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Edward the Seventh is a TV drama series, made by ATV in 13 one-hour episodes.

Based on the biography of Edward VII by Philip Magnus, it starred Timothy West as the elder Edward VII and Charles Sturridge as Edward in his youth, Annette Crosbie as Queen Victoria, Deborah Grant and Helen Ryan as Queen Alexandra (the former as a young woman, the latter in later life), Robert Hardy as the Prince Consort, Alison Leggatt as the Duchess of Kent, and Felicity Kendal as Princess Vicky (later Empress Frederick of Germany). It was directed by John Gorrie, who wrote episodes 7-10 with David Butler writing the remainder of the series.

The series also featured John Gielgud as Benjamin Disraeli, Michael Hordern as William Gladstone, Harry Andrews as young Edward's tutor Colonel Bruce, Jane Lapotaire as Empress Marie of Russia (sister to Alexandra and mother of Czar Nicholas II), Christopher Neame as Kaiser Wilhelm II (King Edward's own nephew) and, in one of his earliest roles, Charles Dance as Edward's eldest son Eddy, who died at the age of 28.

The actresses playing Edward's mistresses include Moira Redmond as Alice Keppel and Carolyn Seymour as Daisy Greville. Francesca Annis was featured in two episodes as Lillie Langtry which led to Butler writing a full series about Mrs Langtry's life for Annis to star in, Lillie.

Despite the title, only the final three episodes dramatised Edward as King (in line with his short, nine-year reign). Timothy West only appeared from episode five onwards. Annette Crosbie, who won a BAFTA for her performance, was given top billing in the series (appearing in ten out of the thirteen episodes).

It was first broadcast on TV between April and June 1975. In the United Statesmarker it was shown under the title 'Edward the King'. In the UK, it is available as a four-disc DVD set, encoded for Region 0, by Network Video. It's also available for the North American market as an extras-less six-disc set.

Timothy West's father Lockwood West also played the monarch in an episode (entitled Guest of Honour) of the celebrated ITV period drama Upstairs Downstairs several years earlier.

