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The Prince of Three Careers

A Review of the Chronicle of Edward VII, Whose Career
as Prince of Wales Combined the Triple Function of
Devoted Son, Prince of Pleasure, and Skilled Diplomat

BY CAMERON ROGERS

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N NOVEMBER 9, 1841, was The experiences of Victoria's consort

born of Victoria, Queen of with Englishmen had not always been England, and of Albert, the entirely felicitous.

There was Lord Prince-Consort, lusty Chancellor Brougham, for instance. Ah

child which Punch, itself no, it was the intention of Prince Albert, scarce five months its elder in the world, himself of a perfectly solemn habit of welcomed in a great number of bouncing mind, to see that the Prince of Wales was stanzas, all of them not appreciably more securely placed under the tutelage of just subtle than the first.

such a personality as had moulded his own

excellent if dull character. His old tutor, Huzza! We've a little Prince at last,

Baron Stockmar, was honored by the apA roaring royal boy, And all day long the booming bells

pointment. Have rung their peals of joy.

It is at this primary stage in the life of

the late King Edward, now chronicled so Albert Edward, Prince of Wales and completely by Sir Sidney Lee, * that one titular inheritor of more than one fair begins to feel a genuine pity for the royal duchy and ancient earldom, had entered baby. There was a sort of something upon a lifetime of sixty-nine years, all of about Stockmar. He was essentially not which, save only that latter nine, were

a man that babies or small boys would devoted to the triple and immeasurably take to at once, trustfully, with the condifficult task of being to his mother an viction that pockets were but the coy affectionate and God-fearing son, to the hiding-places of sweets or intriguing toys. public a gay mad wag of a prince in the He was not noticeably cheery and his tradition of Prince Hal, and to the diplo- tolerance for human frailty or merely for matists of Europe a skilled observer of sit- creeds different from his own, if existent, uations and policies and their equal if not was exceedingly well hidden. Even the usually their superior in the delicate and suave Sir Sidney feels for him a certain infinitely tactful profession of statecraft. distaste.

His training for the achievement of these three separate careers was to be

Amid the foreign influences environing his Spartan. The Prince-Consort, his father,

childhood there was only one to whom the whose own life did not lack in pathos, de

Prince never quite reconciled himself. The termined that that of his son should be

solemn figure of Baron Stockmar, his father's throughout directed by a judicious amal

former tutor and present mentor, hovered

over the Prince's childhood and boyhood to gam of a knowledge of the sciences, of the

the frequent disturbance of his equanimity. arts, of religion, and, in a minor degree, of

In all matters touching the Prince's upThis last he apparently laid the bringing he was the royal parents' first and least stress upon, since if the Prince, his

last court of appeal. Rigid in his standards of son, had followed the régime laid down discipline, stern in rebuke of childish faults, for him more consistently and for a longer overflowing in cautious counsel, the Baron time, it seems doubtful that he would have watched the young Prince's physical and inever come into actual contact with any

*"King Edward VII: A Biography." By Sir Sidney men at all.

Lee. Vol. 1: From Birth to Accession. Macmillan. $8.

men,

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tellectual development with a disconcerting son's association with a particular college. seriousness.

“His son," he argued, “belongs to the whole Very mildly put, but the actual domin- university. He will always belong to the

whole nation and not to the Peerage, the Army. ion of the gloomy Baron must have been

etc., etc., although he may form part of them, for a child of seven or eight a thing of he can and ought never to belong to party or unconscionable affliction. In this unre- faction or coterie or closed society, etc." lenting scrutiny and inspection of the Prince's tutors Stockmar was seconded

It was finally decided that the Prince of and supported by his former pupil, the

Wales should be admitted as an underboy's father, Prince Albert. When the graduate of Christ Church but that his child was withdrawn from the nursery,

residence should be Frewin Hall, quite unaged seven, and placed in the charge of a

connected with the college. scholarly young man named Birch, an The more I think of it," wrote the English gentleman whose education at

Prince Consort, "the more I see the diffiEton and Cambridge preëminently fitted

culties of the Prince being thrown together him for the responsibility of his duties, with other young men and having to make Albert Edward plucked up heart. He

his selection of acquaintances when so soon grew devoted to Birch and the thrown together with them." And also: shadow of Stockmar became less ten

"The only use of Oxford is that it is a ebrously oppressive. Mr. Birch held his place to study." It may be seen that the post but two years and then resigned. The father, himself an alumnus of the ancient Prince-Consort had found fault with his University of Bohn, lacked that insight religious teaching, "judging the tutor to into, and sympathy with, young blood attach undue importance to the Church

that his own university experiences might catechism." His resignation, says Sir have endowed him with. Indeed, he Sidney, gave the Boy-Prince much sorrow.

