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Royal Scandals: The Prince of Wales

BritFlorida loves to track down historical stories, especially scandals and mysteries from the UK.


Would the Prince of Wales be a good king?

Hmm ... now that's a tricky question. You could say that he was born with disadvantages as well as having silver spoon in his mouth. His father was a dominant man who expected his son to be just like him. His mother was concerned primarily with her duty as the Queen of England.

His childhood wasn't a happy one and even when he studied at Cambridge, there was scandal attached. As a young man, he was known for his affairs - not always choosing wisely. He became known as 'the playboy prince'.

Later, there was his marriage. It was approved by his mother, certainly, but any love that was there in the beginning wasn't to last, especially since he continued to sow his wild oats elsewhere.As time went on, he certainly questioned his role in the monarchy.

His mother remained hale and hearty and her abdication was out of the question.He would be an old man before he became king. His mother was unsympathetic and at times expressed her own dissatisfaction with her son and his ability to reign. But everyone knew that one day, he would rule.


Edward VIl

Did you think I was talking about our current Prince of Wales, Prince Charles? (I hope so, I wanted to fool you!) No, I was referring to Edward, the eldest son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.

However, before I move on, don't you think that the pair look similar? This is Edward in 1860 when he toured America. I rather think that he looks like Prince Charles in his younger days. But these weren't the only similarities by a long way.

Edward was born with a burden - that of knowing that his parents had high expectations for him (extremely high) and that he was expected to be like his father. This is similar to Charles' own circumstances but there are many other similarities as we shall see.


Childhood & teenage years

As we know, Victoria and Albert were cousins. They were a good-looking, intelligent young couple - already we can see the similarities between them and Elizabeth and Philip.

Victoria and Albert's goal was to restore the monarchy to some sort of order. Like Queen Elizabeth ll, Victoria was not in direct line to the throne when she was born. But when circumstances dictated that she became Queen, she was determined to do her duty.And one of her duties was to present Britain with a suitable heir who would carry on her work.

She wanted to mould Edward into a carbon copy of her husband; a man she adored wholeheartedly. But Edward wasn't the best material. It soon became evident that he wasn't a good scholar - in common with most young boys, his attention would wander from his studies.

His parents despaired but when he was still in his teens, they took a gamble and sent him on a tour of America. His friendly personality and charm made the visit a huge success. But he was still not trusted by his parents.


But scandal was imminent

Edward studied at Trinity College, Cambridge. One hundred and six years later Prince Charles would do the same.Whilst there, Edward began a 'liaison' with someone who was described as 'an actress' (little changes over the years!) by the name of Nellie Clifden.

What happened next was to destroy any self-confidence he had gained during his American tour.His mother and his father Albert (pictured) were aware that their son's affair with a most unsuitable woman was becoming known publicly.

Albert went personally to remonstrate with his son and force him to pull himself together. So that there was no danger of them being overheard, they took a long walk in the grey,November weather. What was said, we do not know.What we do know is that Albert died shortly afterwards. It is suspected that he caught pneumonia on that day and this was the cause of his death.

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Whether true or not, Victoria believed it and thereafter accused Edward of being responsible for his father's death.


Marriage - the Princess of Wales

Although the Queen withdrew from public life once she became a widow, she decided that there was one action she could take that might have the effect of bringing Edward to her royal approval. She decided to find him a wife, believing that marriage would be good for him.

She recruited the help of her eldest daughter who herself had made a good marriage and the world was scoured for suitable young ladies. The hunt was on for the Princess of Wales.

You won't be surprised to hear that a teenage girl was found who was from a good family and had an impeccable past.

It may also come as no surprise that she loved socialising and dancing,she became something of a fashion icon of the day and consequently, attracted disapproval from the Queen.


Growing apart

Alexandria, Princess of Wales, enjoyed entertaining and parties and their lavish home soon became the focal point of high society. She performed her duty admirably as she soon presented the prince with two children.

During her third confinement she became ill and, as far as the prince was concerned, this signalled the beginning of the end. Historians claim that the love in the marriage was on the princess' side, rather than the prince's.He soon reverted to his previous ways and became particularly fond of visiting Paris where, it's said, he had a string of mistresses including entertainers and high-class prostitutes.

