Today’s words come to us from Edward VII, King of Great Britain from 1901 to 1910.
Edward was the eldest son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Edward was related in one way or another to half of Europe’s monarchy during that time (eight of Queen Victoria’s nine children sat on various thrones of Europe — Great Britain, Prussia, Greece, Romania, Russia, Norway, Sweden and Spain), earning Edward the nickname, Uncle of Europe.
Queen Victoria was a rather severe and detached mother. She thought Edward a dimwit, once writing to a friend, the poor country, with such a terribly unfit, totally unreflecting successor!
I’m guessing Queen Victoria wasn’t much of a hugger.
Queen Victoria excluded Edward from most official royal duties, so he dabbled in unofficial duties as Royal Playboy. Edward had an insatiable appetite for parties, food, gambling, cigars, wine, and women. Especially women. Edward had endless affairs during his life, including Jennie Churchill (mother of Winston).
Edward was especially fond of Tokaji (the cerebral, other-worldly sweet wine from Hungary). And no wonder — there was Tojaji in spades at the Buckingham Palace wine cellars. Queen Victoria received a yearly birthday gift of Tokaji from Emperor Franz Josef of Austria (and King of Hungary) — one bottle for every month she had lived. On her 81st birthday in 1900, she received 972 bottles.
The mind reels.
I wonder if Tokaji is the wine that inspired these words? Tokaji is, after all, called the King of Wines and the Wine of Kings.
I’ll tie up the historical loose ends . . . (because I’m sure they skipped this in your European History class).
Prince Albert and Queen Victoria were less than pleased with Edward’s lifestyle choices, so they arranged his marriage to Princess Alexandra of Denmark. That marriage was not an especially happy one, and Edward continued with his serial adultery, unabated. Prince Albert was so distraught over Edward’s behavior that he attempted an intervention, visiting Edward to try and talk some sense (and fidelity) into him. Prince Albert died shortly after that visit, and
Mommie Dearest Queen Victoria always blamed Edward for Albert’s death. (In all likelihood, it was typhoid that killed Albert.)
After Queen Victoria’s death, Edward ascended the throne, and ended up demonstrating a skilled mastery of politics and diplomacy. Fluent in French and German, he successfully navigated the politics of Europe in the years immediately preceding World War I. Remember when I told you Edward was related to nearly every European monarch at the time? He was uncle to both Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany and to Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. Edward and Wilhelm didn’t especially like each other (ditto Wilhelm and Nicholas), but diplomacy and family ties kept their personal animosities from spilling out onto the chessboard of Europe.
For a while, anyway.