Episodes

  • Episode 1: The Boy
After only a year of marriage, Queen Victoria has not only given birth to a daughter but learns that she is again pregnant. The Queen takes her role seriously and is fully engaged in matters of State. She has an outstanding relationship with the Prime Minister, Lord Melbourne and is concerned that her confinement will limit her abilities to rule. For her husband, Prince Albert, his limited role in the household causes friction in the marriage. He has no say in the hiring of the household staff or the way his child is cared for. More importantly he yearns for a role as an adviser in the political realm. The Queen dearly loves him and over time, he slowly establishes himself as the head of the household and becomes an indispensable adviser. The birth of their second child, Prince Albert Edward, provides the line with a male heir. Even though he's only still a baby, his father is already planning his education.
  • Episode 2: An Experiment in Education
The young Prince Albert, called Bertie by members of the family, is not having a particularly happy childhood. The elder Prince Albert has very definite views about his son's education including the need for non-stop work, both in the classroom and out, and very strict discipline. Bertie rebels but the only solution seems to be ever more discipline. He's clearly a disappointment to his father who had hoped his son would be a new kind of leader, a scholar who knows and understands the world but that is clearly not to be, at least not to his satisfaction. He soon dismisses his eldest son and spends most of his time ensuring the happiness of his eldest daughter Princess Victoria, known as Vicky. Her marriage is something of a sad time for the Queen and the Prince Consort as they miss her greatly and Bertie feels that he cannot replace his sister in their hearts. Bertie for his part wants to do something useful but his personal wants and desires seem to the furthest thing from his father's mind.
  • Episode 3: The New World
After a successful tour of America, young Prince Bertie returns home to find that his parents do not see it as a personal success rather one that can be attributed to the monarchy in general. His father tells him he is to go to Oxford to continue his studies but will be under the care of a governor and will not be allowed to mix with other students. Bertie really wants to join the army but his father, at first, refuses, but eventually decides in his favor. He is made a Lieutenant Colonel in the Grenadier Guards and sent to Ireland to undergo his training. There he sees a few familiar faces and begins an affair with an Irish music hall performer.
  • Episode 4: Alix
Prince Bertie continues his military training but he's taken to deceiving his superiors and sneaking off with his friends to the music halls. His parents continue their search to find Bertie a suitable wife. Their preference is for a German bride but eventually settle on Princess Alexandra of Denmark, known to her friends as Alix. A brief meeting is arranged for the two to meet but no final decision is made. Relations with his father deteriorate even further when the Prince Consort receives a confidential letter from a friend telling of Bertie's dalliance with a music hall singer. Bertie is clearly a disappointment to his father but the elder Prince Albert falls ill and dies of typhoid toward the end of 1861.
  • Episode 5: A Hundred Thousand Welcomes
With Queen Victoria in mourning, the Cabinet is concerned that her withdrawal from public duties will have a negative impact on her people. As a result, Bertie assumes many of the public duties of the monarch. He proves to be quite popular and works hard at maintaining the positive face of the monarchy. It's not quite was Bertie has in mind but the Queen refuses any role for him in matters of State. She sees him as an utter failure and refuses to let him participate in any decision-making. The Queen also decides that there is no need to wait the full year of mourning before he can marry and she pushes him to decide on Alix. He and Princess Alix are married and she soon after announces that she is pregnant.
  • Episode 6: The Invisible Queen
Bertie' family continues to grow but Princess Alix is not strong and suffers from general ill health. Politics continues to cause a rift in the family with Princess Alix refusing to see or have anything to do with Bertie's German relations after the forced annexation of parts of Denmark. It all comes to a head when the King of Prussia asks to call on her. Queen Victoria continues to refuse all public engagements and there is a rise in Republicanism. Bertie finds himself in court as a a witness in a divorce case involving a lady with whom he had a dalliance. Prime Minister Gladstone tries to have have the Queen appoint Bertie as Viceroy to Ireland but she rejects the suggestion. Everyone expects the worst when Bertie contracts typhoid and approaches death on the 10th anniversary of his father dying from the same disease.
  • Episode 7: Dearest Prince
The Queen continues to refuse all attempts at giving her eldest son any responsibility in matters of State. After a very successful visit to Coventry, the new Prime Minister, Mr. Disraeli, looks for something appropriate for the Prince to do. Bertie suggests that he go on an official State visit to India. To Bertie's surprise and delight, she agrees. It causes major difficulties at home when he informs Alix that she will not be accompanying him. It had always been her dream to visit India and is heartbroken at being left behind. The trip to India goes well but Bertie must face yet another scandal when Lord Aylesford announces that his wife has been having an affair and he may be divorcing her. Lord Randolph Churchill offers to intervene in the case - the other party in the tryst is his brother - if the Prince would also intervene with Lord Aylesford to stop a divorce. Bertie flatly refuses leading Churchill to try and force the Prince's hand.
  • Episode 8: The Royal Quadrille
Bertie visits Denmark along with the Russian Czar and the King of Greece. He also visits his sister Vicky and her husband Fritz, the Crown Prince of Prussia. Vicky is concerned about her son William whom she knows will some day be Emperor and has fallen under the spell of Bismark, who they dislike with a passion. When the British intervene to put down a mutiny in the Egyptian army, Bertie very much wants to join his Regiment but the Queen won't hear of it. Bertie continues his liaison with Lillie Langtry. Prime Minister Gladstone asks the Prince to serve on a Royal Commission on the state of housing for the working classes. Bertie tours some of the poorest districts and is appalled at the conditions he finds there.
  • Episode 9: Scandal
Bertie faces scandal on several fronts. He agrees to assist Lady Brooke to retrieve a letter she wrote to her one-time lover, Lord Charles Beresford. She is now terrified that Lady Beresford will take some action against her. Bertie somewhat ham-handedly calls on Lady Beresford's lawyer and practically orders him to destroy it. The lawyer refuses but does agree to ask his client to. He then calls on Lady Beresford with the same request. When Charles Beresford hears of the Prince's action, he hits the roof and Bertie soon faces demands for an apology with the threat of making the whole thing public. A second scandal erupts when Lt. Col. Sir William Gordon Cumming is found cheating at cards. The Prince and others try to settle the matter quietly but Cumming sues to regain his good name and reputation and it all becomes public. Alix and Bertie encourage their eldest son, Prince Eddy, to find a suitable young woman and marry. Although he does eventually find someone, he falls ill and dies.
  • Episode 10: The Years of Waiting
Britain finds itself at war in South Africa when British colonists attack the Boer government. But Queen Victoria still refuses to let Bertie have any role in matters of State, so he spends his time going to the races and as is so often the case, plays host to visiting dignitaries, this time the Czar and Czarina of Russia. The Queen celebrates her Diamond Jubilee. Bertie is the object of an assassination attempt in Brussels. Now quite old, Queen Victoria dies and Bertie becomes King Edward the VII.
  • Episode 11: King at Last
After a nearly 60 year wait, Bertie becomes King upon the death of his mother Queen Victoria. There is much speculation as to whether he is up to the job. The King's nephew, the German Kaiser, proposes an Anglo-German alliance and the King supports it but several of his Ministers simply do not take him seriously. Although now Queen, Alix is having some trouble adjusting to their new life, refusing to live at Buckingham Palace and reluctant to leave Marlborough House, the home designated for the Prince of Wales, their son George. The King's sister, Vicky - the Kaiser's mother - is dying of cancer. The King is frustrated when his coronation is postponed due to the Boer War but when it is finally scheduled, it must be postponed as the King must undergo emergency surgery to remove his appendix.
  • Episode 12: The Peacemaker
The King grows increasingly frustrated with his limited role as a constitutional monarch. His attempt at engineering a grand alliance with Germany is successful at one level but ultimately rejected by the Government who still see his His Majesty as someone not to be taken seriously. Still searching for some way to make an impact, the King announces he will soon go on a Grand Tour of several European nations including Britain's historical enemy, France. His arrival in France is marked by boos and catcalls, but he soon charms them and leaves to great cheers. His nephew Willie, the German Emperor, continues to visit but has become pompous to thew point that the King can barely stand being in the same room as him. After the failure of the Grand Alliance, Germany begins to expand its army and navy.
  • Episode 13: Good Old Teddy!
The King enters his final years in general ill health. He smokes too much and has put on too much weight. Britain concludes the triple alliance, concluding a pact with France and Russia but are aware that the German Kaiser, the King's nephew, will inevitably see it as an affront to Germany. Willie still visits his uncle and appears sincere in his love of family and of England. His on-going re-armament of the German army and navy is clearly seen as a threat against the United Kingdom. As a counter-balance the King and Queen set off on a trip to Russia to visit his nephew, the Czar. Having to yet again make amends with Willie, the King visits Germany but it takes a serious toll on his health. Domestically, the King is thrust into a constitutional crisis when the House of Lords refuses to pass social reforms approved by the House. The King's bronchitis worsens and he succumbs on May 6, 1910.

Series Cast



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