Updated: Jul 1
Prince Edward, the Prince of Wales, was the eldest son – and so their heir – of Queen Victoria. Born in 1841, he had to wait 59 years to become King himself. Thanks to his mother’s longevity, he spent almost a full 6 decades waiting to fulfill his destiny. Since he didn’t need to work, he needed to find something to kill the time. And he found it in women, food, and gambling. By the time he reached his 20s, Edward had gained a reputation for being the ultimate â Playboy Prince’, and for good reason The heir apparent to the British throne spent huge sums of money traveling between London, Paris, and the far reaches of the Empire. Occasionally, he traveled for official duties. But just as often he traveled the world in search of the best parties, the most glamorous women, or the biggest card games. Despite this lavish lifestyle, the British people loved their Dirty Bertie’, and he would go on to become one of the most popular Kings in centuries. So, why was Edward so decadent and why was he so beloved? Here are 13 things you need to know about the life of Prince Edward, the Prince of Wales:
Prince Albert and Queen Victoria defined an age and groomed their son to succeed them. Wikimedia Commons.
13. Prince Edward was born to rule – but was he born into a gilded cage he would spend years trying to escape?
On the morning of 9 November 1841, Buckingham Palace announced the birth of Edward, the first son of Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert. The infant was named after his grandfather on Victoria’s side, Prince Edward. By right of his birth alone, Edward was automatically born with a string of titles, including that of the Duke of Cornwall and the Prince of Saxe-Coburg. He was born into a life of immense wealth and privilege. But, as we shall see, this brought with it a host of problems.
Young Prince Edward, seen here on his mother’s right side, grew up in privilege. BBC.
12. The young Edward was a long way from the model young man his parents wanted him to be, and he knew it
As the eldest son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, Edward was the heir to the British throne. As such, he was not allowed to have a normal childhood. Instead, he was educated at home. Moreover, his education was designed by Prince Albert himself and designed to mold the young boy into a diligent model constitutional monarch who respected both tradition and modernity. Perhaps not surprisingly, young Edward was a very lonely boy and, since he struggled in his studies, felt himself a huge disappointment to his demanding parents.
The ball Napoleon III threw for his royal visitors got Edward addicted to the good life. Pinterest.
11. At the age of 13, Prince Edward attended a lavish ball thrown by Napoleon III, and his eyes were opened to the world of opulent parties
As a young boy, Edward enjoyed an innocent childhood. But this all changed when he was 13. In 1855, he accompanied his parents on a state visit to France. The Royal Family were greeted by Emperor Napoleon III and huge crowds lined the streets of Paris to welcome them. What’s more, Napoleon hosted a lavish ball for his guests, with fireworks, drinking, and dancing into the early hours of the morning. Edward had his first taste of the party life that night and he was hooked. For the next few decades, he would spend most of his energy simply trying to have a good time.
Prince Albert was idealized by his wife, and his son could never match up. Wikimedia Commons.
10. From a young age, Edward was told he would never measure up to his father, Prince Albert
Some of Prince Edward’s biographers believe his relationship with his parents had a profound impact on his later life. Both Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert were highly protective of their son and were determined to protect him from the â€˜corrupting’ influences of wider society. Naturally, he would rebel in later life and enjoy a life of decadence. At the same time, Victoria made it clear that Edward would never be half the man her husband was. After Albert’s death, Victoria even became resentful of her inferior son. She famously wrote to her daughter: “I never can, or shall, look at him without a shudder.”
The young Prince was kept in a bubble by his protective parents. History Extra.
9. Queen Victoria worried about her son so much that she banned him from pursuing a career in the British Army
Like many royals before and after him, as a young man, Edward had dreams of a glorious military career. His mother, the Queen, had different ideas, however. According to some scholars, Victoria didn’t just mollycoddle her son; she believed he wasn’t fit or strong enough to survive in the British Army, so she effectively banned him from joining. Instead, she pushed him towards higher education. At first, he resented this. However, first at Oxford and then at Cambridge in the 1860s, the Prince of Wales started enjoying education for the first time in his life and he became an adept and engaged student.
Young Edward’s first romantic adventures caused the Queen great distress. Wikimedia Commons.Advertisement 8. Edward may have been one of England’s most infamous womanizers, but he was something of a late starter
Compared to most royals and English aristocrats, Edward was a late bloomer when it came to love and sex. In fact, he was 19 years old when he lost his virginity. The Prince was on a 10-week tour of Ireland with the Grenadier Guards. While they were stationed just outside of Dublin, Edward’s fellow officers Charles Carrington – who would go on to be a top Liberal politician- recruited the well-known Irish actress Nellie Clifden to visit the camp and â€˜make the Prince a man’. The Prince was smitten and even paid for Nellie to sail over to England and visit him at his home on more than one occasion.
