He may not be one of Britain's most famous monarchs, but the main reason for that was that his short reign of just nine years - 1901 - 1910 - was overshadowed by that of his mother and predecessor, Queen Victoria, who is Britain's longest-reigning monarch, having been on the Throne from 1837 to 1901. But he is the man many view as being responisble for making the British monarchy a modern institution - many of the most famous hallmarks of the British monarchy were created by Edward VII.

King Edward VII, who was born in 1841 as the eldest son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, was heir to the Throne for almost sixty years.

But as both King and as Prince of Wales, he was known to his people as Bertie, the playboy prince (also known as Edward the Caresser, he even had a special box set aside at his coronation in August 1902 for his various mistresses).

And this reputation of his was further enhanced when, in the 1880s, Edward, Prince of Wales, visited Le Chabanais bordello in Paris, which also saw other illustrious visitors such as Humphrey Bogart, Mae West and Cary Grant.

And it was there that Edward - the great-grandfather of Queen Elizabeth II - had made, especially for him, a ‘siege d’amour’, or love-seat, which allowed him to have his way with two women simultaneously, all with the minimum of effort. Amongst his mistresses was the actress Lily Langtry and Winston Churchill's mother.

After years hidden away from public view, the love-seat now features in a BBC documentary about Edward VII’s life before he reached the throne.

Edward ended up being hated by his mother, Queen Victoria, as she blamed him for her husband's, and Edward father's, death in 1861, which left Victoria in almost constant mourning for the last 40 years of her reign.

A love seat fit for a king: The antique chair that gives an eye-popping insight into Edward VII's debauched youth

By Eugene Costello
22nd March 2010
Daily Mail

King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra

Among the bordellos of Victorian Paris, Le Chabanais was the most exquisite, and the most lavish. Over the years this ‘maison de tolerance’ — the word ‘brothel’ was considered too tawdry — saw visitors as illustrious as Humphrey Bogart, Mae West and Cary Grant.

But in the 1880s, one of its principal clients was the future King Edward VII, then known to everyone as ‘Bertie’, the playboy Prince of Wales.

Each of the establishment’s 30 rooms had its own theme, such as Moorish, Louis XIV and ancient Roman — but Bertie’s favourite was the Hindu room.

Second throne: The special chair made for the playboy Prince Bertie, the future Edward VII, to take his weight during lovemaking in a Parisian bordello

For there lived an extraordinary contraption, a testament to the Prince’s insatiable lust and to his immense corpulence.

Known romantically as a ‘siege d’amour’, or love-seat, this chair allowed the distinctly unathletic Bertie to have his way with two women simultaneously, all with the minimum of effort.

After years hidden away from public view, the love-seat now features in a BBC documentary about Edward VII’s life before he reached the throne.

It paints an absorbing portrait of this unsung King, a man of deep contradictions who can be credited for bringing the British monarchy into the modern age.

The royal duties we now take for granted — planting trees at inaugural ceremonies, greeting visiting dignitaries, undertaking overseas goodwill trips — were all
hallmarks of Edward’s reign. And like our present Prince of Wales, Bertie’s instincts appear to have been progressive for the day.

Royal biographer Kenneth Rose says that during his reign, Bertie is on record as having described the use of the word ‘n****r’ as ‘disgraceful’.

But he is destined to be remembered for his time as Prince of Wales — for he was 59 when he was finally crowned after his mother’s 64-year reign.

The decades of waiting in the wings took their toll on Bertie. He drifted, without
purpose — and turned to hedonistic pleasures to fill his time, much to the disappointment of his puritanical parents Victoria and Albert.

According to Matthew Sweet, author of Inventing The Victorians, one of Bertie’s favourite diversions at Le Chabanais was to carouse with a woman in a luxurious swan-necked bath, filled to the brim with champagne.

Debauched: Prince Bertie, pictured here in 1870, enjoyed the twin pleasures of women and excessive consumption during his long wait to be king

‘I guess they would both sit there and listen to the sound of Bertie’s father spinning in his grave,’ says Sweet.

Bertie’s twin loves of women and excessive consumption would earn him the nickname ‘Edward the Caresser’ among his contemporaries. He even had a special box set aside at his coronation for his various mistresses.

Women were a passion he had come to early. In 1861, Prince Albert, despairing of Bertie’s lack of application to academic studies, decided that a taste of Army life would be just the thing to knock him into shape. Bertie, then 19, was duly dispatched to an Army camp in Ireland.

King Edward VII reigned for just nine years, from 1901 to 1910. This is in stark contrast to his mother, Queen Victoria, who remains Britain's longest-reigning monarch, having been on the Throne from 1837 to 1901. Edward was born in London on 9th November 1841. In 1861, Edward, who then was about 19 years of age and was Prince of Wales, had a liaison with an actress, and his father Prince Albert visited his son to reprimand him. Albert died just two weeks later and Victoria held her son partly responsible for the death of his father. Albert's death left Victoria almost in constant mourning for the remaining 40 years of her reign.

