Edward VII, King of Great Britain

Edward VII, King of Great Britain
   King of Great Britain and Ireland and Emperor of India from 1901 to 1910, Edward VII was the eldest son of Queen Victoria. Owing to his mother’s longevity he did not ascend the throne until late middle age. He had in the meantime acquired a justified reputation as a bon vivant, although he always took his royal duties seriously, becoming as Prince of Wales something of a model for the future role of royals as roving public ambassadors. As king, he played an active and at times independent role in foreign affairs, being perhaps the last monarch to do so. In pre-1914 Europe, with most of the continent still under monarchical rule, he had close personal connections to most countries, including Germany, although there was no love lost between Edward and his nephew Kaiser Wilhelm II, whose naval building program was in some measure motivated by imagined slights from his uncle. Edward was a Francophile, and his visit to Paris in 1903 foreshadowed the Anglo-French Entente Cordiale of the following year.
   Edward also played a role in reconciling Britain and Russia, long divided over the Balkans, Central Asia, and Persia, with his 1908 visit. He was opposed to the overuse of the Lords’ veto against the reforming measures of Herbert Asquith ’ s Liberals, but he was also hostile to a threatened mass creation of peers to overcome the problem, going so far as to contemplate abdication. Edward died on May 6, 1910 before he had to confront the issue. He is remembered for his post-Victorian geniality, his large lifestyle, and his diplomatic skills. He was the last monarch to give his name to an era; the Edwardian era, in fact bedeviled by international crises and social tensions, is often seen through spectacles given an anachronistic rose tint by the disasters of the next decade.
    Lee, Sidney. King Edward the Seventh. 2 vols. London: MacMillan, 1925–1927;
    Magnus, Philip. King Edward the Seventh. London: John Murray, 1964.

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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