Edward the Seventh

This article is about the TV series. For other uses, see Edward VII (disambiguation).
Edward the Seventh
Also known as 'Edward the King
The Royal Victorians'
Genre Drama
Starring Timothy West
Annette Crosbie
Helen Ryan
Robert Hardy
Felicity Kendal
Country of origin UK
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 1
No. of episodes 13
Running time 50 minutes
Original network ITV
Picture format 4:3
Original release 1 April – 1 July 1975

Edward the Seventh is a 1975 British television drama series, made by ATV in 13 episodes.

Based on the biography of King Edward VII by Philip Magnus, it starred Timothy West as the elder Edward VII and Simon Gipps-Kent and Charles Sturridge as Edward in his youth, and Annette Crosbie as Queen Victoria. It was directed by John Gorrie, who wrote episodes 7-10 with David Butler writing the remainder of the series.

Only the final three episodes dramatised Edward as King (in line with his short, nine-year reign, which did not begin until he was nearly sixty years old). Annette Crosbie, who won a BAFTA for her performance, was given top billing in the series (appearing in ten out of the thirteen episodes).

It was first broadcast on TV between April and July 1975. In the United States it was shown under the title Edward the King, with episode introductions by Canadian-American broadcaster Robert MacNeil. In the UK, it is available as a four-disc DVD set, encoded for Region 0, by Network Video. It is also available for the North American market as an extras-less six-disc set.


After only a year of marriage, Queen Victoria has not only given birth to a daughter but learns that she is again pregnant. The Queen takes her role seriously and is fully engaged in matters of State. She has an outstanding relationship with the Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne and is concerned that her confinement will limit her abilities to rule. For her husband, Prince Albert, his limited role in the household causes friction in the marriage. He has no say in the hiring of the household staff or the way his child is cared for, and more importantly he yearns for a role as an adviser in the political realm. The Queen dearly loves Albert and over time, with his close friend, Baron Stockmar, encouraging him to assert himself, Albert slowly establishes himself as the head of the household and becomes an indispensable adviser. The birth of their second child, Prince Albert Edward, provides the line with a male heir. Even though he is only still a baby, his father is already planning his education.

The young Prince Albert, called Bertie by members of the family, is not having a particularly happy childhood. The elder Prince Albert, encouraged by Baron Stockmar, has very definite views about his son's education including the need for non-stop work, both in the classroom and out, and very strict discipline. Bertie rebels, bewildering and distressing Victoria and Albert, and the only solution seems to be ever more discipline. He is clearly a disappointment to his father, who had hoped his son would be a new kind of leader, a scholar who knows and understands the world but that is clearly not to be, at least not to his satisfaction. Bertie nonetheless accompanies his parents on a state visit to Paris and charms Napoleon III and Empress Eugenie. Albert, however, soon dismisses his eldest son and spends most of his time ensuring the happiness of his eldest daughter Princess Victoria, known as Vicky. Her marriage is something of a sad time for the Queen and the Prince Consort as they miss her greatly and Bertie feels that he cannot replace his sister in their hearts. Bertie for his part wants to do something useful but his personal wants and desires seem to the furthest thing from his father's mind.

Political relations with the French are important as the Crimean War against Russia is underway.

After a successful tour of President Buchanan's America, young Prince Bertie returns home to find that his parents do not see it as a personal success rather one that can be attributed to the monarchy in general. His father tells him he is to go to Oxford University to continue his studies but will be under the care of a governor and will not be allowed to mix with other students. Bertie really wants to join the army but his father, at first, refuses, but eventually decides in his favor. He is made a Lieutenant Colonel in the Grenadier Guards and sent to Ireland to undergo his training. There he sees a few familiar faces and begins an affair with an Irish music hall performer named Nellie Clifden.

The situation in Italy creates a conflict for Albert with his relations in the Austrian court. Vicky's son Wilhelm is born with a damaged arm. States in the American South secede, raising the possibility of war. Victoria's mother, the Duchess of Kent, dies.

Prince Bertie continues his military training but he is taken to deceiving his superiors and sneaking off with his friends to the music halls. His parents continue their search to find Bertie a suitable wife. Their preference is for a German bride but eventually they settle on Princess Alexandra of Denmark, known to her family as Alix, despite their misgivings due to tensions between Denmark and Prussia over Schleswig-Holstein, a particular concern of Albert. A brief meeting is arranged for the two at the cathedral in Speyer, but no final decision is made. Relations with his father deteriorate even further when the Prince Consort receives a confidential letter from Baron Stockmar telling of Bertie's dalliance with a music hall singer. Bertie is clearly a disappointment to his father, and visits Bertie at Oxford, and the two manage to reconcile, but the elder Prince Albert, after talking a long walk with Bertie in the rain, and exhausted by trying to avert war with the United States, despite his failing health, dies of typhoid toward the end of 1861.

