That Edward VII was unfaithful to his long-suffering wife, Alexandra of Denmark, is undeniable, but despite how poor his reputation is, there is actually a surprising dearth of information on who, when and where. Edward, or Bertie as he is better known (his given name was Albert Edward), maintained a coterie of female companions, but who actually rose to the level of mistress is debatable. Among the most famous of these women is Alice Keppel.
A month ago I wrote a post about Edward VII and Alexandra of Denmark where I pointed out similarities between the two of them and the current Prince of Wales and his late ex-wife, Diana. There was one bizarre coincidence, however, which I forgot to highlight: one of Edward VII’s best-known mistresses was Alice Keppel, who happens to be the great-grandmother of none other than Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall. Given the similarities between Diana and Queen Alexandra, and Camilla’s direct descent from Mrs. Keppel, the whole thing does feel a bit like a historical wink.
This is surprisingly apropos of the ongoing royal visit to Italy because today Camilla brought up her regret that her mother sold a villa in Florence once owned by Alice and Camilla has girlhood memories of playing there. She revealed to reporters covering the tour that she hoped to buy it back someday and leave it to her grandchildren.
There have been comparisons made between Edward VII and Queen Alexandra of Denmark to Prince Charles and the late Diana, Princess of Wales. Like Charles, Edward, or Bertie as he was known intimately, found himself waiting for the throne far longer than anticipated. Both men are the eldest sons of monarchs with the longest-running reigns in British history, Elizabeth II only having surpassed Queen Victoria in 2015.
Both men had to create some semblance of a life for themselves from within a role that dictated and entitled them to nothing, while still constricting their movements and options. Setting aside fortune, it’s service with tepid reward. Both men caused embarrassment to the monarchy with their personal lives. And both men showed themselves quite capable of rising to the occasion, showing an astute comprehension of what skills they brought to the table and how best to wield them.