Queen Victoria blamed her husband’s death on her son’s bad behavior. Wikimedia Commons.Advertisement 7. Prince Albert was so distraught by his son’s affair with a common actress
Victoria said he died from a broken heart According to Queen Victoria, Edward was partly responsible for her husband’s death. The Queen and Prince Albert had found out about their son’s inappropriate affair with the Irish actress Nellie Clifden. According to Palace insiders, they were more than dismayed. Prince Albert was particularly disappointed and would lament his son’s “fall” to close friends and advisors. When Albert passed away soon afterward, Victoria claimed that he had died of a broken heart, “killed by that dreadful business”. While Albert had actually died from typhoid fever, the young Prince still felt responsible and felt it was time to grow up and be a respectable royal.
Edward with his wife, the future Queen Alexandra of England. Wikimedia Commons.Advertisement 6. Edward wed when he was just 21, and the Queen hoped married life would be the making of her son.
Just before his death, Prince Albert declared that the only thing that could save his son from a life of ruin was a stable marriage to a good woman. When Albert died, Queen Victoria made finding Edward a suitable wife her number one priority. She identified Princess Alexandra of Denmark as the perfect match. Even though she and Edward had only met two brief times before, Victoria declared that their union was based on ‘true love. They wed at Windsor Castle on 10 Match 1863, with the Queen watching happily. Edward was just 21-years-old, his new bride only 18.
Edward undoubtedly loved his wife – but he loved other women too. Wikimedia Commons.Advertisement
5. Alexandra and Edward were almost the perfect fit and it was a happy marriage – for the prince at least
While it may have been an arranged marriage, by all accounts Alexandra and Edward soon grew close. They made a home in London and at Sandringham House in the county of Norfolk. Before long, there was a genuine affection between the newlyweds. The Queen made them the Prince and Princess of Wales and they became fixtures on the London social scene. Alexandra bore Edward 5 children and was a loyal and dutiful royal wife. Edward, however, was far from loyal.
The British public grew to love Edward despite his wild ways. Pinterest.Advertisement 4. A brush with death proved to be the making of Edward and won him the support of his people
In the autumn of 1870, it looked like the British public was warming to the idea of a republic. Many looked across the water to France, where Emperor Napoleon III had been deposed and replaced with the progressive Third Republic. Palace insiders quietly feared that Britain’s royal family was at risk of being ousted in the same way. Luckily for them, Prince Edward fell seriously ill in late 1871. His brush with death was a huge PR coup for the Palace. The public rallied behind their heir apparent and his recovery from typhoid fever was greeted with celebrations across the country.
Princess Alexandra had no option but to tolerate her husband’s womanizing ways. Pinterest.Advertisement 3. Princess Alexandra almost definitely knew of her husband’s extra-marital activities but chose to play the dutiful royal wife
It’s almost certain that the Princess of Wales knew about Edward’s numerous affairs. After all, no matter how hard he tried to keep his private life private and his extramarital dalliances discrete, before long, most of the country knew about his womanizing ways. By the time he reached his mid-20s, Edward’s reputation as the ultimate ‘Playboy Prince’ was firmly established. The Prince of Wales would often travel to the center of London without his wife. It was here he met many of the ladies who would become his mistresses.
Sir Charles Mourdant claimed that Prince Edward had an affair with his wife. Wikimedia Commons.Advertisement 3. However hard he tried to keep his affairs quiet, sometimes an angry husband would find out, as one sensational divorce case showed
Just how many women the Prince of Wales bedded is not known. For starters, he tried to keep his affairs private, not least because many of his mistresses were married themselves. For example, in 1869, a prominent Member of Parliament, Sir Charles Mordaunt threatened to name Edward in a divorce suit, alleging the royal had seduced his wife in their family home while he was away working at the House of Commons. Edward, of course, denied the charge. The case never came to court. However, Edward’s reputation took a hit, especially considering the strict moral code of his mother, Queen Victoria.
Lady Randolph Churchill was one of the Playboy Prince’s many lovers. Wikimedia Commons.Advertisement 2. How many lovers did Edward have outside of his marriage? 50? 60? Nobody knows for certain According to most biographers, the Prince of Wales had at least 50 lovers. Some were just one-off liaisons, while others bloomed into longer-term affairs. Above all, Edward loved the company of wealthy socialites and actresses, and singers. The prominent actress Lillie Langtry was almost certainly one of his conquests, as was Lady Randolph Churchill. Both women were married when they met Edward. What’s more, it’s also strongly believed that the Crown Prince had an affair with ‘La Barucci’, a high-class Italian prostitute!
Alice Keppel was one of the Prince’s favorite mistresses and confidants. Wikimedia Commons.Advertisement 1. The Prince didn’t just choose his mistresses on looks alone, some of them became close confidants
One of the Playboy Prince’s favorite lovers was Alice Keppel. As a society hostess, she was one of the most famous people in 1890s London. The pair met in 1898. And, while she was married to The Honourable George Keppel, they embarked on a passionate affair almost immediately. Alice wasn’t just a bed chamber companion for the future King. She was also a close friend and confidant. In fact, she remained his mistress right up until Edward’s death in 1910. It was said that she had a unique ability to draw him out of his frequent dark moods.
Yes, dear readers, this is scandalous isn't it?
To be continued!