The Scandalous Life of England’s Ultimate ‘Playboy Prince’, Edward VII

The Scandalous Life of England’s Ultimate ‘Playboy Prince’, Edward VII

D.G. Hewitt - July 8, 2019

Prince Edward, the Prince of Wales, was the eldest son – and so their heir – of Queen Victoria. Born in 1841, he had to wait 59 years to become King himself. Thanks to his mother’s longevity, he spent almost a full 6 decades waiting to fulfill his destiny. Since he didn’t need to work, he needed to find something to kill the time. And he found it in women, food and gambling. By the time he reached his 20s, Edward had gained a reputation for being the ultimate ‘Playboy Prince’, and for good reason.

The heir apparent to the British throne spent huge sums of money traveling between London, Paris and the far reaches of the Empire. Occasionally, he traveled for official duties. But just as often he travelled the world in search of the best parties, the most glamorous women or the biggest card games. Despite this lavish lifestyle, the British people loved their ‘Dirty Bertie’, and he would go on to become one of the most popular Kings in centuries. So, why was Edward so decadent and why was he so beloved? Here are 40 things you need to know about the life of Prince Edward, the Prince of Wales:

The Scandalous Life of England’s Ultimate ‘Playboy Prince’, Edward VII
Prince Albert and Queen Victoria defined an age, and groomed their son to succeed them. Wikimedia Commons.

40. Prince Edward was born to rule – but was he born into a gilded cage he would spend years trying to escape?

On the morning of 9 November 1841, Buckingham Palace announced the birth of Edward, the first son of Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert. The infant was named after his grandfather on Victoria’s side, Prince Edward. By right of his birth alone, Edward was automatically born with a string of titles, including that of the Duke of Cornwall and the Prince of Saxe-Coburg. He was born into a life of immense wealth and privilege. But, as we shall see, this brought with it a host of problems.

The Scandalous Life of England’s Ultimate ‘Playboy Prince’, Edward VII
Young Prince Edward, seen here at his mother’s right side, grew up in privilege. BBC.

39. The young Edward was a long way from the model young man his parents wanted him to be, and he knew it

As the eldest son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, Edward was the heir to the British throne. As such, he was not allowed to have a normal childhood. Instead, he was educated at home. Moreover, his education was designed by Prince Albert himself and designed to mould the young boy into a diligent model constitutional monarch who respected both tradition and modernity. Perhaps not surprisingly, young Edward was a very lonely boy and, since he struggled in his studies, felt himself a huge disappointment to his demanding parents.

The Scandalous Life of England’s Ultimate ‘Playboy Prince’, Edward VII
The ball Napoleon III threw for his royal visitors that got Edward addicted to the good life. Pinterest.

38. At the age of 13, Prince Edward attended a lavish ball thrown by Napoleon III and his eyes were opened to the world of opulent parties

As a young boy, Edward enjoyed an innocent childhood. But this all changed when he was 13. In 1855, he accompanied his parents on a state visit to France. The Royal Family were greeted by Emperor Napoleon III and huge crowds lined the streets of Paris to welcome them. What’s more, Napoleon hosted a lavish ball for his guests, with fireworks, drinking and dancing into the early hours of the morning. Edward had his first taste of the party life that night and he was hooked. For the next few decades, he would spend most of his energy simply trying to have a good time.

The Scandalous Life of England’s Ultimate ‘Playboy Prince’, Edward VII
Prince Albert was idealized by his wife, and his son could never match up. Wikimedia Commons.

37. From a young age, Edward was told he would never measure up to his father, Prince Albert

Some of Prince Edward’s biographers believe his relationship with his parents had a profound impact on his later life. Both Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert were highly protective of their son and were determined to protect him from the ‘corrupting’ influences of wider society. Naturally, he would rebel in later life and enjoy a life of decadence. At the same time, Victoria made it clear that Edward would never be half the man her husband was. After Albert’s death, Victoria even became resentful of her inferior son. She famously wrote to her daughter: “I never can, or shall, look at him without a shudder.”

