The Scandalous Life of England's Ultimate 'Playboy Prince', Edward VII
The Scandalous Life of England’s Ultimate ‘Playboy Prince’, Edward VII

The Scandalous Life of England’s Ultimate ‘Playboy Prince’, Edward VII

D.G. Hewitt - July 8, 2019

The Scandalous Life of England’s Ultimate ‘Playboy Prince’, Edward VII
Edward’s tour of India was a great PR coup for him and the monarchy. Wikimedia Commons.

5. While touring India, Edward displayed views on race relations that were extremely progressive for the age

It was while touring India that another side to Edward emerged. Far from being a spoilt prince, by all accounts, he was generous and kind to every member of the royal traveling party. What’s more, at a time when many of those at the top of the British Empire were outright racists towards those they ruled over, the Prince of Wales lamented the poor treatment of Indians. In one letter to a close friend, he stated: “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.”

The Scandalous Life of England’s Ultimate ‘Playboy Prince’, Edward VII
The Prince on a historic visit to Jerusalem. The Jewish Chronicle.

4. The Prince’s decision to have Jews in his inner circle led to some criticizing his judgment

Just as Edward had no time for the anti-Indian racism of so many of his peers, so too did he pay no attention to those who criticized him for having close confidants and even friends who were Jewish. While anti-Semitism may have been rife at the time, even in the ‘polite society’ of cosmopolitan London, Edward welcomed the Rothschild family, as well as individuals such as Ernest Cassel and Maurice de Hirsch into his inner-circle. This lack of discrimination is still appreciated by London’s Jewish community – indeed, the community erected a statue to Edward in Tower Hamlets, East London, 1911.

The Scandalous Life of England’s Ultimate ‘Playboy Prince’, Edward VII
King Edward VII was widely loved by his people and by foreign rulers. YouTube.

3. When he finally became King, Edward showed grace and humility – and was an instant hit with his subjects

He may have gained a reputation as a Playboy Prince, but Edward remained hugely popular with the British public. So, when Queen Victoria died in January 1901, and the crown passed to Edward, the new monarch was widely welcomed. According to the English novelist J.B. Priestly, who was a child when Victoria died, he “was in fact the most popular king England had known since the earlier 1600s.” Choosing to be crowned as Edward rather than as Albert Edward as his mother had wished, was a PR masterstroke. The public loved him for insisting that his father’s name “should stand alone”.

The Scandalous Life of England’s Ultimate ‘Playboy Prince’, Edward VII
Edward ditched his vices when he became King and focused on being a diplomat instead. Wikimedia Commons.

2. As monarch, Edward ditched the playboy lifestyle in favor of life as a traveling diplomat

As King, Edward VII would be known as the ‘Uncle of Europe’. To some degree, this was literally true; he was related to most of the monarchs on the continent, including the German Kaiser and even the Russian Tsar. Instead of carrying on his playboy ways at home, Edward insisted on reinventing the concept of ‘royal diplomacy’. He carried out numerous official visits to foreign states, easing rivalries and strengthening alliances. He also revitalized the monarchy’s role at home, bringing back the regal opening of Parliament, for example.

The Scandalous Life of England’s Ultimate ‘Playboy Prince’, Edward VII
Edward VII’s death marked the end of peaceful relations between Europe’s monarchies. Wikimedia Commons.

1. Edward’s death brought Europe’s royals together – within a few years, they would all be at war

Given his prodigious apatite and his love of cigars and cigarettes, the royal physicians were not surprised when Edward collapsed on a state visit to Germany in 1909. He returned to London but never really recovered. The king died on 6 May 1910. His body lay in state for 2 weeks. During this time, 400,000 of his subjects walked past his coffin to pay their respects. At Edward’s funeral, almost all of Europe’s royals came together, united in grief. Within a few years, however, they would all be at war.

 

Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“The Heir Apparent: A Life of Edward VII, the Playboy Prince.” Washington Post, January 2014.

“Dirty Bertie: How royal playboy took Victorian Paris by storm with a three-way love seat.” Daily Express, October 2015.

“The King’s Racehorses.” The Hathi Trust.

“Edward VII: Biography & Facts.” Encyclopaedia Britannica.

“We’re all shocked! Read all about Edward VII’s scandalous sex life.” USA Today, June 2017.

“Edward VII’s Christmas Banquet Aboard HMS Serapis.” Royal Menus.

“The Fashions of Edward VII.” Bizarre Victoriana.

“Edward VII and his Jewish Court.” Anthony Allfrey. Thistle Publishing. 2013

“1900 Daimler: The first car fit for a king.” The Globe and Mail, September 2012.

“King Edward VII.” Gentleman’s Digest.

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