Features

The Many Mistresses of King Edward VII


By W. & D. Downey - Weltrundschau zu Reclams Universum 1902, Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

King Edward VII’s reign was relatively short, lasting from January 1901 to 1910. Although he is often cited as the (now) second longest serving Prince of Wales, Edward was infamously known for his love life rather than his time as king. He had several notable mistresses who shared his life with him over the years. Edward married Princess Alexandra of Denmark at 21 in 1863. Their marriage was not a particularly happy one, as it was an arranged marriage for dynastic purposes. However, they were cordial with each other and had certainly reached a comfortable agreement with one another. Alexandra knew of Edward’s extramarital affairs and was civil and respectful to the women she shared Bertie with.

Lillie Langtry was Edward’s first serious mistress. Born on the island of Jersey, Langtree, an actress, met the Prince of Wales at a dinner party in 1877. Edward quickly became infatuated with her, and the two were inseparable for the next three years. The affair ended when Langtree became pregnant, most likely by a friend. Edward separated himself from her after her affair with the Earl of Shrewsbury resulted in the press suggesting that he would be called upon in the divorce case. Edward would use his influence to help her stage career, but that was it. 

Lillie Langtry. By The original uploader was Isis at English Wikipedia. – Unknown, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5992883

Edward’s second long-term mistress was Daisy Brooke, the society hostess married to Francis Greville, Lord Brooke. She was a member of the Marlborough House Set, the group of socialites that formed the Prince and Princess of Wales’s inner circle. Her affair with the Prince would continue for nine years and was a source of fun and entertainment. During the affair, her husband inherited the Earldom of Warwick which allowed Brooke countless opportunities to publicly spend time with the Prince. She was known as the Babbling Brooke for allowing news of her affairs to get out, but she also challenged Edward on many social issues. After their affair ended, she went on to found countless charities for women and children of the poorest ranks of society. Brooke also became a socialist and wrote over ten books on different topics, including socialism and the First World War. In 1923 she stood for election for the Labour party (though wasn’t elected). 

Daisy Brooke. By The Lafayette Studio – [1], Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5361459

Alice Keppel, Edward’s final mistress, is without a doubt the most infamous, due to her being the Duchess of Cornwall’s great-grandmother. Keppel met the King in 1898 at the age of 29, and despite a 26 year age gap, quickly won him over. Instead of paying her directly, Edward gave her shares in a rubber company, which earned her the money needed to finance a royal lifestyle. He preferred Keppel to Brooke, as she was far more discreet and useful in his working life. When Edward became king in 1901, Keppel held a prominent role at court and often went between the King and his ministers. Alexandra allowed Keppel to come to the King’s bedside when he was dying, though she had to be removed due to hysterics. Once he had passed, she and her family left Britain. Several gifts from Edward to Keppel were stolen from Sudeley Castle in September 2019; see the Royal Central article here. Unfortunately, the thieves have not been apprehended yet. 

Alice Keppel. By Unknown – http://www.bridgemanartondemand.com/index.cfm?event=catalogue.product&productID=166070, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3905064


About author

Historian and blogger at AnHistorianAboutTown.com