Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Very English King (Part Two)

Edward's Work

Queen Victoria didn't trust her rather wayward son. She kept him away from the State papers and insisted on doing all of her work herself. The problem was that this was actually one of the causes of Edward's rather fast life. As he didn't have much to do he thought that he may as well enjoy himself! He worked very hard when he actually had a job to do.

He charmed the French, for example, when he became the president of the British section of the international exhibition in Paris in 1878. He toasted the President of the French republic, Marshall MacMahon, and strongly supported the entente cordiale between the two countries.

Edward had always loved France and the French. He spoke French fluently and he had liked the splendour of the French court and admired their way of life. As a teenager on his first visit to Paris, he asked Empress Eugenie to let him stay there.
He said that his parents 'don't want us, and there are six more of us at home!'

Edward also worked hard when he became a Commissioner on a commission for the aged poor. Even a radical Liberal MP praised him and said that he had asked very astute questions. Edward was very interested in this subject but as royalty wasn't supposed to be involved in politics his hands were somewhat tied.

Queen Victoria realised how much she really did love her son when he almost died of typhoid. Their relationship improved greatly and she trusted him with more work, realising that she was growing old and might die at any time.

King Edward

Queen Victoria finally died in 1901 and Edward became King. There was great concern when the Coronation had to be postponed because he had appendicitis and had to have an emergency operation. The King was sixty so there were fears for his life.

Few people thought that Edward would be a good King. They thought that he liked enjoying himself too much but he proved them wrong. He busied himself with the State papers and worked at making peace between countries. Edward was actually nicknamed 'The Peacemaker'.

He charmed the French yet again in 1903. They were angry about the British occupation of Egypt, the Boer war, and criticism of the Dreyfuss trial. King Edward soon brought them around, however. President Loubet even made a return visit.
The Anglo-French agreement was signed in 1904.

Edward had less luck with the wilful and difficult Kaiser. He prophetically said that his attitudes might help begin a war.

The 'King of Europe' died in 1910 and worked almost until the end. The Earl of Grenville remarked when Queen Victoria was alive that: "Prince Albert was unloved, because he possessed all the virtues which are sometimes lacking in the Englishman. The Prince of Wales is loved because he has all the faults of which the Englishman is accused."1.

1. John Van Der Kiste, Queen Victoria's Grandchildren, Sutton Publishing, London, 1983.


Hels said...

"He charmed the French yet again in 1903. They were angry about the British occupation of Egypt, the Boer war, and criticism of the Dreyfuss trial."

That is rather ironic. I can see where the French would be upset about the British occupation of Egypt and I can understand why the French would be hyper-sensitive about the Dreyfus trial. But what was the French connection with the two Boer wars?

Mind you, the 1904 Anglo-French Agreement was neat. France recognised British interests in Egypt, and Britain recognised French interests in Morocco. I think Edward was smarter (for a monarch, not a politician) than I had given him credit for :)

Cheryl Ciucevich said...

Great posts! A very balanced view of the bon vivant king. Love the Grenville quote!

Viola said...

Hello Hels,

Apparently the French were quite sympathetic with the Boers and very anti-English at the time. I have a book about Edward VII and the French so I'll have a look at that again. It's not with me at the moment.

Edward VII is still not taken very seriously, unfortunately, but he really did have a great talent for diplomacy and he worked hard.


Thank you very much for your praise!

Custom Search