Talk about a speedy recovery!
7. The Queen that Could Have Been
Edward’s sister Victoria was the eldest child of Queen Victoria and Albert, but thanks to the ancient Succession to the Crown Act, a sister was not allowed to inherit over her brothers, and therefore, Victoria was ineligible to be named heir. Of course, it all worked out for “Vicky,” as without the responsibility of being the future ruler hanging over her head, she was allowed to marry for love and become the Crown Princess of Prussia. There was some speculation as to whether Queen Victoria secretly wished that she could inherit, but the idea was never raised publicly, and Victoria certainly wasn’t telling!
6. Cheating at Cards
The Royal Baccarat Scandal of 1890, one of the largest scandals of Edward’s life, stemmed from a house party and an illegal card game. It all started when he and some other high society fellows were invited to a party at Tranby Croft, the home of shipping millionaire Sir Arthur Wilson. That night, six of the men, including Edward and his buddy Lieutenant Colonel Sir William Gordon-Cumming, decided to play a friendly game of baccarat, which was illegal at the time. Someone watching the game accused Gordon-Cumming of cheating (which he denied), but nobody playing saw anything. Nevertheless, the next day, the future king and the other men pressured Gordon-Cumming into signing a document where he confessed to cheating and promised to never play cards again in exchange for their silence. No big surprise, somebody leaked it anyway, and Edward found himself caught up in yet another sensationalist trial.
5. Royal Witness
The sex-crazy Harriet Mordaunt’s affair with Edward wasn’t her only one, and when she gave birth to a blind daughter in 1870, she became convinced that it was punishment for her sins and confessed all of her affairs to her husband. Her husband was understandably furious and filed for divorce, but her family declared her crazy and unfit. Edward was called as a witness to the trial, which was the first time a Prince of Whales had been called to give evidence in open court. He did admit to having visited the young woman at her home, but denied ever having had a sexual affair with her and supported the idea that she was loony. Whether she was or wasn’t, that was enough for the courts, and she was committed to an asylum.
4. In it for the Sex
Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s mother Lady Randolph Churchill was quite beautiful and was rumored to have taken over 200 lovers in her lifetime, including King Edward VII. According to a 2010 biography of the Churchills, the affair lasted two years, but it was without any emotional attachment from either of them. It alleges that Lady Randolph Churchill never allowed herself to fall in love, and the relationship was all about the sex. I wonder if she ever got to try out the Love Chair?
3. It Was Your Fault!
Nellie Clifden apparently didn’t know the expression “Loose Lips Sink Ships,” and in no time at all, news of her and Edward’s affair reached Victoria and Albert’s horrified ears. Albert was so angry he wrote a scathing letter of reprimand to Edward, talking about the moral shame he was now suffering. Once Edward was satisfactorily apologetic, Albert visited him at Cambridge to forgive him. Unfortunately, he died suddenly a week later, and Victoria accused Edward of killing his father with his shocking and disgusting behavior. She also wrote in a letter to her eldest daughter stating that she “would never look upon Albert Edward again without a shudder.” That seems a little extreme!
2. Mommy Dearest
Victoria wasn’t quite as bad as Joan Crawford, but she did treat poor Edward pretty horribly. She apparently disliked him from the moment he was born, complaining that he was large, and she suffered from what would now be called postpartum depression right after giving birth. She also allegedly complained that he was ugly and “too frightful” to be called the same name as his father, often referring to him simply as “boy.” No wonder he had issues!
1. Issuing a Challenge
When Lady Randolph Churchill’s husband found out about Edward’s affair with his wife, he tried to blackmail Edward by threatening to make public some of their letters. This made Edward so angry that he challenged Lord Randolph Churchill to a duel. Things were escalating pretty quickly, but Churchill sent a message to the Prince saying he would duel anyone but a future monarch, so the duel was dropped and the Randolph Churchills were exiled to Ireland for six years instead.