The Scandalous Life of England’s Ultimate ‘Playboy Prince’, Edward VII
The young Prince was kept in a bubble by his protective parents. History Extra.

36. Queen Victoria worried about her son so much she banned him from pursuing a career in the British Army

Like many royals before and after him, as a young man, Edward had dreams of a glorious military career. His mother, the Queen, had different ideas, however. According to some scholars, Victoria didn’t just mollycoddle her son; she believed he wasn’t fit or strong enough to survive in the British Army, so she effectively banned him from joining. Instead, she pushed him towards higher education. At first, he resented this. However, first at Oxford and then at Cambridge in the 1860s, the Prince of Wales started enjoying education for the first time in his life and he became an adept and engaged student.

The Scandalous Life of England’s Ultimate ‘Playboy Prince’, Edward VII
Young Edward’s first romantic adventures caused the Queen great distress. Wikimedia Commons.

35. Edward may have been one of England’s most infamous womanizers, but he was something of a late starter

Compared to most royals and English aristocrats, Edward was a late bloomer when it came to love and sex. In fact, he was 19-years-old when he lost his virginity. The Prince was on a 10-week tour of Ireland with the Grenadier Guards. While they were stationed just outside of Dublin, Edward’s fellow officers Charles Carrington – who would go on to be a top Liberal politician- recruited the well-known Irish actress Nellie Clifden to visit the camp and ‘make the Prince a man’. The Prince was smitten and even paid for Nellie to sail over to England and visit him at his home on more than one occasion.

The Scandalous Life of England’s Ultimate ‘Playboy Prince’, Edward VII
Queen Victoria blamed her husband’s death on her son’s bad behavior. Wikimedia Commons.

34. Prince Albert was so distraught by his son’s affair with a common actress Victoria said he died from a broken heart

According to Queen Victoria, Edward was partly responsible for her husband’s death. The Queen and Prince Albert had found out about their son’s inappropriate affair with the Irish actress Nellie Clifden. According to Palace insiders, they were more than dismayed. Prince Albert was particularly disappointed and would lament his son’s “fall” to close friends and advisors. When Albert passed away soon afterwards, Victoria claimed that he had died of a broken heart, “killed by that dreadful business”. While Albert had actually died from typhoid fever, the young Prince still felt responsible and felt it was time to grow up and be a respectable royal.

The Scandalous Life of England’s Ultimate ‘Playboy Prince’, Edward VII
Edward with his wife, the future Queen Alexandra of England. Wikimedia Commons.

33. Edward wed when he was just 21, and the Queen hoped married life would be the making of her son

Just before his death, Prince Albert declared that the only thing that could save his son from a life of ruin was a stable marriage to a good woman. When Albert died, Queen Victoria made finding Edward a suitable wife her number one priority. She identified Princess Alexandra of Denmark as the perfect match. Even though she and Edward had only met two brief times before, Victoria declared that their union was based on ‘true love’. They wed at Windsor Castle on 10 Match 1863, with the Queen watching happily. Edward was just 21-years-old, his new bride only 18.

The Scandalous Life of England’s Ultimate ‘Playboy Prince’, Edward VII
Edward undoubtedly loved his wife – but he loved other women too. Wikimedia Commons.

32. Alexandra and Edward were almost the perfect fit and it was a happy marriage – for the prince at least

While it may have been an arranged marriage, by all accounts Alexandra and Edward soon grew close. They made a home in London and at Sandringham House in the county of Norfolk. Before long, there was a genuine affection between the newlyweds. The Queen made them the Prince and Princess of Wales and they became fixtures on the London social scene. Alexandra bore Edward 5 children and was a loyal and dutiful royal wife. Edward, however, was far from loyal.

The Scandalous Life of England’s Ultimate ‘Playboy Prince’, Edward VII
The British public grew to love Edward despite his wild ways. Pinterest.

