Wikijunior:Kings and Queens of England/The House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha
Edward VII (1901-1910)
Edward VII was born at Buckingham Palace on 9 November 1841. His parents were Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Edward VII was King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, King of the Dominions of the British Empire and the Emperor of India from 22 January 1901 to his death on 6 May 1910. He was the first British monarch of the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Despite taking the name "King Edward", he was known to his family as "Bertie" as his first name was Albert.
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert wanted their eldest son to have an education that would prepare him to be a model constitutional monarch. Aged seven, Bertie started a rigorous educational programme devised by the Prince Consort. However, he was not a good student, with his main talents being his tact and charm. Edward hoped to have a career in the British Army, but this was denied him because he was heir to the throne, although he did serve briefly in the Grenadier Guards in 1861. As a young man, he gained a reputation as a playboy.
Once widowed, Queen Victoria withdrew from public life, but she did arrange for her son to marry Princess Alexandra of Denmark, the beautiful elder daughter of King Christian IX of Denmark. The couple married on 10 March 1863. However, Edward kept mistresses throughout his married life.
During Victoria's widowhood, Edward represented her at public gatherings, but Victoria did not allow him to have an active role in the running of the country. Several incidents, including a court appearance in a notorious divorce case, brought him bad press and caused him to be regarded as unsuitable material for a future monarch. He was known for his love of gambling and country sports. But Edward was also a patron of the arts and sciences and helped found the Royal College of Music.
When Queen Victoria died on 22 January 1901, Bertie, then aged 59, became king. Edward VII and Queen Alexandra were crowned at Westminster Abbey on 9 August 1902. His coronation was going to be on 26 June, but two days before on 24 June, Edward developed appendicitis. He needed what may have been a life-saving operation. Two weeks later it was announced that the King was out of danger.
As king, Edward's main interests lay in the fields of foreign affairs and naval and military matters. Fluent in French and German, he made a number of visits abroad. One of his most important foreign trips was an official visit to France in spring 1903 as the guest of President Émile Loubet. This visit helped build the Anglo-French Entente Cordiale, which was an informal agreement setting out what territories were British and French colonies in North Africa, with the aim of preventing future wars between the two countries.
Edward VII, mainly through his mother and his father-in-law, was related to nearly every other European monarch and came to be known as the Uncle of Europe. The German Emperor Wilhelm II, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, King Alphonso XIII of Spain and Carl Eduard, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha were Edward's nephews. King Haakon VII of Norway was his son-in-law and nephew by marriage. King George I of the Hellenes and King Frederick VIII of Denmark were his brothers-in-law. King Albert I of the Belgians, King Manuel II of Portugal, King Ferdinand of Bulgaria, Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands and Prince Ernst August, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg, were his cousins.
In the last year of his life, Edward was involved in a constitutional crisis when the Conservative majority in the House of Lords refused to pass the "People's Budget" proposed by the Liberal government of Prime Minister Herbert Henry Asquith. The King died before the Liberal victory in the 1910 general election resolved the situation, but he told Asquith that he would, if necessary, appoint new peers to allow the Budget to pass through the House of Lords.
Edward died from a heart attack brought on by bronchitis on 6 May 1910. He was succeeded by his eldest surviving son, who became George V.
George V (1910-1936)
George V was born at Marlborough House on 3 June 1865. His parents were Edward VII and Queen Alexandra. He was King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, King of the Dominions of the British Empire and Emperor of India from 6 May 1910 until his death on 20 January 1936.
As a younger son of the Prince of Wales (as Edward VII then was), he was not expected to become king. However, as George was born only fifteen months after his brother Prince Albert Victor, it was decided to educate both royal princes together. Given the importance of Prince Albert Victor's expected future role as king, both brothers were given a strict programme of study, although neither did well at their studies.
Later the royal brothers served as Naval cadets on HMS Bacchante. They toured the British Empire, visiting the colonies in Australia and the Far East, and also getting tattooed in Japan. When they returned to the UK, the brothers were parted with George joining the Royal Navy and Albert Victor attending Trinity College, Cambridge. George served in the navy until 1891. He travelled the world and visited many areas of the British Empire. He also got many more tattoos, and a parrot that he took home to England with him.
In 1891, Prince Albert Victor became engaged to his second cousin once removed, Princess Victoria Mary of Teck (always called "May"), the only daughter of Prince Francis, Duke of Teck and Princess Mary Adelaide of Cambridge. However, Albert Victor died of pneumonia six weeks later, leaving George second in line to the throne and likely to succeed after his father. Queen Victoria still favoured Princess May as a suitable bride for a future King, so she persuaded George to propose to May and May accepted. Despite its being an arranged marriage, George and May's marriage was largely successful, and unlike his father, George is not believed to have had a mistress. They married on 6 July 1893, and they had six children in total. David and Bertie were the first two. Then came Mary, Henry, George and John. The first two were later to become King Edward VIII and King George VI respectively.
Time before becoming king
In 1892 Queen Victoria made George the Duke of York. As Duke and Duchess of York, George and May carried out a wide variety of public duties. In 1900, they toured the British Empire, visiting Australia, where the Duke opened the first session of the Australian Parliament on the creation of the Commonwealth of Australia.
In 1901, Queen Victoria died and George became next in line to the throne. His father, Edward VII, made him Prince of Wales later that year. In contrast with Queen Victoria, who excluded Edward from state affairs, George was given wide access to state documents and papers. He often read over the papers with his wife, Princess May, who was cleverer than him. May also helped write speeches for her husband.
On 6 May 1910, King Edward VII died and George became George V. Princess May became Queen Mary. On 11 December 1911, the King and Queen travelled to India for the Delhi Durbar, where they were presented to Indian dignitaries and princes as the Emperor and Empress of India. George wore the newly-created Imperial Crown of India at the ceremony. Later, the Emperor and Empress travelled throughout India visiting their new subjects.
As King and Queen, George and Mary saw Britain through World War I. This war was fought against Germany, amongst others, which made it a difficult time for the Royal Family, as they had many German relatives. On 17 July 1917 he changed the name of the British Royal House from the German-sounding House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to the House of Windsor. He also renounced all use of German titles and styles for his British relatives.
World War I took its toll on George's health, which rapidly worsened. He had always had a weak chest, which was not helped by his smoking. An illness saw him go to the seaside, by Bognor Regis in Sussex, where Queen Mary helped nurse him back to health (however, reputedly the King's last words, upon being told that he would soon be well enough to revisit Bognor Regis were "... bugger Bognor!") He did live to see the Silver Jubilee of his reign, in 1935, by which time he had become a well-loved king.
George died on 20 January 1936 at Sandringham House in Norfolk. He was buried at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle. It is said his death was hastened by his doctor giving him a lethal injection of cocaine and morphine, both to end the King's suffering and to make sure he died by midnight so that his death could be announced in the morning newspapers.