Posted by: Graham | June 28, 2009

King Edward VII of England died Fri May 6th 1910

This is the very first entry in the book. We cannot know what prompted James to start his chronicle, but the death of the King was certainly a significant event for the country, even for someone whose life was so far removed from royalty.

Edward VII

Edward VII

Edward VII, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and of the British Dominions beyond the Seas King, Defender of the Faith, Emperor of India, to give him his full title, was the eldest son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. He was born on the 9th November 1841 at Buckingham Palace, where he also died.

Edward VII was a smoker. He reputedly smoked twenty cigarettes and twelve cigars a day. Edward was also a man of habit and usually spent February and March of each year in Biarritz in the South West of France. He was taken ill with bronchitis and collapsed whilst staying there in March 2010. His illness was not reported in the press and he was criticised for staying out in France during the political crisis between the Liberal Government and the House of Lords.

He returned to London on the 27th April, still suffering from severe bronchitis. On the 6th May he suffered a series of heart attacks. His final words on the 6th were “I am very glad” when he was told by his son, the future George V, that the King’s horse “Witch of the Air” had won at Kempton Park.

Edward has three times come close to death before.  He contracted typhoid whilst staying in Scarborough in 1871, a disease which had killed his father. He was the subject of an assassination attempt by a 15 year-old Belgian socialist called Jean-Baptiste Victor Sipido. Edward was travelling through Brussels on his way to Denmark and Sipido fired twice at the Prince of Wales, as he then was. He missed and was arrested. Sipido held the Prince responsible for the slaughter in the Boer War, which was going on at the time. Amazingly he was found to be too young to be criminally liable and a hearing freed him. This caused a political storm between Britain and Belgium. Perhaps an irony of this is that Britain came into the First World War to defend Belgium’s independence when she was invaded by Germany and suffered an even greater slaughter.

The second occasion he came close to death was when he was diagnosed with appendicitis in 1902 just before he was due to crowned King. At the start of the 20th century this condition was very serious. Initially Edward refused the operation and said to the surgeon Sir Frederick TrevesI have a coronation on hand.” Treves replied, “It will be a funeral if you don’t have the operation.” The operation went ahead and was a success. The day after the operation he was sitting up smoking a cigar. As an aside Sir Frederick Treves was also the surgeon who treated the Elephant Man.

So having been saved he was heading down the route which was to kill him, less than ten years later!

Two individuals dramatically affected by Edward’s death were Alice Keppel, his last mistress. Queen Alexandra invited her to be at Edward’s bedside when he was dying. The other individual was Caesar the King’s favourite dog. Caesar was extremely well known and loved and hated by many, but was the favourite of Edward’s dogs by far. So famous and loved was Caesar that Fabergé was commissioned to create a model of him.


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