31. A brush with death proved to be the making of Edward and won him the support of his people

In the autumn of 1870, it looked like the British public were warming to the idea of a republic. Many looked across the water to France, where the Emperor Napoleon III had been deposed and replaced with a progressive Third Republic. Palace insiders quietly feared that Britain’s royal family was at risk of being ousted in the same way. Luckily for them, Prince Edward fell seriously ill in late 1871. His brush with death was a huge PR coup for the Palace. The public rallied behind their heir apparent and his recovery from typhoid fever was greeted with celebrations across the country.

The Scandalous Life of England’s Ultimate ‘Playboy Prince’, Edward VII
Princess Alexandra had no option but to tolerate her husband’s womanizing ways. Pinterest.

30. Princess Alexandra almost definitely knew of her husband’s extra-marital activities but chose to play the dutiful royal wife

It’s almost certain that the Princess of Wales knew about Edward’s numerous affairs. After all, no matter how hard he tried to keep his private life private and his extramarital dalliances discrete, before long, most of the country knew about his womanizing ways. By the time he reached his mid-20s, Edward’s reputation as the ultimate ‘Playboy Prince’ was firmly established. The Prince of Wales would often travel into the centre of London without his wife. It was here he met many of the ladies who would become his mistresses.

The Scandalous Life of England’s Ultimate ‘Playboy Prince’, Edward VII
Sir Charles Mourdant claimed that Prince Edward had an affair with his wife. Wikimedia Commons.

29. However hard he tried to keep his affairs quiet, sometimes an angry husband would find out, as one sensational divorce case showed

Just how many women the Prince of Wales bedded is not known. For starters, he tried to keep his affairs private, not least because many of his mistresses were married themselves. For example, in 1869, a prominent Member of Parliament, Sir Charles Mordaunt threatened to name Edward in a divorce suit, alleging the royal had seduced his wife in their family home while he was away working at the House of Commons. Edward, of course, denied the charge. The case never came to court. However, Edward’s reputation took a hit, especially considering the strict moral code of his mother, Queen Victoria.

The Scandalous Life of England’s Ultimate ‘Playboy Prince’, Edward VII
Lady Randolph Churchill was one of the Playboy Prince’s many lovers. Wikimedia Commons.

28. How many lovers did Edward have outside of his marriage? 50? 60? Nobody knows for certain

According to most biographers, the Prince of Wales had at least 50 lovers. Some were just one-off liaisons, while others bloomed into longer-term affairs. Above all, Edward loved the company of wealthy socialites and actresses and singers. The prominent actress Lillie Langtry was almost certainly one of his conquests, as was Lady Randolph Churchill. Both women were married when they met Edward. What’s more, it’s also strongly believed that the Crown Prince had an affair with ‘La Barucci’, a high-class Italian prostitute!

The Scandalous Life of England’s Ultimate ‘Playboy Prince’, Edward VII
Alice Keppel was one of the Prince’s favorite mistresses and confidants. Wikimedia Commons.

27. The Prince didn’t just choose his mistresses on looks alone, some of them became close confidants

One of the Playboy Prince’s favourite lovers was Alice Keppel. As a society hostess, she was one of the most famous people in 1890s London. The pair met in 1898. And, while she was married to The Honourable George Keppel, they embarked on a passionate affair almost immediately. Alice wasn’t just a bedchamber companion for the future King. She was also a close friend and confidant. In fact, she remained his mistress right up until Edward’s death in 1910. It was said that she had a unique ability to draw him out of his frequent dark moods.

The Scandalous Life of England’s Ultimate ‘Playboy Prince’, Edward VII
Alice Keppel’s granddaughter would also be a mistress to the Prince of Wales. Wikimedia Commons.

