The Real Edward VII
King Edward VII came to the throne in 1901, aged 60. It was the moment he'd been waiting for all his adult life - and the moment his mother, Queen Victoria, had always dreaded. As a child Edward - or 'Bertie' as he was known - consistently failed to live up to Victoria's high expectations. By the time he was 18 she would say of him, 'I never can or shall look at him without a shudder'. As he waited to inherit his mother's throne, he continued to confirm her worst fears with a string of high-profile scandals, intrigues, infidelities and court cases to his credit. And yet when the prodigal Prince finally became King he succeeded in re-inventing the monarchy for the modern age.
This programme tells the story of King Edward VII's incident-packed life, every turn of which offers a forensic analysis of his relationship with his parents - especially his mother Queen Victoria. It was filmed largely in the stately homes and royal palaces where the incidents occurred, and relies on biographers as well contemporary letters and diaries to tell the story. Victoria asserted herself and the Crown by sheer force of personality, and historians explain how Edward fought back with charm, and even guile. She didn't trust him, he found her inflexible. Some will argue this often bitter family feud had profound implications for the political landscape in twentieth century Britain, even the entire world.
Edward was a difficult child, who threw sticks at his tutor, and he grew into a reckless young man as he discovered that for a royal it's easier to control the world around you than yourself. At university he developed gargantuan appetites for food, cigars, women and gambling. But his parents hated and feared such self-indulgence, and this clash of attitudes brought about a crisis so melodramatic and tragic that Edward lived most of his adult recovering from it.
By his fifties, he was nicknamed Edward the Caresser and was believed to be one of the premier libertines of Europe's aristocracy. But after yet another crisis, which almost brought him public disgrace, he belatedly grew-up. He tried to turn his mother from a bitter enemy to a watchful ally. He taught himself state craft and built a network of political contacts so wide-ranging he became famous as the Uncle of Europe.
In his final decade as Prince of Wales, Edward laid the groundwork for his short but hugely influential reign. He did this so well, that between 1901 and 1910, this larger than life character had a huge impact on British twentieth century history, and is in many ways, the role model of the royal family of today.
Genre: History Documentary
Running Time: 90 minutes (approx)
Database last updated: 20 July - 19:20