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House of Hanover - King Edward VII

Name: King Edward VII
Father: Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha
Mother: Queen Victoria
Born: November 9, 1841 at Buckingham Palace
Ascended to the throne: January 22, 1901 aged 59 years
Crowned: August 9, 1902 at Westminster Abbey
Married: Alexandra, daughter of Christian of Denmark, on March 10, 1863
Children: Three sons including George V, and three daughters
Died: May 6, 1910 at Buckingham Palace, aged 68 years, 5 months, and 24 days
Buried at: Windsor

He was the eldest son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, and known to his family as ‘Bertie’. As Prince of Wales he did not meet his parent’s expectations of duty and during his mother’s long reign devoted himself to being self-indulgent. He was likeable, sociable and outgoing but became known as a playboy interested in horse racing, shooting, eating, drinking and other men’s wives.

In 1863 he married Alexandra of Denmark and the marriage was a reasonably happy producing 6 children. Alexandra tolerated his succession of mistresses who included Lille Langtry (actress), Lady Churchill (mother of Winston Churchill), Sarah Bernhardt (actress) and Alice Keppel (great-grandmother of Camilla wife of Charles the current Prince of Wales). Having mistresses was at the time not uncommon amongst the aristocracy, but his mother despaired of him and kept him away from taking an active part in politics even after Albert's death and she was elderly and retired to Balmoral and Osborne. In 1871 Edward survived a serious illness of typhoid which had killed his father. His eldest son Albert who was engaged to Mary of Teck died of pneumonia.

Edward was well received abroad and as heir-apparent toured India in 1875. When he finally became King Edward VII on the death of his mother in 1901, he frequently made trips to Europe including France where he contributed to the Anglo-French ‘Entente Cordiale’ signed in 1904, to Russia and the Triple Entente between Britain, Russia and France which a few years later would play an important role in affairs on the outbreak of World War I. He supported reform of the army following the Boer War, and Admiral Fisher’s expansion of the Royal Navy including building the new Dreadnought battleships.

The Edwardian period was seen as golden age for the upper class in Europe and America, but society was changing – socialism, women suffragettes, the Labour party and trade unions were becoming powerful and the founding of Britain’s Welfare State. ‘We are all socialists now’ he is reported to have remarked. In an increasing democratic society Edward saw the importance of displaying the mystique of pomp and circumstance of the monarchy, and seeing and being seen by the people. A role he and his successors took to well. He died of pneumonia at Buckingham Palace in 1910 and was succeeded by his second son George V.

King Edward VII's Signature

Timeline for King Edward VII

1901 Edward VII becomes King on the death of his mother, Queen Victoria.
1901 Australia is granted dominion status.
1902 Arthur Balfour becomes Prime Minister.
1902 First trans-Atlantic radio transmission
1902 Edward VII institutes the Order of Merit.
1902 Empire Day is celebrated for the first time.
1902 Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories published.
1903 Wilbur and Orville Wright of the US make the first manned and controlled aircraft flight.
1903 The Women’s Social and Political Union, demanding votes for women, is founded by Emmeline Pankhurst.
1904 Britain and France sign the Entente Cordiale, settling outstanding territorial disputes.
1904 Sigmund Freud publishes Psychopathology of Everyday Life.
1904 Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie is published.
1905 Motor buses are first used in London.
1906 Construction of HMS Dreadnought
1907 Edward VII visits his cousin Tzar Nicholas II of Russia
1907 Taxi-cabs are legally recognized in Britain for the first time.
1907 Baden-Powell takes the first ever group of boy scouts on holiday to Brownsea island, Dorset.
1907 Parliament rejects Channel Tunnel scheme.
1907 New Zealand is granted dominion status.
1908 Production of Ford motor cars begins.
1908 Publication of The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
1908 The fourth Olympic Games are held in London.
1908 Herbert Henry Asquith becomes Prime Minister.
1908 The Triple Entente is signed between Russia, France, and Britain.
1908 The Children’s Act establishes separate juvenile courts to try children.
1908 Old Age Pensions established in Britain for all over 70 years old with an income of less than ten shillings per week.
1909 The People’s Budget is introduced by Lloyd George
1909 The Women’s Suffrage movement becomes more militant in their fight for votes for women.
1909 Introduction of Labour Exchanges
1909 French airman, Louis Blériot, makes the first cross-Channel flight from Calais to Dover.
1909 First rugby match to be played Twickenham takes place.
1909 First Boy Scout Rally is held at Crystal Palace, London.
1910 Constitutional Crisis is caused by the House of Commons’ attempt to curb the power of the House of Lords.
1910 Edward dies of pneumonia at Buckingham Palace.