strictly forbade his son to use tobacco, Unhappy youth, the Baron was still as

but here the Prince of Wales had one of his serting in regard to his precept-haunted rare and refreshing fits of rebellion. He existence that “disconcerting seriousness.” smoked in a clandestine fashion, quite de

lightfully reminiscent of the boy characALDERSHOT FORBIDDEN

ters of Owen Johnson and even of Stalky

and his lieutenants. S THE boy grew older his predilections

But it cannot be said, rather unfortuconnected with those that his father had nately, that his university days were determined that he should follow, grew the characterized by anything more grateful

to the readers of his life than a most scrupmore pronounced. He wished, even clam

ulous obedience to the rules of conduct ored, to be sent to Aldershot for a training that would fit him for the career that

and discipline laid down by Prince Albert. all his life exercised over him a profound Indeed, the part of the Lee biography that fascination. He wished to be a soldier,

deals with the early years of Edward VII but such an idea played no part in the cur

is distressingly lacking in either amusing riculum of his father and the omnipresent

anecdote or the recording of happy occurStockmar. Oxford, it was deposed, came

The life of the Prince of Wales as next, with a thorough specialization in lived under the direction of Baron Stockhistory, law, and practical applications of

mar and the Prince-Consort was, we natural science, and so Oxford it was, al- gather, merely a somber processional of though the Prince was denied the pleasur

hours spent at uncongenial study, and able experience of becoming a member of

concentration upon educational pursuits a college in that university, like any other chiefly notable for their utter inapproundergraduate. Says Sir Sidney:

priateness to his character or his qualities

of mind. Fortunately in a way, perhaps, The Prince-Consort, who was unacquainted for the son, the father died of typhoid with Oxford customs, at first demurred to his fever in 1861.

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670

A Popular Misconception

Albert Edward, or, as his mother and The card-playing and horse-racing, the his manifold royal relatives in every king- yachting and the shooting were but pleasdom and principality of Europe were ever ant spannings of periods of genuine stress wont to call him, Bertie, was then nine even though it was such an habitually teen years old. He appears to have de- keen-minded appraiser of men as the veloped into a young man of quick per- genially cynical “Dizzy" who first called ception and a ready and engaging courtesy him Prince Hal. The appellation however, of manner but with a docility of mind and in spite of an accepted connotation, does demeanor that was the result, it seems credit to the brilliant Jew's observation. possible, of the early influence of the dour Prince Hal, the boon toss-pot of Falstaff, Baron. As the years

is one man, but Henry V passed this docility was

a totally and astonishtransmuted in his rela

ingly different one. The tions with his mother

likeness, what slight one into a respectful and de

may have existed, was voted submissiveness but

weakened chiefly by the toward the ministers and

potent fact that Albert monarchs of Europe into

Edward, while still Prince a polished but inflexible

of Wales, combined in habit of bearing and con

that one capacity the versation that made him,

double function of man as Prince of Wales, the

of pleasure and far-seeing power that he wa's

and industrious statesthroughout very nearly

man, whereas the most two decades of stormy

popular of the Plantageand tangled continental

nets preserved each withpolicies.

in its separate personalA strongly significant

ity. Of the two it was development of his char

the Hanoverian and not ALBERT EDWARD, PRINCE acter due, it would seem,

the Plantagenet who was

OF WALES almost directly to the In his eighteenth year, from the

the more versatile, even lifting of the yoke of ex portrait by George Richmond, R.A. the more gifted. cessive paternal disci

For the twenty years pline, was his sudden emergence from the 'that preceded his accession to the throne comparative obscurity of official and edu- there was no critical situation in Europe cational routine into the brilliance of a with which the Prince was not intimately society of which he himself was the arbiter acquainted, although, as Sir Sidney points and leader. It was this phase of his per- out, official participation in the foreign sonality that became synonymous in the policies of Great Britain was denied to public mind both here and in England him, for the Queen, in spite of the rigid with the true calibre of his character. seclusion of her life following the death of

The fallacy of this conception that even the Prince-Consort, continued with a to-day is so widespread as to be almost a fierce persistence to grasp the reins of tradition, is very ably demonstrated in sovereignty. the chapters in which Sir Sidney Lee The letters to which Sir Sidney has had points out that the energetic and ap access and which are published throughparently continual schedule of social en out the volume, form, obviously enough gagements which he followed was in perhaps, its most interesting feature. actuality merely time-filling between Those of the Kaiser, when, as Prince sessions of the most arduous occupation of William of Prussia, he was the accredited his life: that of preserving amity among favorite grandson of Victoria and the jealous nations, the suzerains of which affectionate nephew of his uncle Bertie, almost uniformly were of his own blood. cast an added light upon the character of

Oliver
M

W 1885 to the Tsar

that young man. It did not, it seems, marriage in 1863, Sir Sidney records the achieve all at once the diseased egotism welcoming stanzas of the Poet Laureate, and unbalanced truculence that after- Tennyson. With excessive tolerance the wards became one and indissoluble with biographer terms them "a fitting exthe upward stabbing mustachios and in- pression” of the joyous acceuil that credibly uniformed and arrogant person greeted Alexandra. Doubtless at twentythat always faintly suggested a prosper- one the Prince of Wales had not yet ous mummer gratuitously continuing to developed the critical instinct concerning act his part whether upon the boards or literature that thirty-four years later led not.

