Alexandra of Denmark, Christian IX of Denmark, Earl of Chester, King Edward VII of the United Kingdom, Louise of Hesse-Cassel, Prince Albert Edward, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Prince of Wales, Queen Victoria
Edward VII (Albert Edward; November 9, 1841 – May 6, 1910) was King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and the British Dominions, and Emperor of India from January 22, 1901 until his death in 1910.
Edward was born at 10:48 in the morning on November 9, 1841 in Buckingham Palace. He was the eldest son and second child of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom and her husband, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. He was christened Albert Edward at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, on January 25, 1842.
He was named Albert after his father and Edward after his maternal grandfather, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn. He was known as Bertie to the royal family throughout his life. He was related to royalty throughout Europe.
As the eldest son of the British sovereign, he was automatically Duke of Cornwall and Duke of Rothesay at birth. As a son of Prince Albert, he also held the titles of Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and Duke of Saxony.
He was created Prince of Wales and Earl of Chester on December 8 1841, Earl of Dublin on January 17, 1850, a Knight of the Garter on November 9, 1858, and a Knight of the Thistle on May 24, 1867. In 1863, he renounced his succession rights to the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in favour of his younger brother Prince Alfred.
The Queen and Prince Albert were determined that their eldest son should have an education that would prepare him to be a model constitutional monarch. At age seven, Edward embarked on a rigorous educational programme devised by Albert, and supervised by several tutors. Unlike his elder sister Victoria, he did not excel in his studies.
He tried to meet the expectations of his parents, but to no avail. Although Edward was not a diligent student—his true talents were those of charm, sociability and tact—Benjamin Disraeli described him as informed, intelligent and of sweet manner. After the completion of his secondary-level studies, his tutor was replaced by a personal governor, Robert Bruce.
Edward had hoped to pursue a career in the British Army, but his mother vetoed an active military career. He had been gazetted colonel on November 9, 1858—to his disappointment, as he had wanted to earn his commission by examination.
In September 1861, Edward was sent to Germany, supposedly to watch military manoeuvres, but actually in order to engineer a meeting between him and Princess Alexandra of Denmark, the eldest daughter of Prince Christian of Denmark and his wife Louise of Hesse-Cassel. The Queen and Prince Albert had already decided that Edward and Alexandra should marry.
They met at Speyer on September 24 under the auspices of his elder sister, Victoria, who had married Crown Prince Friedrich of Prussia in 1858. Edward’s sister, acting upon instructions from their mother, had met Alexandra at Strelitz in June; the young Danish princess made a very favourable impression.
Edward and Alexandra were friendly from the start; the meeting went well for both sides, and marriage plans advanced.
Edward gained a reputation as a playboy. Determined to get some army experience, he attended manoeuvres in Ireland, during which he spent three nights with an actress, Nellie Clifden, who was hidden in the camp by his fellow officers.
Prince Albert, though ill, was appalled and visited Edward at Cambridge to issue a reprimand. Albert died in December 1861 just two weeks after the visit. Queen Victoria was inconsolable, wore mourning clothes for the rest of her life and blamed Edward for his father’s death. At first, she regarded her son with distaste as frivolous, indiscreet and irresponsible. She wrote to her eldest daughter, “I never can, or shall, look at him without a shudder.”
Once widowed, Queen Victoria effectively withdrew from public life. Shortly after Prince Albert’s death, she arranged for Edward to embark on an extensive tour of the Middle East, visiting Egypt, Jerusalem, Damascus, Beirut and Istanbul.
As soon as Edward returned to Britain, preparations were made for his engagement, which was sealed at Laeken in Belgium on September 9, 1862. Edward married Alexandra of Denmark at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, on March 10, 1863. He was 21; she was 18.
The couple established Marlborough House as their London residence and Sandringham House in Norfolk as their country retreat. They entertained on a lavish scale. Their marriage met with disapproval in certain circles because most of Queen Victoria’s relations were German, and Denmark was at loggerheads with Germany over the territories of Schleswig and Holstein.
When Alexandra’s father inherited the throne of Denmark in November 1863, as King Christian IX, the German Confederation took the opportunity to invade and annex Schleswig-Holstein. The Queen was of two minds as to whether it was a suitable match, given the political climate. After the marriage, she expressed anxiety about their socialite lifestyle and attempted to dictate to them on various matters, including the names of their children.