26. Edward’s womanizing ways included an affair with a relative of another famous royal mistress

In a quirk of history, Alice Keppel’s great-granddaughter, Camilla Parker Bowles was also the mistress to the Prince of Wales. Camilla met Charles before he met and married Diana. Their affair lasted throughout that ill-fated union (Camilla was, in the famous words of Diana, the “third person” in the marriage). Camilla and Charles finally married in 2005, with the former mistress becoming the Duchess of Cornwall. Meanwhile, another of Edward’s lovers, Lady Randolph Churchill, was the mother of Winston, who would go on to lead Britain to victory in the Second World War.

The Scandalous Life of England’s Ultimate ‘Playboy Prince’, Edward VII
Edward never fathered any illegitimate children – as far as historians know. Wikimedia Commons.

25. Unlike many other royals, not one single lady ever came forward claiming Edward fathered their child

Despite his numerous affairs, no one lady ever came forward claiming to have given birth to one of Edward’s illegitimate children. Similarly, in later years, nobody claimed to be one of the royal’s offspring. This may have been down to the fact Edward was notoriously private and secretive. Though a known playboy and womanizer, he burned most love letters and kept diary entries vague, destroying any potential evidence. Nevertheless, to this day, some still believe that Edward fathered one of Alice Keppel’s children.

The Scandalous Life of England’s Ultimate ‘Playboy Prince’, Edward VII
The Prince and the chair he had made for his affairs. Daily Express.

24. The Prince had a special love chair designed for him so he could enjoy the company of two ladies at once!

So voracious was the Playboy Prince’s sexual appetite that he was rarely satisfied with one woman at a time. He enjoyed having sex with two or more partners simultaneously. As he got older, however, he became much heavier and risked crushing his lovers. To fix this, Edward commissioned the French furniture manufacturer Soubrier to make him a chair that would allow him to make love to two partners at the same time. The Love Chair (or Seige d’amour) is today owned by the firm that made it and remains one of the world’s weirdest pieces of royal memorabilia.

The Scandalous Life of England’s Ultimate ‘Playboy Prince’, Edward VII
The lavish interior of the Prince’s beloved Parisian brothel. Pinterest.

23. A brothel in Paris had a room and a champagne-filled bathtub reserved for its best customer, the Prince of Wales

Blessed with almost-limitless wealth and near-complete freedom, Edward was free to indulge his sexual whims however he saw fit. One of his great loves was to travel to Paris to enjoy the company of high-class French prostitutes. Above all, the Crown Prince liked to frequent a luxurious brothel called La Chabanais. He was such a regular customer that he had his own private room, fitted with a huge bathtub. Edward would ask for this to be filled up with fine champagne and then he would bathe in it for hours at a time – in the company of several young prostitutes, of course.

The Scandalous Life of England’s Ultimate ‘Playboy Prince’, Edward VII
The infamous Moulin Rouge in Paris, a favored haunt of the Prince. Daily Mail.

22. Paris loved Prince Edward as much as Prince Edward loved the French capital and its crazy ways

This brothel wasn’t the only place ‘Dirty Bertie’ liked in Paris. In the later decades of the 19th century, the French capital was home to a number of debauched clubs and cabaret venues. It was a city known for excess and hedonism – a marked contrast to London thrown into mourning following the death of Prince Albert. The Prince of Wales was a regular visitor and would frequently be spotted at the Moulin Rouge, often with a glamorous young French actress or socialite on his arm. While his own mother thought him a loser, the French loved the Playboy King and his fun-loving ways.

The Scandalous Life of England’s Ultimate ‘Playboy Prince’, Edward VII
Edward had a huge appetite, in more ways than one. Telegraph.

21. Edward’s appetite was legendary and the palace kitchens struggled to keep up with his demands

Prince Edward didn’t just possess a huge sexual appetite. He was a true glutton in every sense of the word. According to accounts from the time, the Prince of Wales would regularly sit down to 5 meals a day, with these mostly 10-course affairs. All of this was washed down with large volumes of fine wine and champagne. Alongside this, Edward was reported to smoke at least 20 cigarettes a day, as well as several large cigars. When he was being dressed for his coronation in 1901, Edward had a 48-inch waist. The King was clinically obese.