him to write to Lord

Salisbury touching WILHELM IN MISCHIEF

the first effusion in ALREADY

his official capacity of Alfred Austin, the

newly appointed Lauin the hope of stirring

reate, and pointing to up serious discord he

"the trash that the naïvely points out that

Poet-Laureate “The language and the

writes." Mr. Austin, cartoon on Russia in

in addition to bad the latest Punch are

NO

rhyming, was guilty of insolent in the last de

a serious blunder in gree!" And later, “We

judgment. His jingles shall see the Prince

were in praise of the here in a few days. I

Jameson raid, whereas am not at all delighted

Tennyson's verses, not by this unexpected ap

a whit better in subHIS MAJESTY, KING EDWARD VII parition, because, exA prince whose statesmanship, in the estima

stance or execution, cuse me, he is your tion of many Continental as well as British were nevertheless brother-in-law, owing diplomats, postponed what eventually became

happily dedicated to a the Great War not once but several times. It to his false and inwas four years after his death that the storm,

young and very beautriguing nature he will which was inevitable, broke upon Europe. tiful Princess. Still undoubtedly attempt in one way or another to push the Bul- For Saxon or Dane or Norman we, garian business (against Russian inter- Teuton or Celt, or whatever we be, ests). May Allah send them to Hell, as

We are each all Dane in our welcome of Thee, the Turks would say! Or to do a little

Alexandra! political plotting behind the scenes with the ladies."

has a lolloping lilt to it that might have This when the wretched youth was still recalled to the memory of the royal bridetwo moves from the throne of Germany. groom the days when under the basilisk As his uncle Bertie continued to regard charge of Stockmar he gained his first him merely as a sort of prococious Rodo experience of lights and laughter under mont, Willy became positively maniacal. "the big top" of Astley's Circus. How Even the Prince of Wales began, as Sir the revered Mr. Tennyson satisfied his Sidney in his most moderate fashion ex- conscience for the commission of this presses it, “To regard the young man's bit of rhymed clog-dancing one does not future career with anxiety." Three years know, save that perhaps the handful of later this clock-work warrior, as the Em- silver and the ribbon to stick in his coat peror of Germany, was in a position to had fulfilled their venal functions. cause his uncle even darker periods of Perhaps the outstanding quality of Sir perplexity.

Sidney Lee's biography is its suave courOn the occasion of Albert Edward's tesy and good taste in its apportioning of

672

A Biography That Preserves Balance and Value

those incidents each in its true value, in sixty years to mount. A second volume the life of Edward VII, to its proper rel- which is in preparation will cover his ative position in the development of short reign and his death in 1910. Of character and ability. The biography is this first volume it is the extraordinary essentially an official one; it regales with industry displayed by the biographer that no brisk anecdote or naughty inference; continually stirs our astonishment and the breath of the lex majestatis is hot upon admiration. The result is a marvelously every page, but on the other hand it pre- inclusive and informative document no serves what a less bridled volume would less valuable as an intimate history of certainly have failed to: its sense of bal- Europe and the great figures of a type of ance and value.

royal autocracy now almost completely Sir Sidney has, somewhat to our disap- extinct, than as a calculatedly unbiased - pointment, no doubt, given us no intri- chronicle of the life of a prince to whom guing picture or piquant footnote that his due was not accorded in his lifeillustrates the Prince of Wales of the Jersey time and to whose memory it has been Lily or the golden hours of Sandringham. only during the last decade that statesmen In point of fact had he done so his work have turned with genuine respect and would have forfeited the right to be called admiration. intrinsic biography. For such little his Sir Sidney Lee possesses the qualities tories as those, there is a large and de- of the distinguished biographer: a conservedly popular type of literature known suming industry, a genuine interest and to the French sometimes as chroniques respect for his subject, and an unfailing scandaleuses and, when they preserve even sense of values. His Edward VII emerges less accuracy or truth, æuvres badines. It from the pages of his biography an inincludes in a chrysalis of a wit sometimes dividual whose tremendous energy and salacious, sometimes chaste, and always ability in pursuing three careers at once genuine, the infinitely trivial incidents in and all of them successfully—that of a the lives of men and women whose dis- devoted son, a popular and debonair tinction was the result of achievements to prince of pleasure, and an infinitely tactwhich the trivialities were not in the least ful keeper of the peace between hotgermane. Sir Sidney may perhaps be a headed royal kinsmen in whose hands lay little too formal now and then, a trifle un the destinies of Europe-stir at once the necessarily the apologist, but his volume imagination and the mind. is a true biography.

We are grateful that now, more than a The present volume covers the life of decade after this prince's death, he has Albert Edward only to the period of his posthumously been so fortunate in his accession to the throne that he had waited biographer.

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