Albert is concerned as trouble between Denmark and Prussia grows. Albert endeavours to avoid war with the United States. President Lincoln proposes an alliance with France to conquer Canada.

With Queen Victoria in mourning, the Cabinet is concerned that her withdrawal from public duties will have a negative impact on her people. As a result, Bertie assumes many of the public duties of the monarch. He proves to be quite popular and works hard at maintaining the positive face of the monarchy. It is not quite what Bertie has in mind but the Queen refuses any role for him in matters of State. She sees him as an utter failure and refuses to let him participate in any decision-making, blaming him for Prince Albert's death. The Queen also decides that there is no need to wait the full year of mourning before he can marry and she pushes him to decide on Alix. He and Princess Alix are married in March 1863 and she soon after announces that she is expecting, and gives birth to Prince Eddy prematurely.

Meanwhile, the long-simmering problems between Denmark and Prussia lead to conflict within the family and finally an outbreak of war.

Bertie's family continues to grow but Princess Alix is not strong and suffers from general ill health including a bout with rheumatic fever. Politics continues to cause a rift in the family with Princess Alix refusing to see or have anything to do with Bertie's Prussian relations after the forced annexation of parts of Denmark. It all comes to a head when the King of Prussia asks to call on her, and Alix attempts to snub him. Queen Victoria continues to refuse all public engagements. Bertie finds himself in court as a witness in a divorce case involving a lady with whom he was acquainted. The defeat of the French Empire in the Franco-Prussian War leads to a rise in Republicanism. Prime Minister Gladstone tries to have the Queen appoint Bertie as Viceroy to Ireland but she rejects the suggestion. Everyone expects the worst when Bertie contracts typhoid at Sandringham and approaches death on the 10th anniversary of his father dying from the same disease.

Victoria and Bertie are critical of Prussia after the war with Denmark and the war with Austria. Victoria appreciates her consultations with Disraeli. She is pleased by the French withdrawal from Mexico but chagrined by the death of Emperor Maximilian.

Despite being grateful for Bertie's recovery from typhoid, the Queen continues to refuse all attempts at giving her eldest son any responsibility in matters of State. After a very successful visit to Coventry, and simultaneously playing host to the Shah of Persia and Alix's brother-in-law and sister, "Sasha" and "Minnie," the tsarevich and tsarevna of Russia, the new Prime Minister, Mr. Disraeli, looks for something appropriate for the Prince to do. Bertie suggests that he go on an official State visit to India. To Bertie's surprise and delight, Victoria agrees, but it causes major difficulties at home when he informs Alix that she will not be accompanying him. It had always been her dream to visit India and she is heartbroken at being left behind. The trip to India goes well but Bertie is furious when he only finds out from the newspapers that his mother has been created "Empress of India" while he was visiting and must face yet another scandal when Lord Aylesford announces that his wife has been having an affair and he may be divorcing her. Lord Randolph Churchill offers to intervene in the case - the other party in the tryst is his brother - if the Prince would also intervene with Lord Aylesford to stop a divorce. Bertie flatly refuses leading Churchill to try to force the Prince's hand by first appealing to Alix, and threatening to expose some of Bertie's past relationships.

Bertie and Alix travel to Denmark, where he is joined by various other relatives, including King George of Greece ("Willy"), along with "Sasha" and "Minnie," now tsar and tsarina. Bertie warns Sasha about the potential danger of the repressive measures that he had undertaken in Russia, urging him to continue reforming Russia like his father and Minnie confides to Alix her fears for her family in the wake of Sasha's father's assassination. He also, bringing a reluctant Alix along, visits his sister Vicky and her husband Fritz, the Crown Prince of Prussia, on his way home from Denmark. He finds Vicky greatly distressed about her son William who she knows will some day be Emperor and has fallen under the spell of Bismarck, whom they dislike with a passion. When the British intervene to put down a mutiny in the Egyptian army, Bertie very much wants to join his Regiment but the Queen will not hear of it. Bertie continues his liaison with Lillie Langtry. Prime Minister Gladstone asks the Prince to serve on a Royal Commission on the state of housing for the working classes. Bertie tours some of the poorest districts and is appalled at the conditions he finds there. In 1887, Bertie partakes in his mother's Golden Jubilee, and the following year, is heartbroken at the news that his brother-in-law, Fritz, has died of cancer after a short reign of ninety-nine days, and is nervous about the new kaiser, his nephew, Wilhelm II.