Unlike his great-great grandson however, he remained married and the Princess of Wales was aware of his affairs and infidelities.



Sometimes it seems that a royal scandal isn't quite the same without someone being locked way in an asylum and this one is no different.

Edward had an affair with the (married) lady you see here, Harriet Mordaunt.Harriet became pregnant which was immediately suspicious as her husband had been overseas at the supposed time of conception. She confessed to her husband that there were several men who could be the father, one being the Prince of Wales. Her husband, not unnaturally, sought a divorce.

Unfortunately, he called the Prince of Wales as a witness in court so the affair became common knowledge.The sensational court case lasted for over a week (and included the evidence of letters from the prince to Harriet) but the result was that she was declared insane and lived her remaining thirty-six years in an asylum.


The true mistress

Edward had one long-time mistress, the lady you see here. She was well-born and the wife of an aristocrat. She mixed in royal circles and Edward was attracted to her charm and her absolute discretion. Her name was Alice Keppel.

She remained his faithful companion until he died. With a human, very un-Diana-like touch, the Princess of Wales asked Alice to her husband's deathbed and the two of them - the wife and the mistress - were present when he died. You see, Alexandria accepted that there were three people in the marriage.

Be it coincidence, fate, karma - you decide - Alice Keppel was also the great-grandmother of Camilla Parker-Bowles who was Prince Charles' long-time mistress and is now his wife.


Was Edward a good king?

He was incredibly popular. He was in his sixties by the time he was crowned and had spent many years touring Europe and socialising with ministers, ambassadors and other members of royal families.

Although his mother never gave him an official role, he played a large part in British public life, becoming the patron of many charities, attending ceremonies and opening new hospitals and welfare facilities.

Like today's Prince of Wales, he had his own views and had no problem voicing them. He was known in Europe as the 'peacemaker' due to his ambassadorial efforts. Prior to being king, he forged strong relationships with France (a historical enemy of Britain) which were to be invaluable a few years after his death with the outbreak of the First World War.

Contemporary accounts refer to him as a very popular monarch. He was, importantly, greatly loved by his son and heir (George V) in contrast to his own relationship with his father. George wrote that they were more like best friends than father and son.

I rather think that despite everything, Queen Victoria would have been proud of him, don't you?

The romance

Some people think that the romance between Charles and Camilla is one of the happiest love stories of present day.I'm inclined to agree.What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.

Charles and Camilla

I like Camilla - the couple seem to be genuinely in love. Our current Prince of Wales has found happiness. See their wedding below.

The queen and Prince Philip seem pleased about it too.

© 2014 Jackie Jackson


Ibidii on March 16, 2014:

Very interesting. I did not know this. I love History and I need to read more. I will follow up and read your other stories on the British lines. Great story/lens!

Jackie Jackson (author) from Fort Lauderdale on March 15, 2014:

@fullofshoes: I was a little confused there for a moment :) Then I realised you were talking about Prince Charles. I don't agree with the 'skip to William' faction. I'd rather see William and Katherine enjoy the next twenty years or so with their family before having the pressures of being king and queen thrust upon them.Their son George is a future monarch and if they are able to bring him up without all the demands of the state and public duties of a monarch, that will be far better. The above story shows that an older man, whatever his early years were like, can be an effective and popular king.

Merry Citarella from Oregon's Southern Coast on March 15, 2014:

Another interesting read. Enjoy your history lessons! It still surprises me how many of the women were/are married too. And it is an odd note that Camilla is great grand.

fullofshoes on March 14, 2014:

I can't say from the same perspective that you have... only from my view on the other side of the pond. I say skip over to Prince William.

Jackie Jackson (author) from Fort Lauderdale on March 14, 2014:

@SusanDeppner: Haha, Susan :) True - and our family scandals don't make headlines - hopefully!

Susan Deppner from Arkansas USA on March 14, 2014:

Royals are people, too, and it doesn't take much digging in most families to find a scandal or two. Of course my family's scandals aren't nearly as interesting as the royal family's scandals!

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