Bronchitis, Emperor of India, Ernest Cassels, King Edward VII, King Edward VII of the United Kingdom of Great Britain, King George V of the United Kingdom, kings and queens of the United Kingdom, Prince of Wales
For God’s sake, let us sit upon the ground
And tell sad stories of the death of kings
~ William Shakepeare “The Life and Death of Richard the Second.”
Act 3, Scene 2
King Edward VII habitually smoked twenty cigarettes and twelve cigars a day. In 1907, a rodent ulcer, a type of cancer affecting the skin next to his nose, was cured with radium. Towards the end of his life he increasingly suffered from bronchitis. He suffered a momentary loss of consciousness during a state visit to Berlin in February 1909. The king was not a well man. In March 1910, he was staying at Biarritz when he collapsed. He remained there to convalesce, while in London Asquith tried to get the Finance Bill passed. The King’s continued ill health was unreported by the press and the Palace and for that he attracted criticism for staying in France while political tensions were so high.
HM King Edward VII of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Emperor of India.
On April 27 he returned to Buckingham Palace, still suffering from severe bronchitis. On May 4 Edward made his last journal entry. Queen Alexandra returned from visiting her brother, King George I of Greece, in Corfu a on May 5. For the first time the King did not greet the Queen at the train station. His dusky and grey complexion worried both family and doctors.
The following morning, May 6, the King was angered when his valet placed informal clothes to wear instead of his traditional clothing. He dressed in a frock coat and was placed in a chair by the window. He ate a light luncheon, smoked a cigar and collapsed when Sir Ernest Cassel visited him. Shortly thereafter the King suffered several heart attacks, but refused to go to bed, saying, “No, I shall not give in; I shall go on; I shall work to the end.” Between moments of faintness, his son the Prince of Wales (shortly to be King George V) told him that his horse, Witch of the Air, had won at Kempton Parkthat afternoon. The King replied, “Yes, I have heard of it. I am very glad.” These were his final words.
Princess Victoria (his daughter) sent for the Queen and the Archbishop of Canterbury. The doctors, who had given up hope, administered morphia to ease the pain. The Queen allowed Edward’s mistress Mrs. Alice Kappel and others to say goodby as the King sat in his armchair.
At 11:30 p.m. he lost consciousness for the last time and was put to bed with the help of the Prince of Wales. He died 15 minutes later. That evening King George V wrote in his diary, “I have lost my best friend and the best of fathers I have never had a word with him in my life I am heartbroken and overwhelmed with grief.”
Deathbed of King Edward VII.
Queen Alexandra refused to allow the King’s body to be moved for eight days afterwards, though she allowed small groups of visitors to enter his room. On May 11, the late King was dressed in his uniform and placed in a massive oak coffin, which was moved on May 14, to the throne room, where it was sealed and lay in state, with a guardsman stood at each corner of the bier. Despite the time that had elapsed since his death, Alexandra noted the King’s body remained “wonderfully preserved”.
On the morning of May 17, the coffin was placed on a gun carriage and drawn by black horses to Westminster Hall, with the new King and his family walking behind. Following a brief service, the royal family left, and the hall was opened to the public; over 400,000 people filed past the coffin over the next two days.
His funeral, held on 20 May 1910, marked the greatest assemblage of royalty and rank ever gathered in one place and, of its kind, the last. A royal train conveyed the King’s coffin from London to Windsor Castle, where Edward VII was buried at St George’s Chapel.
Standing, from left to right: King Haakon VII of Norway, Tsar Ferdinand of the Bulgarians, King Manuel II of Portugal and the Algarve, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany and Prussia, King George I of the Hellenes and King Albert I of the Belgians.
Seated, from left to right: King Alfonso XIII of Spain, King George V of the United Kingdom and King Frederick VIII of Denmark.