The Scandalous Life of England’s Ultimate ‘Playboy Prince’, Edward VII
The French press and their take on Britain’s Playboy Prince. Pinterest.

20. The Prince’s closest friends teased him about his expanding waistline, while the public often referred to his philandering ways

Thanks to his numerous affairs, Prince Edward became known as ‘Dirty Bertie’. He also gained the nickname ‘Edward the Caresser’, and married men knew to keep their wives away from him lest he try and seduce them. To his wife and family, he was known simply and affectionately as Bertie. Among close friends, however, he gained the nickname ‘Tum Tum’ due to his ever-growing tummy. According to some biographers, that the Prince tolerated this is testament to his down-to-earth nature and refusal to adopt the formalities of his mother.

The Scandalous Life of England’s Ultimate ‘Playboy Prince’, Edward VII
The Prince eventually admitted he was too old to chase young women. Wikimedia Commons.

19. As a middle-aged man, the Prince confided in his son that he was getting ‘too old’ for the playboy lifestyle

When he hit middle age, Edward started to re-think his hedonistic approach to life. According to one anecdote from his colorful life, in 1890, the Prince of Wales confided in his son, George. He told the young man that he was “getting too old for these amusements”, vowing to give up drinking and dancing at lavish balls. Instead, he developed a taste for high culture. He became a regular at the Covent Garden opera in London’s West End. He also took up gambling. Baccarat quickly became the Prince’s game of choice, and he would gamble significant sums of money on the game.

The Scandalous Life of England’s Ultimate ‘Playboy Prince’, Edward VII
Prince Edward loved to gamble and had a special fondness for card games. Wikimedia Commons.

18. Edward was such a keen gambler that he had his own luxury set of counters made and carried them with him everywhere he went

Edward loved to play baccarat so much that he had his own set of counters for the game and would take them with him wherever he went. The leather discs were given to the Prince as a present by his close friend Reuben Sassoon, one of London’s wealthiest bankers. On one side, the counters were decorated the feathers of the Prince of Wales – a symbol still used to this day. On the other side, the counters had different monetary values, ranging from 5 shillings to 10 pounds. The Prince would use these to place bets so that he didn’t have to carry cash on his person.

The Scandalous Life of England’s Ultimate ‘Playboy Prince’, Edward VII
The Baccarat scandal the Prince got caught up in was the biggest story of the age. Wikimedia Commons.

17. When the Prince got caught up in a card game cheating scandal, the world’s press were all over the story

In 1890, the Prince of Wales was involved in one of the biggest scandals to hit the Royal Family for years. It all stemmed from what should have been a friendly game of cards. The Prince was among a number of men invited up to the family home of Arthur Wilson for a weekend of gambling, drinking and relaxing. One of the guests, Sir William Gordon-Cumming was accused of cheating. Wilson believed the claim, despite Gordon-Cumming’s protests. The accused, determined to uphold his reputation, took his accuser to court, charging him with slander. And the Prince was called as a witness.

The Scandalous Life of England’s Ultimate ‘Playboy Prince’, Edward VII
The Prince was forced to appear in court, much to the distress of his mother. Pinterest.

16. The Baccarat scandal was a source of huge embarrassment for the Queen, not least since her son was central to it

The case quickly became known as the Royal Baccarat Scandal in the press, highlighting the Prince’s part in the sordid affair. His mother, the Queen, was embarrassed. What’s more, the British public even started turning against the Prince of Wales. Indeed, while crowds cheered for his mother, on some occasions, they started booing her son. This gambling scandal, coming so soon after the Prince was named in a divorce petition, only made matters worse. Unsurprisingly, the case drew a lot of attention, both from the press and from the public in general. So, when the Prince was called to the High Court in London to testify, huge crowds queued to try and get a seat in the public gallery.

