For 51 years four Kings had reigned in Great Britain. Indeed when Queen Victoria died in 1901, her son became King as Edward VII. He was the only monarch of the dynasty of Saxe- Coburg- Gotha, or House of Witten. He was born in 1841 and he was already old when he became King. His father, Prince Consort Albert, prepared a rigorous educational progamme for him which made no allowance for human weakness. In a letter he wrote his idea to Queen Victoria’s confidential advisor, Christian von Stockmar: “The exaltation of Royalty is possible only through the personal character of the Sovereign. When a person enjoys complete confidence, we desire for him more power and influence in the conduct of affairs. But confidence is of slow growth”. During his school years Prince Edward worked under more pressure than the others schoolboys in Great Britain. He took a trip to Canada where he opened a railway bridge in Montreal and laid the first stone of the Federal Parliament Building in Ottawa. The tour was a great triumph and when, after Canada, he went to the United States the success was even greater. On 10th March 1863 he married Princess Alexandra, the daughter of Prince Christian of Denmark.
Queen Victoria believed that a prince in the modern world could only mantain his position by his character and she showed her son that the way he lead his life was not suitable for a king. In 1864 the Prince of Wales met Garibaldi when the the Italian General came to England and Queen Victoria was very distressed.
Queen Victoria in 1868 wrote to her son, the future Edward VII, about the situation of aristocracy and about her worries for the lives of her son and daughter- in-law: “Many, many, with who I have conversed tell me that at no time for the last 60 to 79 years was frivolity, the love of pleasure, selfindugence, luxury and idleness (producing ignorance) carried to such an excess as now in the Higher Classes, and it resembles the time before the French Revolution, and I must – alas – admit that this is true. It is most alarming, although you do not observe it, nor will you hear it; but those who do not live in the gay circle of fashion, and who view it calmly, are greatly, seriously alarmed. And in THIS lies the REAL danger of the present times! The Aristocracy and the Higher Classes must take great care; or their position may become very dangerous. I shall do what I can in this direction, but you can do more, and so can dear Alix, to whom I wish you to show this letter as I have often talked to her on these subjects”. Edward VII was very different from his parents: he enjoyed social and sporting life and when he was Prince of Wales was linked in several scandals. He loved public life, he had became a fluent public speaker and he never used notes in his public speeches. When he became King in 1901 he arranged his own state visits abroad and one of the most famous visits was in France. Sir Edmund Monson, the British Ambassador in Paris, wrote to Lord Lansdowne: “The visit has been a success here more complete than the most sanguine optimist could have foreseen. The personality of the King and the infatigable readiness with which he adapted himself to the overcharged programme of functions… the reapperance of the frequent visitor of former years, the well- known and popular Prince of Wales, coming back to his old friends as King of England, returning to the capital for which he had never concealed his predilection, aroused a feeling of gratification only equalled by the satisfacton of that large body of politicians who, from motives of reason, reflection and clear comprehension of this country’s interests, have always systematically favoured “Entente Cordiale”.” The Entente Cordiale was a series of agreements between United Kingdom and France, signed in 1904, marking the end of a millennium of conflicts between the two nations and the start of a peaceful period and the respect of the mutual colonies. In 1905 the Norwegians dissolved their country’s union with Sweden and the position of the United Kingdom was neutral, but King Edward knew the intention of his cousin, the German Kaiser who planned to install one of his sons on the Norwegian throne, and he convinced his son-in-law, Prince Charles of Denmark, to stand for election. This was a succes for Prince Charles in that he became King Haakon VII and also a victory for King Edward given that the relationship between the two countries became stronger. The Anglo- Russian Convention had been signed by King Edward and Emperor Nicholas of Russia in 1907, after four years of discussion, which was another triumph for King Edward and it would be very profitable for the United Kingdom. This visit was criticised by three Liberal and Labour MPs in the House of Commons. His attitude to try to keep peace in Europe inspired a popular music-hall song: “There ‘ll be no war, as long as there’s King like good King Edward.” He inherited Osborne House from Queen Victoria and refused to occupy it. Instead he gave the palace to the nation to be used part as a convalescent home for officers and part as a preparatory training college for naval cadets. This gesture was appreciated by the British and by the political parties. In the last year of his life, there was a great constitutional crisis in Great Britain. The Conservative majority in the House of Lords rejected the budget of the Liberal Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lloyd George and the Liberal Government tried to abolish the veto of the House of Lords. The King worked to find an agreement. He died at Buckingham Palace on 6th May 1910.