Victoria withdrew almost completely from public life, and Edward was allowed to represent her at state occasions, but given almost no chance to participate in affairs of state. He became a leader of London society, spending his time eating, drinking, gambling, shooting, watching racing and sailing. In 1863, he married Princess Alexandra of Denmark and they had six children, five of whom survived to adulthood and one of whom would become the future King George V. Edward also had a series of long-term mistresses, including the actress Lily Langtry and Winston Churchill's American mother, Jenny.

In January 1901, Victoria died and Edward succeeded to the throne as Edward VII. The coronation was originally scheduled for June 26, 1902, but Edward had to undergo an emergency appendectomy operation, so the coronation was postponed until August 9, 1902. He threw himself into his new role with energy and his reign restored sparkle to a monarchy that been rather gloomy since his father's death 40 years earlier. Related to most European royalty (he was known as the 'Uncle of Europe'), he was able to assist in foreign policy negotiations and his well-received addresses during a state visit to Paris helped pave the way for the Anglo-French Entente Cordiale of 1904. Edward was also the first British monarch to visit Russia. In 1902, he founded the Order of Merit to reward those who distinguished themselves in science, art or literature.

In the last year of his life, Edward was involved in a constitutional crisis brought about by the refusal of the Conservative majority in the Lords to pass the Liberal government's budget of 1909. He died on 6 May 1910, before the situation could be resolved, and was succeeded by his son who became George V.

Edward VII is the great-grandfather of the current monarch, Queen Elizabeth II.

The ploy could not have backfired more spectacularly. Soon after his arrival, fellow officers arranged for an actress named Nellie Clifden to be smuggled into his quarters. In his diary for 1861, the young Prince made the following entries:

September 6, NC First time

September 9, NC Second time

September 10, NC Third time

When Bertie’s escapades came to the attention of his father, Prince Albert despairingly wrote to him: ‘I knew that you were thoughtless and weak — but I could not think you depraved!’

Weeks later, Albert was dead, officially due to typhoid fever, though Victoria believed Bertie’s dissipated lifestyle had broken her beloved husband’s heart. She never forgave her son.

Prince Edward and Princess Alexandra of Denmark during their marriage in 1863

Apparently unrepentant, the Prince threw himself into partying, and was a frequent visitor to Paris, becoming a regular face at racy venues such as the Café des
Anglais, the Moulin Rouge and, of course, Le Chabanais.

Edward’s many mistresses were tolerated with some irritation by his wife, the beautiful Princess Alexandra of Denmark. They famously included the actress
Lillie Langtry, Jenny Churchill (Winston’s mother) and Camilla Parker Bowles’s great-grandmother Alice Keppel, whom Alexandra permitted to join her at Bertie’s deathbed.

But the greatest love of his life is accepted to have been the society beauty Daisy Warwick, known for throwing fabulous tea parties at her mansion in Essex.

'The main purpose was to provide an environment in which adultery could flourish,’ says Daisy’s biographer Victoria Fishburn.

‘The crunch time was tea, when the men would come in from sport and the women would be dolled up in specially made “tea gowns” which were loosely fastened at the waist. These would be worn without a corset solely to allow “ease of passage”.

‘The guests would then pair up and retire to their rooms for their assignations.’

Another of Bertie’s favourite indulgences was food. His enormous appetite left him with a 48in girth — and little wonder. In his book, Edward VII, Christopher Hibbert describes a typical day’s eating for the king.

Breakfast was platefuls of bacon and eggs, haddock and chicken, and toast and butter. An hour or so of shooting gave him the appetite for turtle soup. A full lunch at half past two — beef and Yorkshire pudding was a firm favourite, as was roast lamb.

At teatime, he tucked away poached eggs, petit fours and preserved ginger as well as rolls and scones, hot cakes, cold cakes, sweet cakes and shortcake, of which he was especially fond.

Then came dinner at 8.30pm, which was usually a 12-course affair. Bertie would polish off several dozen oysters, plus bread and butter, caviar, plovers’ eggs, ortolans (a type of songbird), sole poached in Chablis, garnished with oysters and prawns, chicken and turkey in aspic, quails and pigeon pie, grouse, snipe, partridge,
pheasant and woodcock.

Historian Jane Ridley adds: ‘They used to have these lavish multi-course meals, but it was meant to be about display, not consumption. The problem for poor Bertie was that he would gobble the lot.’

All of which explains why the corpulent Prince found lovemaking rather more energetic than he might wish — and why he resorted to using the siege d’amour to fulfil his lust.

The way in which Bertie used the chair has been lost in the mists of time. Now owned by the Soubrier furniture-making family, who originally custom-built the chair for Bertie, it has never been on public display.

But it stands as a reminder of the twin loves of this most pleasure-seeking of princes.

Edward VII, Prince Of Pleasure: A Timewatch Special is on tomorrow on BBC2 at 9pm.

Last edited by Blackleaf; Mar 24th, 2010 at 01:17 PM..