The Scandalous Life of England’s Ultimate ‘Playboy Prince’, Edward VII
The original documents of the prosecution’s case in the Royal Baccarat Scandal. Pinterest.

15. Until Edward appeared in court, no English heir had been called as a witness for 500 years

The Prince’s appearance was the first time that an heir to the British throne had appeared involuntarily in court since 1411. The Prince sat on a special red leather chair, positioned on a raised platform between the witness box and the judge. Across from him, cartoonists and artists from a number of popular newspapers drew him – and not all of them in a favorable light. When it was the Prince’s turn to give evidence in the cheating case, the court fell silent, waiting for history to be made.

The Scandalous Life of England’s Ultimate ‘Playboy Prince’, Edward VII
A cartoon showing the Queen angry at her son over his court appearance. Pinterest.

14. The Prince’s behavior in court made him look shifty and suspicious, and newspapers across the world reported this

According to most witness accounts, the Prince did not present himself as a strong or reliable witness. Indeed, The New York Times reported that “the heir apparent was decidedly fidgety, that he kept changing his position, and that he did not seem able to keep his hands still.” What’s more, when he did speak, the judge sometimes had to ask him to repeat himself and speak more loudly and more clearly. This lack of clarity, along with his fidgety nature, was assumed by some observers to be proof of the Prince’s unreliability as a High Court witness. Once again, the Prince’s moral integrity – and his suitability for the throne – was being called into question.

The Scandalous Life of England’s Ultimate ‘Playboy Prince’, Edward VII
The Prince pictured on a hunting trip in India. Wikimedia Commons.

13. Queen Victoria might have wanted her son to keep away from public engagements, but Bertie loved the limelight

Thanks mainly to his playboy ways, Queen Victoria was reluctant to have her son involved in affairs of the estate. This became something of a vicious circle; since he had so few official engagements, the Prince of Wales found other ways to keep himself busy, and these usually involved women, drink, gambling or a combination of all three. At the same time, however, Prince Edward often took the initiative. According to some experts, it was ‘Bertie’ who invented the modern royal public engagement. For instance, he opened the Thames Embankment in person in 1871 and also cut the ribbon for Tower Bridge in 1894.

The Scandalous Life of England’s Ultimate ‘Playboy Prince’, Edward VII
The Prince pictured on one of his very first cars. Wikimedia Commons.

12. The Prince’s love of speed made him an early adopter of the automobile, even if he never went above 20mph

Towards the very end of the 19th century, the Prince’s friend, John Scott-Montagu, Second Baron of Beaulieu, took him for a ride in his car. Edward was immediately hooked. Despite the fact these early automobiles could barely go faster than a horse and carriage, the Prince of Wales soon earned a reputation for being a speed freak. He loved driving around the private roads of his Sandringham estate and converted the old stables into garages to hold his growing collection of automobiles (he loved red cars the most and, thanks to the Prince, these became highly fashionable among the ‘smart set’).

The Scandalous Life of England’s Ultimate ‘Playboy Prince’, Edward VII
Edward would sometimes drive his Daimler on public roads and meet his public. Wikimedia Commons.

11. Edward was one of England’s first car drivers, making the new technology highly fashionable

In 1900, the pioneering automaker Daimler built a new car for the Prince. It was, quite simply, a car fit for a (future) king, complete with a 1,526-cc twin-cylinder aluminum engine and dual ignition. Instead of a tiller, it boasted a steering wheel, which the Prince loved. And, when the Prince put his foot down, the car could hit a top speed of 24mph! Thanks to the Prince’s early enthusiasm, the Royal Family carried on using Daimlers as their official cars up until the 1950s, when they were replaced by Rolls Royce vehicles.

The Scandalous Life of England’s Ultimate ‘Playboy Prince’, Edward VII
Princess Alexandra has been called ‘the original People’s Princess’. Wikimedia Commons.

