Albert Edward, Prince of Wales
Edward V11th was the eldest son of Queen Victoria who with her husband Albert were somewhat preoccupied with the behaviour of her heir, believing that the previously blatant immorality of British monarchs might affect the future of the monarchy.
Prince Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, fondly called Bertie appeared lazy, easily bored and uninterested in serious matters taking pleasure in the social and pleasurable aspects of life. His childhood was confined and disciplined against which he fought for the rest of his life.
The Princes expanding life
The prince started his infidelity in the first years of their marriage- he loved women and found beautiful intelligent women irresistible. During Alexandra's second pregnancy he visited Sweden where King Charles XV arranged for him to meet a number of women. The next pregnancy occurred when the Prince visited Russia to attend Alexandra's sisters wedding, He was so attentive tot he ladies that tales of his conduct were soon heard in London. The prince became a continental traveller enjoying trips throughout Europe but preferably Paris for the opera, supper and female companionship. In France he adopted a nom de plume Baron Renfrew and established liaisons with aristocratic families who were happy for the prince to continue his passion for affairs of the heart.
In London the Prince found that his friends often accommodated his social tastes by opening their homes. Lord Carrington allowed his London house to be used to entertain chorus girls that he was fond of. In later years a suite was reserved for royal entertain at the Cavendish hotel in Jermyn Street.
Whilst Victoria espoused a more puritanical style of life, society as a whole was still following the more rakish style of George 1V. The attitude was that lewd behaviour was to be allowed but not found out. Mrs Patrick Cmpbell summed it up with "It doesn't matter what you do in the bedroom , as long as you dont do it in the street and frighten the horses." The prince developed a style, visiting ladies in the afternoons when their husbands were out, instructiong that no callers should be admitted. To ensure a swift escape if necessary an unmarked cab parked discreetly around the corner ready to take action. Another habit developed in the rise of the country house weekend where coupkles would visit Saturday to Monday sleeping in separate bedrooms which was useful for late night visiting.
Marriage to Alexandra of Denmark
Victoria and Albert agreed that the prince should marry early but agreed to his demands that she should be someone be cared for and who was beautiful. At last a bride was suggested, Princess Alexandra of Denmark, politically not a good match as war was looming between Denmark and Prussia. The union took on more significance when it was revealed that the prince had succumbed to the charms on one Nellie Clifden whilst at a military camp, causing his father to visit him only weeks before his death from typhoid.
Once married, life for the Prince and Princess became a social whirl with neither of them having a role in life other than to enjoy themselves. During the first eight years of their marriage Princess Alexandra bore six children, her seventh child died almost immediately after birth. The prince and princess provided a happy family home mostly at Sandringham in Norfolk which the Queen had bought for him. Alexandra was not blind to the King's affairs but he always came home to her and treated her well in public, giving her the family life she desired.
Scandals arose with increasing frequency. The prince was named in the divorce action of Lady Mordaunt which only failed because the lady was declared insane and unfit to plead. He did manage to keep secret the birth of his child to Lady Susan Vane Tempest after she had been widowed. Whilst on a tour of India scandal arose capable of shaking the whole royal foundations. Lady Aylesford decided to elope with her lover Lord Blanford, The prince did not put pressure on Lord Blanford to stop this and was felt to be taking Lord Aylesfords side. Lord Randolph Churchill, Blandfords younger brother, visited Alexandra and told her of his intention to publish compromising letters between the Prince and Lady Aylesford. It was suggested that these letters would prevent the King from accessing the throne, Princess Alexandra rose to the challenge of the occasion and met her husband at Portsmouth following his visit to India and accompanied him to the opera that same evening. The prince was so angry that Churchill had involved the princess that he challenged Churchill to a duel. The Prime Minister of the time was Disreali- he brokered a solution. Lord Aylesford dropped the divorce action and the couple quietly separated with his wife and Blandford moving to Paris. Churchill apologised to the Prince but the division was felt and he became excluded from society as the Prince would not accept any entertainment from anyone who had entertained Churchill. The Duke of Marlborough, Churchill's father, agreed to become Viceroy of Ireland and took Lord Randolph Churchill with him. It was only following the birth of Winston and the ascendancy of Churchill in the Conservative party that the Prince condescended to dine at the same table as the Churchill's.
The prince began his affair with Lily Langtry whilst in middle age. She was a beautiful, shrewd and discreet woman who circulated through London society with her husband in tow, Lily Langtry managed to conduct her affairs in a respectable manner and was treated with consideration by Alexandra. In a few years Mr Langtry succumbed to drink and debt and they retired to the country where Lily gave birth to a child, believed to be fathered by Prince Louis of Battenbourg. Mrs Langtry tried to be independent by taking to the stage, supported by the prince who cajoled his friends to attend her performances and helping to start a successful career. For as long as she lived she never said a word about her relationship with the prince.
