King Edward VII of England: Life, Reign and Accomplishments
While his mother sat on the throne for well over 60 years, Edward was starved off political authority in the monarchy. However, he did get the opportunity to embark on ceremonial trips around the kingdom.
Even though he successfully toured North America and India as a prince, Queen Victoria was far from pleased with her son’s irresponsible life. This kept their relationship in a bad state for long periods of time.
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King Edward VII’s Birth and Early Life
Edward’s birth took place at the royal residence – Buckingham Palace – on 9th November, 1841. Being the eldest son of his parents, Edward, by law, was also a duke of two counties: Cornwall and Rothesay.
In the royal family, Edward was popularly known as Bertie. As the eldest son of his father, Prince Albert, Edward was eligible to take the title of Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Saxe-Gotha.
While growing up, Edward was often tagged as the problem child in the royal household. He rarely got along with his 8 siblings. However, as he matured, he was able to control his emotions in a much better way. No one really expected him to turn up a fine king as he eventually did when he took the British throne.
In 1860, Edward visited the Niagara Falls as part of his North American tour. He had the honor of meeting with U.S. President James Buchanan.
Edward’s reputation as a royal son grew after his tour. It opened a lot of diplomatic gates for the U.K.
He wanted to pursue a military career in the country’s army, but his mother was not in support of the idea. Defiantly, he joined military officers for training in Ireland.
While at the military grounds, Edward allegedly had a three-night intimate affair with an actress named Nellie Clifden.
When news of his affair reached his dad, he got mad and paid a visit to Edward, with the intent of rebuking him. Two weeks after this incident, Prince Albert unfortunately died.
Queen Victoria blamed Edward for the untimely loss of her husband. It would take decades for the two royals to reconcile their difference.
Edward’s Marriage to Princess Alexandra of Denmark
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert arranged a marriage between Edward and a Denmark princess, Alexandra. A meeting was scheduled for Edward to meet with the princess in Germany. The two royals clicked immediately and kept in touch with each other.
Following the shocking death of her beloved husband, Queen Victoria collapsed into many days and years of mourning.
The Queen quickly scheduled a Middle East trip for Edward to meet with leaders in Jerusalem, Syria and Egypt. She wanted Edward to establish a friendly relations with Egyptian rulers.
After his return from the Middle East, he tied the knot with Princess Alexandra of Denmark.
The newly wed royal couple made Marlborough House their residence and went on to have 6 children together: Albert Victor (1864-1892), Fredrick Ernest George (1865-1936) (later King George V), Louise (1867-1931), Victoria (1867-1931), Maud (1869-1938) (later Queen of Norway), Alexander John of Wales (1871).
Two of Edward’s children – Albert Victor and Alexander John – died at very early ages. Albert Victor died at the age of 28 after suffering severe bouts of pneumonia in 1892. In the case of Alexander, his death came in 1871, less than 24 hours after he was born.
The Queen and her husband wanted their son to attain the best education so he would become a fine monarch during his reign.
In the nutshell, Edward’s educational journey was spelled out by his parents. He received tuition from private teachers at the age of 7. Contrary to his his parents’ expectation, Edward didn’t achieve great feats in academics.
After high school, he took a summer study program at the University of Edinburgh and later graduated from Oxford.
Once he was free from parental interference, Edward’s academic performance improved slightly at Oxford.
In 1861, he transferred to Trinity College in Cambridge and studied courses in history. At Trinity College, Professor Kinsley (teacher of modern history) helped unearth Edward’s potentials in the study of history. This training proved very useful during his 9-year reign on the British throne.
Edward’s Ascension to the Throne
Edward’s reign as King Edward VII began upon the death of his mother, Queen Victoria, in January 1901. In addition to being king of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Edward held title of “Emperor of India”.
Before his coronation, in August 1902, he suffered from appendicitis, but recovered fully after undergoing an operation.
In spite of the prevalent racial abuse against Jews at the time, the new king openly socialized with them and with all manner of people.
Edward VII’s Major Achievements
- Edward VII’s time on the throne saw improvements in the country’s army and foreign matters. He used his multilingual fluency in French, English and German to restore diplomacy by making several visits to many European countries. His visit to France fostered a peaceful relationship between the two countries which were nearly torn by war. He was nicknamed “Uncle of Europe” – as he was a friend to all European monarchs.
- King Edward created public holidays to be observed on days of key traditional ceremonies. The Edwardian era has been named after King Edward VII’s tenure on the English throne. It marked the beginning of a new century, characterized by new scientific and technological advances, as well as societal changes. Political ideologies such as socialism redefined his reign as king
- King Edward redeveloped the royal residence and re-instituted important cultural ceremonies. Mention could be made of the State Opening of Parliament, which his predecessor, Queen Victoria, ignored on several occasions.
- He also founded the Order of Merit as an honor to recognize and appreciate artistic and scientific contributions made all over the world. Edward went down in history books as the first ruling King of the U.K. to visit Scandinavia and the Russian Empire
- Militarily, the king revamped the army and naval forces of the United Kingdom. King Edward VII called for a redesign of the country’s chain of military command. In addition to the Territorial Forces, he created a military force to ensure that the U.K. was in a comfortable position to provide military assistance to France if the need arose. The king has been credited with the redevelopment of the British Army after it almost crumbled under the weight of the Second Boer War.
Constitutional Crisis and King Edward VII’s Death
When British Prime Minister H.H Asquith presented the People’s Budget, there was a parliamentary disapproval from the Upper Chamber, the House of Lords. This brought King Edward VII to the center of a constitutional crisis. The king’s effort to resolve the crisis failed after several attempts.
Towards his final years, King Edward suffered from bronchitis owing to his habitual smoking. He died on 6th May, 1910, at the age of 68. Britain was able resolve its parliamentary disagreements after his death.
Due to the death of his eldest son Albert in 1892, the person that succeeded him to the throne was his second eldest son, George, who was crowned King George V on June 22, 1911.
George V (Reign: 6 May 1910 – 20 January 1936) went on to rule in similar fashion as Edward VII, showing apt skills in governance and diplomatic relations.