10. The Prince’s wife also loved driving and he was eventually persuaded to let her have a car of her own

Prince Edward wasn’t the only royal with a love of cars. His wife, Princess Alexandra, also loved to head out on the open road. Ever the traditionalist, the Prince of Wales insisted she sit in the back passenger seat while he drove them around their private estates. However, according to one biographer, the Prince soon grew tired of her habit of prodding her husband with a parasol and directing him where to steer. Before long, he relented to her pressure and agreed that she could have a car of her own.

The Scandalous Life of England’s Ultimate ‘Playboy Prince’, Edward VII
The Prince enjoying one of his great loves, hunting at Sandringham. Wikimedia Commons.

9. Edward loved hunting so much that he invented a new time zone so he could have more daylight for shooting

As well as eating, drinking and womanizing, one of Edward’s greatest loves was hunting. Above all, he loved shooting and would head to the county of Norfolk. Here, the Royal Family owned Sandringham Castle, a huge stately home set in sprawling grounds that were perfect for shooting. Whenever he was there, the Prince would order all the clocks to be put back an hour so he could enjoy an extra hour of hunting. This became known as ‘Sandringham Time’. The tradition endured long after Edward’s death. In fact, King Edward VIII only put an end to ‘Sandringham Time’ in 1936.

The Scandalous Life of England’s Ultimate ‘Playboy Prince’, Edward VII
The Prince celebrating victory in the 1890 Derbyl. Wikimedia Commons.

8. The Prince’s horses won some of Europe’s most important and prestigious races – earning their owner huge purses

Shooting wasn’t the only sport the Prince loved. Like many royals before and after him, he also developed a keen interest in horse racing. For a while, he was happy to watch and have an occasional gamble. By the 1890s, however, as a middle-aged man with great wealth, he decided to buy a racehorse of his own. Before long, he had a stable of thoroughbreds. In 1896, one of his best, a horse called Persimmon, won both the St Leger Stakes and the Derby Stakes. Another of the Prince’s horses, Ambush II, also won Britain’s most famous race, the Grand National, in 1900.

The Scandalous Life of England’s Ultimate ‘Playboy Prince’, Edward VII
The Prince of Wales has been heralded as an unlikely style icon. Daily Mail.

7. Edward was an unlikely fashion icon, with his clothing often more for comfort than style

As the Prince of Wales and the heir to the British throne, Edward was a traditionalist in many ways. When it came to style, however, he was very fashion forward. In fact, the gentlemen of London and much of the rest of Europe looked to the Playboy Prince for their fashion tips. Thanks to him, the Norfolk hat and the Homburg jacket became trendy in the 1890s. The Prince also was regularly seen in double-breasted frockcoats and with the bottom button of his waistcoat undone – both became popular, though it’s highly likely the Prince favored this way of dressing due to his sizeable gut!

The Scandalous Life of England’s Ultimate ‘Playboy Prince’, Edward VII
Prince Edward’s Royal Yacht makes a grand entrance into Malta. Wikipedia.

6. Did Edward really make roast beef and vegetables a classic English dish? Some believe he did

According to some social historians, it was Prince Edward who helped make roast beef and vegetables a staple of the Great British menu. Certainly, as Prince of Wales, he loved routine and enjoyed his roast dinner every Sunday and every holiday almost without fail. Indeed, when on a royal visit to India for Christmas 1875, the 34-year-old Prince ordered his boat’s chefs to serve up a roast beef banquet. The crew of the HMS Serapis not only did their duty, they also decorated the ship’s decks with fake snow, much to Edward’s delight.

The Scandalous Life of England’s Ultimate ‘Playboy Prince’, Edward VII
Edward’s tour of India was a great PR coup for him and the monarchy. Wikimedia Commons.

5. While touring India, Edward displayed views on race relations that were extremely progressive for the age

It was while touring India that another side to Edward emerged. Far from being a spoilt prince, by all accounts, he was generous and kind to every member of the royal traveling party. What’s more, at a time when many of those at the top of the British Empire were outright racists towards those they ruled over, the Prince of Wales lamented the poor treatment of Indians. In one letter to a close friend, he stated: “Because a man has a black face and a different religion from our own, there is no reason why he should be treated as a brute.”