After Jersey Lily came Daisy Brooke, a rich beautiful , talkative and flamboyant woman who had once been considered as a wife for Prince Leopold but rejected as being too fast. Lady Brooke got herself into a difficult situation in a romantic entanglement with Lord Beresford. A letter meant for him was intercepted by his wife who held onto it as an insurance for her future. Lady Brooke appealed to the Prince for help to retrieve the letter, The Prince, influened by Lady Brooke's beauty and charm approached Lady Beresford for the letter. Lady Beresford denied the prince the letter and found herself excluded from London society. Lord Beresford rose to the defence of his wife and threatened to tell all even detailing the role that the prince had played in the affair. At the same time the prince was also involved in another scandal, the Tranby Croft Affair sparked off when Sir William Gordon-Cumming was found cheating at cards. The prince was at the game and when it came to court the Princes reputation suffered severely as all and sundry now knew that was involved in gambling whilst staying at country houses. Queen Victoria remarked that in light of this and the potential of the Beresford scandal to explode "the monarchy almost is in danger". It was left to the Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury to negotiate a solution just before Lord Beresford was to call a press conference. Salisbury arranged for an exchange of letters between the prince and the Beresfords in as near to a royal apology as possible and Lady Brooke was herself excluded from society for the foreseeable future. The Prince remained on close terms with Lady Brooke and before long she was welcomed back into society who recognised that she needed to be invited to the same gatherings as the prince. Lady Brooke was now Countess of Warwick and the Prince always remained on good terms with her husband Lord Warwick.
In 1898 the Prince ended the as his love was draining away. Countess Warwick had adopted a strange socialist creed and held such intense views that the prince found it difficult to keep her company. At this time she was delivered of a child, not the Princes and he used this proof of infidelity to arrange an amicable separation. Although rich, the Countess was an extravagant spender and drained her inheritance, After the death of the prince Countess Warwick tried to publish love letters from the prince but times had changed. The palace used the strength of the law and the case was held in chambers out of public scrutiny where a judge ruled that her letters could not be published for another fifty years.
Shortly after breaking with Countess of Warwick the prince went to the races at Sandown where he met Mrs George Keppel, a lady who combined a respectable social background with discretion. Mrs Keppel an admirals daughter had married the younger son of an Earl, both she and her husband came from large families and knew the difficulties of an impecunious marriage, George Keppel was a cheerful man who remained on good terms with the King even taking a job to enable his wife to take her place in high society. The prince did remember Mrs Keppel's financial position in his will giving her sufficient money to buy a villa in Italy. As the king grew older his sensual interests waned and Mrs Keppel's role was involved in providing his amusement and entertainment which kept his temper in check and stopped him from becoming bored. To exclude Mrs Keppel from any party that the prince attended was social suicide.
Queen Alexandra seemed to approve of Mrs Keppel although she was the same age as their daughters. The queen was almost totally deaf and Mrs Keppel filled the role much better than the Countess Warwick. On accession to the throne his political worries increased and he became quick to anger.
Mrs Keppel was a balm, t soothe the world around him and provide comfort, The prince kept Mrs Keppel out of public view. A special enclosed box was prepared for his coronation at Westminster Abbey and as long as he die not parade his relationship with Mrs Keppel, the press kept away from him. Mrs Keppel was regarded as a quiet influence on the King. She became a valuable link between the King and the government but was loyal to the King and never turned any situation to her own advantage.
Following a holiday with Mrs Keppel and her children in Biarritz the King succumbed to Bronchitis, On his return to London it was clear that the Kings health was failing. The queen visited him and on seeing his condition summonsed Mrs Keppel to see him before he died. The queen spent her remaining years as a broken woman without the man she loved and Mrs Keppel said "life with all its joys have come to a full stop at least for me".
He may have been a sinner but he was truly loved
A chronology of the rulers of England
CASE1WORKER (author) from UNITED KINGDOM on October 24, 2010:
Thanks James- what I excluded was that Mrs Kepple and Bertie both enjoyed their food and there is a story of Princess Alexandra laughing her socks off( in a royal way of course) as the two fat derriers tried to wobble into the carriage
James A Watkins from Chicago on October 24, 2010:
I never knew a lot about "Bertie." I thoroughly enjoyed this masterpiece of yours. The Princess was gorgeous. Langtry and Kepple were surely worth a go. Great looking women. Thanks for the good read.
CASE1WORKER (author) from UNITED KINGDOM on October 17, 2010:
Thanks, Rochelle Frank and Camlo- yes there is definatley another side to victorian society than that commonly displayed- i hope to investigate some more in the future
Camlo De Ville from Cologne, Germany on October 17, 2010:
An enjoyable read. I was fascinated by the TV series, 'Lillie' from the 70s, starring Francesca Annis as Lillie Langtry.
There seem to have been several 'sides' to the Victorians, which is what makes the period so interesting. I've read that Queen Victoria did despair of her son for his decadent lifestyle.
All the best, Camlo
Rochelle Frank from California Gold Country on October 16, 2010:
What a soap opera. His morals may have been a bit sideways, but he had good taste in women. They were all beautiful in addition to having some class, talent, brains or accomplishment.
Queen Victoria must have been very distressed. His Queen was quite remarkable. Would have been interesting to know what was going on in her private thoughts.
Can you believe the waistline on Lily Langtree?
Quite an interesting story from the Victorian era-- not at all what we might have expected.