Bertie agrees to assist Lady Brooke to retrieve a letter she wrote to her one-time lover, Lord Charles Beresford. She is now terrified that Lady Beresford will take some action against her. Bertie somewhat ham-highhandedly calls on Lady Beresford's lawyer and orders him to destroy it. The lawyer refuses but does agree to ask his client to. He then calls on Lady Beresford with the same request. When Charles Beresford hears of the Prince's action, he hits the roof, even nearly hitting Bertie in a confrontation. Bertie is relieved that Beresford will soon be returning to his posting in the Mediterranean. Soon after, during a visit to Tranby Croft, Bertie finds himself embroiled in a gambling scandal when Lt. Col. Sir William Gordon Cumming is found cheating at baccarat, an illegal card game. The Prince and others try to settle the matter quietly but Cumming sues to regain his good name and reputation and it all becomes public. Bertie then gets news that Beresford and his wife intend to resurrect the Lady Brooke incident, threatening to disclose various aspects of Bertie's private if Bertie doesn't apologize to them. Alix and Bertie encourage their eldest son, Prince Eddy, to find a suitable young woman and marry. An early choice is unable to convert from Catholicism. Although he does eventually find someone, Princess May of Teck, he falls ill and dies on 14 January 1892.

In May 1893, Prince Eddy's younger brother Prince George, Duke of York proposed to May, and she accepted. George and May married on 6 July 1893.

Bertie is annoyed when he was kept in the dark about the Jameson Raid in South Africa and discovers that his nephew, the Kaiser, found out about it before he did. Queen Victoria still refuses to let Bertie have any role in matters of State, so he reluctantly spends his time going to the races and as is so often the case, plays host to visiting relations, this time, his nephew and niece, Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra ("Nicky" and "Alicky") at Balmoral. In 1897, the King of Greece appeals to Alexandra for help against the invading Turks, but when Alix goes to the Queen, she finds that Victoria is interested in is the upcoming Diamond Jubilee; the event is recorded with a new invention which works by displaying a sequence of still photographs through a projector. Victoria is outraged that Gladstone's funeral is held at Westminster Abbey, and that Bertie and his son, George acted as pallbearers. The Boer War is extremely unpopular on the European Continent and Bertie is the object of an assassination attempt by a teenage anarchist in Brussels. In early 1901, Bertie receives news from Osborne House that his mother is dying and is present, along with various other members of the family, including the kaiser, when she dies at the age of 81.

After a nearly 60-year wait, Bertie becomes King upon the death of his mother Queen Victoria, and announces that, contrary to the wish of his parents, who wished him to reign as King Albert Edward, he will reign as King Edward VII. There is much speculation as to whether he is up to the job. The King's nephew, the German Kaiser, proposes an Anglo-German alliance and the King supports it but several of his Ministers simply do not take him seriously. Although now Queen, Alix is having some trouble adjusting to their new life, refusing to live at Buckingham Palace and reluctant to leave Marlborough House, the home designated for the Prince of Wales, their son George. The King's sister, Vicky – the Kaiser's mother – is dying of cancer and soon after his ascension, he travels to Germany to see her; at Vicky's request, the King's secretary, Ponsonby, manages to smuggle her letters out of Germany. The King is frustrated when his coronation is postponed due to the Boer War. When it is finally scheduled, it must be postponed again as the King must undergo emergency surgery to remove his appendix just two days before the ceremony; the planned festivities for the populace proceed regardless. Finally, in a more modest ceremony, on August 9, 1902, Bertie and Alix are crowned.

The King grows increasingly frustrated with his limited role as a constitutional monarch. His attempt at engineering a grand alliance with Germany is successful at one level but ultimately rejected by the Government who still see His Majesty as someone not to be taken seriously. Still searching for some way to make an impact, the King announces he will soon go on a Grand Tour of several European nations including Britain's historic enemy, France. His arrival in France is marked by boos and catcalls, but he soon charms them and leaves to great cheers. His nephew Willie, the German Emperor, continues to visit but has become pompous to the point that the King can barely stand being in the same room as him. After the failure to agree an Anglo-German Alliance, Germany begins to expand its army and navy.

The King enters his final years in general ill health. He smokes too much and has put on too much weight. Britain concludes the Triple Entente, concluding a pact with France and Russia but are aware that the German Kaiser, the King's nephew, will inevitably see it as an affront to Germany. Willie still visits his uncle and appears sincere in his love of family and of Britain. His on-going re-armament of the German army and navy is clearly seen as a threat against the United Kingdom. As a counterbalance the King and Queen set off on a trip to Russia to visit her nephew, the Czar. Having to yet again make amends with Willie, the King visits Germany but it takes a serious toll on his health. Domestically, the King is thrust into a constitutional crisis when the House of Lords refuses to pass a budget approved by the House of Commons. The King's bronchitis worsens and he succumbs on 6 May 1910.

Series cast

Prime ministers and politicians
British Army and Royal Navy
Edward's mistresses


External links

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