The Scandalous Life of England’s Ultimate ‘Playboy Prince’, Edward VII
The Prince on a historic visit to Jerusalem. The Jewish Chronicle.

4. The Prince’s decision to have Jews in his inner circle led to some criticizing his judgment

Just as Edward had no time for the anti-Indian racism of so many of his peers, so too did he pay no attention to those who criticized him for having close confidants and even friends who were Jewish. While anti-Semitism may have been rife at the time, even in the ‘polite society’ of cosmopolitan London, Edward welcomed the Rothschild family, as well as individuals such as Ernest Cassel and Maurice de Hirsch into his inner-circle. This lack of discrimination is still appreciated by London’s Jewish community – indeed, the community erected a statue to Edward in Tower Hamlets, East London, 1911.

The Scandalous Life of England’s Ultimate ‘Playboy Prince’, Edward VII
King Edward VII was widely loved by his people and by foreign rulers. YouTube.

3. When he finally became King, Edward showed grace and humility – and was an instant hit with his subjects

He may have gained a reputation as a Playboy Prince, but Edward remained hugely popular with the British public. So, when Queen Victoria died in January 1901, and the crown passed to Edward, the new monarch was widely welcomed. According to the English novelist J.B. Priestly, who was a child when Victoria died, he “was in fact the most popular king England had known since the earlier 1600s.” Choosing to be crowned as Edward rather than as Albert Edward as his mother had wished, was a PR masterstroke. The public loved him for insisting that his father’s name “should stand alone”.

The Scandalous Life of England’s Ultimate ‘Playboy Prince’, Edward VII
Edward ditched his vices when he became King and focused on being a diplomat instead. Wikimedia Commons.

2. As monarch, Edward ditched the playboy lifestyle in favor of life as a traveling diplomat

As King, Edward VII would be known as the ‘Uncle of Europe’. To some degree, this was literally true; he was related to most of the monarchs on the continent, including the German Kaiser and even the Russian Tsar. Instead of carrying on his playboy ways at home, Edward insisted on reinventing the concept of ‘royal diplomacy’. He carried out numerous official visits to foreign states, easing rivalries and strengthening alliances. He also revitalized the monarchy’s role at home, bringing back the regal opening of Parliament, for example.

The Scandalous Life of England’s Ultimate ‘Playboy Prince’, Edward VII
Edward VII’s death marked the end of peaceful relations between Europe’s monarchies. Wikimedia Commons.

1. Edward’s death brought Europe’s royals together – within a few years, they would all be at war

Given his prodigious apatite and his love of cigars and cigarettes, the royal physicians were not surprised when Edward collapsed on a state visit to Germany in 1909. He returned to London but never really recovered. The king died on 6 May 1910. His body lay in state for 2 weeks. During this time, 400,000 of his subjects walked past his coffin to pay their respects. At Edward’s funeral, almost all of Europe’s royals came together, united in grief. Within a few years, however, they would all be at war.


Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“The Heir Apparent: A Life of Edward VII, the Playboy Prince.” Washington Post, January 2014.

“Dirty Bertie: How royal playboy took Victorian Paris by storm with a three-way love seat.” Daily Express, October 2015.

“The King’s Racehorses.” The Hathi Trust.

“Edward VII: Biography & Facts.” Encyclopaedia Britannica.

“We’re all shocked! Read all about Edward VII’s scandalous sex life.” USA Today, June 2017.

“Edward VII’s Christmas Banquet Aboard HMS Serapis.” Royal Menus.

“The Fashions of Edward VII.” Bizarre Victoriana.

“Edward VII and his Jewish Court.” Anthony Allfrey. Thistle Publishing. 2013

“1900 Daimler: The first car fit for a king.” The Globe and Mail, September 2012.

“King Edward VII.” Gentleman’s Digest.